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Replacing And Adjusting Torsion and
Side-Mounted Garage Door Springs

How do you adjust or replace garage door springs?

There are two different styles of garage door springs used on sectional doors... TORSION and SIDE-MOUNTED.

Torsion springs are mounted on a stationary metal shaft located above and parallel to the top of the garage door frame. They are attached on one end to a stationary plate located above the center of the door frame. The springs extend along the shaft, and work by twisting as the garage door closes by means of cables attached to each side of the lowest garage door panel. This tension makes it easier to lift the garage door from its closed position.

Side mounted springs are long heavy springs mounted on each side of the upper garage door track. Through the use of pulleys, they perform the same function as the torsion springs... they come under tension when the garage door is closed to make lifting the door easier.

IMPORTANT TIP: Always replace garage door springs as a set!

This may not be obvious to a novice, but it makes sense. If one spring has broken, can the other spring's demise be far behind? Add that little bit of common sense to the fact that the strength of a spring decreases with time and use.

Having faulty and/or weak springs can be much more than a hassle if not properly taken care of! It might not be much of a consolation having insurance if your garage door came crashing down on your classic Ford! Although that may not happen, is it worth the risk? Always change both springs...save your car!

The use of a new spring with an old spring can cause an imbalance in the door that cannot be corrected through normal spring adjustment.

Spring Replacement and Adjustment Techniques...

For Side Mounted Springs Only...

You must release the tension on the garage door springs before attempting adjustment or replacement. This is accomplished by opening the garage door as fully as possible until it hits the stop bolt on the track. Hold the garage door in this position by attaching a C-clamp to the track at a point below the lowest door roller (wheel).

This is true even if you have a garage door opener. Just because the door is open does not mean that the spring tension is fully released. Use the emergency release rope to disconnect the opener from the door and push the door up as far as you can without damaging the opener. Then clamp as described above.

If there are safety cables installed, they must be disconnected and removed from the springs. The old spring is attached at two points. One end is a fixed attachment to the garage door track or wood frame. The other end is attached to a pulley through which the garage door cable is threaded. Simply disconnect these two attachments and reattach the new spring in the same way. Be sure not to twist the garage door cable when reattaching the pulley.

While the pulley is disconnected from the spring, give it a quick hard look. If it appears that the pulley bearings are very sloppy and have lots of wobble, replace the pulleys. There is no repair other than replacement. The door will function more smoothly and save you additional work later. And you might as well check the stationary pulleys, too, while you are at it! Makes sense, right?

Once all attachments are completed, test the door once for proper function before reattaching the safety cables. You may find that the new springs may be too "lively" and the door may not close all the way. If that is the case, you will have to look at the way the bare end of the garage door cable is attached to the garage door track, and loosen an inch or two. This end may be simply looped through the holes in the track, or it could be attached by means of a special clip and an S-hook. In either case adjust both sides equally either by shortening the cable or by repositioning the S-hook in a different hole in the track. The springs should visually be in about the same position when extended fully (door in down position).

Of course, if you do not have enough tension in the springs, and want to make manual opening of the door easier, you may adjust the garage door cable into a tighter position also.

For Torsion Springs Only...

(NOTE:  Some modern torsion springs can be adjusted with a special adapter and an electric drill.  I would suggest visiting the manufacturer's website concerning the appropriate adjustment method.  The article below refers to typical manual adjustment.)

Adjustment to torsion springs can be dangerous because they must be adjusted with the door down and the spring under tension.

Torsion springs must be adjusted with the door in the down position.  Be sure to have all your tools inside before closing the door unless you have an alternate access door to the garage!

1) Secure the door in place by putting a C-clamp on the garage door track above the bottom-most door roller.  As you adjust the spring more tightly, there is the chance that the door may begin to rise if you overtighten it... a dangerous possibility!

2) The moveable end of each spring is attached to an adjustment collar. There is a set screw in the adjustment collar that locks the spring in a position of tension on the center shaft. The adjustment collar also has a series of holes around its perimeter. You will need to insert a metal rod into one of these holes. The rod is used to hold the collar in position as the set screw is loosened. Since it is unlikely that you will find an adjustment rod in your garage, measure the diameter of the holes and purchase a section of steel rod... at least 18" to 24" long... at any hardware store. If solid steel rod is not available, a threaded rod is acceptable for this purpose.

3) Before making any adjustments, observe the original position of the set screw to see if there are "flats" that the set screw should be set into. These are special depressed or flattened areas of the shaft that allow the set screw to hold more securely.

A warning... this can be a dangerous procedure because of the tension on the spring, so care must be taken at all times to prevent bodily injury!  Eye protection and gloves are recommended!

4) The adjusting rod must be solidly in the hole in the collar, and the set screw is loosened while holding the rod in position.  The rod is then used to turn the collar to tighten or loosen the tension on the spring. While holding the collar in the new position, the set screw is tightened to lock collar the new position.  Both torsion springs must be adjusted equally to assure balance in the door.

5) Depending on whether you wish to increase the opening force or decrease the opening force of the springs, you must determine the proper direction to turn the collar:

  • Turn the collar in the same direction that the garage door cable passes over the pulley for increasing the opening force. 
  • Turn the collar in the opposite direction that the garage door cable passes over the pulley for decreasing the closing force.

6)  I would suggest making adjustments in small increments. 1/4 turn at a time is plenty to fine-tune a difficult door.  Be sure to balance both springs by turning them the same amount.

More Information on torsion spring installation and adjustment...

Torsion spring replacement parts are more difficult to get than side mounted springs, and the repair is more difficult and dangerous. My personal opinion is that, unless you are a very capable and confident DIYer, let the pros handle this installation.

However, we have obtained access to a great article on torsion spring installation from the Clopay Corporation. This article is specifically for their brand of doors, but the basic information is worthwhile for anyone attempting this procedure on their own. Click HERE to read the full article.

What fun! Have fun!

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Jerry Alonzy, the founder of Naturalhandyman.com

Written by Jerry Alonzy

Jerry Alonzy, a.k.a. the Natural Handyman, has been an active handyman for over 30 years with experience in most areas of home repair and renovation.

As a do-it-yourself author and web developer since 1995, he has been featured in USA Today, the Today Show and on radio shows, magazines, newspapers and websites. His material appears widely on the web, but primarily on his website... The Natural Handyman. You can also find him on Google+.