Garage door springs are usually the most service-intensive component in a garage door. They need proper tensioning, lubrication, but will still eventually wear and break.
This post answers the most common questions related to garage door spring wear: how long they last, how they break and how should you go about the replacement.
How long should garage door springs last?
Garage door springs are rated for anywhere between 10,000 to 200,000 door openings. Standard models for single-family residential use have a lifetime of 10,000 open-close cycles, while high-cycle torsion springs may be rated to 25k or 50k cycles. Springs for heavy-duty multistorey car park doors are available with lifetimes up to 100k or 200k openings.
The standard 10,000 cycle spring life translates to around 7 years in typical single-family use, where the door opens four times per day. High-cycle springs are nominally rated for decades of such use.
Garage door springs can fail much sooner their rated lifetime. This may happen if the springs are not lubricated or suffer from excessive corrosion.
Pro tips: You can extend the service life of torsion springs by a) keeping them lubricated and b) slightly stretching them axially to prevent rubbing.
Spring life actually depends a lot on the spring size and door height – see more details in my Spring Sizing Chart.
How often should I replace garage door springs?
Standard 10,000-cycle garage door springs are replaced every 7 to 14 years or when they break.
Best practice is to schedule a replacement of garage door springs when their rated lifetime in cycles is up. For a 10,000-cycle spring and a door opened four times a day, this is at around 7 years of service. In a commercial car park, a long-life 50,000 cycle may fail in a year.
Scheduled spring replacement avoids any downtime for garage use and minimizes the risks related to a spring breaking. These include the spring hitting someone/something and the door falling down.
Many people still opt for replacing the springs only when either breaks. This is a viable option, but involves some risk – make sure all users understand that the door may come down at any moment, and don’t do this with extension springs.
How to know my springs are broken?
A broken garage door spring is easy to spot: it will be clearly in two parts. When the spring breaks, the tension is released and the two ends coil back towards the attachment points, leaving a gap of few inches or more between. This holds both for extension and torsion springs.
(The spring breaking is in fact a result from a slow process called fatigue. However, the damage is hard to detect before the final failure.)
Why garage door springs break?
Garage door springs break due to a combination of metal fatigue, rubbing and corrosion.
In ideal conditions, the steel in the springs would resist fatigue for millions of loading cycles (openings). Two factors accelerate fatigue in the door spring application: corrosion and friction between coil loops. These create surface defects which initiate a fatigue failure much sooner than theoretically expected.
To extend spring life, keep the coils lubricated. The lubricant reduces wear in the loop-to-loop contact and reduces corrosion once the paint layer has worn off.
Garage door springs also benefit from a reasonably dry environment. They will last longer in a lower-moisture heated garage than in an unheated one.
What happens if a garage door spring breaks?
Garage door spring breaking makes the door heavy to operate and may cause it to fall.
The task of the garage door spring is to help you or the door opener lift the door. If the spring breaks, there’s no help. The door may be too heavy to lift open.
The spring breaking may also cause the door to fall, either through a short distance or all the way down. Many larger door models have a safety clutch that allows only a short fall. Most small models don’t, and the fall is braked or prevented only by the door opener.
Can I replace a garage door spring myself?
Replacing garage door springs yourself is possible, but takes some tools, skill and care.
Taking out old springs and installing new ones is standard mechanical work. If you have the basic tools and are used to maintenance work, you should be able to do it. The only specialist tool you need are a pair of winding bars.
What sets spring replacement apart from most other work is tensioning and stored energy. To avoid injury, you must be extra careful to follow and understand the proper protocol. If you’re in any doubt, leave the work for a professional.
How much does it cost to replace garage door springs?
Having garage door springs replaced by a professional should cost between $250 and $400 total.
Prepare to pay around $150 for a pair of replacement springs, 1 to 2 hours of labor and some extra for travel time; 2022 to 2023 prices set the total to between $250 and $400.
Are garage door springs dangerous?
Garage door springs store mechanical energy and can be dangerous or even lethal.
Garage door spring accidents typically involve a sudden release of the spring. This can happen if the spring breaks, the attachment breaks or the spring slips from a tool during tensioning.
A suddenly released spring will convert its stored energy to motion and becomes a projectile. The fast and heavy spring may cause serious damage and injury to anything in its path.
Note that torsion springs are much safer than extension springs. A snapping torsion spring will coil or uncoil violently, but typically stays contained around the torsion shaft. An extension spring, on the other hand, has much more freedom and may lash anything near to its line of motion.
To avoid accidents:
- Check the mounts are OK
- Replace springs pre-emptively
- Prefer doors with torsion springs
- Lubricate springs
- Observe proper installation technique
How to open a garage door with a broken spring?
A garage door with a broken spring can be opened using a high-lift jack or a winch.
A garage door will be heavy to lift to the open position without the help of the spring. While small doors may be light enough to lift manually, most models should be winched or jacked up.
Best common devices for the job are a high-lift jack or a come-along winch. The former is lifts the door from the bottom, supported to ground, while the latter pulls the door up against the ceiling.
NB. After lifting, it is critical to secure the door to the open position. This is best done by blocking the rails with a pair of clamps.