Garage doors are usually the largest and heaviest doors on a building and can weigh up to 500 pounds or more! Cables attached to tension or torsion springs, however, make it easier to lift and lower those big doors. So, if those cables pop off a pulley, unwind, become detached, or broken, moving that door can become a back-breaking exercise. Here are some tips to help you safely repair, replace, reconnect, or rewind garage door cables.
Before attempting a garage door wire repair, it is important to know what type of cable system it is and how it works. There are two common cable systems used to lighten a garage door for safer operation. One is a torsion spring-controlled cable and the other an extension spring-controlled system.
Torsion Spring-Controlled Cables
Torsion springs are commonly mounted horizontally to the header above the garage door opening. It’s a long bar with two high-tension springs coiled around it with a grooved roller drum at each end.
A cable runs from the bottom of each end of the lowest door panel and is secured to the grooved roller. As the door goes up, the cable winds around the roller and loosens the tension on the spring.
When lowered, the cable unwinds, and the tension on the spring winds up. The coil springs are under higher tension when the door is down, making it easier to lift but also putting greater stress on the cables.
Extension Spring-Controlled Cables
Historically, extension springs were reserved for garages with limited headroom for mounting a torsion system but they have become more common in the past two decades as they are easier and safer to install. Instead of mounting the springs above the door and always being under tension, they are attached to each horizontal track.
The cables thread a pulley at the end of the spring, go through another pulley where the track bends to go vertical, and attach to the bottom-most door panel. When the door is up, the spring is relaxed and the cable is often slightly loose.
As the door lowers, the spring stretches with the pull of the cable and the weight of the door. The spring is fully extended when the door is closed, so it is ready to assist with the door’s weight when it is lifted to open.
Safety cables thread through the extension springs and are fastened to the door track framework. They don’t impede the spring’s movement but are intended to hold the spring suspended should the door cable break or the spring itself break. Its only purpose is to prevent damage or injury.
Garage doors are heavy and have multiple moving parts to keep track of and maintain. The cables transfer energy from the coiled springs to assist with lifting the door, and to slow its downward descent.
A cable can become worn or frayed, disconnected or unbuckled, slip off a pulley, stretch, or break. When that happens, it’s good to know how to repair a garage door cable. The type of cable system, whether torsion or extension spring, affects how to reattach garage door cables and how to replace garage door cables.
Inspect the Cable
Regular inspection of the lift cables can help prevent damage or injury. Frayed or rusted cables should be replaced before they break. Cables that sag or appear loose when the door is fully open are more likely to become unwound from drum rollers or slip off pulleys. The cables may have stretched or a clamp slipped, causing the sag. Tighten the cables if this occurs.
Clamp the Door
Depending on where the door is when the cable breaks or releases influence this step. If the door is fully open or only partially open, attach a C-clamp to the track as near as possible but under the bottom wheel. This will prevent the door from moving downward. If the cable breaks, jumps a pulley, or becomes unattached and the door is fully closed, it doesn’t require clamps, yet.
Disconnect Garage Door Opener
To prevent damage to the garage door opener it is best to switch off its power source and disconnect it from the door lifting mechanism. This will also allow you to move the door if needed. Locate the release pull rope and give it a tug to unlatch the coupling.
Open the Door
The door will need to be fully open to release the tension on the torsion or extension springs, making it easier to replace or reattach cables. Lift the door until it is fully open and clamp it into position to prevent it from rolling down. Heavy doors may require 2 or 3 people lifting so the door is raised in a level manner to prevent binding or injury.
Check the Springs
When a cable breaks it can send a spring damaging shockwave of energy into an extension or torsion spring. Inspect the springs for cracks or breaks and replace them if damaged. Loose cables may be the result of slippage by a torsion spring, which may necessitate tightening and rewinding of the spring.
If you need to replace one cable due to fraying, rust, or breakage, it’s best to replace both lift cables at the same time. It’s also a good practice to replace the bottom mounting bracket when replacing the cables too. With extension spring doors, check for wear where the cable attaches to the upper frame and replace parts if required.
Use Proper Tools
Use C-clamps or blocks and clamps on both tracks to hold the door in place. Use a ladder or step-stool when working above your chest height, it’s safer and provides more strength for tasks than reaching. Use pliers, vice-grips, a hammer, wrenches, screwdrivers, and winding bars as required. Wear safety glasses and gloves for protection too.
If your garage door cable snapped, came off the pulley, or has become unattached, you have two choices. You can quickly learn how to fix garage door cables or call on professionals. If you choose to do the repair, here are some steps to follow when fixing a garage door cable safely.
Disconnect Electric Opener
Disconnect the electric door opener from the garage door by pulling the release cord. If the door is partially or fully open, use a C-clamp to prevent the door from rolling closed.
Raise the Door
Lift the door evenly into a fully open position to minimize or release the tension on extension or torsion springs.
Secure the Door
Use a C-clamp or another method under the bottom wheel guide on each track to hold the door in the fully open position.
Replace Damaged or Broken Cables
Remove the damaged or broken cable(s) from the base of the door and the spring system. Cables commonly loop a pin on the bottom mounting bracket.
Tighten or Realign Cables
In the raised position, cables are under little or no tension and can be easily realigned on pulleys and tightened. Loosen cables and place back on pulleys, and then pull the cable taut and retighten fasteners.
Release the C-clamps or blocking mechanisms holding the door open. The door may stay put, roll slightly, or want to roll closed. If it chooses to roll closed, attempt to slow its descent without causing yourself injury. If the springs and cables are doing their job, the door should feel much lighter and easier to lift or lower.
Reconnect Electric Opener
Activate the electric opener and allow it to reattach with the lift mechanism. You may need to realign the door opener sensor beams to have the opener work properly.
Test Garage Door Operation
Run the door and opener (if applicable) through several lift and close cycles to ensure the door and cables function properly.
Repairing a broken garage door cable may be something you don’t feel comfortable doing. If your vehicle is trapped by a heavy garage door that’s jammed or askew, you don’t have the time or tools, or you don’t know how to fix a garage door spring cable, give the pros at Fix Garage Doors CA a call!
Our service specialists are highly trained, skilled, and experienced in garage door lift cable repair. We install, maintain, and repair overhead, swing in or out, and sliding garage doors. All our work and parts have a complete warranty, plus, we’re WSIB insured for your protection.
To schedule a repair in Toronto or the GTA, text, email, or call our friendly Customer Support personnel. A technician will contact you, discuss the problem, provide an estimate, and book a time and date that works best for you, even the same day! If we do the repair, the service call is free!