Garage Door / Garage Door Opener Safety and Maintenance
Older homes may have charm that’s difficult to find in a new house today, but often they do not compare well when it comes to meeting current safety standards. In fact, even houses built only 15 years ago may have major components that don’t measure up to current federal guidelines. Garage door openers for example. Even though the door is spring balanced and move at the touch of a button, maiming injuries and several deaths (mainly to children) occur every year. There are many contributing factors. One is that a garage door is the largest and heaviest moving object in a house; another, that the convenience of mounted keypads and portable remote controls means garage doors are often used more than any other entrance. Third, is that the garage door is typically the least maintained moving object on the house.
Safer Garage Doors
There are two main ways to make automatic garage doors safer. The first and most obvious is to install a modern system that meets current standards. Since January 1993, the Consumer Product Safety Commission has required that all garage door openers have what’s called an external entrapment protection system. In practical application this translates to an electric photo eye (or similar system) aligned with the opening and approximately six inches off the floor. These will reverse the garage door before it hits anything detected by the sensors in the door’s path.
Many older systems reverse only after contact (sometimes quite a collision) or don’t reverse automatically under any circumstances. If your garage door is more than 10 years old, consider upgrading, says the CPSC, and replace pre-1982 openers that do not reverse.
The CPSC offers this strong recommendation because the auto-reversing feature has significantly reduced personal injury and property damage — so much so that in 2001 the standard was extended to include automatic security gates that are increasingly common at the entrances of apartment and condo communities.
The second basic safeguard is to test your garage door periodically (the CPSC suggests a somewhat rigorous, once-a month schedule) and perform regular maintenance and repairs as needed. Although basic guidelines apply to all automatic garage door openers, check your owner’s manual or contact Absolute Overhead Door Service.
Most of the safety guidance is aimed at parents of young children; No. 1 on the list compiled by door manufacturers, the CPSC and the National Safety Council, is not to let kids play “beat the door.” The groups also advise parents not to let children play with or use garage door remote controls. As a further precaution, keypad wall control should be mounted out of children’s reach — at least five feet from the floor — and in a location where users can clearly see the moving door.
In case all else fails and someone is pinned by the door, it’s also important to know how to use the emergency release. Generally, you simply pull down on the short rope hanging from the operator motor. This feature, a standard since 1982, disconnects the garage door opener system from the garage door so you can lift it by hand.
Testing Old and New Garage Doors
In older houses, the garage door may be original or a replacement. Not sure of its vintage? You might be able to track the door’s manufacturing date through a model type listed in the owner’s manual or on the back of the garage door opener. If not, you can contact Absolute Overhead Door Service to send a technician to evaluate your opener.
Balance. To check balance, start with the garage door closed and trip the release mechanism so you can maneuver the garage door by hand. If the garage door is balanced (properly spring-loaded and running freely on its tracks), you should be able to lift the garage door smoothly without much effort and it should stay open about three or four feet above the floor. If the garage door flies up or down when you let go, the balance needs adjusting. Because the springs store so much power, you should have their tension corrected by a qualified service contractor. I have personally stood in pools of blood where homeowners attempted to adjust or repair their own springs before I was called.
Reversing test. Place a 2-by-4 block on the flat in the path of the garage door. If it does not promptly reverse on hitting the block, you should repair the garage door opener or replace an older one that lacks the reversing feature. Be very cautious because you can damage your garage door or garage door opener if this test is not done properly.
Basic Garage Door Maintenance
There are a few items that can be done that will extend the life of your garage door and garage door opener.
- Lubricate Rollers, Do not grease the track. The lubricant should be sprayed directly into the bearings of the rollers. By greasing the track, the life of the rollers will drastically decrease.
- Lubricate Hinges, Spray lubricant where the metal to metal part rubs together as the hinge moves.
- Check balance of garage door. All residential garage door openers are designed to pick up approximately 20 lbs. If a garage door is not balanced the life of your garage door opener will be reduced dramatically. It is a common misconception that buying a bigger Horsepower opener will fix the problem. With the garage door not in balance you will just be buying another garage door opener very soon. If the garage door is not balanced, call us to adjust. This is, by far the most dangerous part of any garage door to try to adjust without proper training and tools.
If you are unsure of the basic maintenance of your garage door or simply do not want to do it on your own, feel free to call us to schedule a preventative maintenance call.