Complete Guide to Broken Garage Door Springs – Why They Happen & Ideas to Fix


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Garage doors are one of those parts of a home that no one ever expects to see break. When they do, it quickly becomes apparent that dealing with a broken garage door isn’t as easy as you’d hope it to be. It becomes even worse when you realize that the damage is due to a broken garage door spring.

garage door with broken spring

How do you deal with a broken garage door spring? Ideally, you will replace the broken spring on your garage door. If you don’t have the time to do so, your best bet is to learn how to reduce damage when opening and closing the door. 

Having to struggle with a broken garage door spring isn’t easy. Hopefully, this guide will help you ameliorate the situation and get a better understanding of what makes garage door springs break. 

Why A Garage Door Spring Breaks

With all the advertising garage companies use to sell their “sturdy” garage doors, you’re probably wondering what’s going on with the door springs. Garage door springs break for a wide range of reasons, including:

  • Rust. When rust gathers on a door spring, the structural integrity and flexibility of the spring starts to die out. The brittleness of rusty metal often makes door springs snap. Rust and corrosion are likely culprits if you have a home in a humid area, or if your garage recently flooded.
  • Overuse Everything tends to break after too much use, and garage door springs are no exception to the rule. According to Behind the Door, the average torsion spring will last 10,000 uses before it breaks. That means you will probably have to replace your springs every 13.5 years or so.
  • Poor Maintenance. Bad maintenance practices can speed up a garage door’s lifespan, especially when it comes to matters like keeping your springs lubricated.
  • Wrong Equipment. Not all garage door springs are alike. If you use the wrong spring size or a spring type that isn’t suited for your garage door setup, you’ll notice breakage quickly.

Now that you know what could have caused your garage door spring to break, it’s time to start learning how to cope with the broken spring.

Are You Sure It’s A Broken Garage Door Spring?

If you’re not the “handy” type of person, it’s a good idea to diagnose your garage door problems. These signs below indicate a spring issue:

  • Your safety cables are loose, or there’s part of a spring hanging loosely. This is the most obvious initial sign of a broken spring you can get.
  • Your garage door is unusually heavy and won’t open more than six inches off the ground. Garage springs are what make your door open and feel light.
  • You heard a loud bang come from the garage. This is the sound a door spring makes when it snaps.
  • When you open your garage door, it’s jerky and uneven. This symptom is exclusive to two-spring systems.
  • When you use your automatic garage door closer, it falls faster than usual. This happens because the spring can no longer carry the weight of the door.

How to Open A Garage Door with A Broken Spring

Opening your garage door will be far harder than closing the door if the spring is broken. Your garage door spring is there to act as a counterbalance to the heavyweight of the door. Without a spring, you’re stuck lifting the weight of the entire garage door.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Call a friend. This is a two-person job. You will also need two step ladders and a pair of vice grips.
  2. Put ladders on each side of the door. The ladders will act as lifts for your garage door and help prevent your garage door from going off-track.
  3. Use a pry bar to open the door slightly. Get a grip on the door and start pushing up the door while keeping the garage door level. Keep pushing the door upwards until it’s fully open. 
  4. Clip the vice grips to the bottom roller. Vice grips will keep the door open.
  5. Place the ladders underneath the garage door and remove the vice grips. The ladders will keep your garage door open for as long as you need it to remain open.
  6. If you want extra security, place the vices on the track underneath the bottom roller. This will ensure that your door won’t budge if someone accidentally hits a ladder and will also keep your door open safely.

Can You Open A Garage Door Alone If Only One Of Two Springs Is Broken?

This all depends on the type of garage door system you have. In most cases, it’s best to still use the ladders and second person to open the door. However, having a second working spring in action will make the task lighter. 

For safety’s sake, it’s best not to open a garage door with a single-spring system by yourself. If you can’t find help or if you are okay with taking the risk, then you probably will be able to open the door on your own if you have a two-spring system.

Is It Okay to Open A Garage Door with A Broken Spring?

Yes and no. You will probably need to open your garage door in order to get items out or replace the spring that broke. If done carefully, you probably won’t have an issue as long as it’s only done one or two times.

The problem with opening a garage door with a broken spring is the effect it has on other parts of your door. The spring is there to support other parts. Without the spring in effect, you run the risk of having other parts of your garage door system fail. 

What Can Happen If I Don’t Fix My Broken Spring?

The longer you go without addressing the spring issue, the more likely it is that your garage door system fails. Depending on what happens, this can lead to garage system failure, broken garage doors, and more. 

How Often Can You Safely Open A Garage Door with A Broken Spring?

There’s no real “safe limit” to opening a garage door that has broken springs. Since springs do so much work for your system, the fewer times you use your garage door without them, the better off you’ll be. 

What Kind of Damage Is Linked to Using A Garage Door with A Broken Spring?

It all depends on what happens with your garage door use, your luck, as well as the overall age of the garage door system you have. These problems below are the most common breaks that can occur alongside broken springs:

  • Off-Track. The most common break that can occur is having your garage door go off-track, and this happens when you don’t open the garage door evenly while the spring is broken. Off-tracked garage doors may close unevenly, causing damage to the tracks, the pulleys, and even the garage door itself. 
  • Motor Failure. If you have a motorized garage door, make sure that you don’t try to use the motor to lift the garage door when a spring breaks. This can place undue pressure on the motor, which can cause an otherwise functional motor to burn out. 
  • Cable Failure. Since safety cables work closely with your springs, you shouldn’t be surprised if prolonged use of a broken spring door may impact the use of the cables as well. 
  • Full Garage Door System Failure. In rare cases, continued use of a garage door with a broken spring can cause your entire garage door opening system to fail—including the tracks, motor, and almost everything else. Need any more reason to work on it?

How to Close A Garage Door with A Broken Spring

Closing your garage door is the easy part since the weight of the door is no longer going to be supported by the spring. All you need to do is pull down the garage door by hand. Unlike opening the garage door, this is a one-person job.

Garage Door Spring Replacement

If your garage door has a broken spring, the only fix you have available to you is a replacement. Ideally, this is a task that you will leave up to a professional garage door service company. It’s a complicated, involved task for most people to try. 

How Much Does Garage Spring Replacement Cost?

If you choose to go the professional route, you will most likely have to pay between $200 and $300 to get your springs replaced. (source) This estimate includes both labor and the price of the spring itself. 

Going the DIY route is not advisable, as garage spring replacement can get dangerous. However, there are several online video tutorials that show you how it’s done. Make sure to choose a video that relates to the type of springs your garage door uses. I found this video helpful.

Why Is Replacing Your Own Garage Door Spring Dangerous?

The problem with DIY replacements isn’t just about making sure your garage door spring is properly installed. It’s the fact that the springs are fully “loaded” when the garage door is closed. That’s a lot of pressure.

When springs are put under that much stress, it’s possible to have them snap in your face if you aren’t careful. This can lead to serious injury, especially if you use torsion cords. Be extremely cautious if you choose to do it yourself. 

Should You Replace Both Your Garage Door Springs If Only One Breaks?

Though you only urgently need to replace the broken spring, your garage door will be better off if you replace both springs at the same time. This reduces the need to call a professional (or take time out of your day) to fix the second spring later.

How Long Does It Take to Fix A Garage Door with A Broken Spring?

Though it can be a tricky replacement, garage door spring repairs aren’t time-consuming. A professional can do it within a matter of 30 minutes. Individuals who choose to do it themselves may take a couple of hours, depending on the type of door.

How to Buy Your Replacement Garage Door Springs Yourself

Want to go the DIY route? It’s not always a good idea, but you can do it yourself. Here’s what you’re going to need to do:

  1. If you have documentation for your garage door system, the best move is to look at it first. Most garage door systems these days are sold with a guidebook that offers both installation and repair advice. If you still have the manual lying around, read through it. It will most likely have both the recommended size and type of spring you’ll need inside.
  2. Determine what type of garage door springs you have. There are two main types: torsion and extension. Systems that have a long, thin rod running parallel to each track use extension springs. Systems that have multiple, thicker springs on a rod above (and parallel to) the garage door use torsion tracks. 
  3. Measure your springs. The final step to determining your best spring is to measure it. To measure your springs, grab a tape measure and some calipers. Then:
    1. Measure the length of your springs. You can use a tape measure for this. It needs to be within 1-2 inches of accuracy. 
    2. Measure the spring size. This will be a little difficult. You will need to measure the length (in inches) of 10, 20, 30, and 40 coils on your spring. Then, you’re going to need to match it up against the sizing chart for your particular spring type. 
    3. Measure the inner diameter of the springs. Torsion springs are usually two inches, but there are some exceptions to the rule. It’s good to double-check, just in case.
  4. Buy one or two, depending on your garage door system. Single spring door systems may only need one spring, but if you want, you can upgrade to a two-spring system at any time.
  5. Get some safety cables and springs appropriate for your system. All garage door systems use safety cables as part of their springs. Make sure to buy the right spring size for your system.

Are Some Garage Door Springs Better Than Others?

For the most part, manufacturers all offer their own levels of quality when it comes to spring creation. The difference in sturdiness between springs won’t really be that noticeable from brand to brand.

It’s more important to focus on getting the right spring measurement than it is to focus on the brand name. You can easily find a great garage door spring for under $30.

How to Prevent Your Garage Door Springs from Breaking

Like with any home improvement measure, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you want to extend the life of your garage door springs, there are ways to make sure you get the most out of your spring’s life.

These tips below will help prevent your garage door’s springs from breaking:

  • Buy springs that last for high numbers of cycles. Each spring has a certain cycle lifespan they’re built for–and their lifespans are written on their boxes. Most springs will last 10,000 cycles (source). However, if you’re willing to splurge, you might be able to find some that last 20,000 or more. 
  • Buy the right springs. While you don’t always need exact measurements to make garage door springs work with your door, the truth is that precision makes a huge difference long-term. Small mismeasurements still add up to serious strain on springs.
  • Lubricate your springs. Garage door springs lose their ability to function when they start to corrode. This is especially troublesome in areas known for high humidity. The best way to prevent rust and corrosion in your springs is to keep them lubricated. This is the best way to ensure you won’t have them break prematurely.
  • Don’t be too heavy on your garage door usage. While you do need to be able to open your garage door, heavy usage can contribute to wear and tear. Take it easy on your garage door while you can. 
  • If you have a single-spring system, upgrade to a dual-spring setup. Leaving all the weight of the garage door to be handled by a single spring is doable, but it’s not wise. Having a second spring can help reduce the damage of opening a door with a broken spring and helps take a load off the original door. 

Keep Your Garage Door Running Smoothly

Most people underestimate (or never even consider) the amount of work garage door springs do. They only realize how important they are when they hear the snap or crunch of a broken spring.

If you’ve learned how important garage door springs can be the hard way, it’s a good idea to take this as a learning experience.

After you’ve replaced your garage door springs, take a moment to do some maintenance on your garage door system and add some lubrication to those springs. You’ll be amazed at how much a little maintenance can improve your garage door’s function.

Resources

Tony

Hi there, my name is Tony. Having worked in the construction industry for over 30 years and being a weekend warrior on my own home I definitely have plenty of war stories to share. Have a topic or project you are interested in trying? Let me know and we will try to put together an article or video on it!

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