On Track to Garage Door Safety


A garage door that is well cared for and properly maintained is safer and will last longer than one that is not.

As the largest moving object in the home, a garage door is a force to be reckoned with. An improperly adjusted garage door or automatic opener can cause serious injuries. Pinched, crushed and amputated fingers, fractures, crushed pets and injured children are some tragic occurrences reported by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. Sadly, some of these injuries result in death.

Proper installation, operation, maintenance and testing can provide safe, trouble-free operation. One of the best resources for garage door maintenance is the installation and care guide for the door or the automatic opener. If you don’t have either, contact the manufacturer or an installing dealer in your area for maintenance and operation tips. Replacement manuals often can be ordered if make and model numbers are available.


Start with a visual inspection of the garage door springs, cables, rollers and other door hardware. Look for signs of wear, and frayed or broken parts. Most minor repairs, such as roller replacement, can be performed by a handy do-it-yourselfer, while a qualified garage-door service technician should handle more complicated tasks. The springs and related hardware are under high tension and can cause severe injury when handled improperly.

Rollers, springs, hinges and tracks require periodic cleaning and lubrication. The mistake that most people make when it comes to cleaning and lubrication is forgetting to do the cleaning. Existing oil-and-grease buildup should be cleaned from the tracks and rollers with an automotive grease-cutting solvent. Re-lubricate the track and rollers using spray silicone, lightweight household oil or white lithium grease to prevent squeaking and sticking. Be sure to oil all the hinge pins and retighten all nuts and bolts. Paint all exposed wood or metal, make sure weatherstripping is in good condition and keep water from collecting at the base of the door.

If your door still doesn’t move smoothly along the track after cleaning and lubrication, the track might require a minor adjustment. In fact, the track might need seasonal adjustment. For example, a south-facing metal door will expand in the heat of the day, which might require adjusting the track away from the inside face of the garage. The track might also need to be adjusted outward slightly to accommodate a door widened by expansion. In cold weather, a door will contract and require adjustment in the opposite direction.

Wood doors react quite differently from metal ones. In cold, damp weather the door will expand. In hot, dry weather the wood will shrink. Keep this in mind when making seasonal adjustments to the track.

Most garage door tracks are anchored to the wall with an L-shaped bracket. Both faces of the L bracket have slots through which bolts are inserted. The slots are designed to allow the track to be adjusted side to side and in and out. Simply loosen the bracket screws, adjust the track (this might require tapping with a rubber mallet or small hammer) and retighten the screws. Close and open the door to determine if operation is improved. Repeat the process as necessary.

Many garage doors are equipped with a lock bar. This consists of a small metal bar that moves horizontally through a guide bracket and into a strike opening in the metal track. When the lock bar is properly inserted into the strike opening, the door should be locked. If the lock bar doesn’t slide into the guide bracket, loosen the screws that attach the bracket to the door, adjust the bracket and retighten the screws.

Periodically test the balance of the door. Start with the door closed. Disconnect the automatic opener release mechanism so that the door can be operated by hand. The door should lift smoothly and with little resistance. It should stay open around 3 feet to 4 feet above the floor. If it doesn’t, it is out of balance and should be adjusted by a professional.

If you have an automatic opener, make sure it has a reversing feature. If not, it should be replaced. Garage door openers manufactured after Jan. 1, 1993, are required by federal law to be equipped with a monitored non-contact safety reversing device or safety edge that stops and reverses a closing garage door. An example of such a safety device is an electronic beam sensor that is installed at either side of the door opening, which, when broken, causes the door to stop and reverse itself. Always be sure that this system is operating properly.

Finally, make a reversing test to the door and opener. Placing a 2-by-4-inch block of wood flat on the floor in the door’s path before activating the opener achieves this. If the door fails to immediately stop and reverse when it strikes the wood, disconnect the opener and use the door manually until the system can be repaired or replaced.

For more information on garage door and garage opener safety and maintenance, contact the International Door Assn., an industry trade association, at (800) 355-4432, or log on to its Web site at


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