The Complete Garage Door System

complete garage door system

The importance of understanding how your garage door and its related systems work will empower you to keep your door in optimal and safe working condition.

The biggest misconception with garage doors is that the garage door opener is lifting the garage door. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The weight of a garage door is surprisingly heavy, and the strength of a garage door opener’s motor is just not powerful enough. The real workhorse of the garage door system is the garage door spring! Because of this, it is vital that you keep this system well-maintained.

Garage Door Springs

Extension Spring

The average residential garage door will use either a torsion or extension spring system. Extension springs are found on the lighter doors and on doors with a single panel as opposed to the sectional style of garage door. On those sectional doors, torsion springs are far more commonly used. Today, the sectional door and torsion spring are the most common. Extension springs must have a safety cable running through them to prevent them from flying lose in the event of a spring break.

Torsion Spring

Torsion springs are more durable and can handle heavier doors. Extension springs are always installed in pairs, with each one along each track as part of a swing-arm. Torsion springs are mounted against the wall on a rod above the garage door. Because torsion springs are more powerful, adjusting and installing them can be quite dangerous. For most people, it is advised to call on a professional to perform the task. This is because the torsion spring must be wound up. This builds up stored energy that can release violently if safety precautions are not taken.

Choosing a Garage Door Spring

The primary feature to take note of when going garage door spring shopping is how long the spring can be expected to last. This is usually quantified in cycles. For instance, there are 27,000 cycle garage door springs available. The bare minimum acceptable garage door spring today should be 10,000 cycles. So, what exactly is a cycle? It means raising and lowering the door, contracting and elongating the spring one full time each.

In real terms, the lifespan of a garage door spring will depend on how much usage goes on and how well installed and maintained the garage door system is. It is possible to use garage door springs that are not a proper fit the weight of the door, but that will mean faster or uneven wear. The way a torsion spring is wound also plays a part. It is important to know what you are doing when working with torsion springs. In our experience, it generally costs between $150 and $350 to have a garage door spring replacement done for you by a professional garage door repair technician.

Automatic Garage Door Opener


An increasingly ubiquitous part of the average garage door system, the garage door opener provides convenience and security to the homeowner. Just as there are two common garage door spring types, there are two common garage door opener types.

One is the trolley system – these are powered by a chain, screw, or belt drive. There is a rail overhead with a trolley that moves along the rail when opening and closing the garage door.

The other garage door opener type is the shaft driven one. Shaft driven garage door openers work on torsion spring systems.

These systems differ greatly when it comes to noise, power, and cost. The most affordable garage door opener systems are chain-driven. This is because they are very noisy and not quite as durable as the others. The screw-drive system uses a long screw that turns while making less noise than a chain. However, they do cost more than chain-drive openers. The most expensive garage door openers tend to be the belt-drive models. These are quieter due to the DC motor and belt system being naturally less noisy and they also are more durable.

As for power, the most common residential garage door openers come with 1/3, ½, or ¾ horsepower motors. The best automatic garage door opener for your garage is one that balances all the features to provide a cost-effective and capable opener that does not generate more noise than necessary.

Safety Features

Garage Door Opener Sensor

In the United States of America, all garage door openers manufactured after 1991 have to be capable of reversing automatically when the door collides with an object on its way down or when the infrared sensor device detects something in the door’s path.  From now on, garage door openers have sensors installed at each side of the door that emit a laser beam that if broken, will halt the door’s downward progress. This addition to garage doors has made them a lot safer for families with children and pets that go in and out of the garage on a regular basis. The average garage door weights well over one hundred pounds – anyone attempting to run underneath a closing garage door is at risk from serious injury or even death if there is no automatic safety feature in place!

Garage Door System Maintenance

garage door system maintenance

Occasionally, you should take care to perform some maintenance on your garage door system. This will make sure that the door operates as expected and that the vital safety features still function. It is advised that you lubricate the metal garage door parts that are in contact with each other 4 times a year. That includes shafts and springs. It is advised that you not lubricate the track. This can gum up the track or cause the rollers to not rotate.

You also need to test the garage door system to discover problems. One test you should always perform is the balance test. Simply open the garage door halfway and then leave it there. If it stays put, it is balanced. If it tries to move either up or down without you controlling it, it needs re-balancing. That can be done by adjusting the springs.

The safety function of the garage door system also needs to be tested. You can place a 2×4 piece of wood in the path of the garage door and attempt to close it. Once the door touches the wood, it should immediately stop and then reverse itself. As for the sensor lenses, you can keep them clean and un-obstructed. You should also periodically test the system by placing the 2×4 in the path of the invisible beam to see if the garage door reverses itself. Spider webs are a common enemy of a well-functioning sensor eye!

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