Tune-Up Your Garage Door
In case you haven’t noticed, a garage door (or pair of doors) can account for up to 40 percent of the street side appearance of a home. This is especially true of modern “garage forward” design and construction. Consequently, a garage door can have a huge impact on the “curb appeal” of a home and hence its value. Looks aside, a garage door that is well cared for and properly maintained is safer and will last longer.
And while looks are important, there is no substitute for safety. As the largest moving object in the home, a garage door is a force to be reckoned with. An improperly adjusted garage door or automatic opener can exert deadly force when the door closes. Pinched, crushed and amputated fingers, fractures, and crushed pets and children are some of the most common injuries reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Sadly many of these injuries result in death.
Proper installation, operation, maintenance and testing can provide safe, trouble-free operation. One of the best resources for garage door maintenance is the “installation & care guide” for the door and/or the automatic opener (if one exists). If you don’t have either, contact the manufacturer or an installing dealer in your area for maintenance and operation tips. Replacement manuals can often be ordered if make and model numbers are available.
A visual inspection of the garage door springs, cables, rollers, and other door hardware is a great place to begin. Look for signs of wear and frayed or broken parts. Most minor repairs, such as roller replacement, can be performed by a handy do-it-yourselfer, while a qualified garage door repair technician should handle more complicated tasks. The springs and related hardware are under high tension and can cause severe injury when handled improperly. If the overall condition of your garage door isn’t good, it may be time to install new garage doors.
Rollers, springs, hinges and tracks require periodic cleaning and lubrication. The mistake that most people make when it comes to cleaning and lubrication is forgetting to do the cleaning. Existing oil and grease buildup should be cleaned from the tracks and rollers using automotive grease-cutting solvent. Re-lubricate the track and rollers using spray silicone, lightweight household oil, or white lithium grease to prevent squeaking and sticking. Also, be sure to oil all of the hinge pins and retighten all nuts and bolts. Paint all exposed wood or metal, make sure weather stripping is in good condition and keep water from collecting at the base of the door.
Once cleaned and lubricated, if your door still doesn’t move smoothly along the track, the track may require minor adjustment. As a matter of fact, the track may need seasonal adjustment to correspond with the weather. For example, a south facing metal door will expand in the heat of the day which may necessitate adjusting the track away from the inside face of the garage. The track may also need to be adjusted outward slightly to accommodate for a wider door due to expansion. In cold weather, a door will contract and require adjustment in the opposite direction.
Wood doors react quite differently than do metal doors. In cold, damp weather the door will expand. In hot, dry weather the wood will shrink. Keep this in mind when making seasonal adjustments to the track.
Most garage door tracks are anchored to the wall with an “L” shaped bracket. Both faces of the L bracket have slots through which bolts are inserted. The slots are designed to allow the track to be adjusted side to side and in and out. Simply loosen the bracket screws, adjust the track (this may require tapping with a rubber mallet or small hammer) and retighten the screws. Close and open the door to determine if operation is improved. Repeat the process as necessary.
Many garage doors are equipped with a “lock bar.” This consists of a small metal bar that moves horizontally through a “guide bracket” and into a “strike opening” in the metal track. When the lock bar is properly inserted into the strike opening the door should be locked. If the lock bar doesn’t slide into the guide bracket, loosen the screws that attach the bracket to the door, adjust the bracket and retighten the screws.
Periodically test the balance of the door. Start with the door closed. Disconnect the automatic opener release mechanism so that the door can be operated by hand. The door should lift smoothly and with little resistance. It should stay open around 3 to 4 feet above the floor. If it doesn’t, it is out of balance and should be adjusted by a professional.
If you have an automatic opener, make sure it has a reversing feature. If not, it should be replaced. Garage door openers manufactured after January 1, 1993 are required by federal law to be equipped with a monitored non-contact safety reversing device or safety edge that stops and reverses a closing garage door. An example of such a safety device is an electronic beam sensor that is installed at either side of the door opening, which, when broken, causes the door to stop and reverse itself. Always be sure that this system is operating properly.
Finally, make a “reversing test” to the door and opener. Placing a 2- by 4-inch block of wood flat on the floor in the door’s path before activating the opener does this. If the door fails to immediately stop and reverse when it strikes the wood, disconnect the opener and use the door manually until the system can be repaired or replaced.
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