You've probably heard that your garage door's springs are particularly dangerous, but you might not realize that garages use two distinct styles of springs. Extension springs are a cheaper option commonly found on older garage doors, and these springs are under substantial amounts of tension with the door in the closed position.

On the other hand, torsion springs are a safer and more modern option. If you have a large shaft spring running horizontally across the top of your garage door, you have a torsion spring. Conversely, extension springs typically sit along the wall and above the tracks. Extension springs are substantially more dangerous, so it's important to understand why they fail and what to do if it happens.

Why Do Garage Doors Use Extension Springs?

A garage door is surprisingly heavy, and lifting one without assistance can be challenging, even for very strong individuals. You might think your garage door opener provides most of the force needed to lift your door, but the springs are the show's real stars. When you close your door, the springs extend and store the energy necessary to quickly and easily lift the door.

Extension springs are a particularly cheap, efficient, and easy option for this role. If you watch the extension springs as you open and close your garage door, you'll see there's very little magic. Closing the door extends the springs while lifting the door releases that energy and causes them to compress again. Since a garage door can weigh over 100 lbs, extended springs may store huge amounts of energy.

Why Do Extension Springs Fail?

Springs can fail for numerous reasons, but extension springs have a relatively short lifespan due to several factors. In addition to storing energy when you lift your door, these springs also help to hold the door in place. Extending and compressing the springs can fatigue the metal, while the door's weight can create additional stress.

Poor maintenance will also typically contribute to spring failure. Garage door springs may need frequent lubrication to help protect the metal from moisture, which can ultimately lead to rust and premature failure. Improper maintenance or deferred repairs on other parts of the door can also lead to jerky or uneven motion, leading to excessive wear on the extension springs.

How Do You Know If Your Springs Are Failing?

In a worst-case scenario, extension springs can snap free and cause serious damage. If one spring snaps or breaks, stay out of your garage and contact an expert. However, most failures aren't so dramatic. You can often spot the early signs of failure by looking for severe rust on the springs. Your door may also close too quickly or feel too heavy when lifting it manually.

If you notice these problems, contact a garage door spring repair professional immediately. Extension spring failures can be dangerous, and you should never attempt to work on these springs yourself. An expert can help you resolve the problem and ensure the safe operation of your home's garage door.