Balancing a garage door does not involve circus tricks, teeter-totters or special gymnastic skills. Instead, it's all about the relationship between the garage door’s weight and the springs used to counter that weight. Doors that are out of balance will cause extra loads for your opener and may even cause it to fail prematurely. Use the following simple test to determine whether your garage door is in balance or not.
To perform the balance test, close the garage 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 strong. What we are looking for is no or 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 where you leave it, life is good and you can continue with your other household maintenance or inspections. If your door moves after you let go, you will need some adjustments, so keep reading.
Torsion Springs or Extension Springs
Most two-stall garage doors use torsion springs, which run parallel to and above the door header and are designed to counter the heavier loads of these big doors. As torsion springs weaken after thousands of cycles, they may need to be replaced or adjusted. Both tasks are better left to professionals, or to VERY experienced DIYers who are capable of performing the job safely. These springs can hold hundreds of pounds of “stored energy” and must be adjusted properly. Failure to follow basic safety guidelines can result in serious injury.
Extension springs, by comparison, can be more easily adjusted by the average homeowner. Resembling a giant Slinky that gets pulled on when the door closes, 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 frequently be adjusted from the “open door” or relaxed position by repositioning hooks or attachment points. Just as with their heavy-duty cousins -- the torsion springs -- extension spring work should be performed with safety in mind.
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 often provide an extra “grab location” for manual operations.
A balanced garage door will keep your automatic opener happy by working with the 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 you to hire a garage door professional. Hopefully, you will find yourself next to Goldilocks with a well-balanced garage door that is “just right!”
Updated January 22, 2018.