As with any other part of garage door system, springs do wear out. Depending on the quality of the springs, the frequency of use, the climate you live in, and the maintenance you put into them, springs can last anywhere between five and seven years. When the time finally comes to replace your garage door springs, it is our professional advice that the job be left to the experts. Replacing springs without professional knowledge, experience, or the right tools can very well turn into a disaster and even a tragedy.
To understand why springs can be dangerous and even deadly, it is important to understand how they work.
Garage door springs are an integral part of the entire garage door system. Springs are the reason why your garage door closes and opens smoothly when you press the opener button instead of just slamming shut or flying open. The main function of garage door springs is to counterbalance the weight of the garage door, which can be significant. The average residential garage door weighs at least 100 lbs., and some can weigh up to 400 lbs., depending on the material it is made of. The entire weight of the garage door gets transferred to the springs every time you open or shut the door.
There are two types of springs – torsion springs and extension springs:
Torsion springs sit horizontally right above the garage door and work by winding or unwinding. As the door comes down, cables attached to the bottom corners of the door force the springs to wind up, and this winding creates stored mechanical energy. When you open the door, the springs unwind and the energy helps lift the garage door.
Extension springs are located above the upper tracks on both sides of the door and are attached to the cables which are in turn attached to the bottom corners of the garage door. When you close the door, the extension springs stretch, and when you open the door, the mechanical energy in the extended springs helps elevate the door.
With time, the winding/unwinding and stretching motions cause the metal, out of which the springs are made, to deteriorate, and the springs break.
There are several ways to tell whether you garage door spring has broken or is about to break. The best way to check whether the spring has broken is to visually inspect it. If you notice a large gap in the coils of your garage door spring, then the spring has definitely broken. Other symptoms of a broken spring include: lopsided door, door closes more forcefully than usual, the door would not open altogether or would open only a couple of inches and close back down. Yet another symptom of a broken spring could be a very loud and sudden noise, like a bang or even explosion, followed by one or more of the signs described above.
If you have extension springs, you may notice that with time the springs lose their elasticity. Although, loose springs are still functional, it is not a good idea to wait for them to break in order to replace them. Loose springs mean they are not as strong in supporting the weight of the door, which means that your garage door opener has to work extra hard in order to be able to lift the door. Putting unnecessary strain on the opener over time will lead to it burning out quicker than it would have had the springs been replaced earlier.
The mechanical energy stored in the springs is what makes them so dangerous. Without proper training and tools to fix the springs, the coils of the springs can break at any given moment releasing all the stored energy and sending the spring ricocheting across the room damaging your property or potentially injuring anybody present in the garage.
Another common danger of a broken spring is a falling door. The weight of the falling door can be fatal to anybody who happens to be under it.
Selecting a wrong spring for the door could be dangerous also. For example, installing a garage door spring that is too heavy for your garage door can send the entire garage door flying across the room posing deadly danger to everyone and everything that comes in its way.
Misdiagnosing the problem in the first place might turn into a dangerous affair also. Choosing to replace springs when in fact they need to be adjusted, could result in all the problems described above.