Your garage door cables are also known as torsion springs. This confuses many customers, because experts may refer to the component as a spring or a cable.
In actuality, it is not a spring until it is wound around the shaft. Before the winding is complete, it is a cable. So, I guess you might say that both terms are correct.
Although each cable is (or should be) made of a sturdy steel wire, one can break as the years go by. The average life expectancy of a cable is between three and seven years. The variance depends on the number of times the doors are opened and closed. This is why some homeowners only open or close them when it is absolutely necessary.
When one cable breaks, you can expect the other to break in a relatively short period of time. This is why you typically buy them in pairs. It just makes sense to replace them both at the same time, because the job is tedious and can be dangerous.
Since the springs are under high tension, it is important to view this task as hazardous. If you are unfamiliar with the tools, you are better off calling a professional.
The springs are dangerous when they break, too. Luckily, they usually break during the closing operation, rather than the opening. If someone is inside, there is a risk that the loose piece of cable will hit them. Some manufacturers install safety mechanisms to help keep that from happening.
If you decide that replacing the garage door cables is something you can handle on your own, you will need to measure the existing cable. The most common lengths are 7 and 8 feet, although an older style or defunct manufacturer might have supplied something different.
It could be difficult if not impossible to measure the broken cable. You can always find out which length to order by calling the original manufacturer, if they are still in business. The information may also be available online.
Before you can install the new cable, you will need to remove the existing spring. There are special tools designed specifically for that purpose. The job involves cutting the spring or unwinding it.
Once the old springs are off of the shaft, you will need to wind the new garage door cables around it. This is accomplished using the winding cone. The cable must be wound in the correct direction. Otherwise, the springs will come loose from the cones.
The winding bars can slip out of the cones if you are not careful to be sure they are fully inserted. This happens even to professionals. Although the more experienced professional can replace the springs in what seems like no time at all, everyone has trouble with them sometimes.
Most professionals stretch the springs after the winding is complete to ensure that the shaft floats freely. You will also need to stretch and test the springs to be sure that your garage installation was done correctly.
If the springs bind or catch, your doors will not close completely. It might still be necessary to call for help even after you have done your best with the new garage door cables. It's nothing to be ashamed of. It happens to the best of us.
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