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Common Garage Door Problems
Garage doors lead pretty simple lives. Up, down, up, down, over and over, year after year—until suddenly they don’t work the way they should. Fortunately, that simple function usually makes for relatively simple repairs. Sometimes, though, even reliable old garage doors bite the dust or need major repairs.
Basic Maintenance and Quick Fixes
If your garage door is behaving well at this moment, you can probably keep it working that way almost indefinitely if you follow a simple inspection and maintenance routine. These same tips may also correct problems that are just beginning to appear:
- Examine the rollers and tracks on the garage door. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned them, now is the time to clean the rollers and tracks with a good brushing and to lubricate the rollers and axles. The bearings on rollers can also wear out; replace any rollers that don’t operate smoothly.
- Tighten the hardware. The tracks that guide the rollers on an overhead garage door are assembled in sections and attached to the garage with brackets. Makes sure the sections are well secured and that the screws and bolts that hold the brackets are tight.
- Check the cables and pulleys. Spring-operated garage doors have cables and pulleys that may wear out over time. Frayed cables and damaged pulleys need to be replaced—a job best done by professionals.
- Test the door balance. A garage door should require only a few pounds of pressure to move it up and down. If springs wear out and lose their resiliency, a power garage door opener may need to work extra hard to lift the door. This can quickly wear out the motor on the opener. Replacing worn-out springs is usually a job for a professional technician.
- Test the autoreverse feature on the door opener. Garage door openers are designed to automatically reverse and lift the door if it encounters an obstacle on the way down to the floor. If this feature no longer works correctly, the heavy door poses a safety hazard and the door opener should be repaired or replaced.
If none of these solutions fix your problems, or if you would rather just let someone else fuss with the door, look into calling a good garage door installer and repair technician.
Here are some other common garage door problems you may be able to fix yourself.
Noisy Garage Door
Noisy garage doors cause all kinds of problems, especially for anyone who has to sleep above or next to the garage. Fortunately, most noisy garage doors can be fixed with a combination of routine maintenance and the replacement of a few parts. If the basic maintenance tips described above don’t quiet a noisy garage door, it’s possible that the door’s hinges need to be replaced. And the rollers that run in the metal tracks can also gradually wear out and become noisy when their bearing stop rolling smoothly.
Frozen Garage Door
It is precisely on those coldest days of the year when you most need and appreciate the convenience of opening and closing your garage door quickly. Sadly, that’s exactly the kind of day when moisture and cold can conspire to make this difficult. According to the Overhead Door Company, garage doors can and do freeze to the floor.1 Sometimes it is just a minor icy connection between the two that can be broken when you hit the opener button.
But if the door refuses to budge on the first attempt, resist the urge to keep banging on the automatic opener button. This is likely to cause a more serious problem with the garage door opener—including, but not limited to, stripped gears, broken springs, and a burned-out motor on the opener.
Instead, try other methods that might break the frozen connection between the door and the floor. For example, you can use a heat gun or hair dryer to melt the ice and free the door. Standard de-icing products can also work. And if you are careful not to damage the door or the seal on the bottom of the door, you can use a flat shovel or similar tool to chip away at the ice.
Once you get the door open, clear away any water, ice, or snow from the floor beneath the garage door. Keeping this area dry will prevent future freezing.
Since most yards entertain play activity, including baseballs and other sporting equipment, it’s no surprise that garage doors experience broken glass from time to time. Regardless of the cause, it’s important to repair glass quickly, since broken glass in a garage is a safety issue, a security problem, and an invitation to every bird and insect in the neighborhood to take up residence in your garage. Fortunately, it’s not difficult to replace a pane of glass. The techniques are exactly the same as for replacing glazing in a house window.
Overhead garage doors weigh hundreds of pounds, and doors that are not properly maintained or which are equipped with older automatic garage door openers can be safety time bombs. All too common are the tragic stories of garage doors injuring or even killing children or pets who found themselves underneath a closing door. Modern automatic door openers with auto-stop and auto-reverse mechanisms have greatly reduced such accidents,2 but mishaps can still occur if the door and door opener are not properly maintained.
When a garage door opener is very old, or when it fails to work properly, installing a new opener is not just a convenience, it is a matter of family safety.
The garage you take for granted very likely stores thousands of dollars worth of tools and household belongings, not to mention your car. Yet this space is typically rather easy for intruders to penetrate. Garage security can be greatly improved by installing a modern garage door opener that features rotating digital codes, which can foil even the most tech-savvy prowlers.
Faulty Garage Door Opener
Although it’s the front entry door that gets more attention, for many of us, the actual coming and going usually takes place through the garage. And that means we depend on the garage door opening and closing whenever we press a button. So, when the garage door opener decides to take a day off, it can leave you stuck outside, perhaps during a rain or snow storm. Though they may seem complicated, there are several easy actions homeowners can take to diagnose and repair common garage door opener problems.
A garage door is counterbalanced by extension springs or torsion springs connected to cables and pulleys. These springs provide counterforce to the weight of the door and allow it to be raised and lowered with just a few pounds of force applied by hand or through the assistance of a motorized garage door opener. But these springs are under constant pressure and eventually they wear out. When your garage door opener begins to struggle opening the door, or when you begin to notice that it feels quite heavy to lift by hand, it’s likely that the springs are wearing out and need to be replaced.
Replacing garage door springs is a job that many homeowners leave to a professional, since the springs are under considerable pressure and may cause injury if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Worn-Out Garage Door
Properly maintained, a garage door can last for 50 years or more, but when neglected, they may fail within 10 or 15 years, at which time there is no real choice other than to replace it. More likely, you may choose to replace the door for aesthetic reasons—because you are simply tired of how it looks and want to change the style.
Shopping for a new garage door isn’t a particularly easy process, partly because we don’t have much practice at it and there aren’t a lot of sources of good consumer information. It helps to divide the process into stages, looking for answers to these questions:
- How much does a garage door cost?
- What are the choices for materials?
- What style of garage door will look best on my home?
- How do I get the best deal on installation?