If you have ever owned a garage, you have likely experienced a garage door that either tries to lift on its own or wants to slowly fall to the floor. These conditions are not necessarily dangerous, but they can be annoying, especially if the door does not have an automatic opener. In the industry, this is known as an unbalanced door. Today, we will discuss why this happens and how to correct it.

Why Should I Adjust My Garage Door Springs?

There are a couple of factors that can cause a door to become unbalanced. When a door is out of balance, the spring system is providing either too much or not enough lifting force. In a perfect installation, the spring system will provide precisely the same upward force as gravity provides downward, allowing the door to stay put regardless of where the door is stopped. 

The first probable cause is age and wears to one or more of the components. The parts involved in a spring system have a limited lifespan and will eventually begin to fail. This is primarily due to the stretching of the spring and cable(s) during use.

The second cause, although less likely, is improper installation. Most new homes will have professionally installed garage doors, so chances are very good the doors will be balanced. However, they may not stay that way, especially if the door is used often. Over time the door may need small adjustments as the new parts relax.

Lastly, spring adjustment may be needed when your garage door changes its weight. Your door may change its weight when you insulate it, when you add decorations, or when you add window inserts. All these actions may require you to readjust garage door springs.

Safety First

As with any home repair project, safety comes first. Repairing and adjusting garage doors is a fairly simple do-it-yourself project, but also has the potential to cause serious injury if done incorrectly. Garage door springs store enormous amounts of force (usually enough to lift several hundred pounds of the garage door), and this force must be controlled at all times. Always wear eye protection, gloves, and any other safety gear you feel is necessary to avoid getting hurt. Tools in good condition and a good understanding of the project will help reduce the risk of injury, but always remember that common sense is usually the best way to keep yourself safe.

Can I Adjust My Garage Door Springs Myself?

The short answer is yes. The adjustment procedure is fairly straightforward and can be performed by a do-it-yourselfer. There are two common types of garage door spring systems; torsion and extension (sometimes referred to as side-mounted springs). Adjusting either style will involve either reducing or increasing the tension on the spring. 

Why Should I Adjust My Garage Door Springs?

The goal when adjusting garage door springs is to achieve a balanced door. As mentioned previously, this will usually be easy to detect, because your garage door will tend to move either up or down after it is stopped. This may not be evident when the door is attached to an opener, as the opener itself will control the door. However, over time, this unbalanced condition will put undue wear on your opener, reducing its operational lifespan. A wise homeowner will give the entire system a check once a year or so, and replace or adjust any components that require it.

How to Adjust Torsion Springs

The tension adjustment of torsion springs is performed by winding or twisting the spring. Torsion springs are usually employed for larger, heavier garage doors, but they can be found on any door. A torsion spring system is identified by its location over the door, mounted to the wall. There will be a metal rod the same length as the door that passes through the spring(s). On most torsion spring doors there will be one spring on either side of the door, but you may only have one if your door is smaller, or lighter than usual. If yours has two, you will need to adjust them both.

The springs are mounted to this rod, with set screws holding the spring in place.

To adjust the spring tension, you will need the following tools:

  1. Locking pliers, or C-clamps (2)
  2. Crescent wrench, or socket set
  3. Winding bars (2)
  4. Step stool or ladder

Follow these steps to adjust tension garage door springs:

  1. Leave the door closed. Pulling the emergency release cord, detach the door from the opener. Raise the door by hand and stop at any point. If the door rises on its own, there is too much tension on the spring. Likewise, if the door lowers, the spring needs tightening.
  2. Before adjusting the spring tension, ensure that the door is all the way down, resting on the garage floor.
  3. Using a wrench or socket, loosen the two (2) set screws located on the end of the spring near the center of the door. These set screws will often have square ends and painted red.
  4. To increase the tension, place one winding bar into one of the four winding holes on the end of the spring.
  5. Apply enough pressure to the winding bar to twist the spring in a clockwise direction one-quarter turn, and place the second bar into the next hole, and repeat. If your door is just slightly out of balance, make no more than a couple of quarter turns at a time, retighten the set screws and re-check.
  6. If your spring has too much tension, unwind the spring in a counter-clockwise direction. When you have balanced the door, retighten the set screws.

Pro Tip. A typical seven or eight-foot door will need about 30-35 one-quarter turns to achieve balance, however, this will vary depending on the door. If you should accidentally lose track of the number of turns you have made, just unwind the spring and start over. Remember, these are quarter turns, not full turns. Essentially every time you move a winding bar to the next hole will be a one-quarter turn.

Can I Adjust The Cables?

On torsion spring doors, there will also be a cable on both sides of the door, wound onto a drum. These cables are designed to be a specific length, so no adjustment is necessary. If your cables have obviously been damaged or stretched, they will need to be replaced.

How to Adjust Side Mounted (Extension) Springs

In this configuration, the adjustment procedure will affect the spring and cable at the same time, so no additional correction will be required. First, raise the door as far as it will go. Adjustments to extension or side-mounted springs can be made in two different ways. If needed, you can make both adjustments or just one.

For this adjustment, you will need the following tools:

  1. Locking pliers, or C-clamps (2)
  2. Wrench or socket set
  3. Step stool or ladder

The first way to increase or decrease the tension is to simply relocate the S hook located at the end of the spring into a different hole in the track. Since the track is usually perforated the entire length, finding just the right spot should be simple. Moving the S hook closer to the door will increase tension while moving it further away will decrease the tension. The key to success is making sure there is no tension on the spring while the adjustments are being made. 

The second way is to tighten the nut on the eye bolt, which is usually located on the vertical brace that attaches the track to the ceiling. This eye bolt is typically found on the other end of the spring towards the rear of the garage. To increase the tension, simply tighten the bolt in a clockwise direction, or a counter-clockwise direction to decrease the tension. Make a small adjustment and test the operation before making another. It is a great idea to make small adjustments to both springs before testing the operation as even tension on both springs will make for a quieter door.

Understand the Job and Do it Safely

Adjusting garage door spring tension can be a neglected task, but necessary. Often we wait until spring or cable wears out before we realize we have a problem. Regular inspection and small adjustments are all that is needed to maximize the life of not just the springs, but the entire system. Having the correct tools and information, using common sense, and working safely may just allow you to give a garage door technician a day off.

Editorial Contributors
Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield

Matt Greenfield is an experienced writer specializing in home improvement topics. He has a passion for educating and empowering homeowners to make informed decisions about their properties. Matt's writing focuses on a range of topics, including windows, flooring, HVAC, and construction materials. With a background in construction and home renovation, Matt is well-versed in the latest trends and techniques in the industry. His articles offer practical advice and expert insights that help readers tackle their home improvement projects with confidence. Whether you're a DIY enthusiast or a seasoned professional, Matt's writing is sure to provide valuable guidance and inspiration.

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