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How to Spot and Replace an Unsafe Garage Door Extension Spring

 


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by Jeff Patterson in Interior

So. You think your garage door is safe.

I did too until an extension spring almost took my head off.

Our garage door opens and closes over 1000 times per year. That’s probably a lowball estimate since the kids just learned the garage door code.

There’s a lot of wear and tear on all the moving parts. And the springs take a beating.

A few years back I had an extension spring break as the garage door was closing.

That  spring could have launched across the room like a rocket and lodged in my head. Fortunately someone installed the safety cable correctly.

Today I’ll show you how to spot a bad extension spring and replace it without hurting yourself in the process.

Even if you don’t want to do this project you should know when your springs are unsafe.

Here’s the amazingly short supply list:

  • Two C-Clamps
  • Lineman’s Pliers
  • Socket Wrench
  • Crescent Wrench
  • Duck Tape
  • Step Stool
  • 6 Foot Ladder
  • New Garage Door Extension Springs

Let me show you what a bad spring looks like!

BUT, SAFETY FIRST…

Garage door extension springs are under extreme tension.

Thus, safety is top priority.

Fortunately it’s easy to keep yourself and all your garage stuff safe.

I almost forgot to mention this but make sure your car is not in the garage.

Park it on the street or in the driveway.

Next, open your garage door.

Place your step ladder directly underneath the door opening.

Ladder Under Door

Check to make sure the bottom of the door can rest on top of the ladder.

Unplug the garage door opener.

The last thing you need is for someone to close the door while you’re working on it – that would be BAD NEWS!!

Pull down your garage door’s manual safety release. Now the door can move freely.

Double check at this point that the bottom of the garage door will land on top of the ladder.

Place your C-clamps on both the left and right side of the garage door tracks.

The C-clamps should rest underneath the last roller that’s in the track.

C-Clamps

These are all the safety precautions. Better safe than sorry, right? (I really hate visiting the emergency room and bet you feel the same way)

SPOTTING AND REMOVING A BAD GARAGE DOOR EXTENSION SPRING

Spotting a bad garage door extension spring is easy.

If the coils are distended and irregular when the spring is extended then it needs to be replaced.

Bad Extension Spring

You can see this when your garage door is in the closed position.

Extension springs are attached to a pulley and I-bolt.

The I-bolt is attached to a vertical bracket.

There should also be a steel safety cable that runs through the extension spring and is tied to the vertical bracket.

You’re going to need to remove the safety cable and the pulley in order to replace the old spring.

Using your wrenches, loosen the bolt that holds the pulley in place.

Loosen Pulley Bolt

I’m a clumsy DIYer. There, I admitted it.  I’m always making mistakes.

As such, I like having little tips that help me with the project.

Here’s one that might help you.

Tape the pulley wheel to the steel cable.

It might sound weird but the pulley wheel has a special relationship with the cable that it pulls.

Taping it to the cable will allow you to easily attach the pulley to the new extension spring.

I also highly recommend taking a picture of safety cable and how it’s tied to the vertical bracket.

That way you’ll know how to reattach the cable after you remove it.

Untie the safety cable from the bracket and pull it through the old extension spring.

Untie Safety Cable

Now you can remove the pulley clip from the end of the old spring and take the old extension spring down off the I-bolt.

 

HOW TO CHOOSE A NEW EXTENSION SPRING AND INSTALL IT

Garage door extension springs are color coded.

This allows you to go to the hardware store and pick out the replacement springs in about 5 minutes.

As you can see in the picture below the last coil on my spring was painted red.

Extension Springs are Color Coded

So I chose the new spring that had this color code.

As a side note, you should replace both springs at the same time because your garage door won’t close properly if one spring has more tension than the other.

At this point you can place the safety cable clip onto the end of the new extension spring.

Thread the safety cable through the spring and tie it to the vertical bracket.

Reference the picture you took to see how to tie the cable.

Use your lineman’s pliers to make the cable as tight and secure as possible.

Place the pulley wheel into the safety cable clip and bolt it back together using your wrenches.

If you need slack in the steel cable that runs over the pulley remove the S-hook that holds the cable to the garage door bracket.

At this point, check to make sure the pulley cable isn’t intertwined with the safety cable.

For a good explanation you should watch my video because I do a better job explaining it there (at around 7:20).

 

[tubepress video = “Z2trIEm06Ic”]

How to Replace a Garage Door Extension Spring

http://youtu.be/Z2trIEm06Ic

 

Here’s a super important safety tip: make sure to inspect all the steel cables.

I found out my pulley cable was in bad shape. And the last thing I need is for it to snap and hurt a family member.

Double check that the steel pulley cable is nice and snug on the pulley wheel. It should have tension in it so that the cable won’t come loose while the door is being opened or closed.

If you need more tension you’ll have to adjust the position of the S-hook on the garage door support bracket. As a last resort, you can untie the steel cable from the 3-hole clip and tighten it with the lineman’s pliers.

Make sure loose steel cables are attached to brackets or wound together so that they don’t interfere with the operation of the door.

 

WRAPPING THINGS UP

Now all you have to do is remove the safety precautions.

Take the C-Clamps off the garage door track. Re-engage the garage door. Remove the ladder from underneath the door.

Plug the garage door opener in the outlet. Press the button on the wall and watch your door move down like a champ.

 

If you followed all the steps in the post and the video I bet you’ll have no problems.

But things happen. So, ask your own garage door questions down in the comments. I’d be happy to help out.

 

Do me one favor after you finish reading. Please, PLEASE, PLEASE check your extension springs to make sure they’re still in good shape. I would hate to see anything bad happen to you or your family.

It’s going to take 30 seconds. Put your garage door in the closed position and look at both springs to see if they are distended or irregular. And if they are, just follow my directions to replace them.

Thanks for sticking with me through this entire post. Garage door extension springs aren’t the most scintillating topic. Unless they almost lodge in your head.

Cheers,

Jeff's Signature No Background

 

 

 

P.S. If you’d like to immediately do a maintenance check on your garage door here’s a great post on the topic

http://hrtllc.wpengine.com/garage-door-maintenance/

 

23 Comments
  1. Joe says:

    I’m no expert, but I’ve done this job before. You are correct on all accounts. However, not all garage doors use this system. Some have a huge spring over the length of the door which I believe is called a torsion spring. Next, the safety cable should protect people if a spring breaks, so there will never be a “take my head off.” These springs are always under tension when the door is closed. I test my door after I disconnect the door opener. By hand the door should remain open 1/2 way up. If the counterbalance of the springs are too much or too little, it will place additional wear on your door opener and shorten the life of the product. You may need to adjust something else to make it work right. A roller might be broken. Here is something for another article. I had a guy replace my rollers on my garage door. I’m too old now to mess with that in the cold. One roller failed on me (they most often fail in the cold) and I just didn’t want to remove 4 or 8 nuts and bolts on 8 rollers. Neither did he. He bent the track and popped out the rollers and put in new ones. Then bent the track back. 15 minutes and $50 later it was done. The next bit of advice is WD-40 the tracks at least once a month in the winter. So, you put out good stuff.

    1. Thanks joe for the extra advice. The tip about how to replace the rollers is great. I’ve seen that done before and it saves a lot of time. Keeping all moving parts lubed is a big help. I use the garage door lubricant and it’s awesome.

      Appreciate you adding your thoughts 🙂

  2. Thank you so much for this! This was very helpful to me. I’m glad you focused on safety. People do not realize how hurt they can get if they don’t know what they are doing. Great idea by putting in the video!

    1. Thanks Pattie. You’re right, springs are very dangerous but with the right precautions they’re not bad to replace. Of course, I’d only touch extension springs. Torsion springs are a whole different animal. Since I’d like to keep all my body parts I’d call a pro for that fix!!

  3. Lebow says:

    The video was a great help 🙂 , now I am just waiting eagerly for my turn on the garage 😛

    1. Thanks, let me know how it goes 🙂

  4. Matt says:

    Thanks for the extension spring video. I replaced my extension springs and the garage doesn’t get a complete close. There is about a 1/2 inch space at bottom. I tried to adjust the s clamp but when I do there is way too much slack in the pulley lines. Any suggestions? Thanks.

    1. Great job Matt, replacing the springs is no small task.

      Try this, look on your garage door opener. You should see two adjustment screws with arrows next to them.

      One screw makes the door go down more and the other makes the door go up more. Turn the screw that makes the door go down.

      This is a minor adjustment that’s a lot easier than tinkering with the pulleys.

      Let me know if this works for you 😀

  5. Jim says:

    Hi Jeff!
    My extension spring broke in the middle of the night, so I watched your video and replaced the springs myself. I matched the new springs to the old ones with the correct color code, but the door won’t close. It will only travel about 10 inches, then opens up again (it stops when the first wheel hits the curvy part of the rails). Those springs really seem to have a LOT more tension than the old ones and it seems the door opener just can’t overcome that tension (I tried adjusting the down travel knob, but it didn’t help). If I close the door manually, I can (with great effort) push it to the ground, but it springs back up on its own. Do I have the wrong springs? Any suggestions? Thanks!
    Jim

    1. Hi Jim,

      Does your garage door have motion sensors on the bottom of the track. They look like little video cameras. If they got misaligned the door won’t close because the garage door opener will think there’s something under the door.

      This has happened to me several times. Usually someone bumps the sensor and the door won’t close.

      Let me know if you have sensors and if aligning them correctly solves your problem.

      If you matched the springs to the old ones according to color code and your garage door opener is in good shape the door should close.

      Also, and this just came to mind, make sure the traveler is engaged. I’m pretty forgetful and sometimes this last step gets skipped!!

      1. Jim says:

        Hi again Jeff,
        Thanks so much for your reply! Unfortunately, none of the things you mentioned seem to be the problem. I’ll dink around with it a little more, but it looks like I may have to call in a pro. Thanks again for all your videos and help.
        Jim

        1. Sorry I couldn’t help more Jim. Please let me know what you find out.

  6. jim cervenka says:

    jeff, i have a garage repair business here in illinois. we will be moving to south carolina this summer and i plan to bring my business down there. can you suggest a decent supply of extension springs to stock. it seems they are more common there than torsion springs. i dont want to order/stock every size made, just want to keep in stock whats commonly used. fyi, i plan to custom cut torsion springs on site if needed. also which torsion springs to stock on truck. thanks. jim, jc’s garage repair services

    1. Hey Jim, congrats on your move. I hope it goes smoothly.

      Wish I could help you with your inventory but I have no clue. I’m only a handy guy. You could probably make friends with some of the other installers and they would be helpful on this front.

  7. Bill says:

    Hi, one of my extension springs just broke. I went to buy some, but i couldn’t find the right color code (green). I bought yellow instead, which is pretty close in tension. Green is rated 120 lbs and yellow 130 lbs. The size of the door for each is a match. Would this be a problem? Also, I should probably replace both springs correct?

  8. Sri Sangodkar says:

    Hi Jeff – thanks for such a wonderful video. One of my garage door springs snapped recently. Thank goodness, the safety cable was there to save it from falling off. I followed instructions and replaced both springs. However, the garage door does not close down fully now. There is a tiny gap at the bottom. I adjusted the tension on the cables but that did not help. Do you think this might be because the spring is harder (higher grade) than what my door needs? I was planning to go down a grade and try that but wanted to check with you if you had any ideas. I picked a spring initially that was narrower than what I had on my doors. But then I went one grade up which was slightly thicker than what I had on my doors. Thanks.

  9. ray says:

    I replaced a broken tension spring on my garage door..wasn’t hard at all, so here I go to watch it work,door came down smoothly, but stopped about a foot short and went back up. So now I close it again but this time I push it down at the bottom by hand and it went all the way..So I try it again and still about a foot short..I remove it and close the door with just the other side connected and it goes down smooth and all the way..I tried moving the new spring further back or up but it still stops short..Is it the new spring tension strength.???

    RAY

    1. Thanks Ray for your question, did you replace both springs?

      Any time you need a new spring the recommendation is to replace both because the tension will be thrown off.

      Also, the garage door opener should have an adjustment on it to help lower or raise the door.

      You should see a screw on the door opener that you can fine tune to help lower the door, hope this helps.

  10. john says:

    have a old wooden door, two car garage, with double springs on each side, need replacing. no markings on the springs what do i do.

  11. Brajesh (Raj) Mishra says:

    Hi Jeff
    Very useful video! I have over 25 years old wood garage door and has extension springs with code yellow (rated 130 lbs). Should I stick with code yellow or replace them with higher rated springs (140 lbs) to offset the moisture over the years, increasing the weight of the garage door. I have no reliable means of determining the weight of the garage door.
    Thanks in advance.
    Raj

  12. Eddy bourjolly says:

    Hi Jeff
    Ever since I bought my house in 1996 I never bothered to use the garage door because the opener did not work. I bought one recently and realize that it would not open the door because the springs were busted. I bought a whole kit of springs and accessories, tools etc but I failed to understasnd how to install the safety cables because where the eyebolt is located in the back there is only one hole in the bracket which the eyebolt is already placed.. Also in front by the door I dont see any bracket s where the cables should be attached. Should I install the springs without the safety cables or is there some solution to the problem? Awaiting your response which is deeply appreciated .. Thanks

    Eddy B

  13. Tae Carter says:

    Why would a garage door have 4 extension springs instead of 2?

    My double car garage door has 4. Can I just replace it with 2 stronger ones?

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