10 Common Signs of a Broken Garage Door Spring
1. Garage Door Cables Appear to Be Broken
When a garage door service company gets a phone call in reference to a broken spring, the first thing the homeowner usually says is “the cables are broken”. This makes sense because the cables on a garage door will fly every which way, fall to the ground, become disconnected from the door, or even get caught in between the garage door and the jamb. It is rare for cables to break or need replacing when a garage door spring breaks. If your garage door has two torsion springs, the second spring will keep the cables tight and on the drums. You will have to look up at the springs to determine if one is broken.
If you have a Wayne Dalton TorqueMaster system (pictured below), the springs will be inside a tube. The only way to determine if one is broken is to lift the garage door manually. If the door is heavy (roughly 60lbs for a double car door), you most likely have a broken spring inside the TorqueMaster tube. Another way to tell if you have a broken spring in your Wayne Dalton Torquemaster tube is if the door goes up and won't go back down.
The Torquemaster system has a lock built into each side on a double car door that will activate when a spring breaks causing the door to lock in the up position. It is very simple to deactivate this lock and get your door closed. But, you can guarantee you have a broken spring inside the Torquemaster tube on the side where the lock activated. You will need the spring inside replaced or have it converted over to a standard torsion spring set up, which is what we recommend and a service we perform quite frequently. A standard torsion spring will last 3 times longer than the small spring inside the Torquemaster tube.
2. Garage Door Goes up 6” and Stops
Most homeowners never know they have a broken garage door spring until they try to leave their home. You go in the garage to open the door, push the wall button, and the door only goes up 6”. The reason for this is the garage door opener force or sensitivity has activated, causing the opener to stop pulling the door up. This is a safety feature built into most garage door openers. It is actually a good thing when the open force activates to prevent any damage to your garage door or opener.
Another scenario is the garage door goes up very slowly when using the automatic opener. Some garage door openers have DC motors that start off slow when opening and then kick into a higher speed. If you have a broken spring, the opener might stay in the slower speed due to the heavy weight of the garage door. If this happens to you, close the garage door and pull the emergency release rope. Next, try to lift the door. If it is really heavy, then you most likely have a broken garage door spring.
3. You Heard a Very Loud “Bang” in the Garage
When a spring breaks on a garage door an immense amount of energy being displaced. Torsion springs are mounted over the garage door and they have a shaft running through the middle. When they break, the spring unwinds in less than a second and creates a loud noise due to the coils spinning on the shaft. Based on customer feedback, it can be quite startling.
Homeowners usually claim they heard a large noise coming from the garage. Most think someone is trying to break into their home. They walk outside and usually don’t notice anything until the next morning when they try to leave for work.
Extension springs are more obvious because the spring and cable is usually hanging down or laying on the floor. They can be very dangerous if there is not a safety cable running through the middle of an extension spring. The safety cable is what keeps the spring in place when it breaks.
4. There Is a 2” Gap in Your Torsion Spring
When a torsion spring is wound up, it grows 2” in length. This is because the spring starts to compress and the metal has to go somewhere. After the spring is wound, the winding cone is clamped down on the torsion shaft so it can turn the drums to wind the cables as the door goes up. Since the end of the spring is “set” on the shaft, a two-inch gap is left when the spring break's. This is the most definite way of determining you have a broken garage door spring.
5. The Top Section of Your Garage Door Is Bent
Depending on the type and configuration of your door, your electric garage door opener might bend the top section when it tries to open your door with a broken spring. This is especially common when the “open force” has been turned up all the way on the circuit board.
The open and close force on garage door openers is there as a safety precaution to prevent scenarios like this one. Replacing your top section could be costly depending on the type of door you have. Sometimes a simple strut replacement will suffice and bend the section straight enough to make it aesthetically pleasing for everyone.
6. Garage Door Falls Fast When Going Down
If your garage door falls faster than normal when closing it with your automatic opener, you might have a broken spring. Garage door openers are not designed to carry the weight of an unbalanced garage door. This can sometimes cause the door to fall faster than normal when being closed.
7. When You Pull the Emergency Release Rope, the Garage Door Cannot Be Lifted
If you pull the red emergency release rope on your automatic opener and you still can’t lift the garage door, you probably have a broken spring. The counterbalance spring is what lifts the garage door, not the garage door opener. If the spring is broken, the door is dead weight. A garage door can be lifted, but it is going to require some muscle to get it up. It is also important to lift the door evenly so it does not jam in the tracks.
8. Garage Door Is "Jerky" When Going up and Down
If your garage door goes up and down in a jerky motion, you might have one broken spring on a two spring system. Some garage door openers are strong enough to lift a door with only one good spring. The “herky jerky” motion is especially common with garage doors equipped with extension springs. It might be something as simple as lubricating your garage door pulleys, hinges, and rollers. When in doubt or if something doesn’t feel right about your door, call a service company to have it serviced.
9. Garage Door Is Crooked When It Goes up and Down
Garage doors equipped with extension springs that stretch have independent suspension. Each spring is mounted on the side of the garage door and they pull independently. If one spring breaks, that side won’t be pulling the door up. This can cause the door to go up crooked or possibly get stuck in the tracks.
10. The Cable and Pulley Are Hanging Down
If your garage door is equipped with extension springs (usually seen on single car garages), the cable and pulley might be hanging down when the spring break's. Extension springs use a two pulley system on each side of the door to lift the garage door up and down. When the spring break's everything goes haywire, causing the cables to become twisted or even frayed when they catch on the metal edge of the track. There is a lot of force being released when a garage door spring breaks.
My Garage Door Spring Broke, How Do I Get My Door Open?
Garage Door With One Torsion Spring
If your garage door is equipped with only one torsion spring, it will be much harder to get your door open. You will need to get 2-3 people to help lift the door up because the full weight can be anywhere from 150 to 300 pounds. We don’t recommend lifting the door when the spring break's due to the danger of it falling on someone. If you absolutely must get your garage door open, raw strength is what you need. When you get the door in the up position, use vise-grips or a c-clamp on the track below the bottom roller to hold the door in the up position.
Garage Door With Two Torsion Springs
If you have two torsion springs on your garage door, the good spring will most likely keep the cables on the drums when the other spring breaks. This makes it much easier to lift because the good spring will be pulling half the weight of the garage door. You can also use the garage door opener to help assist while someone lifts the door and acts as the broken spring. Use extreme caution when doing this to prevent damage to your garage door or injury to a person.