By T. Jeff Williams
We take it for granted that the garage door will open when we push the button, but like anything else with moving parts, regular maintenance will keep the automatic door system working properly.
The primary components of an automatic garage door system are the motor and the track, along with the rollers, hinges and springs. The motor is mounted at the end of a track attached to the garage door ceiling. The electric motor turns either a chain belt or screw system in the track that is attached to the top of the garage door.
The power unit does not lift the heavy door by itself. The lifting is done by counter balance springs. Older models have vertical extension springs positioned on each side of the door. Newer styles use a torsion spring mounted horizontally above the door.
Check the Balance: To operate properly and with minimum strain, the weight of the door must be held in balance by the attached springs. To check this, open the door and then pull the safety release rope down. This disengages the lifting mechanism from the door and is to be used if there is a power outage in your house.
As you pull on the door, it should move easily up and down and remain in place about halfway down. If the door is hard to lift, the springs may be out of balance. Because these springs are under tremendous pressure, do not attempt to adjust them. Instead, call a garage door specialist.
To reengage the safety release, open the door all the way and then push the end of the release lever back into the track.
Cleaning and Oiling: All moving parts on a garage door should be cleaned and oiled for quiet and smooth performances. Don't use grease, which traps dirt and acts like sandpaper to wear down moving parts. If you note grease and dirt on the tracks or springs, clean them with a grease-cutting compound.
Wipe the track, the hinges and the rollers with a clean rag and then spray them with WD-40.
The steel counterbalance springs can also collect dirt and moisture, which can make them bind and become noisy. Clean them with a wire brush and then run a light bead of oil along the top or down each side of the springs. Motor oil works fine.
Wipe down the chain on the automatic opener to remove dirt and debris, then lightly oil its length.
Check the Door: Look over the garage door for any rust spots, which if untreated can eventually eat through a metal door. Sand rust down to bare metal, then apply a coat of metal primer and finally a coat of finish paint matching the door's color.
Similarly, inspect the hinge pins and hinges on both sides of the door for rust. If found, sand them clean and oil them.
Safety Features: Today's garage doors and openers are required by law to incorporate a safety reversal system that prevents the door from closing if there is an obstruction in the way, such as a small child.
Test the safety reversal system by first opening the door and then placing a book or scrap of 2x4 where the door seal will land. Use the automatic opener to close the door. When the door barely compresses against the object, it should immediately reverse itself and open.
Also check the electric eye sensor located on either side of the door at the base. Push the button to close the door and then pass your hand between the sensors. Breaking the beam should cause the door to immediately reverse itself.
If either function does not work, call a garage door specialist to repair it.
Weather Seal: Most good garage door
have a rubber or vinyl weather seal along the bottom edge to keep out drafts. But it takes a beating not only from the sun and weather, but also from being pounded into the ground several times a day. Inspect the seal with the door closed, looking for any loose or missing segments.
If you see a gap or two, consider replacing the seal. But, frankly, this is often easier said than done. The rubber seal is fitted into a slot in the bottom of the door. In some cases it is held there simply by friction and in others by having the ends of the slot slightly pinched. If this is the case, pry open the pinched portion with a screwdriver and then remove the seal.
To do this, press the opener and when the door is about chest high, hit the button again to stop it. If your opener won't do this, first pull down on the emergency release handle to disengage the raising mechanism from the automatic opener. Lift the door to about chest high and then pull the seal out. Clean the slot thoroughly then spray with WD40 to help lubricate the area as you work the new seal into place. A little dish soap on the new seal will help it slide easier.
Wax the Door: A little tip to keep the garage door
exterior looking good: First clean it with dish soap and water. When thoroughly dry, coat it with car wax. It will not only give the door a nice shine, but will help protect the finish against the sun and weather.