When You Need To Know How To Adjust A Garage Door Gap

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Adjust The Garage Door Gap

There will come a day, like it or not, when you will be forced to wonder; “Why is my garage door not level”? Why is there a gap between the bottom edge of the garage door and the garage floor? This is the day When You Need To Know The Reason For The Gap and How To Adjust A Garage Door Gap.

It is not unusual to find that the garage door is not level when closed. Sometimes there is a uniform gap across the entire door. At other times the garage door gap may not be uniform. The gap may be wider at one side. The garage door looks crooked.

Of course the garage door gap is a matter of some concern, but it is not a serious issue. There are a few possible reasons for the gap and once you know the reason you may be able to do the garage door adjustment by yourself. Even if you can not, a garage door repair specialist will be able to do it relatively easily. 

Why do Garage Doors Lose Balance?

There are basically three subsystems of a garage door mechanism that can result in the door  losing its balance:

  1. Cable Drums, Pulleys & Cables
  2. Garage Door Springs
  3. Tracks, Rollers & Hinges

Why you must Adjust the Garage Door Gap?

The garage door which is not level and leaves a gap at the bottom can lead to several problems

  • A gap at the bottom is an open invitation to bugs, rodents and reptiles to get inside your garage door.
  • Wind, leaves, rain and snow can blow right in.
  • Garage insulation will be compromised, pushing up your energy bills.
  • The stress on the garage door opener, rollers, tracks, hinges etc goes up resulting in higher wear & tear and reduced life of parts.

In this blog post I will explain how these subsystems work and how they can make your garage door lose its balance. It is important for you to understand them in some detail and know when to call the garage door repair specialist. You will have peace of mind when you know that the PRO did what he should have done and did not take you for a ride!

Word of Caution

I do not recommend, on this post or in any of the posts on Garage Made Simple, that you should attempt to do any DIY work in your garage, unless you consider yourself an expert. 

Specifically, repair & replacement work related to garage door springs and any parts attached to it, is extremely dangerous. Garage door springs are under huge tension (remember they can support the weight of an entire garage door!). A break in the spring or any mishap can cause serious physical harm. 

It is important to know How To Adjust A Garage Door Gap. However, such work should only be done by trained & experienced professionals with enough expertise and the right tools & equipment. 

You should always give top priority to safety when it comes to Garage Doors. C.H.I. Overhead Doors has some excellent YouTube videos on garage door safety. Check out the one below on Testing the Balance of Your Garage Door. By following this simple method you will know if it is necessary to adjust the garage door gap.

Cable Drums, Pulleys & Cables

The most common reason for a garage door that has lost its balance, has a gap (even or uneven) with the garage floor when closed or drops suddenly towards the end is the cable drum, the pulley or the cables.

Cable Drums

Garage doors that use torsion springs as a counterbalance have cable drums, which are metal cylinders with a spiral groove. The cable winds up in the groove as the garage door opens and lifts. Every garage door has a pair of these, one at each top end of the door.

Now if one of the cable drums, say the left one, slips, then in essence the left cable has a slightly higher effective length as compared to the right cable. This means that when the left bottom of the garage door has touched the garage floor the right bottom end is still above the floor. The result is that the bottom edge of the garage door is slanted and not flush with the garage floor.

A garage door repair specialist can adjust the cable drum settings and get the garage door back in balance.

Cable Pulleys

Garage doors that use extension springs as a counterbalance have pulleys instead, which are metal disks with a groove. The cable moves within the groove as the garage door moves up or down. Every garage door has a pair of these, one for each extension spring.

A similar situation can happen if one of the cables has weakened, frayed, elongated or sagged more than the other cable. In this case it is best to have both cables replaced with new ones.

Garage Door Springs

The weight of the garage door, which could be anywhere between 120 to 300 lbs, is counterbalanced by garage door springs. So much so that a Garage Door Opener can move it with a small ½ to 1 ¼ HP motor. When disengaged. you can move the garage door with one hand, without breaking a sweat.

But the springs do not just counterbalance the garage door, they balance it. The two springs (torsion or extension) spread the weight uniformly across the entire door width and on to the two cables and the two horizontal tracks. This is very critical to the smooth, uniform movement of the door.

So the garage door gets into a lot of trouble when these two springs are not at the same level of torque or tension. The door goes out of balance. The garage door will not close evenly against the garage floor. One side will be tilted leaving a gap. 

The door movement may also become jerky and noisy. All this increases the stress and strain on cables, brackets, hinges, rollers, tracks etc and the normal wear & tear accelerates.  All these symptoms are telling you that it’s time a garage door repair specialist took a look at your garage door springs.

Quick Check

There is a quick and easy way to check if your garage door springs are out of balance. Unplug the Garage Door Opener and disengage the trolley from the garage door. Now your garage door is in manual mode. Try opening and closing the door manually. If the movement is still not smooth, then chances are that the garage door springs are out of balance.

Sometimes it could just be an issue of a few adjustments. At other times you may discover that the garage door springs have outlived their useful life or one of them may have even broken. A replacement is very much due.

Tracks, Rollers & Hinges

A garage door going out of balance because of dysfunctional tracks, rollers or hinges is the least likely. But it can happen!

Your garage door runs on tracks in pretty much the same way, trains run on tracks. There is a set of two vertical tracks that run on the two sides of the garage door, right from the garage floor, all the way up to the top end of the door. They then curve, become horizontal and run along the roof. All in all the tracks are around the same length as the garage door height.

The garage door sits on little garage door rollers with wheels which glide in a groove in the track. If everything is working as designed then the entire motion of a garage door opening and closing is a smooth graceful noiseless glide.

Unfortunately, all this can get jerky and noisy if the garage door goes out of balance because

  • The tracks got physically deformed (dented, twisted, bent, sagged, whatever).
  • The groove in the tracks lost its smoothness because of debris or some other obstruction.
  • The rollers are not running smoothly because they are worn out, have lost a few balls from their ball bearings or have become wobbly.
Preventive Maintenance

You are unlikely to run into these problems if you have lubricating your garage door regularly. Read my  blog post on How Often To Lubricate Garage Door For Best Results

You can also run into a garage door that has gone out of balance if some of the hinges, that connect one section of a sectional garage door to the next, have become loose. The additional play between the sections will make the garage door unbalanced and will make the door vibrate and clatter.

Fortunately, these are usually the easiest to prevent. They can also be fixed relatively easily. 

The Solutions

The preventive maintenance and the solutions to getting your out of balance garage door back into balance are:

Cable Drums, Pulleys & Cables
  1. Adjust the Cable Drum setting on the shaft.
  2. Re-thread the cable on the groove if it has jumped out
  3. Replace the Cable Drums if they are old & worn out
  4. Replace the Cables if they are frayed, weakened, elongated or are sagging
  5. It is best to replace both Cable Drums and both Cables at the same time 
Garage Door Springs
  1. Lubricate the Springs regularly to prevent rusting
  2. Have them adjusted
  3. Replace the Springs, if you find they are overly rusted or the gap between the coils is large. This means that the springs are losing their torque or tension.
  4. Broken Springs of course have to be replaced
  5. Always replace both Springs at the same time 
Tracks, Rollers & Hinges
  1. Clean the Tracks regularly with a damp cloth to keep the groove free from debris
  2. Do not lubricate the tracks
  3. Do lubricate the ball bearings and the wheels of steel rollers. Nylon rollers with sealed ball bearings do not require lubrication
  4. Lubricate all the hinges. Tighten the bolts and screws if loose.
  5. If the tracks have been deformed, have them repaired or replaced immediately.
  6. Replace Rollers if they are worn out, wobbly or the ball bearings have lost a few balls

Bottom Line

It is possible to find that your garage door is unbalanced. You will know this if your garage door does not close properly and leaves a visible gap between the garage door bottom and the garage floor. In this situation the door is also likely to become noisy, shudde and have a jerky motion.

Uneven garage doors can result from failure of any of the following

  • Cable Drums, Pulleys & Cables
  • Garage Door Springs
  • Tracks, Rollers & Hinges

Uneven garage doors will make them noisy & jerky. The wear & tear of parts will increase and the life of the door will be reduced. You should ask your neighborhood garage door repair specialist to take a look as soon as possible. 

Do not take risks as uneven garage doors can become safety hazards!

Thank you very much for reading the post. I do hope you found it informative and useful.

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