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Garage Door Basics

Garage doors are undergoing their third period of metamorphosis. Wood used to be the material of choice in the first generation of doors. Then insulated, steel garage doors appeared. Fiberglass and other composites are now bringing about further change and advancements. The use of a fiberglass outer skin in garage doors allows you to duplicate the look of natural wood on a surface that otherwise would appear very plain.

Many older garage doors allow wind and rain to enter. A new tongue and groove feature on the edge of many doors has solved this problem. In addition, some doors have a weather-strip gasket that seals tightly as the door sections close upon one another. Certain doors offer a unique crush-resistant safety feature. Should fingers get in between the panels as the door closes, the door design can push the fingers or other objects out of the way.

Having a garage door upgraded is one of the more popular remodeling projects, and manufacturers have responded with architecturally pleasing styles, colors and sizes to keep up with this demand.
People are paying more attention to their garage doors as property lots have become smaller due to rising land prices, pushing garages away from the back or side of the house and moving them in front. No matter how splashy the door’s design, it is still frustrating when it doesn’t work!

Garage doors are the largest mechanical objects in your house. The springs that are used to open them can store and release deadly force. People are seriously injured and killed each year when they try to install garage doors or perform advanced service on existing doors. The only service you should attempt is the periodic lubrication of the wheels, hinges, and tracks. Use a lightweight oil to accomplish this task. Never use heavy bearing grease.

Common Problems

Because they are used so frequently, and exposed to the weather, garage doors can fall into disrepair. Any number of problems can arise, making it difficult or even impossible to use the door. Some of the problems can be diagnosed without a professional, but most will need to be looked at and repaired by someone who is trained to deal with garage doors. Garage door openers are high tech. Garage door installation should be left to the professionals. It is usual for a company that repairs garage doors to also service remote openers.

There are several problems that are common to garage door malfunctioning.
If your door won’t open, the first thing you should check is the remote opener. Often, simply reprogramming the remote opener will fix the problem.
If the door still won’t open or shut, the springs may be the problem. Don’t attempt to detach springs yourself, as many have enormous tension built up and could do serious damage. You should also check the door’s alignment. If the rollers are off the track, or the track veers away from the door, the door cannot function.

What to Check:
Make sure the remote opener is functioning properly
Alignment of Pulleys and Rollers
Rusty parts, especially Cables and Springs (always replace in pairs to avoid imbalance)
Missing Nuts and Bolts

Check Pulleys and Rollers
One of the most common garage door hardware problems is worn out pulleys!

There are four pulleys on a garage doorframe, two mounted in a stationary position on the frame above either side of the garage doorframe, and two moveable pulleys attached to the springs on either side of the door. There should be very little movement in the pulleys except their rotation. If they do not turn smoothly or they wobble, replace them. The stationary pulleys get the most wear, because the cable exerts sideways force on them. If one has become excessively worn, always have both replaced. The moveable pulleys attached to the springs can last twice as long.

Rollers are a little harder to check than pulleys.

Make a visual inspection of the rollers. The rollers consist of a wheel mounted to spin easily on a metal shaft. The metal shaft should move freely within the hinges. Often the lowermost roller shafts tend to seize up because of accumulations of rust and other debris. Excessive wear, as with the pulleys, cause the rollers to bind against themselves and against the garage door track. Do any seem to be twisted or off-center? Do they wobble? Move the door up and down and try to observe if any rollers seem to bind.

Do it with the garage door opener disconnected, since the strength of the opener can mask a bad roller. Does the door move smoothly? At what point does it start to hang up? More often than not, if it is a roller problem, it will occur when the bad roller is in the curved part of the track, sometimes even binding on the seam between the parts of the track. The defective roller(s) will need to be replaced.

Garage Door Opener – Troubleshooting
Nothing’s more irritating than coming home to a garage door opener that is not operating. What is more, determining why it doesn’t work can be a daunting task.
Almost all openers contain microchips and are susceptible to malfunctions caused by power surges. If your opener suddenly malfunctions it could have been a surge. Keep that in mind. The best way to solve a mechanical problem is to systematically work toward eliminating the problem. If it’s not one issue, move on to the next.

  • Check to make sure there’s power.
  • Is the door set to only open using the inside switch?
  • Is the remote not working?
  • Look at the electric eyes that comprise the safety feature of the door. Are they on? If they are, are they pointing directly at each other? If you do this and the garage door still doesn’t work, or if they’re not on, then you need to try to reset the system.
  • Shut off the power to the system, either by turning off the house power or unplugging the system. Count to ten. Restore power. Did this work? If it didn’t, inspect the wiring between the opener and the photocell modules.

What are safety cables and why do I need them?

Safety cables keep a broken garage door spring from sailing around the garage!
Similar to the garage door cables, safety cables are usually lighter in weight. They are attached to the garage door track or wall near the stationary pulleys, lace through the garage door springs, and connect to the same support that the spring does. Safety cables are easy to install (less than an hour for a pair) and come in a kit form with all necessary fasteners. To be sure, look at your garage door track setup before you shop, you can make a list of what parts you may need… eyebolts, s-hooks, etc. Then, see what the kit offers, and buy separately what the kit doesn’t have.

Why do you need them?
Do you have any idea how much is costs to replace an auto windshield… plenty! If a garage door spring breaks, it can fly across the garage with such force that it can penetrate a double layer of 5/8″ wallboard, or seriously harm you if you’re unlucky enough to be nearby! About the only difficult thing about this installation, next to being steady on a ladder, is lacing them through the garage door spring. Be sure to check the free movement of all door parts and proper function on one side before installing the second side. And don’t pull the cable too tight… that in and of itself may cause problems… just slightly slack is fine.

New Technology for Security
Radio controlled garage door openers can be a problem. High-tech savvy thieves are routinely stealing the codes from cellular phones and remote controlled burglar alarms on cars. This same technology can easily grasp your remote control code out of thin air. Certain garage door opener companies have technology that changes the code every time the door is opened. There are billions of code choices. High-tech thieves will not waste their time at your house if you own such an opener!

A Final Tip
When your door is installed, be sure that the company installs a high quality bottom door seal and perimeter weather-stripping. Air infiltration is the biggest energy thief in garage doors. Your new, well-insulated door may prove useless if cold or warm air can easily enter your garage. Insist on a tight fit.

This paper is intended for informational purposes only. Nothing contained herein constitutes legal, financial or other professional advice. Transmission of these materials is not intended to create, and receipt does not constitute, any relationship of any kind between the provider and the recipient. Some of these points may not apply in your area. Different term and conditions may vary from state to state and province to province. All articles, text and photographic material presented here is for the use and pleasure of the recipient only. Download PDF

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