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 from an expensive repair bill.
There is an easy 10-step routine that you can follow. For convenience, you can time your garage door inspection to coincide with 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 manifest in jerky movements and grating, scraping sounds. A well-maintained, well-tuned garage door is relatively quiet as 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 make sure the tracks are plumb (perfectly vertical) along their vertical sections. You can make small adjustments 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 the door and track hardware. Check out the brackets holding the door tracks to the wall and ceiling as well as the fasteners anchoring the garage door opener unit to the framing. Use a socket wrench to tighten up any loose bolts you find.
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 five to seven years. During your inspection, replace any rollers you find that are chipped, cracked, or obviously worn. Most of the rollers can be removed by simply removing the brackets holding them to the door. Warning: Do not remove the bottom roller bracket on each side of the door because these are attached to the lift cables, which are under extreme tension.
Check the Cables and Pulleys
Inspect the lift cables and pulleys that attach to the bottom roller brackets on the door. These provide the connection between the springs and the door to help lift and lower the door safely. Garage doors have one of two different types of springs: Extension springs Extension springs are long, skinny springs that run alongside the horizontal (overhead) portion of each door track. Torsion springs are mounted to a metal rod above the door opening. Both types use cables to lift the door.
Most experts advise that cables and springs should not be touched by homeowners, since these high-tension parts can be dangerous. If you spot any broken strands or other signs of wear or damage on the cables, call in a service person for assistance.
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 a high-quality spray lubricant, such as white lithium grease (which is available in a spray can), on the rollers and hinges, then wipe off any excess. If any rollers or hinges seem stuck, spray them with a penetrating solution, like WD-40, then wipe them clean and apply grease.
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, spray 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. Call a professional for help with springs.
Test the Auto-Reverse Feature
Automatic garage door openers should have an auto-reverse feature that is designed to stop and reverse the direction of the door if it detects an object in the path of the door or it hits an object while the door is closing. This system is activated by a pressure sensor or by a pair of photocells on each side of the door.
Test the pressure sensor by placing a scrap 2x4 board flat on the ground in the path of the door. When the door comes down and touches the board, it should reverse direction and go 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 direction 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, should be replaced.
Repair or Replace the Weatherstripping
The rubber weatherstripping along the bottom of the door helps keep out the cold as well as water, 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 are common. 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.