The trusty garage door… It’s a little like your favorite pair of work boots: sturdy, reliable, and totally taken for granted until the moment something breaks. The mechanism of action on a garage door is quite fascinating, actually, working on the same basic principle as the clothespin and the mousetrap. A torsion spring counterbalance system counteracts the force of gravity that pulls on the door, allowing most anyone to lift a 150 pound+ garage door with ease. It’s brilliant in its simplicity; until it breaks.
How Your Garage Door Torsion Spring Works
Without going into boring stuff like torsion coefficients and spring constants, let’s just say that your garage door spring performs amazing feats of strength, using only a few parts and the laws of physics. The spring (actually a large steel wire) winds around a steel shaft that has cable drums on both ends. Steel cables attach to the drums and those cables attach to the garage door. When the door is shut, the spring is very tightly wound and able to balance the entire weight of the door. As you lift the door, the spring gradually unwinds, drawing up the cables until, when the door is fully open, the spring is correspondingly unwound.
The Life of a Garage Door Torsion Spring
Most springs are manufactured to last through about 10,000 cycles of raising and lowering the door, with long life springs having 30,000 cycles. Over time, the springs begin to weaken from use, but weather extremes and lack of maintenance can help speed that along. When a torsion spring breaks, it’s not a pretty sound (some liken it to having a car dropped on your garage roof). You will likely not be able to open your garage door, nor should you try, as you could damage the door components or become injured in the process.
Replacing Your Garage Door Torsion Spring
Even if you are the greatest DIY-er on the planet, replacing your own garage door spring is NOT wise. Unless you know what you’re doing, it’s difficult to measure the springs correctly for a replacement. Most spring suppliers won’t even sell these parts to non-professionals. Installing and loading the spring takes very specialized tools and (here’s the big one) you can be seriously injured or even killed by a torsion spring gone wrong. If your springs have finally made their last lift, contact The Garage Door Man. It’s a quick and easy repair for a pro, and the cost is lower than you might think. While you’re at it, ask the repair technician about having periodic maintenance done on your new springs, so you won’t find yourself stranded next time.