Garage Door Dave
Garage Door Maintenance
This page is all about what you need to know to do it yourself.
Let's start with the part you should not try to do yourself, but you can check to see if it needs attention. That would be adjusting the spring. A properly adjusted spring should require about the same amount of force to pull the door down (ideally just a little less) as it does to lift it. It should also stay in the halfway up position, by itself, without closing on it's own. Feel free to call for clarification on this point if you aren't comfortable with how your door works. Springs should not require annual adjusting, so as long as they are working properly you can proceed with the stuff that you can (and should) do about once a year. If the springs need to be adjusted, I charge $75 for the service call which would cover adjusting the springs and lubing everything I discuss in the rest of this page.
Direct and to the point! I'm ok with coming to your house to perform the lubrication that is described in the rest of this page, but most of you reading this can do this easily yourself. If you cannot, or just don't care to, then call me, I'll be glad to. I perform this maintenance most of the time when I am fixing something else, occasionally it is obvious that it has just been done so I don't do it.
I just have to address this because I come from an automotive background. What is a "Tune Up" on a garage door? Where are the spark plugs, how do you change the points / set the dwell, adjust the timing? Do you need to check the compression every tune up? How about adjusting the valves? SORRY, just making fun of the guys who offer a "FREE GARAGE DOOR TUNE UP". This is like a free oil change on your car, or a free tire rotation. the only reason a shop does either of these things is to get you in so they can UPSELL you. SHOCKER, there are no free lunches.
That having been said, this is a very simple process. Most of this page is pictures, mostly for the purposes of clarification on the array of different doors in the market. Also because the "what to do" is very simple and won't take a lot of your time to read.
Here it is. Rollers, Hinges, and Bearings! Pretty simple. How much to use? If the "excess" is running down then obviously you have exceeded the need. Sorry. It really doesn't take much. What to use? I'll talk about that later on the page.
First of the Three, The Rollers
First, there are two places to lube on the rollers. If they are ball bearing rollers then you want to shoot some lube into the bearing area. If they are "black nylon" rollers then there are no bearings, just the nylon riding on the steel stem and the lube needs to get inside the nylon roller to reduce friction with the steel stem. That covers the one point, the one where the rollers turn on the stem. The second place is where the stem slides in the hinge or top or bottom bracket. Look at the following pictures and find the rollers that look like yours and lube as indicated.
The other (and more common) types of rollers, pictured below have ball bearings in them. The one on the left is a seven ball roller, meaning it has seven balls in the bearing part of the roller. These balls are about the size of a BB, and on this roller the groove that they ride in is cut into the stem of the roller, making a small circle that is prone to wear if there are any side loads on it. This is the weakest, cheapest of the designs available but there are plenty of them still working at 20 - 30 years old. Most of that depends on the way the tracks were installed originally.
The roller on the right is an eleven ball roller or a fourteen ball roller, and the difference is inconsequential. Both are bullet proof. Even improperly installed tracks have a hard time tearing these up. The roller pictured has a white nylon covering on the wheel part of it to make it a little quieter in the track. Similar design with a steel wheel is still a great roller, just a little noisier. They also make a roller just like this with a black nylon covering, all good. As you can see in the picture, the circle where the bearings reside is larger, making it stronger to side loads. Some of these rollers have a "seal" to keep the bearings "safe from dirt", that's ok, spray them with lube anyway, some of it WILL get through. The biggest killer of ball bearing rollers is rust on the balls caused by a lack of protective lubrication. This is observed by the distinct "kunk, kunk, kunk" noise that they make as the door goes up or down.
Don't forget the stems! Three of the rollers on each side of the door are in the hinges or a bracket close to the hinges. One of the others is in the top bracket. The last one is in the bottom bracket. The rollers need to be able to slide in the hinges or brackets to make up for variations in the tracks, but mostly they need to not rust and freeze up. Hence the lubrication. This is the least critical lube point on most doors but still worth doing. Hopefully the pictures help clear up the rest. If yours are not exactly like the ones pictured hopefully this gives you enough to figure it out.
That concludes the section on roller lubrication.
Hinges, The Next Step In The Process
Our next exciting area of study is the hinges. Sounds exciting doesn't it? Sorry for the play on words, but for some people the lack of sound might be the exciting part. Almost all of the noise that a garage door makes as it goes up and down comes from the hinges and is resonated by the metal panels almost as if it was amplified. Lubrication of the hinges usually makes most of this noise go away. This may make your door quiet down a bit but realize if the hinges need lubrication the rest of the door needs it to. The hinges are just the parts that scream "oil can" (a poor Wizard of Oz reference) but the other points need lubrication too.
These first two pics are what I would refer to as "normal" hinges. About 80% of the doors in our market have one of these two. All you need to do is put a little bit of lube on each end of the hinge pin as shown.
The second pair of hinges are characteristic of most of the doors manufactured by Overhead Door Company. The hinge pin is smaller but responds to lube the same way. In the picture on the left the lube straw is in position, right where the pin meets the ring of the hinge. A very controlled finger can cause just a little bit of oil to come out of the can (shown on the right), and then it will naturally wick into the parts that it needs to lubricate.
This next pair of hinges are used on two of the doors that Wayne Dalton manufactures. The doors feature a pinch resistant joint, which means if you are pulling the door down from the outside you can't smash your fingers in the joint. You need to shoot lube into these hinges until you see it come out the other side of the hinge. A reasonably short but full pressure shot will get the lube where it needs to be. When you see the lube coming out the far side of the hinge it is done.
The next two hinges are the ultimate pinch resistant door. This means if you are pulling the door down from the outside you can't smash your fingers in the joint. It is an Amarr door and all of their doors have this design feature for the last 10 or 15 years. The left picture is the hinge on the end of the door. There is a pin that projects into the lower section of the door, on the side of the door. A quick shot of lube between the bracket and the door, where the pic shows, will take care of these hinge points. The next issue is the central hinges (the pic on the right). Unfortunately for you these are the hardest of all the hinges to lubricate because the actual hinge is up inside the door. Point the straw (you have to use a straw) up and center on the hinge and give it a full pressure blast. If the door doesn't quiet down try it again, these doors usually respond well to lubrication.
Not So Obvious But Very Important, The Bearings
Onward to the bearings! We're almost done. If the door is closed you can see the springs and the bar they are mounted on about 10 to 12 inches over the top of the door. If you are not sure that you see them look at the "springs" page on this website, there are some pictures with descriptions of what you're looking at. The ends of this bar are supported by a plate that is attached to the track and has a bearing in it. You have to spray this bearing from "outside" of the tracks because the drum that the cable winds up on is right up against the other side of it. The pic on the left is to show you where to lubricate, in between the bearing parts rather than between the bearing and the tube. If you watch this while the door is moving you will see that the inner race of the bearing (part that is touching the tube) turns with the tube. It is very important to lube these bearings because they actually support the 250 to 300 pounds that your garage door weighs.
The final place that needs to be lubricated is the bushing or bearing that is between the springs. Most of these are either a black or a white nylon bushing, but occasionally I see one that has a steel ball bearing installed. The ball bearing type have to be lubed when the springs are being replaced because you can't get to it to spray where you need to when it is assembled. The bushing type is easy, you just spray between the springs and get a little lube on the tube next to the bushing and the oil will wick into the bushing. Normally there is a gap between the springs, like the picture on the left, and you can just stick the straw in there and give a quick spray. If yours looks like the one on the right, that's ok, just put the straw up to the gap between the spring and the mount plate and spray. Plenty of lube will get to the bushing.
Most Important, 2 Things Not To Do
1) Do not try to tighten the bolts that hold the hinges and brackets on a metal door unless they are obviously loose,
in which case you will probably have to replace the bolt with one you can put a nut on the backside of. The next
problem with that is sometimes you can't get to the backside to put that nut on it. Tightening these bolts in
the thin sheet metal that is your garage door will almost guaranteeably cause them to strip out.
What Lube To Use - Yes It Matters
There are a multitude of things on the market advertised as "Garage Door Lube". Says it on the can. Quite often it's a marketing ploy to sell product that may not be what will work best for you. You want to use a lube that is a light oil, I like to think "3 in 1 oil" in a spray can. One of the lubes marketed for garage doors is "white lithium grease". JUST SAY NO. If you think you can get this lube into a black nylon roller you are delusional. (see previous section about NO GREASE) You probably won't get it into the other rollers or the bearings or bushings either. Also marketed is "silicone spray". Silicones are great for rubber and plastic but are not the best thing for metal on metal like hinges and ball bearings. My recommendation is to go to an auto parts store and buy something labeled "lubricant". There is an auto parts store on every other corner and they have a great selection of "lubricants".Not the end all list, but either of the following lubricants will do the job nicely.
That Concludes Garage Door Maintenance
David Vogel Garage Door Repairs
Founded in Honesty and Integrity
Serving the Greater Jacksonville Area