All automatic garage doors made after 1993 have photoelectric eyes, a safety mechanism that causes a closing door to automatically reverse itself if it "sees" something in its path.
By REBECCA SLOAN
Except for the two seconds per day spent pushing the button on the automatic garage door opener, you probably don't give much thought to your garage door.
But maybe you should.
After all, the garage door is the largest and heaviest moving object in your home, and it can present a real safety hazard if it isn't working properly.
It is also the home's most popular entrance and exit, and since the average garage door gets opened and closed about 1,000 times a year, there are ample opportunities for broken springs or worn-out rollers, which can lead to more serious troubles.
"A garage door is basically maintenance free, but there are a few things you should do once a year to keep it operating properly," said Ken Keller of D & amp; R Garage Doors Plus in Austintown.
Oil it yearly
Keller said lightly oiling all of the garage door's moving parts annually is the best way to ensure that a garage door -- electric or manual -- continues to open and close quietly and smoothly.
Just don't go gung-ho with the WD-40.
"When I tell people to oil a door's moving parts, I always stress the word 'lightly,' " Keller said. "Too many people overdo it and end up creating more problems because they use a whole can of lubricant on their door."
Keller recommends using WD-40 to lightly oil hinges, rollers and springs.
Dave Heck, owner of Progressive Overhead Doors in North Lima, said you can use motor oil if you don't have any WD-40 on hand.
Heck also recommends using white lithium grease to lubricate the chain or screw on the electric garage door opener. (Not the remote control opener you hold in the palm of your hand, but the remote control box mounted overhead in the garage.)
"White lithium grease works well as a lubricant on the opener because it won't drip down on your car. It's sold at home improvement centers like Lowe's or Home Depot," Heck said.
After all of the door's moving parts have been lubricated, Heck recommends tightening all nuts and bolts and checking the weather seal at the bottom of the door for wear and tear.
'Fall is the time'
"Fall is the perfect time for yearly garage door maintenance. If the weather seal doesn't fit tightly, it will let in cold air not to mention mice," Heck explained. & quot;If you need a new weather seal, you can get one at a home improvement center or a garage door specialty store. & quot;
Heck said homeowners should also inspect rollers and lift cables for broken strings during their annual garage door tune-up.
But although broken springs and worn cables are easy to spot on your own, you should always call a professional to replace rollers or lift cables since both are under extreme tension and replacing them can be dangerous, Heck said.
Keller said broken springs are one of the most common problems that occur on garage doors.
"If you are going to have one spring replaced, you need to have both replaced," Keller said. "Otherwise the older spring is going to work harder than the newer one and throw the door off balance."
If you think your door might be off balance, there's one sure fire way to find out.
"If your door is automatic, disengage the opener from the door by pulling the opener release and then manually lower the door half way," Heck said. "A door that starts to ride up is under too much tension, and a door that falls has too little tension. A door that's properly balanced will stay in place on its own."
Once again, adjusting spring tension can be dangerous, so call a professional if you suspect your door is out of balance.
"Even if you don't need to check the balance of your door, it's still a good idea to know how to disengage the opener in case of a power outage," Heck said.
Besides problems with springs or cables, Keller said human error is the next most common culprit when it comes to garage door mishaps and disasters.
"A lot of accidents happen, like people closing their garage door on their cars," Keller said. "For some reason it's easy to make stupid mistakes."
Heck said he often hears of doors accidentally closing on family pets, but with new safety features, accidents are less common.
For example, all automatic garage doors made after 1993 have photoelectric eyes, a federally-mandated safety mechanism that causes a closing door to automatically reverse itself if it "sees" something in its path.
Heck said that many doors made before 1993 also have an auto-reverse mechanism that will cause them to go back up if they hit something other than the floor.
Torsion springs have also helped to make garage doors safer than those manufactured a decade ago.
Heck said garage doors come in two categories, those made with torsion springs and those made with extension springs.
"Torsion springs are mounted on a shaft above the door in a closed position, and extension springs are situated above the upper roller track and have no shaft," Heck explained. "Since there is no shaft, extension springs can be very dangerous should they break because they will go flying and cut like a knife."
Nowadays Heck said almost every door sold is made with torsion springs.
"We insist on them because they are quieter, safer and easier to adjust. The only time we use extension springs is when there is less than eight inches of head room above the door, and even in that case, you can often install special torsion springs," Heck explained.
Despite upgrades in safety, kids still have a genius for trouble when it comes to garage doors, and Keller recommends mounting opener switches at least five feet above the ground to prevent little fingers from opening and closing the garage door hundreds of times a day.
Also keep in mind that it's not uncommon for kids to seriously injure or amputate their fingers should their hand get stuck between sections as the garage door moves up or down.
If you are building a garage or would like to add new doors to your existing garage, Keller said the process of choosing a door, getting an estimate and having it installed usually takes about a week.
"The standard 16-by-7 foot door will usually cost about $700 to $1,200," Keller said.
Heck listed $500 as a ballpark figure for a door of this size and $260 for the average cost of an automatic door opener.
Although you can buy a door made from anything from vinyl, wood or steel, Keller said steel is more durable than other materials.
"It stands up to the weather and resists wear and tear better," he said.
Installing a garage door is a job for a professional or for someone who's very mechanically inclined, Heck said.
"A professional can install a door in a few hours, and someone who has a lot of mechanical ability could probably do it in less than a day, but it there is an element of danger, especially when it comes to winding the torsion spring because of the tremendous amount of pressure," Heck said.