A garage door seems like a pretty simple device–all it does is go up and down. However, in order for the average person to be able to lift a 120-pound metal door, today’s garage doors, be they sectional or roll-up doors, utilize a system of torsion springs, cables, sensors, and other parts. All of these parts require preventative maintenance and any of them can encounter failure. This is why paying attention to any kind of unusual noises or signs of wear and tear can help us identify potential issues before they cascade into serious damage that requires repair. Here’s a brief review of the most common garage door problems as well as simple steps to identify their cause before calling a garage door repair service.
Of course, the most important piece of advice we can give you is to never try to repair or replace damaged components without the help of a trained garage door technician. Torsion cables and springs, especially, can break and fly off, causing injury, but the garage door itself is a heavy metallic object that can come crashing with a bang. So whether you want to maintain your garage door for many years to come or think that you might have to get your worn-out garage door replaced ASAP, here are a few tips to help you find the source of your garage door woes:
Door Doesn’t Open or Doesn’t Close Properly
This most definitely is the technical problem you’re most likely to encounter as it can be caused by one of several different components of your garage door system. First of all, inspection or garage door maintenance should always be performed with the garage door in the closed position. Now, let’s see how we can identify the problematic part:
If your door won’t open, first check that it isn’t locked by a manual lock or locking mechanism in the garage door opener. Consult the manufacturer’s user manual, normally available online unless your opener is ancient. Next check that the motor and keypad are both connected to a power source, and inspect them for damage. You don’t want to call garage door repair service only to find out that your garage door won’t move–or is moving up and down as if it has a life of its own–because of a stuck button. The antenna on the motor should be facing downward.
If the door opens only halfway, the up-limit switch on the opener may need to be adjusted. It’s normally a small lever located on the track overhead. Move it closer to the motor and try opening the door again.
A telltale sign that the opener is the source of the problem is if it’s making loud grinding noises but the door won’t budge, which means that the main drive gear on the motor likely needs a replacement.
Is your garage door unbalanced? If the opener system is working properly but the door won’t go up, check the cables on either side. If one of them is damaged or broken, the door may become uneven and struggle to open. With damaged cable(s) your door won’t close smoothly and may come down fast and hard, so be extra careful.
Next, check the torsion spring or springs located above the door for any signs of wear and tear such as fraying, bending, or a gap in the middle indicating that it’s broken. Alternatively, extension springs may be positioned on both sides, in which case a damaged spring on one side will make the door hang unevenly as the one on the other side will have a hard time with the added weight. A popping sound when operating the door is a good indicator that the springs need replacement or at least lubrication.
Be careful, however, not to touch, move, or try to replace it without the help of a garage door technician. Springs allow one to lift the garage door with minimal effort by storing large amounts of potential energy, which can easily turn into kinetic energy and cause injury if handled improperly. Always call a professional if your spring(s) look damaged or worn out.
An easy way to identify whether the problem is in the opener or another part is to unplug and disconnect the opener, and then pull the emergency release cord hanging down from the track to lift the door manually. Be careful, however, to only pull the lever if the garage door is fully closed, and keep in mind that if you don’t lift the door all the way up, it will fall back down once you release the cord! If in doubt, call a garage door repair company.
Garage door doesn’t close properly? That’s a very common problem that can often be easily fixed by making sure that the two safety sensors near the bottom of the door are clean, undamaged, and properly aligned. If the beam between them is unobstructed, you should see a light on each sensor. If not, clean the sensor lenses and check the wiring. If the lenses are clean and aligned, but the door still reverses right before closing, they may need to be replaced.
If that doesn’t work, the next thing to check is the close limit or down limit switch on the opener. Consult your opener instruction manual or the manufacturer’s website, but normally the switch is a screw drive on the motor. If the door doesn’t reach the floor, turn the screw clockwise. If the door is pushing into the floor, adjust the close limit switch in the other direction.
If the door gets stuck or moving very slowly, first check the rollers on the track to see whether one or more is damaged and needs to be replaced. Examine the tracks for anything that may be obstructing the door’s movement. Check whether the lips of the tracks are flattened, or if the tracks are bent or misaligned, which can often be fixed with a hammer and pliers by your local handyman or garage door repairman. You can also check and tighten the brackets holding the rollers and the hinges between the sections of your door using a screwdriver.
The tracks, hinges, and roller brackets should all be cleaned and lubricated every few months with lithium- or silicone-based grease to prevent this from happening and maintain the safe operation of your door.
Is your garage door being extra loud? If the rollers make a squeaking noise, they need lubrication. If it’s a grinding noise, try lubricating them, and if that doesn’t help call a garage door repair service to get them replaced. Rattling sounds often indicate that bolts and nuts require tightening, in which case a wrench and a socket set may come in handy. As mentioned above, popping sounds indicate that the torsion spring is worn-out. And once again, please don’t try to move, lubricate, or replace a spring or adjust any part directly connected to it without the help of a professional.
Damaged Panels or Windows
Accidents, unfortunately, will happen, and if someone accidentally backed up into your garage door, leaving a dent in the panels, it leaves you with a tough decision: is the damage serious and visible enough to require immediate attention, and if so, should you pay to get the damaged panel replaced or should you invest in your home and buy a new garage door? Luckily, our technicians are always there to help you compare these different options.
The first thing to consider is the extent of the damage to your garage door. Signs of wear and tear can hurt the appearance of your house and reduce its appeal for renters and buyers, but can often be painted over or filled in. But if the door was hit by a vehicle, for example, the damage can be more extensive than it appears and may extend to other panels and parts holding the door together. A crack in the panel may lead to water and frost penetrating into your garage door, causing rust and compromising its structural integrity. Damaged panels can also be a security risk, offering expert burglars a tempting opportunity. Especially if you notice any difference in the operation of the door, consult a garage door repair professional to make sure that your door stays safe and functional.
The second thing to consider is the age of your garage door. The lifetime of a door is around 20 years, so if your door is approaching that mark, replacing it entirely with a new one makes more sense. A new garage door will not only spare you the cost of unnecessary repairs but will often come with newer safety features as well as better insulation, making your household more energy efficient. If your door is much newer than that, repairing or replacing a damaged panel may be the way to go. Panels and windows can cost anywhere from $300 to $600, so it goes without saying that replacing several of them can cost almost as much as a whole new door. Bear in mind, also, that even if you install a new panel that perfectly matches your door, it will often stand out a bit against the weathered, older panels.
To summarize, always be careful and attentive when operating your garage door. Although modern doors are installed with an entire array of safety features, damage, rust, and wearing can evolve into a bigger problem if ignored over time, and may eventually make the door unsafe to use. Properly maintaining your garage door can extend its life expectancy. Only perform simple maintenance tasks such as oiling or cleaning the tracks if you’re sure of what you’re doing, and don’t hesitate to call a professional garage door technician if you see visible damage or erosion. The cost of a service visit or a small repair can save you trouble and money later on.