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Replacing Garage Door Rollers and Hinges...
or how to put a derailed roller back on the right track!

Replacing a garage door hinge or roller is pretty much the same job... only the parts replaced are different!

By design, garage door rollers partially lock into the tracks to prevent them from popping out of the track.  The garage door track curves up at the bottom  to hold the wheel in place.

This makes it impossible to replace a garage door roller without unbolting the hinge that holds the roller from the door panels.

Similarly, if a roller pops out of the track, the repair is to uninstall the hinge first, then tip the roller wheel into the track.

Garage doors, especially wood doors, are heavy and dangerous... and unplug that opener!!

The dangers inherent in replacing garage door rollers and hinges are due to 1) the weight of a garage door and 2) tension in the springs.  Garage door springs are required to assist in lifting the door.  I suggest doing this repair with the door in the up position... but the door must be properly supported and stabilized to prevent an accident.  Keep this in mind when reading these suggestions...

Important: Be sure to unplug your garage door opener to prevent anyone from accidentally activating it while you are working!!

Raise and stabilize the door before removing any bolts or screws...

For safety reasons, hinges and rollers are best replaced with the door in the "up" position so spring tension is minimal.  Since spring tension is naturally relieved in this position, I've learned to work this way.

Don't get me wrong... you can work with the door in the down position.  But you can only safely do this if you raise the door, disconnect the springs, lower it, do the repairs and raise it again to reconnect the springs.  This is very difficult to do unless you have a very light-weight door.  I never thought the extra effort and time was worth it.

My preferred method of stabilization is to install C-clamps below the bottommost rollers onto the garage door tracks.  A long board wedged underneath the door will help to hold the door securely in the up position, though using clamps is much easier and more convenient. 

It is important to unplug your garage door opener before starting.  Some situations may require you to raise the door a little higher than the upper limit of the opener to relieve spring tension.  In that case, disengage the opener from the door, raise it as much as needed and install the clamps to stabilize the door.

When you remove a hinge, the door panels will tend to sag.  Use any creative method at your disposal to hold them up... ladder, board(s), significant other... to brace up the door panels before you unbolt the hinge. Without this reinforcement, the door will at best sag or at worst break.  The graphic to the left shows door panels being supported with two boards clamped together to produce the needed length.

I recommend clamping the support boards to a ladder, which will help keep them from slipping or falling down while you're working.  ( Sorry, I didn't have a photo available of the final setup.)

Time to remove/replace the hinge...

Now that you've done the preparatory work stabilizing the door, loosen the nuts from the hinge bolts.  Tap the hinge bolts out with a hammer to release the hinge.

HINT: Leave the nut on the bolt unscrewed to cover the end of the bolt threads so you don't damage them.  You may also use a scrap of wood to protect the threads... your choice!

Tip the hinge outward from the door to disengage the roller from the track. You will reverse this procedure to reinstall with the new roller.

Shopping for a new hinge and installing it...

I always replace the roller when replacing a hinge unless I know for a fact the roller is nearly new! They aren't that expensive and it probably has lots of wear, anyway, so you'll save yourself more busywork later.

Take the old hinge with you when shopping for a new one... you'll thank me later!  Most hardware stores worth their salt will carry generic garage door hinges.  Having the old hinge can be invaluable for comparison, especially if the store offers a choice of sizes or manufacturers.

When installing the new hinge, slide the roller into the correct hole, tip the roller back into the track, and position the hinge over the bolt holes. Tap the bolts back through from the outside through the hinge holes and tighten down the nuts. Be sure to put the roller axle in the correct hole... the same one used in the original hinge.  OR you can simply match the position used on the hinge on the other side of the door (Nifty, eh?)

A note about carriage bolts...

Garage door hinges are often attached with carriage bolts. Unlike standard bolts or screws, there is no gripping surface on the bolt head to hold while you tighten the nut.  The head is smooth to better resist rust and to give a nice appearance outside.

Instead, it has a square lip beneath the head that presses through and locks into the wood of the door. If you try to tighten the nut without tapping the carriage bolt in fully, it may not engage into the same square hole it made in the door when originally installed.  This could cause the hole to strip and the bolt begin to turn. Then, you'll have to hold the end of the threaded part of the bolt with pliers while you tighten the nut with a wrench.  Older garage doors often show some rot around the bolt openings, especially near the ground, and the carriage bolts may turn no matter how careful you may be..

How about garage door rollers?

Rollers typically wear out before hinges.  The repair procedure is the same as above except that you just replace the roller, not hinge and roller.

If you are dealing with a bottom roller (which doesn't have a hinge), you'll find that the garage door cable attaches to the bottom roller bracket (hidden in the graphic on the track side of the bracket).  You must remove all tension from the cable before removing this bracket.   Remember that the weight of the spring itself exerts a good amount of force.

If disconnecting the cable is too difficult (some cables are permanently attached to the lower bracket, making replacement an art form), clamp the cable to the track, leaving a little slack on the roller bracket side!

BTW, the roller in the graphic looks like it's about ready for replacement... looks like the rust is holding it together.  Call the handyman!

For the finale...

Once all bolts are fastened down, remove all clamps, braces, etc., and test door manually a few times.  If you used your garage door opener to hold the door up, disengage it.  If the door panels don't align properly, you might have to reposition the hinge(s) slightly.  Be sure all nuts are tight.  Then, reengage the garage door opener, if you have one, and make sure it works smoothly.

The end.

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