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Garage Door Torsion Springs

Garage Door Torsion Springs

Winding “up” starts out easy. It finishes at the proper number of turns, by which time you are pushing against the maximum torque. Count the turns of spring winding from when the springs are slack. To be sure you’re winding the right direction, all you have to remember is that proper winding makes the spring smaller in diameter and longer in length as it twists “in”. On the standard door (most common), this means you push the winding bars up to wind up the spring, which is an easily remembered rule. This is very apparent and should be verified during the first few easy turns. You can also think about the correct winding direction in mechanical terms, namely which way the reaction of the spring will torque the shaft and drums, which in turn will lift the cable. This should all make perfect sense before you attempt the manipulations. If you were to install the two springs backwards in the wrong sides of the center plate, the winding direction that acts to lift the door will be twisting the springs “out”, which is backwards. By watching the chalk mark while winding, you can count the number of turns applied, and confirm the number later. My standard-size door (7 foot height) with 4-inch drums has a nominal wind of 7-1/4 or 7-1/2 turns, which leaves 1/4 or 1/2 turn at the top-of-travel to keep the lift cables under tension. After 7 turns on the first spring, I clamped down the set-screws, weighed the door again, and found a lift of about 100 pounds in reduced weight. As expected, this wasn’t quite half of the full 238 pounds, nor would it leave any torsion at the top-of-travel, so I added an 8th turn. The door now weighed 122 pounds on one spring, which was ideal. After winding the other spring, the door lifted easily, with only a few pounds apparent weight. This confirmed that the spring choice was properly matched to the door design. I engaged the electric opener trolley, and adjusted the opener forces down to a safer level suitable for the new, improved balance. The door was now ready for return to service. As with the drums, I tightened the winding cone set-screws about 1/2 or 3/4 of a turn after contact with the shaft, which provides a good grip, but does not distort the shaft. One can overwind the springs slightly, up to about 8 turns on a standard residential door (that is, 1/2 or 3/4 extra turns), to compensate for undersized or fatigued springs, or increased door weight from painting or humidity, but this results in more stress on the springs and therefore decreased lifetime. If the door is too heavy for that slight tweak, then different springs are needed. The usually recommended rule for a door being properly balanced is that it should lift “easily” through all its travel. The door may also remain stationary if let go somewhere around the middle of the travel, but a smoothly rolling door many not show this behavior (while a sticky track will!), so easy travel is the only reliable test for proper balance. A difficult door may be due to stiff bearings or rollers in the mechanism, tracks out of alignment, etc., not necessarily the torsion spring adjustment. Another trick for fine-tuning the balance of spring turns versus door weight is to adjust one side of a duplex pair slightly more or less than the other. That way you can have an exact weight balance while retaining some desirable torsion at the top. Once the springs are torqued, the setscrews tightened, and the locking pliers and winding rods removed, do not play with turning the torsion bar using the winding rods. Doing so even momentarily can relieve the tension on the lift cables, which then easily slip off the drums. Replacing the cables on the drums can be difficult without repeating the entire spring unwinding-winding procedure again, and the cables can be damaged if tension is applied while they are off the drums. Total time for me to complete this work the first time was 3.5 hours, including cutting the winding tools and the photography. I’ve completed subsequent repairs in less than an hour. Hundreds of people have written me to say they did it safely in a few hours after studying this essay. I’d like to hear how it goes for you. Spring Supplier Referral List
garage door torsion springs 1

Garage Door Torsion Springs

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garage door torsion springs 2

Garage Door Torsion Springs

Once the springs are relaxed and loose on the torsion shaft, the lift drums lose their tension on the lift cable, and the cable comes loose. The end of the cable is terminated by a press sleeve, which locks into a ramp on the drum. Different drum styles have a bolt or other method to fix the cable end to the drum. These steel cables are springy and won’t stay in place without tension. If my pre-inspection had showed that these cables were worn or frayed, then I would have ordered proper replacements ahead of time from the spring distributor, since this is the opportunity to replace them. Standard hardware-store cable and fittings are not appropriate. Once the shaft, springs, and center bearing plate come down and lay on the floor, the old springs should be easy to get off and new ones slid on and assembled. Two bolts hold the center cones to the center bearing plate. The bearing on the center plate can be oiled while it is exposed from having the springs off. At this point it is a relief to be working with inert parts while standing on the floor rather than energized parts while up on the ladder. You might think it would save a little time to replace the spring with the shaft left up on the wall, but I found it was easier and safer to lower the works down to the garage floor first. As noted above, set-screw clamping may have distorted the cross-section of the shaft and made it difficult to slide off all the hardware. With the shaft on the floor, it may be possible to restore enough roundness to proceed, using compensating clamping force to the distorted area via a machinist’s vise, an arbor press, a hydraulic shop press, etc., on the shaft body. Burrs and other slight distortions on the shaft can be filed off with a hand file or touched with an abrasive wheel on an angle grinder. At some point, the condition of the shaft may just be degraded enough that it ought to be replaced. I mentioned earlier that this apparatus had at least one prior spring replacement, with a single longer spring having been replaced by two shorter springs. The clamping of the original spring had pressed dimples and an eccentric distortion into the hollow shaft. While this distortion was large enough to block the old cones from sliding across, I was able to remove the old hardware by just sliding them in the other direction. I did not have to bother trying to press out this distortion, since I could just work around it. I was careful not to assume that the previous installation correctly oriented the right- and left-hand springs on the correct sides of the center bearing plate. They could have been installed backwards by an incompetent installer, resulting in them having been wound looser (larger diameter coil) instead of tighter (smaller diameter coil) than when in their relaxed state, and if so I would have corrected them on the new installation. The proper orientation of the springs applies their reaction torque from tighter winding such that it turns the drums to lift the door. Verifying this is a rather simple exercise in mechanical visualization, but does require some care to be certain of correctness. If you were to install the springs backwards, and then start to wind them in the wrong direction, then the torsion bar will start winding the drums backwards, and not holding against the vise pliers, which should be obvious to inspection. Winding a spring backwards also tends to screw the spring off the cones; this error cannot proceed too far before the spring slips off the cones. At this point I weighed the unlifted door to confirm and fine-tune my calculations. This is not strictly necessary, but it makes the adjustments easier to perform, if you happen to have a scale with the requisite capacity. With some helpers, we first lifted the door a few inches and rested it on blocks of wood to provide clearance underneath. Then I slid a 400-pound-capacity freight scale under the center of the door, we lifted again to remove the blocks, and lowered the door gently onto the scale. This door weighed in at 238 pounds, which is very heavy for a single-car door. Since the outside of the door carries the 3/4-inch plywood paneling to match the house, and that plywood weighs about 2 lbs/sq-ft, I estimate the door weight to be about 7 x 10 x 2 = 140 lbs of paneling with the rest 238 – 140 = 98 lbs the interior panels, hardware, and cobwebs. Knowing this total weight will help later in adjusting the torsion on the springs. After weighing, we removed the scale and blocks, leaving the door fully lowered again. Had I not had a high-capacity freight scale, I might have improvised a crude weighing device from levers and smaller weights of known mass, or a lever arm pressing a reduced proportion of the full weight onto a lower-capacity scale. Another factor to remember is that The weight of a wood door can vary with humidity. The door and tracks at this stage of the repair are in a minimum-energy condition. This is a good opportunity to work on any hinges, bearings, rollers, cables, or tracks that need tightening, repair, lubrication, or replacement. Again, these parts should be available from the spring source, and should be ordered based on a pre-inspection. Home-improvement stores carry some of these parts, but the type and quality may not be the best.

Garage Door Torsion Springs

Garage Door Torsion Springs
Garage Door Torsion Springs
Garage Door Torsion Springs
Garage Door Torsion Springs

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