What is Garage Door Maintenance?

This practical guide explains how to do basic garage door maintenance that will keep your garage door running smoothly and safely.

Maintaining your garage door is essential for ensuring it functions correctly and stays in good shape for years. From checking the hardware to testing for proper operation, this guide explains all the steps you need to take when it's time to perform garage door maintenance.

What are the different components of a garage door?

A typical garage door system consists of several components:

  • The garage door
  • Opener with safety sensors, remotes, and keypads
  • Tracks and rollers
  • The counter-balance system with springs, cables, etc.
  • Hardware like hinges and mounting brackets

A basic understanding of how each piece works will help you diagnose potential problems and keep you safe while performing garage door maintenance tasks.

Springs and the counter-balance system

Garage door torsion springs mounted on a torsion tube above a wood garage door.

At the heart of your garage door and opener lies the counter-balance system. It consists of the springs, cables, drums, torsion tube, and the associated mounting brackets and hardware. The spring system takes the weight of the door, making it manageable for us to open and close it easily, either by hand or using the garage door opener. Because this system is under extreme tension, you should always have a trained professional repair or adjust the springs and other counter-balance components. These can all pose a risk of severe injury or even death, so it's crucial not to tamper with any of these parts of the garage door.

Tracks, rollers, and hinges

The garage door rides along its tracks, located on each side of the door, to travel up and down. Hinges on each side of the garage door hold rollers that stay in the tracks.

What is garage door maintenance?

If you notice your garage door's noisier than usual or doesn't seem to operate as smoothly as it once did, it's time for garage door maintenance.

Basic garage door maintenance consists of:

  • A visual check for loose, worn, or damaged parts
  • Lubricating moving parts prone to wear and tear
  • Tightening any loose nuts, hinges, brackets, or other hardware
  • Testing the garage door for proper spring tension
  • Testing the garage door's safety features

Inspect all parts for signs of wear and tear or damage

Regularly inspect your garage door, its opener, tracks, springs, hardware, and other components for signs of wear and tear. Pay close attention to moving parts like springs, which are under a great deal of tension and can wear out quickly if not properly maintained. If you notice any signs of damage, such as fraying wires or worn-out components, have a garage door company replace them to avoid further damage or potentially dangerous malfunctions.

Clean and lubricate your garage door regularly

Garage door maintenance should include lubricating moving parts like hinges, and ball bearings in parts like rollers and mounting brackets.
Garage door rollers have ball bearings that benefit from regular spray on lubricant.

With all those moving parts, it's no surprise that your garage door benefits from regular lubrication with a spray on lubricant. Using a spray on product keeps hands and fingers safe from harm and gets lubricant into tight, high-friction areas. A few parts that are prone to wear and tear are the:

  • Ball bearings inside the rollers
  • Hinges
  • Ball bearings inside the spring tube's three brackets
  • Torsion spring coils

By using a high-quality spray lubricant on these parts, you'll not only allow them to move more freely, but it also sometimes cleans out a little of the dust and debris that builds up inside these types of parts.

Cleaning steel garage doors

You already know how much better the car looks after it's been washed. Your garage door could benefit from much the same treatment. By washing your garage door, you can keep it looking new for longer.

It's best to avoid harsh cleansers. Instead, a few spoonfuls of laundry detergent or dish soap in a gallon of water should do the trick. Be sure to rinse well after washing the door down with a soft cloth and detergent solution.

If you live near the coast or in a climate where you need to salt your driveway, you'll want to clean the door's exterior more frequently.

A note about decorative hardware

Most decorative hardware doesn't require any special treatment, but the appearance can degrade over time. You can remove the hardware, paint it, or refinish, and then install it back onto the door.

Wood garage door maintenance

Garage door maintenance should include checking the finish on wood garage doors. A poorly sealed door leads to problems with weathering and wood rot.

If you have wood garage doors, you'll want to inspect them once or twice a year for signs it may need refinishing. Look for cracks, splits, weather damage, or any worn areas. It's best to prevent damage by maintaining a weatherproof finish, as it's sometimes difficult to replace just a portion or section of a wood garage door. If you find any areas that seem deteriorated, it's probably time to refinish.

Inside the garage

Keeping your garage free from leaves allows your door to function safely.

Finally, it's a good idea to keep the area around the garage door's tracks free from leaf litter, personal items, or other objects that might wind up in the door's path. Keeping the door's path free from any things that may obstruct its travel can prevent safety sensor malfunctions and prevent damage to your garage door.

Testing garage door spring tension

Regular maintenance should include testing garage door springs for balance and correct tension.

Most, if not all, garage door manuals provide instructions on how to test safely for proper spring tension. But, generally speaking, when it comes to garage door maintenance, what's important is to make sure the springs haven't relaxed to the point that the door's too heavy for the opener to lift. The last thing you need, if you need to operate the door manually, is for the garage door to come slamming down. Not only is it potentially deadly to people or pets, but it could also damage the door or opener.

To test the garage door for balance and spring tension:

  1. While the door is closed, pull the emergency release cord to disconnect the door and opener.
  2. Visually check for loose, worn, or damaged parts or garage door sections.
  3. If you see any issues, stop here and contact your garage door company.
  4. If everything looks okay, try lifting the garage door by its grab handle or another appropriate place where you won't get pinched.
  5. The door should open easily enough so that most people can operate it by hand. In addition, the door should travel freely within its tracks without resistance or binding.
  6. To check for balance, try positioning the door until it's about 3-4 feet off the floor. The garage door is balanced if it stays still in this partially closed position.
  7. If you can't get the door to stay put around the height of 3 or 4 feet from the floor, it's time to bring in a qualified repair technician.

Once you've completed the test, remember to reconnect the door and opener at the manual disconnect. If your door passed the test, an easy way to do this is to open or close the door manually, then run the opener to get the trolley and drive rail to reconnect.

Testing the garage door opener's safety features

It's a good idea to test the opener's safety sensor and force sensitivity reversal system. These safety features keep the door working safely, automatically reversing or stopping the opener if it senses an obstruction in the door's path.

To test the safety sensor eye beams

  1. With the door and opener connected, use the opener to open the door.
  2. Place a 1.5" board or similar object like a 2x4 in the floor under the center of the garage door opening.
  3. Use the opener and try to close the door. When it reaches the board or 2x4, it should stop and reverse.
  4. Once the door opens, try placing an obstruction like a cardboard box between the safety sensors at the base of the garage door.
  5. Use the opener and try to close the door. It should move no more than an inch, then stop and reverse. The only time the door should close while the safety eyes are obstructed is when you hold the wall button down.

If you get any unexpected behavior during the garage door opener safety test, it's best to schedule a service call to make sure everything is operating safely.

Stay safe with regular garage door maintenance

Performing regular garage door maintenance ensures your door operates safely and reliably. Identifying and staying on top of minor issues as they occur prevents unexpected failures and repairs. If you encounter anything unexpected or concerning while maintaining your door, please reach out to an experienced garage door company. Proper operation is essential to ensure the built-in safety features on your garage door and opener can function effectively.

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