How Garage Door Springs Work

Garage doors rely on powerful springs to open and close safely. Understanding how they work can help you ensure your door's functioning safely. In this guide, we'll cover what kinds of springs are used, important safety considerations, and tips for troubleshooting and maintenance.

Garage doors rely on powerful springs to open and close safely. Understanding how garage door springs work can help you ensure your door's functioning safely. In this guide, we'll cover what kinds of springs are used, important safety considerations, and tips for troubleshooting and maintenance.

Different types of garage door springs

Mainly, there are three different types of garage door springs:

  • Torsion
  • Extension
  • Enclosed spring systems

What type your garage door uses primarily depends on the garage door's size and weight. Garage doors wide enough for 2 cars usually have torsion springs mounted on the wall above the center of the garage door.

Smaller, lighter-weight garage doors typically have extension springs found parallel to the top parts of the garage door's tracks.

There are a few types of proprietary spring systems you might encounter. These enclosed springs and other components are in a tube mounted on the wall above the garage door.

How garage door springs work

Since garage doors can be hefty, they use a spring-loaded counter-balance system to make them safer and easier to operate. Without springs, the garage door opener won’t work – at least not safely. Weak springs put extra wear and tear on the opener due to the extra weight.

No matter which type of spring system your door uses, it all boils down to the same thing. When the door is down, the springs are loaded with tension. When you open the door, it uses that spring tension to take the door's weight.

Torsion springs

Two torsion springs and tube assembly above a garage door.
Since this is a heavy wooden garage door, it has longer spring coils to accommodate the door's extra weight.

Torsion springs are the most common type of garage door springs. These are part of a spring assembly that mounts to the wall above the garage door.

A garage door torsion spring works like this:

  • The springs clamp down on the torsion tube that runs through the center of the springs. When they're tensioned, this provides the system's torque evenly on both sides of the garage door.
  • Drums wind the cables at each end of the torsion tube.
  • Cables attached to the drums connect to the brackets on the bottom of the garage door, allowing the spring system to help open and close the door.

Extension springs

Extension springs are very common on single car width garage doors. Unlike torsion springs, extension springs apply force independently of each other.

A garage door extension spring works like this:

  • The spring attaches to the track's back hang.
  • A cable runs from the spring around a pulley and connects to the garage door's bottom brackets.
  • When the door is closed, the springs are stretched, and the cables are under enough tension to help safely open and close the garage door.
A garage door extension spring showing gaps in the coil and a safety cable running down the center of the spring coil.

Garage door extension springs should have safety cables to protect from flying debris if the spring breaks apart. These are usually attached to the track, or its back hang to keep the spring parts secure if the coil breaks.

Safety considerations

Be safe, don't try to adjust or replace garage door springs yourself.

Because garage door spring systems are under extreme tension and pressure, adjusting or replacing them can be dangerous and should only be attempted by a trained garage door repair technician.

Remember that it isn't only the springs that are under tension but all of the components in the spring system. That means parts like mounting brackets, cables, drums, and the whole garage door are under pressure from the springs. The potential for harm from springs is the main reason you'll find so many garage door companies and manufacturers discouraging weekend warriors from taking on a do-it-yourself garage door installation.

However, by testing your garage door spring tension, you can ensure your garage door springs are appropriately adjusted and working safely.


Regular garage door maintenance helps ensure all its safety features are working effectively. Maintenance can also increase your door's lifespan.

When it comes to springs, it's best to limit your efforts to testing and maintenance. While it is a good idea to test the garage door balance for correct spring tension, all garage door manufacturers recommend allowing a qualified technician to service torsion springs.

Testing the garage door's balance and spring tension

  1. While the garage door is in the down position, pull the manual release cord on the opener rail.
  2. Look over the garage door, checking for any loose or deteriorated parts or garage door panels.
  3. If you don't see any issues, try opening the garage door by hand using the handle or another safe place on the door. It should open smoothly, without much resistance, with rollers traveling freely in the tracks.
  4. To check for correct spring tension, try to get the garage door to balance and stay in place when it's about 3 or 4 feet off the floor.
  5. If the door stays still, the springs have an appropriate amount of tension.

If the springs don't have correct tension, the door may not want to stay put while it's 3 to 4 feet off the ground. In that case, it's time to call a professional to adjust the springs.


If the garage door seems heavier than usual, the springs may be to blame. They often relax over time and with usage, causing the door to feel heavier and run more slowly. If you tested the door's balance and the door wanted to close no matter where you tried to position it, the springs should be adjusted by a professional.

Springs are hard-working garage door parts, and they're the ones that fail the most. Broken springs are a leading cause of repairs. Unfortunately, there's nothing you can do to prevent springs from breaking. However, you can hopefully ward off any unexpected repairs with regular maintenance and testing the spring tension.

When garage door springs break

This first thing people usually notice when a spring breaks is the opener won’t open the door. Garage door openers are designed to work with the spring system. When a spring breaks, the door can still open, but it’s heavy. Trying to open a garage door with a broken spring can damage the opener and the door’s top section, and pose a risk of injury.

The most common signs of a broken garage door spring are:

  • A loud bang– springs are noisy and forceful when they break
  • The opener doesn't open the door
  • The door is too heavy to open manually
  • You can see the separation in the spring coils
  • Cables may be loose or disconnected

If you notice gaps in extension spring coils, they may have worn out too much to provide enough tension for the door. Often these types of springs don't physically break, but they do relax to the point where the opener is working too hard. This issue should be addressed sooner rather than later since it causes unnecessary wear and tear on the garage door opener.


Knowing how garage door springs work helps you safely maintain your door and recognize issues as they arise. If you experience any unexpected behavior from your garage door or opener while performing tests or maintenance, it's essential to reach out to an experienced garage door company for service. Identifying issues and resolving them as soon as possible can help avoid more costly repairs and keep your family safe from harm.

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