Q&A / 

Garage Door Spring Adjustments

DEAR TIM: My husband and I recently purchased a house that is approximately 15 years old. It has an overhead garage door which is approximately 16 feet wide. I can open it, however, it takes quite a bit of effort. My husband says he can adjust the door so that I can open it with less effort. I would like to have an automatic opener installed. Can my husband make simple adjustments which will permit me to open the door? Do you think we can install an automatic opener successfully? L. M.

DEAR L.M.: Unless your husband works full time for a garage door service company, don't let him adjust the springs on the garage door. Garage door springs can be extremely dangerous. You must treat them like loaded weapons. Many a homeowner has been seriously injured by garage door springs and the cables which are attached to them. Garage door springs should only be adjusted by knowledgeable, professional individuals.

Garage doors are large, heavy mechanical objects. When you stop and think about it, they frequently are the biggest moving thing in your home. Your door, for example, probably weighs between 300 - 375 pounds. Give that some thought the next time you walk beneath it.

Garage door springs are designed to do virtually all of the work necessary to lift your garage door. They simply need a little help from you to get the job started. When garage doors are in the closed position, the springs are stretched very tightly and in their most dangerous state. The cables that are attached to the springs are under tremendous tension. Never loosen any hardware which is attached to a cable or spring.

In your case, I believe that your springs are either worn out or out of adjustment. Think how much force those springs must exert to lift your 300 + pound garage door. Think how many times in 15 years they have lifted that garage door. You would be tired too!

Very few homeowners are aware that garage doors require periodic maintenance. The hinges, rollers, springs, pulleys, cables, etc. are subject to wear and tear every time the garage door is operated. Rollers have been known to break when a door is opening. The result of a failure such as this can be catastrophic. Garage doors have been known to fall on top of a car, a person, or the garage floor. Regular routine inspections can prevent accidents such as these.

If you are mechanically inclined and have the proper tools, you can successfully install an automatic garage door opener. However, you must have the door springs adjusted prior to installing the opener. If the door springs are not adjusted properly, the life expectancy of the opener can be significantly reduced. Remember, the springs are supposed to open the door, not the opener.

When installing the opener, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions to the letter. Mount the push-button wall control at least 5 feet above the floor. Small children love to push these buttons and often play games with moving garage doors. Should the built in safety features fail, tragedy is a real possibility. Also, try to disguise or hide the remote transmitters as well. Don't tempt children with these playtoys.

Finally, after installation of the opener, test the door to make sure the door automatically reverses. Virtually every new opener is equipped with infrared detectors mounted low to the floor. These detectors sense if someone or something walks beneath the door as it is closing. The openers also are equipped with sensing devices that tell the opener if it is striking an object before it is fully closed. These sensors, when adjusted properly, will also reverse the door and send it back to the open position.



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