A torsion spring counterbalance system consists of one or two tightly wound up springs on a steel shaft with cable drums at both ends. The entire apparatus mounts on the header wall above the garage door and has three supports: a center bearing plate with a steel or nylon bearing and two end bearing plates at both ends. The springs themselves consist of the steel wire with a stationary cone at one end and a winding cone at the other end. The stationary cone is attached to the center bearing plate. The winding cone consists of holes every 90 degrees for winding the springs and two set screws to secure the springs to the shaft. Steel counterbalance cables run from the roller brackets at the bottom corners of the door to a notch in the cable drums. When the door is raised, the springs unwind and the stored tension lifts the door by turning the shaft, thus turning the cable drums, wrapping the cables around the grooves on the cable drums. When the door is lowered, the cables unwrap from the drums and the springs are rewound to full tension.
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I obtained my parts, as described on this page, from American Garage Door Supply Inc. (http://www.americandoorsupply.com/) They may have raised their small-order prices or imposed a minimum order since I ordered from them in 2002 at the prices in my essay above. The Web site offers a free catalog by PDF download or mail. Springs in 2005 were priced at $2.25/lb.
Luckily, your garage door is a pretty sound investment. According to Garage Wow Now, garage doors were ranked in the top three for home improvements whose costs are recouped through increased home value. Similarly, realtors regularly increased the list price of a home with a new garage door by 1 to 4 percent! That means, if you spend $2000 on a new garage door, you can increase the value of your home by almost $8000 if you have a $200,000 home. Furthermore, compared with the other two highest rated improvements — siding replacement and deck installation — a garage door replacement is far more affordable.
If the spring is broken near a winding cone, you might think you can remove and discard the short broken piece of spring from the cone, clean up the end of the long remaining spring, and insert that end into the cone. This is another extrememly risky improvisation. The shortened spring is not going to have the correct weight-bearing characteristics for the door, so you will not be able to balance the door properly. The shortened spring will be proportionately overwound, resulting in extra stress that will increase the expectation of another fracture. And the aging and history of the original spring being broken greatly increases the likelihood of another fracture at other locations.
The electronics should also be inspected before or after investing in the cost of replacing the garage door panel to make sure your door will operate properly. The sensors prevent the door from closing on someone's foot or a pet. If they don't work, someone could be injured. Also check to make sure the door opener works, since you could otherwise be locked out of your garage.
One might stack lumber or arrange some other low platform for a steady footing, instead of the ladder. The aluminum ladder shown here is the splendid 16-foot Krause Multimatic, which carries a Type 1A Industrial rating (300 pound working load); I highly recommend it. However, product liability apparently forced this company into bankruptcy in September 2000 and the company ceased operations in June 2001; see http://www.krauseladders.com (this Web site went dead sometime in mid-2002). The world is a dangerous place.
Spending your whole weekend setting up a new garage door opener is not on the top of most peoples list. This opener is easy to install for most levels of DIYers and it provides a quiet and reliable open and close. This has 3/4 HPc DC chain features and the powerhead can open 12" in a second. It has a wireless remote and Intellicode 2 security to prevent people from breaking into your home.
Roller doors ("Sheet Doors"-USA) are usually constructed of corrugated steel. They evolved from cover window and door coverings. Other materials can be used (e.g.; transparent corrugated fibreglass) where strong impact resistance is not required. Corrugations give the door strength against impacts. A typical single car garage roller door has a preloaded spring inside the rolling mechanism. The spring reduces the effort required to open the door. Larger roller doors in commercial premises are not sprung (except USA) and use a manual pulley and chain system or a geared motor to raise and lower (roll up and roll down) the door. Roller doors cannot be effectively insulated.
Garage door manufacturers typically produce garage doors fitted with torsion springs that provide a minimum of 10,000 to 15,000 cycles and are guaranteed for three to seven years. One cycle is a single opening and closing sequence. Most manufacturers offer a 30,000 cycle spring. However, it is important to remember that if the weight of the garage door is increased by adding glass, additional insulation, or even several coats of paint, the life of the torsion spring may be greatly reduced. Additionally, springs at highly humid environments, such as coastal regions tend to have a significantly shorter cycle life, due to the corrosive cracking.