Garage Door Springs – What is it? How to test it?

Tilt Garage Door Spring

Garage Door Springs?

Does your garage door have a broken spring? (Damn!) Don’t attempt to open or close your garage door, else you’re likely to have a costly repair ahead of you. Keep reading to find out about how to go about replacing the spring, and getting the door back in working order!

If you have found this page before the spring on your garage door has broken, rejoice! You’re in a position to ensure that you get the most out of your garage door springs and avoid unnecessary damage and cost.

What are garage door springs?

Garage door springs are probably the largest spring the average home-owner will ever encounter. These springs are an integral part of the garage door set up. When broken, the system cannot be used! Attempting to open the door will burn out your garage door motor.  

What do garage door springs do?

Garage door springs are used to ‘reduce’ the weight of the garage door by pulling the door in the direction of the motor. The springs do not pull with enough force as to open the door but rather with sufficient force such that only a fraction of the force needed to open/close the door must be exerted by the user or by the garage door motor.

When a garage door is ‘sprung up’ (the springs are installed and tensioned to take the ideal amount of weight) correctly, the garage door spring will take roughly 80% of the weight of the door.

As a typical garage door weights roughly ~100kg (for a double-garage door), the garage door springs will take 80% of that load, effectively lifting ~80kgs. Leaving either the garage door motor or the user to lift the remaining ~20kgs.

Garage door motors are only designed to lift the expected 20% of the door’s weight. When the spring is broken, and the user attempts to open the door with the motor, the motor will rather take the full ~100kg weight of the door. This is far too heavy a weight for the garage door motor to handle. The motor will not be able to lift the door and will burn out the engine in its attempt to do so. 

A garage door motor with a burnt out motor cannot be repaired and must instead be replaced. Depending upon the type and size of the garage door, a replacement motor can cost anywhere from $400 to $1,400.

How can I tell if my garage door’s spring is broken?

To tell if your garage door spring is broken, you will need to have a look at the spring to ensure that it remains as one continuous, unbroken piece.

Garage door springs come in different sizes and different locations depending upon the type of door that you have:

Roller garage door springs sit within the furled roller door and cannot be seen by the garage door user. As you cannot see whether the spring remains in one piece or not, it is impossible to notice when the garage door spring breaks. If it does break you will have to replace the entire roller garage door unit as you cannot get replacement springs for roller garage doors. It should be noted that roller garage door springs are of a higher quality than sectional or tilt garage door springs (they are referred to as ‘high cycle’ garage door springs) and are much less likely to break. Realistically, the inability to replace the garage door spring should not deter one from purchasing a roller garage door as it is unlikely to occur. 

Sectional garage door springs sit above the garage door and can be easily seen from within the garage when the door is closed. Simply looking at the spring, you should be able to determine whether the spring is in one piece or not. There should be the appearance of only one spring without break or pause. Some sectional garage doors have 2 or sometimes even 3 springs, depending on the size of the door. These springs are connected to each other ‘end-on-end’ via a connecting bracket as if to form one large continuous spring. This connecting bracket should clearly connect two separate springs, and should not be confused with a break in the actual spring itself.  A connecting bracket will sit exactly in the centre of the door, while a break in the spring will occur somewhere between the centre and the spring’s end. Additionally, the torsion pole (the pole about which the spring is wound) will be clearly visible in the gap formed by a broken spring. If you can see this pole, the garage door spring is broken.

Here are some images of broken springs to help you identify:


My garage door’s spring is broken, what do I do?

Most garage door springs break when the garage door is on the way up, in the process of opening. When the spring breaks the door will become too heavy for the garage door motor to lift. The motor will fail and the door will fall back to the floor with great speed and force. Hopefully, nothing is in the way when this occurs, else it will be crushed by the entire weight of the garage door (which can easily be upwards of 100kgs) falling from a potential maximum height of ~3 meters for residential doors. That’s enough force to cause some serious damage to property and severely injure or kill anyone who might happen to be in the way when the door comes crashing down. 

As described above, the vast majority of broken spring incidents will result in the garage door being closed. If this is the case for your garage door, great! This is the safest position for the door can be in while the garage door spring is broken. Leave the garage door closed and do not attempt to open it! In its current state, the door will weigh upwards of 100kgs, and if dropped could come crashing down on you, or your feet and toes. It’s safest to simply leave it as it is until a garage door technician can come to the property and replace the broken spring.

For those rare cases where the garage door remains open, despite the broken spring, it is best that you leave the door exactly as it is. Do not touch the door, rather leave the closing of the garage door to the garage door technician. Without the garage door spring intact, the door is no longer being pulled upwards and held open. The door is sitting in a very precarious position where slight pressure on the door could bring it crashing down, closed. Do not disconnect the door from the garage door motor, do not apply any force or pressure to the garage door, and hope no wind blows into your garage as these 3 things are all enough to knock the door off its precarious position and bring it crashing down. Given the risk of the garage door coming crashing down, it is incredibly important not to allow anyone or anything to pass beneath the garage door.

As such, in either circumstance, the best option is to leave the garage door set-up exactly as it is, to call your local garage door technician to come and attend, and ensure no one attempts to move the garage door or pass beneath it.

My garage door spring is intact, how do I maintain it?

If your garage door spring is intact, brilliant! It’s likely doing the job it needs to do: taking the weight of the door, and allowing either you or the garage door motor to open and close the door with ease.

To ensure that the spring does not deteriorate, bears the weight of the garage door, and allows the garage door set up to work correctly without straining the garage door opener, you should do two things: 1. Regularly service your garage door. 2. Perform a visual inspection of the springs. And 3. Regularly check to ensure the garage door spring is correctly tensioned.

Regularly service will ensure that the entire garage door set up is working as it should. That the various parts are inspected, lubricated, repaired, or replaced where necessary. It is recommended that your garage door is services roughly every 2 years.

A visual inspection of the garage door springs will also give you an indication of their condition. unsurprisingly, rusty springs are prone to deterioration and breakage and will do so much quicker than well-lubricated springs.

Checking to the spring’s tension will ensure the correct amount of weight is taken by the spring, that the motor is not having to strain excessively, and that the spring does not weaken as a result of being over-tensioned. 

How to test the garage door spring tension?

Here are the steps to follow to test the tension of the garage door spring:

  1. Close your garage door
  2. Disengage the garage door from the motor – aka ‘put the door into manual mode’
  3. Lift the garage door until the bottom of the door is roughly chest height
  4. Step back from the garage door (to remove your feet from the opening, should the door come down)
  5. Let go of the garage door

A correctly tensioned garage door spring should hold the garage door in that position – the door should not go up or down. 

If the door drops, as if to close, this is a clear sign that the garage door spring is under-tensioned (common).

If the door goes up, as if to open, this is a clear sign that the garage door spring is over-tensioned (rare).

The process of re-tensioning the spring can be quite dangerous if performed by someone other than a trained garage door technician. This is because the springs are tensioned as to be able to hold roughly ~80 kilograms of the garage door. This is a lot of elastic power which is stored in the tension of these springs! If that power was to be released all at once, it could cause serious injury to the person who has released that tension. As such, a garage door technician (who has been trained specifically to do this in a safe manner) should be called to come and retension the garage door spring.

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