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Replacing Garage Door Springs

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broken torsion spring
Photo © Jeff Beneke
Stands to reason that just a couple of weeks after writing an article on Garage Door Springs - What You Need To Know, I would find myself in need of replacing my own garage door springs. Perhaps it's one of those jinxing traditions, much like mentioning that a pitcher has pitched six no-hit innings seems to guarantee that the next batter he faces will get a hit. I learned several new things in the process of getting those springs replaced, which I'll recount below.

How Torsion Springs Break

Garage door springs are part of the garage door itself, not the garage door opener. That said, it must also be added that the springs make it much easier to raise and lower the door. They generally last a long time, and they have only one function. But over time, all that lifting, through all those weather changes, tend to weaken the metal and lead to a break.

In my case, the springs appeared to be original to the house, which means they've been at work since 1956. Once you understand that long record of service, it becomes a little hard to complain when they finally break down.

And break down they did. It was a Sunday afternoon, and we were sitting around the quiet house reading. Suddenly, we heard a large noise that sounded like a very heavy object had fallen on the roof, or maybe a car had driven into the side of the house. I quickly started hunting around for the cause, and couldn't find a thing. So much noise, and no noticeable cause? Didn't make sense . . . until I went out later and tried to open the garage door. Even then, it took me some time to figure out that the spring had split. Once I discovered it (see photo), I knew I'd found the source of the noise.

With a broken spring and a solid wood door to a two-car garage, you really can forget about opening the door. I couldn't lift it more than an inch.

To DIY, or Not To DIY

I'm a card-carrying DIYer, and there is almost no kind of project that I won't at least consider trying to handle myself. Even when I'm sure I don't want to do the job, I still make an effort to learn everything I can about what needs to be done so that I will be able to better discuss the project with a pro.

But in many years of dealing with garage projects, I did not hesitate for a minute in determining that the springs on a garage door was something I did not want to handle. Why? It's dangerous. Those springs are under an enormous amount of tension, and one slip up could easily cause serious injury.

There are two types of springs used with garage doors. Extension springs are located above the tracks on both sides. The type on my garage were torsion springs, which are located above the garage door opening. Torsion springs are much harder to remove and replace than extension springs. (Learn about removing extension springs in this article.

Danger is not the only reason to let a pro replace your torsion springs. Typical DIYers will have trouble figuring out what size of replacement springs to buy, and when they do figure this out, they may well have trouble finding a retailer willing to sell springs to an amateur. With a garage door that wouldn't open, and a repair job that I wouldn't be taking on, it was time to get on the phone.

Finding Someone To Replace Garage Door Springs

The garage door springs broke early Sunday afternoon -- typically not the best time to hunt for any kind of repair service. I knew about a couple of garage door repair pros around town, but I had never actually dealt with them. So, like just about everyone else these days, I jumped on the Internet. My first stop was Yelp, where I really didn't expect to find much help. Yelp can be as aggravating as it can be helpful, but in this case a large number of reviewers sang the praises of one particular garage door outfit I'd never heard of.

Even though it was Sunday, I decided to call anyway. Much to my surprise, a real person answered the phone. When I described the problem, he immediately recommended that I replace both springs, which I had anticipated. He told me that the flat fee for replacing two torsion springs was $259, which seemed about right. Further, he'd just finished one job and was in his truck about ten minutes from my house. He said he could come right over and probably replace the springs right away. And, ten minutes later, there he was.

My experience with the repairman supported the suggestions offered in How To Find the Best Garage Door Installers and Repairmen. He kept his truck stocked with several standard sizes of springs, but after taking one look at my springs, he said that they were a size he replaced less than once a year and did not carry. So he headed back to the truck to retrieve the equipment needed to measure the springs. To know what size of replacement springs are needed, he had to determine the wire size, the inside diameter and the length of each spring. After taking his measurements, he said he'd be out the next day with the proper replacements. And he was.

A Repair Best Left for Others

The temperature was right around 100 degrees outside, and probably quite a bit higher in my garage. I asked the repairman how long the job would take, and he said it would likely take an hour to remove the old springs and just a few minutes to install the new ones. That estimate was just about right, but the 75 minutes or so he spent removing the old springs were not easy ones. Lots of lubricant and banging and sweating and grumbling . . . by the time he'd removed the springs, the repairman looked like he's just crawled out of a drum of hot, dirty oil. Removing 55-year-old torsion springs is a very hard job, and that's for someone who does this kind of work for a living.

Bottom Line? No Regrets

I estimate that the parts used in replacing my garage door springs cost about $75. Had I wanted to do the job myself, I would have had to buy a few new tools. Instead, I paid a pro $184 in labor to spend a rough, hot, 90 minutes removing and replacing the springs. I'm sure it would have taken me much longer, and there is no question in my mind that had I done so, I would have concluded it was not a wise decision. This is a job for a pro.
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