Garage Door Springs: What They Do And What Happens When They Break

Posted on: 12 March 2015

If you are like most homeowners, you probably don't think much about your garage door springs. In fact, you may have never even noticed that your door has springs. However, the truth is modern garage doors depend upon their springs; they simply will not operate without them. That's why it's important for you to understand more about your garage door springs and how to know if they are about to fail. Below is more information on these all-important garage door components:

What springs are used with garage doors?

Contemporary residential garage doors are manufactured in a variety of designs, and each one has its own special twist to offer homeowners. However, in almost all instances, residential garage doors contain two types of springs: torsion and extension springs. Each type carries out a vital role to help your garage door operate properly:

Torsion springs

Torsion springs are literally the "heavy lifters" of the garage door scene. A torsion spring's sole purpose is to balance the garage door so all a powered opener, or person, needs to do is simply push or pull the door along its track. Without torsion springs decreasing the perceived weight of one-hundred pound or more garage doors, neither a one-horsepower electric motor or average person would be strong enough to lift a door.

While there are a variety of designs in the market, including double and triple-springed models for commercial doors, the average homeowner's garage door operates with one or two centrally-placed torsion springs. While sizes vary greatly depending on the door size, torsion springs range in length from anywhere from a foot and a half to several feet. They are constructed of coiled, spring-steel wire that is about a quarter of an inch in diameter, and their weight can easily exceed ten pounds.

Extension springs

Besides the torsion springs, most residential garage doors use extension springs to provide a little extra help. In the case of extension springs, however, they assist with the lowering of the door; extension springs prevent garage doors from rolling downward at accelerating rates once the tracks stop supporting most of their weight. Most garage doors have two extension springs, one on each side of the door. They are significantly less "beefy" than torsion springs since they serve in a supplemental role.

What causes garage door springs to fail?

Since garage door springs are mechanically simple, there is usually little that can go wrong during day-today usage.  However, as with any household device, mechanical breakdowns are likely to occur at some point in the future. Below are a couple of risk factors that can contribute to failure:

Old age

Over time and with repeated use, the metal coils on springs will fatigue and lose their ability to stretch and contract. Garage door springs are rated for thousands of cycles, but depending on how often your garage door is opened and closed each day, it may not take long to use all the cycles. That's why age and use are the biggest risk factors for failure.

You can estimate the likelihood of a failure occurring due to age if you know how old the springs are on your garage door. Contact the door manufacturer and ask them to provide you with information on the duty cycle for your springs. Next, multiply the average number of times you use the door on a daily basis by 365 to calculate a yearly total. Then, multiply that amount by the age of the springs in years, and subtract that total from the duty cycle to learn how much expected "life" is remaining in the springs. If the springs are near the end of their estimated lives, then you may wish to consider having them replaced before they fail.


Rust and corrosion can also cause springs to fail. The deterioration of the metal can reduce the strength of the steel itself, but it also leads to additional problems. Rusting springs rub on one another and can create binding in the coil. The binding places additional strain and stress upon the spring, and this can cause a premature failure. To prevent this, lubricate your garage door springs about once per year with a detergent-free motor oil. Be sure to wipe away any excess oil so it doesn't drip on your vehicle.

What happens when garage door springs break?

In most cases, a garage door spring failure is not going to be undetected if you are around when it happens. Due to the energy contained in the coiled metal, torsion spring breaks are usually quite loud when they occur. Extension spring failures are less noisy, but still noticeable. As startling as it may be, the noise itself is harmless and will alert you to a problem. A garage door without a functioning torsion or spring will not raise at all; however, be warned that a garage door may lower at an uncontrolled rate of speed if its springs fail.

Garage door springs are available as parts from manufacturers and suppliers, but it is safer for homeowners to allow professionals to install new springs, particularly if the torsion spring needs replacement. Installation of new torsion springs involves winding them to a predetermined tension; these springs contain a tremendous amount of potential energy, and they can unexpectedly unwind and cause serious injury if installation is performed incorrectly. For more information, visit a specialist's website, such as