Garage door maintenance is often overlooked, but twice-a-year seasonal inspection and maintenance should be part of your routine. Garage doors that are neglected can put a lot of stress on an automatic garage door opener, and spending an hour or two in the early spring and late fall each year may save you a $1,000 repair bill.
Here is an easy 10-step routine that you can follow. For convenience, you can time your garage door to other seasonal activities, such as winterizing the lawn sprinklers and turning them back on in the spring, or getting your lawnmower in and out of storage for the season.
Watch and Listen to the Door in Operation
Problems with your garage door and automatic opener are often telegraphed by jerky movements and grating, scraping sounds. A well-maintained, well-tuned garage door is relatively quiet at it moves up and down, and you should not see jerkiness in its motion. Look at both sides of the system—the springs, pulleys, and cables—and make sure they look symmetrical.
Clear the Tracks
Inspect the tracks on both sides of the door to make sure they are free of debris and rust. You can also use a level to check to make sure the tracks are plumb on their vertical sections. Small adjustments can be made yourself, but major track adjustments are a job for a professional technician.
Tighten the Hardware
Because the typical garage door moves up and down many hundreds of times each year, the motion and vibration can loosen up hardware. Check out the brackets holding the door tracks to and the garage door opener unit to the framing, and use a socket wrench to tighten up any loose bolts you see.
Inspect and Replace the Rollers
The rollers along the edge of the garage door should be inspected at least twice a year and replaced every 5 to 7 years. During your inspection, replace any rollers you find that are chipped, cracked, or obviously worn. Except for the bottom rollers that may be attached to cables, the other rollers can be removed by removing the brackets holding them.
Check the Cables and Pulleys
On extension spring openers, check the condition of the cables and pulleys that attach the springs to the door. Most experts advise that cables and springs should not be touched by homeowners since these high-tension parts can be dangerous. But check for broken strands on the cables and damage down near the bottom roller bracket, and call in a service person if you see any problems.
Lubricate the Moving Parts
Keeping the rollers and other moving parts well lubricated will reduce stress on the rollers and door opener and prolong their useful lives. Twice a year, apply some spray penetrating lubricant, such as WD-40, on the rollers and hinges, then wipe the parts dry and apply a light 3-in-1 oil. If any rollers or hinges seem stuck, try soaking them with kerosene. Use a small brush (an old toothbrush works great) to work the kerosene into the cracks. Remove any rust with steel wool. Wipe all parts clean, then apply lubricant.
Also, lubricate the pulleys on extension-spring openers and the bearings on torsion-spring openers. Wipe a little oil on the torsion spring if it is rusty. If the opener has a metal chain or screw, spread white lithium grease on the opener’s chain or screw, but do not use lubricant on a belt-drive opener.
Test the Door Balance
If your garage door is not properly balanced, the garage door opener will have to work harder, and it won’t last as long. The door should be so well balanced by its springs that only a few pounds of force is necessary to lift it. Test this by pulling the release handle on the automatic opener, then manually lift the door so it is about halfway open. The door should remain in place without your help. If it doesn't, the door is improperly balanced or the springs are growing old and worn. Work on the garage springs should be left to a professional service technician.
Test the Auto-Reverse Features
Automatic garage door openers should have an auto reverse feature that is designed to stop and reverse the direction of the door if it hits an object or person before it reaches the ground. This system can work by means of a mechanical feature, or by a pair of photocells on each side of the door. Test the mechanical type by placing a piece of board on the ground in the path of the door. When the door comes down and touches the board, it should reverse direction and begin to back up again. To test the photoelectric system that has eye sensors on each side, start your door downward in a closing direction, then just pass your leg in the door’s path. The door should reverse directions and head upward.
Consult your garage door opener instruction manual for directions on how to adjust the auto reverse function. Older garage door openers that lack this basic feature, which is now mandated by building code in many areas, are due for replacement.
Repair or Replace the Weatherstripping
The rubber weatherstripping along the bottom of the door helps keep out the cold as well as dust and dirt. Check it twice a year to make sure it is in good shape. Some weatherstripping fits into the bottom of the door by means of a flange that slides into a groove in the bottom of the door. Weatherstripping for wooden garage doors is usually nailed in place. Garage door weatherstripping is sold by the foot or in large rolls at hardware stores and big box home improvement stores.
If your door has weatherstripping along the sides, also check its condition and reattach any loose spots or replace the entire length of stripping if it is badly worn or damaged.
Clean and Paint the Door
Inspect the door itself when you are checking out the other components. If the door is steel, look for rust spots that should be sanded, primed, and painted. Fiberglass doors can be washed with an all-purpose cleaner. Pay particular attention to wood doors, since warping and water damage is likely. Remove chipped and peeling paint, then sand and repaint. If you have a wooden door that does not have weatherstripping along the bottom, make sure this bottom edge is well sealed or painted, then install a weatherstrip.