How to Balance a Garage Door
Balancing a garage door is necessary for safety and for the smooth, long-term operation of the garage door. An imbalanced garage door either slams shut or rapidly opens. Whatever type of garage door you have—torsion spring or extension springs—balancing a garage door is a DIY project that usually takes less than an hour to complete.
Why a Garage Door Needs Balancing
A balanced garage door is one that opens and closes easily. When a balanced garage door is temporarily detached from its operating mechanism and left halfway open, the door maintains an equilibrium—it does not close or open on its own.
An imbalanced garage door can close accidentally and injure users. Heavy garage doors can damage vehicles and property, plus the garage door components, especially the motor, wear out faster and can become damaged.
Garage Door Types: Torsion Spring or Extension Spring
Before balancing a garage door, you'll need to know which type of spring mechanism the door has: a torsion spring or extension springs.
A torsion spring door has one spring per door bay. This tightly coiled spring is located above the door, running parallel along the garage door header.
Torsion spring garage doors can be difficult to balance and may require the assistance of a garage door technician.
|Torsion Tube||Long bar across the top of the garage door||Holds torsion spring in place|
|Torsion Spring||Spring attached to the torsion tube||Assists garage door motor when opening the door|
|Winding Cone||Circular metal clamp at end of torsion spring||Holds torsion spring against torsion tube|
|Set Screws||Two screws in the winding cone||Clamps the winding cone against the torsion tube|
An extension spring garage door has two extension springs per door bay. The springs run parallel to the side walls of the garage. Extension springs help the motor pull the garage door up. When the garage door is raised, these springs are relatively loose.
Extension spring garage doors are simple and safe to balance. Balancing an extension spring door requires no special tools or expertise.
When balancing a garage door, be careful with the weight of the door. A garage door can weigh upwards of 200 pounds. A garage door that falls on a user can cause serious injury.
When adjusting the torsion spring, be very careful due to the enormous amount of stored energy in the spring. Do not remove the torsion spring. When adjusting the spring, stand to the side of the winding bar. Use only winding bars that fit your door's winding cone. Do not improvise with other tools like screwdrivers as winding bars.
What You'll Need
Equipment / Tools
- Torsion spring winding bars
- Locking pliers
- Wrench set
- C-clamp (or set of locking pliers)
- Step ladder
- Indelible marker
- Safety glasses
How to Check If a Garage Door Is Balanced
Check Door Movement
Open and close the door two or three times. Watch the door carefully from inside the garage to check for slow or hesitant movement indicating a heavy, off-balanced door. Listen to the chain or belt and to the motor. If the motor is straining, the door is likely off-balanced.
Lower Garage Door
Lower the garage door. Unplug the garage door motor or turn off the circuit breaker at the electric service panel.
Note Garage Door Halfway Point
On the garage door frame, temporarily mark or visually note the vertical halfway point for the garage door. Since most garage doors are 7 feet high, the midpoint should be 3-1/2 feet high.
Disengage Emergency Release Cord
A rope with a red handle should be hanging from the garage door's opener rail, the long metal rail located near the ceiling. Grasp the red handle. First, pull down on the rope. Then, while still holding the rope down, pull backward. This disengages the emergency release.
Raise Garage Door to Halfway Point
Pull backward, away from the garage door, until the door is at the halfway point marked earlier.
Release Emergency Cord
Let go of the emergency release cord. The door should remain at the halfway point on its own. Wait about a minute to see if the garage door slowly lowers or raises on its own. If the door raises or lowers on its own, it is off-balance.
Fully Raise Garage Door
Pull the emergency release cord backward to fully raise the garage door. The garage door should remain open after the cord is released. If the door slides back down, the door is not balanced.
How to Balance a Garage Door (Torsion Spring)
Close Door and Turn Off Power
Close the garage door all the way. Unplug the garage door motor from the outlet on the garage door ceiling. Or, turn off the circuit breaker at the electric service panel.
Attach Locking Pliers to Torsion Tube
Around 18 to 24 inches away from the torsion spring, attach a large pair of locking pliers to the torsion tube. Turn the pliers' adjustment screw so that the pliers are firmly attached and in no danger of slipping, but not so tight as to deform the tube. The pliers' handle must rest against the garage door header (the short section of wall above the garage door). If the pliers are too long to fit, the handle can alternatively rest against the garage ceiling.
Clamping the torsion tube prevents the drum and the cable from loosening when you adjust the torsion spring. Go slowly and take care with this step.
Lock Door in Place
Add a C-clamp or a second set of locking pliers to one of the garage door tracks to prevent the garage door from accidentally opening while you are working on the torsion spring.
Attach the clamp on one of the vertical sections of the garage door track. Make sure that the clamp is directly above a prominent feature like a strut, hinge, or roller so that the clamp will act as an obstacle to that feature.
Stand to the Side of Torsion Spring
Locate the winding cone on the end of the torsion spring. Move the ladder 12 to 18 inches to the side of the winding cone. Wearing safety glasses, stand on the ladder. Make sure that you are standing to the side of the winding cone, not in front of it. Have the wrench set and winding bars with you.
Determine Set Screw Size
Find the two set screws on the winding cone. Winding cones have different size set screws for each brand and model, so test this out with your wrenches until you have the correct wrench. When you have the right wrench, put it in your pocket or otherwise keep it within arm's reach.
Fit Winding Bar Into Winding Cone
The winding cone will have four holes. Fit the end of one of the winding bars into an outward-facing hole (not a hole at the top or bottom).
Loosen Set Screws
Hold the winding bar as you slowly loosen the two set screws. At this point, the torsion bar will now be free of the torsion bar and will exert force. So, hold the winding bar firmly and do not let it drop.
Add Second Winding Bar
Push the winding bar up enough so you can access a hole at the bottom of the winding cone. Insert the second winding bar in that hole. Let the force of the torsion spring draw the second winding bar toward the garage door header. This second winding bar, trapped against the garage door header, is now holding the torsion bar secure and preventing it from unwinding.
Begin to Tighten Torsion Spring
The torsion spring's winding cone is always tightened or loosened in quarter-turns. To do so, raise the lower winding bar upward by a quarter turn until the winding bar is parallel with the garage ceiling. While still firmly holding that winding bar, insert the other winding bar into the winding cone's bottom hole.
Tighten Torsion Spring Until Complete
Continue to tighten the torsion spring carefully and methodically in quarter-turns. A door that falls slowly shut on its own may require three or four quarter-turns. A door that rapidly shuts on its own may need four to eight quarter-turns. It's generally best to minimize the number of quarter-turns since you can always come back and increase the tension if needed.
Mark Torsion Tube
Let the bottom winding bar hold the spring in place. Use the indelible marker to add a mark on the torsion tube about 1/4-inch away from the end of the winding cone.
Expand Torsion Spring
Tightening the torsion spring also pushed the spring's coils together. Since this is not desirable, you'll need to slightly expand the torsion spring. To expand the spring:
- Pull the bottom winding bar toward you by about an inch.
- Make sure that the winding bar is completely seated in the winding cone's hole.
- With the other winding bar or a hammer, gently tap the vertical winding bar to the side until the end of the winding cone reaches the mark made earlier. Continue to hold the winding bar.
Tighten Winding Cone Set Screws
With the wrench, tighten the screws on the winding cone. These screws must be very tight to prevent the torsion spring from slipping off of the torsion tube.
Test Garage Door
Remove the winding bars. Unclamp the clamps. Before plugging the garage door motor back in or turning on the circuit breaker, open and close the garage door by hand. The door should raise easily and remain in place midway up.
How to Balance a Garage Door (Extension Springs)
Open Garage Door
Open the garage door. Unplug the garage door motor or shut off the circuit breaker. Opening the door releases the tension from the extension springs.
Clamp Door Open
Engage the C-clamp or locking pliers on one side of the guide tracks to prevent the door from accidentally shutting.
Adjust Extension Springs
Move the step ladder to one of the rear track hangers (the vertical bars hanging from the ceiling). The back end of the extension spring is attached to one of the holes in the rear track hanger. Wearing safety glasses and gloves, unhook the spring. Attach the spring to a hole higher up on the track hanger. Repeat on the other side. Make sure that both springs are attached to holes of the same height.
When to Call a Professional
Torsion springs are under a lot of tension so if you feel uncomfortable call a professional. Old, rusted torsion springs should be replaced, not adjusted. Have professionals replace the torsion spring for you.