What are torsion springs? Put simply, torsion springs are heavy duty coils under great amounts of tension. These coils wind and unwind to open and close your garage door, and are responsible for carrying the majority of the weight of your garage door. Torsion springs systems have spring anchor bracket/center bracket and left and right end bearing plates for support. Garage door torsion springs come with life cycles ranging from 5,000 – 30,000 cycles depending on their model and value. Torsion springs can come as a single spring system or in pairs, usually depending on the size, weight and design of your garage door system.
Why do torsion springs break?
Garage door springs are actually largely responsible for lifting the weight of your garage door, which puts them under large amounts of pressure every day. Couple this with the high amounts of tension that exist within them naturally, and you’ve got a recipe for disaster after a certain number of years. Garage doors often weight several hundred pounds, and the torsion springs have a lot of heavy lifting to do! The rest of the mechanisms of your garage door are mostly there to guide the door in the right direction while the torsion springs do the heavy lifting, so to speak.
Torsion springs can have lifespans of anywhere from 5,000 to 30,000 cycles. A cycle refers to opening and closing the door completely. This means that with regular daily use, torsion springs can have lifecycles of anywhere from 7 years to 40 years on average. A torsion spring may break due to natural wear-and-tear as it approaches its life cycle limit.
However, other things can also affect your torsion springs’ life cycle. For example, your torsion springs center bracket, and end bearing plates may become stiff and stick with time. If these bearings stick, it makes it harder for the shaft and torsion springs to turn, and this can easily cut your springs’ life cycle down to a third. Sticking garage door rollers can also be a big problem for your torsion springs as they require the torsion springs to do more work in order to move them along their tracks. This reduces your springs’ life cycle significantly, and is obviously bad for your rollers as-well. Your garage door’s mechanisms maintain equilibrium with one another; you want to maintain them all in order to ensure the maximum lifespans for all of them.
Two types of torsion spring commonly exist: oil-tempered springs and zinc-galvanized springs. Both oil-tempered springs and zinc-galvanized springs require annual readjustment in order to continue functioning as intended. It is easy to forget about this adjustment, meaning that the torsion springs will often break more quickly due to neglect.
Common symptoms of faulty or broken torsion springs
Broken cables are a common sign of a faulty torsion spring, especially if your garage door shaft system has only one torsion spring on it. This is because one torsion spring will hold the cables in place, so a fault or breakage may cause your cable to wander around in all directions, unsupported. The cables themselves will not usually need replacing unless they have become damaged from their newfound freedom.
Sometimes you may find that your garage door opens up by a few inches and then stops, or that it opens up at an incredibly slow pace – slower than usual. This can sometimes be a sign of a faulty or broken spring. If this happens, use the motor to close the garage door as normal, once the garage door is fully closed, pull the emergency release rope. Next, try to lift the door manually. If the door feels very heavy and will not move easily, it is likely that your torsion springs (which counterbalance much of this weight) are faulty or broken.
Another thing that can reveal a broken torsion spring is a loud bang emanating from your garage. This can be extremely loud, and can often sound like a gunshot or a burglar breaking into your home. This bang is a result of the large amount of tension that your broken tension spring has released in a mere split-second. A constant 2-inch gap in your torsion spring can also be a sign of fault. This is because the spring isn’t winding up properly, and a functioning spring should easily fill this 2-inch gap (due to the extra metal that needs somewhere to go).
A garage door that is “bent” at the top/upper section can also be a glaring (and costly) sign of a broken torsion spring. This occurs when your motor tries to open the door, but the torsion spring does not comply, as a result, the garage door opener is forcing the door to open and can subsequently bend it at the top section. You may also notice your garage door falling to the floor much more quickly than usual when you close it. This can be indicative of a broken torsion spring, as the torsion spring is not doing its job of supporting the weight of the door, allowing gravity to pull the door to earth much more quickly.
Try pulling the emergency release rope (while the door is closed) if you believe that your torsion springs are broken. The torsion springs support the weight of your door, acting as a counterbalance. If you cannot open the door manually when it is disconnected from the motor, it is likely that the torsion springs are broken. If the torsion springs are functional, the door should open relatively easily when disconnected. You will be able to open the door manually if the torsion springs are broken, but you will most likely require multiple strong people to do so.
You may also find that your garage door is “jerky” when opening and closing. Though this could simply require garage door lubrication or the lubrication of some moving garage door parts, it could also demonstrate that one torsion spring (in a pair) is broken, and that the still-functioning spring is struggling to carry the load by itself.
What to do if you have a faulty or broken torsion spring
First of all, we need to grace you with a safety warning. If you suspect that a torsion spring on your door has broken, DO NOT disconnect the door by pulling the red emergency release handle while the door is in an open position. If you disconnect the door while it is aloft, you risk the several-hundred-pound door crashing to the ground due to the lack of the support of the torsion springs. This is dangerous for you and your surroundings, and can also seriously damage your garage door system that may result in unnecessary garage door repair.
If you wish to leave the garage door aloft, then it is strongly advisable to block the door’s tracks (on either side) so that the door cannot move either way. You should then unplug the garage door opener unit, ensuring that the door is definitely secure.
If you wish to close the garage door so that your garage is safe while you wait for the local garage door company, you may require several strong people to help you out. Make sure that the door’s tracks are unobstructed, and then try to close the door normally with the motor unit. If this does not work, you will have to have many strong people hold the door manually while you disconnect it with the red emergency release handle. Have the group of people carefully lower the door into the closed position. Bear in mind that you will require a group of people strong enough to carry a dead weight of several hundred pounds.
In terms of garage door repair and actually repairing the door, this is thought to be a job best left to the professionals. Although DIY garage door spring repair is possible, there are a lot of steps that must be accurately followed, and there are a lot of potential dangers involved. Garage door torsion springs hold high amounts of tension within them, and mishandling the springs has to potential for them to release this tension suddenly, causing you a great deal of injury.
As mentioned earlier, some garage door systems come with a set of torsion springs, while others come with single spring. If one spring (in a pair) breaks, it is probably best to replace both of your springs at the same time. Though it may be tempting to save money, if one spring breaks in a pair, then the other is likely to break within the following 6 months anyway. You will save time and money by having the garage door repair company replace both springs there and then.
The advantage to having more than one spring is that when a single spring in a single torsion system break, the other spring still holds some of the door’s weight and preventing the heavy door from crashing down. Another advantage to having more than one spring is that pair of springs generating counter force on the other side of the spring anchor bracket, this counter force keeps the system balanced. Conversely, single spring torsion system suffers from lack of counter force and the single spring will pull the shaft sideways, damaging the system and the bearings.
How do I open a door that has a broken torsion spring?
It’s understandable that you may need to open your garage door while waiting for a garage door repair company, as you are likely to need access to your vehicle. This is not going to be an easy task, which is why we recommend that you seek services of a garage door company that provides same day garage door repair. Here we tell you how to open both single and double torsion spring doors when the springs themselves give out.
Garage door with one single torsion spring
A single torsion spring system (that is broken) is bad news, as it requires much more effort to open your door. The full weight of a garage door can range from 150 to 300 pounds, so you will require a group of strong people (at least 2 or 3) to help you with this. Disconnect the door from its motor by pulling the trolley’s red cord, and use the group’s strength to lift the door open. When the door is aloft, use heavy duty vise-grips or a c-clamp on the garage door’s tracks (below the bottom rollers). This will hold the door in place in the “up” position.
Garage door with a pair of torsion springs
The good news is this – a single (still working) spring is usually enough to still lift a garage door while you wait for the garage door repair company to show up. The single spring is essentially lifting half of the weight, however, so it may struggle. If this occurs, 1 or 2 strong people should assist the door manually, disconnecting the door from the motor and moving the door aloft themselves. The still-functioning torsion spring acts as a counterbalance, and will “remove” much of the door’s weight from this lifting process.
If your torsion springs break, it is important to fix them as quickly as possible. Same-day professional garage door repair is always the best option, as these problems can be dangerous to manually override for extended periods of time.