Not many people give much consideration to their garage doors, but as a maintenance and repair company specializing in garage doors and automatic garage door openers, we believe it’s one of the most important features of your house. Your garage door:
- Is the primary point of entry and exit for large items, like furniture, and often you and your family
- Contributes to insulating your house from extreme temperatures
- Protects your car or anything else you choose to store in the garage from the elements
- Allows you to avoid direct exposure to the elements as you and your family come and go
If you own a home with an automatic garage door, think about how many times you use it to avoid getting wet in the rain or cold in the winter. Now, imagine it not opening when you need it to — or even worse. Imagine it being stuck open or partially open.
Your garage door is the first line of defense in your home against rain, snow, wind, pest infestation and intruders, but it must be maintained to ensure consistent, excellent performance. Because garage doors are bigger and more complicated than other types of doors in your home — garage doors have sliding panels, tracks and machines that open and close them — they’re more vulnerable to malfunction and require more maintenance.
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Garage Door Preventative Maintenance Plan
Home ownership is time-consuming, but preventative maintenance is ultimately cheaper than repairing damage caused by neglect. Like the parts of your car, a garage door and garage door opening unit is subject to periodic maintenance.
Below is a garage door preventative maintenance checklist, which should be carried out periodically and which will help to ensure your door opens and closes when you need it to:
- Close the garage door and disconnect the power. Before you start, make sure your working environment is safe. Close the garage door and disconnect the opener from its power source to ensure it doesn’t open while you have your hands on the tracks or if a family member drives into the garage while you’re up on a ladder.
2. Degrease any buildup on the track. The track is stationary, but the wheels that roll along it aren’t. This means the track must remain lubricated to facilitate that motion. Take a rag or cloth and run it down the lengths of both tracks. If the gunk buildup is sticky or heavy, you can use a commercial degreaser to remove it. Make sure you wipe away all the residue before re-lubricating.
3. Apply lubricant to moving parts. Use a lubricant that’s recommended by the garage door opener manufacturer. If you’re unsure, check the company’s website or contact the installer. We recommend using King Door 400 Heavy Duty Garage Door/Operator Lubricant & Rust Preventative.
Make sure to apply oil to:
- Rollers (wheels) Steel or Nylon
- Any exposed metal surface to prevent rust
Don’t over-lubricate. Excess oil can increase the likelihood of gunky residue that can increase friction.
4. Inspect the door. Look over the interior and exterior of the door, looking for breaches, warping and other indications of wear and tear. Open the door and check the weather stripping along the bottom for signs of aging or cracking. If you see any unevenness in gaps between your walls and the door, it could mean the wood is warped or the metal bent, and it may be time to consider replacing your door. Make sure the door is not bowing while in up position.
5. Clean and maintain the windows. If your garage door has windows, they require additional maintenance. You should check the glass for damage and make certain the sealant around the windows isn’t cracked or stripped.
6. Consider hiring a company that services garage doors. There are measures that homeowners can take to reduce the impact of the elements and the routine wear and tear on their garage doors and garage door openers. However, it’s unlikely your precautions will provide you with the same level of comfort as the experienced work of an industry professional. If you are a resident of Bakersfield, CA or anywhere else in Kern County, you can contact King Door to request a one-time garage door evaluation or for routine inspections and garage door opener maintenance.
Problems Affecting Garage Doors and Garage Door Performance
Garage door maintenance is recommended at least once a year. For such a simple concept and relatively low-tech piece of machinery, garage doors and garage door openers can develop quite a few problems if they aren’t properly maintained. So, how often should garage doors be serviced? It largely depends on how frequently you open and close your garage door, the type of climate you live in and the material it’s made of. If you live in a seasonal climate, the rise and fall of temperatures will cause your garage door to expand and contract. If you live near the ocean, the saltwater air can accelerate the oxidation of your hinges, tracks or any other metal parts. The acidic, sootier air in industrial towns can also affect all parts of your garage door systems. Issues homeowners face that affect their garage door systems include:
- Weather. Wood and wood composite doors are more susceptible to swelling from moisture in the air, especially if the surface isn’t properly sealed with a water-resistant paint or wood treatment. All door materials contract to some degree when the weather is cold and expand when it’s hot, but not all materials are equally affected. Steel doors oxidize with moisture. Weather can also affect the lubricant used to grease the tracks. Colder temperatures can harden the grease, turning it to sludge and increasing friction.
- Wear and tear. Garage doors and garage door openers have hinges, springs, tracks, wheels and other moving parts. That means they require garage door preventative maintenance, including cleaning, lubrication, painting and sometimes replacement. Failing to practice a sound garage door maintenance plan can lead to your door jamming on its tracks, tension springs breaking or your motor being overloaded as friction makes it more difficult for it to do its job.
- Cracks and fissures. To prevent it from scraping against the walls of your house when it opens and closes, your garage door already has a small amount of space that allows for movement. As your door gets older, however, cracks and bends can develop, and it becomes a less-efficient barrier to the elements.
- Grease build-up. Over time, the lubricant used to grease the tracks and other moving parts, combines with dirt, debris and even dead insects. This affects the viscosity of the oil and can cause the motor to have to work harder to open and close your garage door, leading to a mechanical breakdown.
Troubleshooting Garage Door Opener Problems
You’ll never be more grateful for an automatic garage door opener than when you’re arriving home in the middle of a rainstorm — especially when you have a carload of groceries or are transporting small children. Being able to open and close your door without being affected by inclement weather is one of the great comforts offered by modern technology. On the other hand, few inconveniences are as annoying as your garage door not opening when you push that button under your sun visor. No matter how well you maintain your garage door opening system, if you own a home long enough, you’re likely to experience this source of frustration at some point. Here are some of the most common causes of garage door malfunctions:
Battery failure. This may seem like a no-brainer, but if you use your garage door opener a lot, you should replace the batteries routinely. You’re not going to get a warning about when your remote-control batteries are out of juice, so you should get into the habit of a battery replacement schedule. If you haven’t replaced them recently, you should switch them out before the start of winter. Remember, even unused batteries lose power over time, so before you call a garage door repair company, check to see if dead batteries are the cause of your problems.
Photo eye alignment. There’s a federal law that’s been in effect since 1993 mandating that all automatic garage doors have photo-eye safety mechanisms to prevent injuries. If the photo eyes’ view of one another is blocked while the door is in motion, it reverses direction until it’s fully open. If the door is already open, it won’t function if the photo eyes are blocked. If your door won’t open or close, check to see if you or someone else inadvertently placed an item in front of one either photo eye. If not, the issue could be that one or both photo eyes were knocked out of alignment.
On most photo eyes, there are indicator lights that show when the two units are properly aligned. If you have another person available, you can loosen the mounts and realign the photo eyes. When both indicator lights are illuminated, tighten the brackets.
Garage door spring. Springs are used to lift the door up and bring the door down without slamming. Garage doors springs ease the opening and closing of the door. The two types of springs found in different garage door models are the torsion spring and the extension spring. In both types of systems, there are times when the spring is stretched, which can cause them to eventually fatigue or break. When a spring breaks or stretches, it causes the garage door opener motor to work harder to lift the door. In some cases, the load is too much for the motor, and it burns out. Without the spring, the door will not open!
Garage door spring maintenance/repair consists of examining the spring for signs of stress or breakage, and replacing them if it’s warranted. There’s very little you can do with a spring other than to replace it, so preventative maintenance is advisable. If you’re home when the spring breaks, you’ll hear a loud cracking sound. Replacing broken garage door springs can be extremely dangerous, so this repair should be left up to professional garage door experts.
Track alignment. The tracks are the curved pieces of metal on either side of the garage that guide your door as it opens or closes. Having bent or misaligned tracks can create friction and cause your motor to work harder. If they’re severely misaligned, your door can jam, causing it to open partially or not move at all. You may hear a scraping noise as your garage door is opening or closing, indicating that one or both tracks has become misaligned. You can also check the wheels that run along the track for signs of uneven wear. Garage door track alignment is not something you can easily accomplish on your own. Properly setting the tracks requires precision and the proper balancing tools, so leave this garage door repair to an experienced professional.
Transmitter settings. While garage door opener remotes are somewhat standardized, the one you use must be set for your specific door — otherwise, we’d all be able to open each other’s garages. One of the ways to check this is by using a second remote if you have one. If the door opens for one and not the other, chances are good the transmitter settings are off or the unit isn’t functional. If you find that to be the case, consult your garage door opener manual for the proper settings, or write down the serial number of the unit and contact the manufacturer.
Limit settings. Your automatic garage door opener is set to fully close when the bottom of the door connects with the floor of the garage. If your limit is set too high, your garage door will meet the floor before the unit believes it’s supposed to. Because of the safety mechanism, it will incorrectly read the stoppage as an obstruction in its path and reverse direction. If the limit is set too low, the door will stop short of fully closing, leaving an undesirable gap. Depending on the model, the settings dial or knob can be found near the motor, making this a relatively easy fix.
Pull cord (red) rope hanging from rail. For you to be able to open or close the garage door when the power is out, your garage door opener has a disconnect switch. The disconnect switch disengages the opening mechanism from the door. You’ll hear the engine operating, but nothing happens to the door. You can reconnect the unit to the door when the garage door is open.
Manual lock. If your door won’t open, it may be because someone in your household has manually locked it. Trying to open the garage door while it’s locked could potentially damage your motor. In most cases, however, you only need to unlock the door to restore it to full functionality. We recommend you take the slide lock off the door if you have an opener.
Consider a Garage Door Preventative Maintenance Plan
Garage doors and garage door openers require more attention than most homeowners are willing to invest. If you own a home with a garage, you may want to consider hiring a garage door maintenance company to periodically inspect it. Many companies offer one- or two-year garage door maintenance plans that include maintenance and minor repairs. If you’re considering a maintenance plan, make sure the service points include:
- Tighten all lag bolts. This is very important to maintain your rails.
- Door balance
- Door level
- Door alignment
- Panel condition
- Track spacing
- Opener belt or chain tension
- Opener gears
- Opener carriage & rail assembly
- Opener safety reverse block test
- Bottom weather seal
- Limit settings
- Lube or adjust all the above listed parts as need.
If you own your home long enough, you’ll eventually have to replace your garage door or garage door opener — or both. However, having a proper garage door maintenance plan can delay the need for replacement and can help you avoid an untimely emergency repair at an inopportune time.