Balancing a garage door does not involve circus tricks, teeter-totters or special gymnastic skills. Instead, it is the relationship between the garage door’s weight and the springs used to counter that weight. A simple test is used to determine if your garage door is in balance or not. Doors that are out of balance cause extra loads for your opener and may cause it to fail prematurely.
To perform the balance test, close the door normally and detach the automatic opener (if present). From the middle of the door, lift it to the halfway mark and carefully let go. Be ready to grab the door in case of dramatic movement.
If the door falls to the lower position quickly then the spring tension is too weak; if the door continues to rise, the spring tension is too great. What we are looking for is no or very minimal movement. If Goldilocks were testing the Three Bears’ garage door, she might say it was “Just right.” If your garage door is in balance and stays were you leave it, life is good and you can continue with your other basic maintenance or inspections. If your door moves after you let go, you will need some adjustments and you should keep reading.
Extension Springs or Torsion Springs
Most two-stall garage doors use torsion springs: these run parallel to and above the door header and are designed to counter the heavier loads of these big doors. Torsion springs will weaken after thousands of cycles and may need to be replaced or adjusted. Both of these tasks are better left to professionals, or to VERY experienced DIYers who can perform the job safely. These springs can hold hundreds of pounds of “stored energy” and must be adjusted properly. Failure to follow basic guidelines can result is serious injury.
Extension springs, by comparison, are the type that can be more easily adjusted by the average homeowner. Extension springs resemble a giant Slinky that gets pulled on when the door closes, and they usually serve single, lightweight doors. These springs run parallel to the track and often have a large pulley at the door end. Extension springs can often be adjusted from the “open door” or relaxed position by repositioning hooks or attachment points. Just like their heavy-duty cousins (the “torsion springs”) extension spring work should be performed with safety in mind and it is wise to use simple precautions.
More Weight ?
If your torsion spring door climbs up the track when you let go, you may still have a DIY option available. Sometimes an extra door stiffener or brace can add the needed 10-15 pounds to bring a garage door into balance. These common braces reduce flex in wide doors and can often provide an extra “grab location” for manual operations.
A balanced garage door will keep your automatic opener happy by working with weight limits it was designed for. Should your door be manually operated, proper balance will allow you to lift and close it with minimal effort. Some balancing may be completed by skilled DIYers, while other balancing may require professional help. Hopefully, you will find yourself next to Goldilocks with a well-balanced garage door that is “just right!”