Garage door springs break every single day. It's not because they are faulty, it's because they are a wear item that needs replacement like tires on a car. Today, garage doors are being used more than ever. Surveys show 73% of all Americans are now using their garage door as their primary entry point into their home.
The garage is where we keep everything that is needed to go out into the world for work and play. Keyless entry systems (wireless keypads) have become extremely popular among families with kids as they provide a much-needed entry point for children getting home from school in the afternoon. This adds additional cycles to a garage door spring that were never seen in the past.
The life of a garage door spring is based on cycles. When you purchase a new garage door, the minimum spec for the spring on your garage door is 10,000 cycles. Up and down is considered one cycle. If you averaged 4 cycles per day, your spring would last approximately 7 years. If you averaged 2 cycles per day, your spring would last approximately 14 years. Age has nothing to do with a garage door spring breaking. Oil tempered steel doesn't know age, cold weather, or rust. It knows stress. Every time your door is opened, the metal in your spring is stressed a little more. The more you use your door, the sooner the springs will have to be replaced.
Garage door springs do not break when the garage door is in the up position. They break when the door is fully closed, or as the door is going down and it gets a few feet from the ground, the spring will break at that point if the maximum number of cycles have expired. This is because the load on the spring increases as the door closes. It is under a full load when the door is in the down position. This fully loaded (or wound) spring is what actually lifts your garage door, not your garage door opener. Your automatic opener is for convenience only. An unbalanced garage door can prematurely wear out your automatic opener.
Two Different Types of Garage Door Springs: Torsion and Extension
Torsion springs are mounted on the header wall above your garage door. There is usually one or two springs that are mounted on a torsion shaft that is used to lift your garage door with cables and drums. The torsion spring shaft extends the full width of the garage door. This type of system has been around for decades.
Contrary to common misperception, torsion springs are much safer than extension springs. The reason for this is because the spring is mounted around a shaft. When the spring breaks, everything is contained on that shaft which eliminates any flying parts. Yes, it is very loud when a torsion spring breaks but that is only because there is a lot of energy being displaced when that event takes place.
Like mentioned previously, garage door springs break when the door is in the fully closed position or when the door gets a few feet from the ground as it is closing. This is when the springs are under a significant load and that can cause a weak torsion spring to break when the life cycles have been exhausted. No one can predict exactly when a spring will break.
Extension springs are mounted on the left and right side of your garage door above the horizontal tracks. There is always two extension springs present on any given garage door. This is because a spring is needed for each side of the door in order for it to be raised evenly.
You can look at extension springs on a garage door like independent suspension. This is why you see many garage doors with extension springs going up and down unevenly or crooked when they are closed. They take on the shape of the ground so if your concrete is not level, your garage door opener will most likely shove it down and your door will replicate what your concrete is doing.
These types of springs are much more dangerous in general than torsion springs because they stretch to long lengths while the door is going down. This allows for the spring to pull the garage door up when needed. If there is no safety cable running through the center of the spring, they can be extremely dangerous to people and property. They can cause damage to vehicles and other items in the garage when they break.
Do I Need to Have Two Springs Installed If There Is Only One Broken Spring?
Yes and no.
If your garage door was originally set up with only one torsion spring, then your perfectly ok with only having one spring replaced. If your garage door has two torsion springs and only one is broken, I would replace them both. This will save you money and any inconvenience from another broken spring.
Both springs have the same number of cycles on them. If you don't replace the second spring, you will find yourself in the same predicament in the near future. Only then, you might end up having your car stuck in the garage during a personal emergency. Now whether or not that second spring breaks in 1 month or 6 months, it's hard to tell, only the spring knows when it will break. No one can predict when a garage door spring will break.
If your garage door has extension springs, then it will always have two springs. In that case, I would have both extension springs replaced so the new springs pull evenly and to prevent any more inconvenience in the near future from another broken spring.
Is It Better to Have Two Torsion Springs?
Yes and no.
Having two springs will give you a little more cycle life and help get you out of a bind when one spring breaks. Since both torsion springs don't break at the same time, you can usually lift your garage door with the help of the unbroken spring that is pulling the door with the cables still in intact. The downside is two springs cost more.
The reason some garage doors have two torsion springs is because some manufacturers required two springs as minimum spec as you will see a little more life out of two springs as compared to one. The other reason is because some garage doors are heavier due to insulation options, larger sizes and thicker gauges of metal. Two springs work better on a heavier door to help spread out the load and to prevent from having one extremely large oversized spring installed. In that case, two is a must.
Two springs might be a good option if extra weight has been added to your garage door over time in the form of insulation, reinforcement or any other type of modification. Light weight polystyrene DIY insulation kits installed by homeowners could add anywhere from 15-20 lbs. to a garage door.
Many homeowners don't consider the extra weight when installing these kits because each individual piece feels so light. All that weight adds up over time and usually has a negative impact on your garage door opener in the form of stripped drive gears and prematurely worn drive belts. Keep this in mind when considering these modifications.
Do I Need to Replace the Cables on My Garage Door When My Spring Breaks?
Unless a technician can show you a fray in one of your cables, you most likely do not need to have them replaced. Most homeowners think their cables are broke on the garage door when a spring breaks because all tension has been lost. This causes the cables to hang loosely, come off the drum, fall to the ground or get caught in between the garage door and the opening. Some garage door companies will deceive homeowners by selling them parts they don't need. Cables on a garage door will usually last a couple of spring changes.
If you have a water softener next to your garage door, pool chemicals or if you keep pets in your garage, you might need to replace your cables. Over pour and salt dust from a water softener being mounted too close to your garage door can cause the cables and many other parts to rust out. Pool chemicals are highly corrosive and can cause many types of metal to rust through.
The other nemesis of garage doors is the trusty ole pet. For some reason, many pets (cats and dogs) like to urinate on the garage door tracks. Due to the high acidity level, the urine can cause a lot of damaged to your door. We have even seen it eat through an entire bottom section until there is no structure left in the door.
What we see more often during a broken spring repair is a damaged cable drum. The drum is what the cable winds around as the door goes up. Torsion cable drums are made of a cast material. The cable has a ferrule on the end that catches into a groove on the drum. This groove is sometimes blown out which prevents the cable from being re-attached to the drum. In that case, you will need a new drum which is a fairly inexpensive part.
Should I Replace My Garage Door Rollers When My Spring Breaks?
Although its not required, it is a good idea to change your rollers at the same time you are having your spring repaired. Any reputable company will give you a discounted rate on roller replacement if they are changed out while the technician is there replacing a spring.
Just like springs, most rollers have a cycle life of around 10,000 cycles. If your spring has broke, this usually means your 10,000 cycles have expired and your rollers have gone up and down the same exact number of times as the spring. If you have had the rollers recently replaced, then you should be fine.
If your garage door has the standard plastic rollers with no ball bearings, it is always a good idea to change them out. The standard plastic roller that comes with a basic garage door does not have any ball bearings in the shaft that connects to the actual roller wheel. Replacing this type of roller with a ball bearing nylon roller will make it easier for your garage door to go up and down and provide a lubrication point on the roller where spray oil can be applied.
This will also make it easier on your garage door opener and prevent any premature wear and tear that might have otherwise been accelerated by a poorly running garage door. If you have had your rollers replaced recently, then you should be fine.
Replacing Your Garage Door Springs Before They Break
A broken garage door spring can be a major inconvenience, especially if your car is stuck in your garage. It can leave you stranded at your house until you can get service scheduled for the repair. Many companies today that offer 24 hr emergency garage door repair in the phone book or online are waiting around like hungry vultures for you to call.
Their business model centers around situations where people are desperate to get their garage doors repaired at the most inconvenient of times. They will take advantage of your situation and dire need to get out of your garage by charging you an outrageous amount. They will have in their advertisement terms like "no extra charge for weekends or nights".
If you are a person that has a very critical job or maybe you have someone in your family that has special needs, then it might be a good idea to have your major wear components on your garage door replaced every 5-7 years. This would prevent any surprises that might arise at the worst possible time when you are trying to leave for work or heading somewhere in an emergency.
This is not the most common practice, but it is an option for those who need their garage door to function properly at all times.
Torsion Spring Conversion
Extension to Torsion Spring
If you have a garage door equipped with extension springs, you can have it converted to a torsion spring set up. This process is a little more involved than replacing a spring, but it is an option. The herky jerky motion that is associated with extension spring set ups will be eliminated due to the removal of the four pulleys required for extension springs. A torsion spring set up on your garage door is safer and it will make your garage door go up and down more evenly.
Wayne Dalton TorqueMaster Conversion
Many new homes today are equipped with Wayne Dalton garage doors that use their exclusive TorqueMaster spring system. This system features a small spring inside of a tube. The spring is not visible like a standard torsion spring on a traditional garage door, so when the spring breaks, you will not be able to tell by looking at the spring assembly. The cycle life of these springs is less than average and we are seeing many systems break in less than five years.
If you have a Wayne Dalton TorqueMaster system installed in your home and you would like it converted to a traditional torsion spring setup, we can take care of that for you. The new spring will give you increased cycle life which will reduce how often you will need your garage door repaired.
Hopefully, this article has answered any questions you might have about garage door spring repair. For general garage door and opener repair information, please click here.