If your residential garage door has a broken torsion spring to fix, it is reasonably straightforward if you are an experienced DIY enthusiast. This comes with the caveat that you need to be extremely careful when carrying out this procedure as not following the correct safety measures can be dangerous. But if you know what you are doing and have a few basic tools on hand, you can save yourself a bit of cash by doing it yourself. In this guide, we will show you how to replace garage door torsion springs and the tools required for the job.
How Garage Door Torsion Springs Work
The torsion spring is an essential component of your garage door, playing a crucial function in opening and shutting. You are likely aware of how a spring works by storing energy in its coils when retracted and releasing that energy when the coils are released. A torsion spring works like any other spring but is stronger and more durable than regular springs.
Typically the torsion spring is mounted horizontally on top of your garage door; when the door is closed, the springs will wind and when open, unwind. As garage doors are exceptionally heavy, the torsion spring’s purpose is to assist in lifting the garage door. If the torsion spring breaks, the tension required to open and shut the garage door won’t be available. As the spring will be holding the most tension when the door is shut, if it breaks, it will be most likely when the door is closed.
Why Garage Door Torsion Springs Break
There can be several reasons why garage door torsion springs fail, but these are the most common:
Like any other component, garage door springs suffer from wear and tear. Though most have a lifespan of 10,000 cycles, how often your garage door is opened and closed will determine the springs’ life. If the garage door is used repeatedly as an entrance to your house instead of the front door, for multiple car users, for kids toys and bikes, as a workshop, and so on, you might find that the springs wear out a lot quicker than anticipated.
Rust will significantly shorten the lifespan of your springs. Rust will increase friction on the coils as well as weakening the actual spring. A little simple maintenance using a silicone-based lubricant to spray the spring a few times a year will prevent rust and prolong its longevity.
Not Regularly Maintained
Your garage doors should be flawless in their movement and perfectly balanced. If the balance is checked regularly, the springs can be adjusted or replaced.
You can check the balance by manually lifting the door halfway and letting go of it. If the springs are in good condition, the door will stay still or only move very slightly. If it falls down a bit, tilts, or slides up, then the balance is off, and you or a professional will be required to replace or adjust the springs.
Garage Door Spring Types
There are two kinds of garage door springs:
These are the most common type of spring and are situated above the garage door opening. The number of springs required will be determined by the garage door’s size and weight but usually one or two. Torsion springs aren’t as dangerous as extension springs and are more durable, but this does make them a little more expensive.
There are two main types of garage door torsion springs:
Standard Torsion Springs – These are generally used with lighter garage doors often, just one torsion spring will be enough, but if the door is a little heavier, then you should use two.
Torque Master Torsion Springs – This is the safest type of spring for your garage door, they consist of a two spring system, and the springs are contained inside the shaft for optimal safety.
How to recognize a Damaged Torsion Spring?
This can be done by releasing the automatic garage door opener and raising the door manually. If your garage door has slight to no movement or doesn’t need you to hold it up, it is OK. Another way to identify if the spring needs replacing is to position the door midway, it should stay in place, but if it feels heavy, it could mean that the springs are close to failure.
Typically garage doors have two extension springs situated either side of the garage door tracks. Extension springs are potentially dangerous if they break, so they are used with safety cables in place. Extension springs are lower in cost than torsion springs.
There are three types of Extension Spring:
Open Looped – This is the most straightforward kind of extension spring to replace as it doesn’t require you to take apart the pulley.
Double Looped – Stronger than the open looped extension springs, they contain two coils at the end of the spring and are attached to the eyebolt and pulley. They are a little more difficult to replace than the open looped springs if broken.
Clip Ends – If you are looking for the most durable extension spring, the clip ends to fit the bill. As the clips are at the end of the spring, it places less stress, increasing its overall life span. Best for garage doors of 200 LB or over; the only downside is that they are the most challenging springs to replace.
How to recognize a Damaged Extension Spring
If there are gaps present in the coils of the spring, then it will be time to replace them. You can also check for rust on the springs and misalignment of your garage doors; these are both signs that they will need replacing as soon as possible.
How Much Does Garage Door Spring Repair Cost?
The average lifespan of garage door torsion springs is around 10,000 cycles. Opening and closing your garage door one time counts as a cycle. For most households, the springs should typically last anywhere between 4-9 years. So as an example, if you open and close the door of your garage four times a day over a year, you should get just under seven years of use out of your garage door torsion springs. But with a garage being used instead of the front door, kids in an out of the garage with their bikes, and so on, this figure can vary widely.
You can save some money by doing the job yourself, especially if you have the tools and an experienced DIYer. However, hiring a garage door repair expert to carry out the work will ensure that the job is handled professionally and, most of all, safely. We will discuss the safety risks shortly but be aware that this repair task can be dangerous, so a degree of confidence and knowledge is needed to handle it safely.
Garage door springs are affordable parts to purchase and will cost from as low as $15 and up to $100 depending on the type of springs you are installing. If you decide to do the job yourself and go the DIY route, then there are several costs to factor in addition to the expense of the springs.
If you are an experienced home DIY enthusiast, it’s odds-on that you have all the necessary tools for the job already. If you are new to DIY, we’d suggest you reconsider doing the job yourself and get a professional to handle it. But if you haven’t got the necessary tools such as C clamps, step-ladder, gloves, and safety goggles, then you can add these to the overall cost.
Something else to consider is your time. However, you save on labor costs by not hiring a professional and purchasing the parts. It will take from a few hours to a weekend to complete the job if you take into account buying and replacing the springs as well as learning how to undertake the task. We would suggest that you also have a helper on hand, and they might require payment for their time, even if it’s just a few beers after the job is done!
As we have already discussed, the safest and most efficient way to replace your springs is by hiring an expert. On average, the cost for spring replacement will be between $200 and $400.
Nationally, the average cost to have a professional replace a pair of garage springs is from $200 to $400. A skilled garage door mechanic will quickly and efficiently replace the springs, so you need to weigh up convenience and expertise against lower costs.
Important Safety Considerations Before Replacing Garage Door Springs
Garage doors are dangerous, which is confirmed by the statistics, with over 30,000 people injured each year. This isn’t just limited to injuries but deaths from garage door accidents. A garage door can weigh over 400lbs; if the springs break, it can fall and become damaged or, in the worst-case scenario, result in injury or death.
But the biggest potential danger is when the spring breaks and people without the right knowledge or experience attempt to undertake the replacement. This is why unless you are totally confident in your abilities and are prepared to follow safety procedures and use the right tools, then leave it to the professionals. With reports of people being maimed, losing limbs, and even killed replacing garage door torsion springs, this is why we strongly advise you to consider your options.
You should make sure that you are wearing personal protective gear such as safety glasses and strong gloves, ideally made from leather or some other durable material.
A lot of the work will be carried out on a ladder and will require a reasonable degree of arm strength as you will be working overhead a lot of the time. Make sure that the ladder is steady; ideally, it will make the job much easier if you have someone to assist you. They can hold the ladder in place, pass you up tools, and help you finish the task faster. When you are winding or unwinding, ensure you position the ladder to the side of the ends of the spring.
It would be best if you took special care when it comes to using the winding bars. As this is the part of the most hazardous task, you can significantly reduce the potential of any injury by using the correct tools. Forget about screwdrivers or plier handles if you want to avoid the emergency department. Invest in a set of winding bars and get the job done correctly and harm free.
Broken Garage Door Spring Repair Tips
Here are a couple of tips to consider before you carry out a spring replacement.
Replace both torsion springs – Most garage doors have two torsion springs; if you discover that one spring is broken, it is always wise to replace them both. As they are both used equally in the garage door’s open and close cycles, the other one won’t be far behind if one suffers from wear and tear.
Automatic garage door opener – If the spring is broken and you have an automatic door opener, stop using it straight away. If you continue to use it with the broken spring, you stand a high risk of damaging the garage door opener components. Experts suggest that until you can get the torsion springs repaired, release the door from the opener and use C clamps to hold it open. You’ll likely need some other people to help you with this as garage doors can weigh anywhere up to 400lbs.
Tools Required for your Garage Door Repair
You’ll just need a few basic tools to complete this job:
- Step Ladder
- Winding bars
- Safety glasses
- Leather/Mechanics gloves
- Garage Door Lubricant
- Vice Grips/Locking Pliers
How to Measure for Your Replacement Torsion Springs
Torsion springs are available in different lengths, inner diameters, wire sizes, and spring winds. Your install springs must be the correct size to prevent any dangers to you or your home.
Length of the spring – This is simple; all you need to do is measure from when the spring starts to its end with a tape measure.
Inside diameter – Using a tape measure for more precision some calipers, measure the spring’s inside diameter typically, it will be 1 3/4 or 2 inches.
Wire gauge – To measure the wire size, take your tape measure and measure the length of 20 coils. Now with that measurement, divide it by twenty to determine the wire size. Often extension springs will also be color-coded, so for instance, a spring that is 3 1/2 inches and color-coded gold will have a wire gauge of 0.177.
These are examples of wire size determined by 20 coil count and color code:
- 3 7/8″ Orange 0.192
- 4 1/8″ Yellow 0.207
- 4 3/8″ White 0.218
- 4 1/2″ Red 0.225
- 4 5/8″ Brown 0.234
- 4 7/8″ Green 0.243
- 5″ Gold 0.250
- 5 1/4″ Blue 0.262
- 5 1/2″ Orange 0.273
Right or left wind – if you have two springs, ignore this step and replace them both. But otherwise, with the left wind spring, the cone and drum are colored black and the right-hand red. You can also determine if it is left or right wind by checking when inside your garage; if the torsion spring is on the left side, it will be right wind, and therefore, if it is on the left side, the opposite is an RH wound spring.
Step by Step Guide to Replacing Your Garage Door Springs
The garage door should be closed to provide easy access to the spring. To prepare, have all your tools ready at hand. Ensure the garage door opener is unplugged. As a precautionary measure to keep it from opening, affix a C-clamp to the track just over the roller at the lowest part on either side of the door.
Remove The Existing Springs
With a wrench, loosen the two set screws on the winding cone. Insert a winding bar into the lower hole of the winding cone. Make sure that you keep a firm grip on the winding bar; you will feel the spring expand as the two screws become loose. Let the cone rotate a ¼ turn. Insert a second winding bar into the next hole on the winding bar and apply pressure. Maintain that pressure and remove the first winding bar; once removed, reduce the pressure on the second winding bar and allow another ¼ turn.
Unwind each spring with the help of two winding bars. Position the second winding bar into another hole on the winding cone. Unwind the spring ¼ turn at a time, moving one winding bar to the next open position after each ¼ turn. Continue releasing the spring tension by repeating the same action; it could take 40 ¼ turns until all the tension is released and the spring unwound.
Once all the springs on the door are unwound and hold no tension, use a wrench to remove the bolts that connect the spring to the center bracket. Next, with the wrench, loosen up the set screws on the cable drums. Once the set screws on the cable drums are loosened, and the nuts and bolts removed, you can detach the lift cables and slide the drums off the torsion shaft.
At this point, you might want to go back to our section on how to measure your garage door torsion springs so you can size up your spring replacement.
Install The New Springs
Before you start the installation, it is always a good idea to check for any other worn or rusted parts that need replacing. An example would be to ensure that the bearings are moving fluidly if not use a silicone spray garage door lubricant to help it move smoothly. If this doesn’t help, then purchase some new bearing plates at the same time as the torsion springs.
Begin with the left spring and slide it into place on the torsion shaft and just the same way you took it off, replace the cable drum repeat on the other side, assuming your garage door has two springs.
Once the new cable drums and drum have been replaced, center the torsion shaft in the bearing plates. Then bolt the stationary cones to the center plate using the nuts and bolts that you removed earlier.
Next, we set the cables by reattaching the cable to the left-hand cable drum, put the cable stop into the slot on the drum, and to secure the torsion shaft in place, attach a vise-grip. Wrap the cable around the drum and then tighten up the set screws. Leave the vice grip in place and repeat the same steps on the right hand-cable drum. Both sides require equal tension so make sure that you tighten each cable drum by the same amount. Imagine the cables as being like guitar strings not to lose but not so taunt that they are likely to break.
Using our winding bars, we will tension the torsion springs, which is the reverse process of when we started when we removed the tension. We need to know how many turns to make to get the optimum tension. The supplier should usually provide a recommendation, but if not, the guide is for each foot length of your garage door, the spring needs to go one revolution [4 quarter-turns]. So for a 7-foot-tall garage door, it would require 28 to 30 quarter-turns. If the door were 8-foot-tall, it would require 32 to 34 quarter turns. Count the turns aloud or ask someone to count for you, so you don’t miscount. This is important as if you overtighten it, it can break and cause injury to you.
Once you think that you have reached the right amount of tension, tighten the set screws on the winding cones. It is now safe to remove any of the vise grips or C clamps. You can now check the door’s balance and lift it up, and if it stays in place, this is a good sign. If it moves down, it requires more tension. If it lifts up, there is too much tension. Make any minor adjustments until the balance is correct, one quarter turn at a time.
Well done! You have successfully replaced your garage door springs, finish off by giving your springs a light spray with garage door lubricant and reconnect the electric opener.
Replacing the garage door torsion springs is a job that can be handled by an experienced DIY enthusiast with the right tools and knowledge. But they should have a clear understanding of the risks involved and take precautions to ensure that the job is carried out as safely as possible. If you doubt your ability to replace your garage door springs, then hire a professional for peace of mind. Paying a few extra bucks to save any potential damage to your property or, more importantly, and injury to you, will be well worth the price.