This article was crafted with the help of Dan Watkins from All Four Seasons Garage Doors

After a long day at work, you return home to your sanctuary of peace. As you pull into the driveway and hit the garage door button on your remote, the door begins to open as it usually does, but this time something goes wrong. Your garage door stops midway and refuses to budge further. Or worse, you start up your car in the morning to go to work, only to find yourself held prisoner by a stuck garage door. One of your first thoughts may be, “How could I have prevented this?” To avoid having such scenarios happen to you, follow these simple and effective maintenance tips to keep your garage door operating properly.

Popular Garage Door Materials and Insulation

How you maintain your garage door depends on the material it’s made of. While there are many options available to homeowners, below are two of the most popular materials, along with important tips on garage door insulation.

Wood garage doors. Wood doors require more maintenance than other options. Dan Watkins, owner of All Four Seasons Garage Doors in Atlanta, says that homeowners often forget to maintain the paint on the inside of their door along with the outside. While paint is often seen as an aesthetic change, it also helps to keep wood from rotting and warping. Homeowners should repaint the inside and outside of their doors at least every two to three years.

Pre-insulated steel garage doors. Dan recommends that homeowners consider pre-insulated steel doors over other options because of their ability to regulate the temperature in the garage and surrounding rooms. Without insulation, your garage can lower the temperature of your house in the winter or raise it in the summer, costing you more in heating and cooling bills. Pre-insulated steel doors have insulated walls, and Dan adds that “there’s a rubber seal on the bottom—which any door should have—and vinyl trim around the sides and top.” Given the ability of these doors to keep warm air in or out of the house, “the savings you get every month—especially during the really hot or cold months—keep money in your pocket over the years.” Steel doors also require the least amount of maintenance, which is a big reason why they have become popular among homeowners.

How to Test Your Door

Perhaps one of the easiest things you can do to prevent future problems is to test your garage door. It is simple and can be done in a matter of seconds. Dan explains the process: “While the garage door is disconnected from the motor, you should be able to put it halfway up and halfway down and have it stay there.” In fact, whether your door is manual or electric, it should be able to stay halfway up or down without falling. If the door falls down to the floor or shoots up quickly, there could be a balancing issue. While the door is still midway up, also make sure it is hanging equally on both sides. Finally, if you are operating it manually, note that it shouldn’t be very heavy to move.

Garage Door Maintenance Schedule

Dan recommends that homeowners spray garage door lubricant every six months on the moving parts. “You don’t want to spray lubricant on certain parts of your motor,” says Dan. “You want to spray it only on the rollers, hinges, springs, bearing plates, and moving parts like that.” If you have a wood door, check the nuts and bolts to make sure they are tightened. Steel doors typically do not need extra maintenance beyond lubricant.

Common Signs of Problems

Most common garage door problems can be pinpointed by a few obvious signs. For instance, if you hear an unusual noise when you’re operating your door, this is a sign that you may have a problem.

Another sign that your door may need maintenance is if you have to press the garage door button more than once to operate it. “When your garage door is not doing what it’s supposed to do, which is going all the way down or up, then that’s obviously a problem,” explains Dan.

While you might immediately think the motor is the problem with a malfuctioning garage door, oftentimes the real culprit may be the opener. “You have to remember that sometimes it’s the door that’s not operating right,” says Dan, “but sometimes it’s the opener that’s not working correctly.” If the motor is the source of your problem, you should still be able to lift the door manually.

To check if the problem is your door, make sure the door is lowered to the ground. “You don’t want it slamming on the ground, hurting someone, or damaging the door further,” Dan cautions. Once it’s on the floor, use the manual release to disconnect the door from the motor. Then, simply try to lift the door. If the door is not hard to open or close, the problem is not the door itself but the motor. If the door is heavy or can’t be lifted, then there is likely a problem with the garage door and not the electrical components.

When to Call a Professional

While there are certain things you can do on your own to maintain the operation of your garage door, sometimes it’s best to have a specialist take a look. Dan recommends having a professional examine your garage door every two years, but you can schedule maintenance as much as every year. Typical things a professional will check for and adjust include:

Spring balance. If you believe there is a balance problem with your springs, calling a professional is vital. The garage door springs assist the motor in raising and lowering the door, which can weigh up to a few hundred pounds. When the door is struggling to stay up or down, it’s time to call a professional for help. Balancing your garage door springs on your own can add to the problem because of the heavy reliance of the door on the springs. During a routine maintenance visit, a professional can check and balance your springs.

Force adjustment. A garage door professional can also check the force adjustment on the motor. “When the door comes down, it’s set to spring back up if it feels pressure,” says Dan. “So you want to make sure when the door comes down that it pops back up if it feels any resistance.” Force adjustment keeps you, your family, and your car safe.

Rail lubrication. Dan also recommends having a professional grease the rail on the motor. While homeowners can do this on their own, sometimes they use the wrong grease, which could cause problems with the operation of the garage door.

Cable jumps. A cable jump occurs when the garage door cable comes off the drum, which is the spool-shaped object it’s wrapped around. A jump usually occurs when the door encounters a foreign object, such as a car bumper, rake, shovel, bike, or toy. One side of the door drops down further than the other, which causes the spring’s tension to shift to one side. Dan says you can diagnose a jump by determining if one side of the door is hanging higher than the other when the door is halfway down. Homeowners with cable jumps will also notice loose pulleys or cables along the rails of their door.

Winter care. In the winter, your garage door might not move as easily as it did in warmer weather. A professional can improve the operation of your door by adjusting the force of the motor. “We’ll get a lot of calls in the wintertime because the homeowner’s motor is not working,” says Dan. He adds that this is usually a simple fix and only takes a short visit from your garage door professional.

With the right information and preventative measures, you can avoid encountering problems with your garage door. Garage door maintenance may be the last item on your to-do list, but performing just a few simple steps will keep your door operating safely and effectively.

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This spotlight article was crafted with the help of All Four Seasons Garage Doors, a Garage Doors Best Pick in Atlanta. While we strive to provide relevant information to all homeowners, some of the material we publish may not pertain to every area. Please contact your local Best Pick companies for any further area-specific advice.