A garage door that is off track or crooked can be stressful and intimidating for any homeowner. The garage door is the largest moving object in your home, and one simple mistake could leave you wondering what just happened.
In this article, we will answer the most common questions related to off track garage doors, including how it happens and what you can do to prevent it in the future.
What Is an Off Track Garage Door?
There are different levels of severity when it comes to garage doors being off track or crooked. If your garage door looks something like the photo above, it may be something simple like a cable off the drum. This is an easy fix that any garage door company can resolve in a matter of minutes, and it should not cost more than $125 in most circumstances.
If your garage door is completely off track and laying on the ground like pictured above, that would be considered a much more extreme scenario. You can expect to pay anywhere from $250-$400 to have your door put back on track, depending on where you’re located.
We were actually able to get this garage door back on track and functional. To achieve this, the garage door sections need to be detached from one another and reassembled in the opening, similar to when stacking a new door. The cables will need to be set, and the springs will have to be wound for the garage door to open.
After a garage door company gets the door back on track, they may have to install a reinforcement strut if one of the garage door sections is sagging when opening. This is common practice for doors that have cracks or sag, and it will extend the life of your garage door several years.
What Would Cause a Garage Door To Come Off Track?
A garage door could come off track for numerous reasons, but the most common scenario is the door hit something as it was closing. This could be a bucket, broom handle, bag of potting soil, or a bicycle. We have seen and heard it all in our thirty-eight years in business. Let’s take a look at some commons reasons why.
Garage Door Closed Down on Something
We have a lot of golf courses in our area, so it’s common to see golf clubs stored in the garage. Many times, the spot chosen by the homeowner is the dead space right by the garage door vertical track. Now, this is fine as long you keep some distance between the bag of clubs and the garage door.
As illustrated by the photo above, the bag of golf clubs are stored close to the garage door. All it takes is for someone to bump the clubs or move them slightly, and the door will close down on the bag, causing it to come off track. We have seen this happen many times, causing hundreds of dollars in damage to the garage door.
The front corners of a garage by the garage door tracks are an extremely popular area to store household items. The most commonly found are brooms, garden tools, and fishing rods. We also see left over pieces of wood, rebar, and anything else that doesn’t have a home.
We recommend not storing anything in this area to prevent your garage door from ever coming off track. Many times a broom handle will fall behind the vertical track and the bottom section will hit it on the way down. This will cause your garage door to come off track faster than you can yell out bingo.
We always recommend keeping everything in the garage at least a foot away from the garage door. Two feet is even better. This will prevent that common scenario where your garage door goes off track late at night and the only company available is the scammer who shows up to drain your bank account.
Garage Door Rollers Need to Be Replaced
Another common reason why garage doors come off track is due to a failed garage door roller. If you don’t maintain your garage door and run the rollers to failure, eventually the stem of the roller will detach from the wheel. When this happens, you will be left with a garage door section hanging down because the roller is missing.
Garage Door Spring Needs to Be Adjusted
Garage door springs need maintenance and adjustments over time as they get weaker. When a torsion spring is first wound, there is an additional half turn put on the spring, which is what keeps the cables on the drums when the door is in the up position.
As the spring gets weaker over time, this half turn that was originally put on the spring no longer has the same amount of tension. What can happen is the garage door goes up and stops in the open position and one of the cables pops off the drum. This will cause your garage door to come off track once you go to close it.
To resolve this, the spring will need a half turn added when it gets about three quarters of the way through its life cycle. This will keep the cables tight on the drums for the remainder of the spring’s life. That’s why it’s important to have a garage door company service your door every year or two, so they can make adjustments to prevent issues like these.
Garage Door Opener Went Up Too High
This issue is directly related to the previous section, with the spring needing tension added over time. If you have a torsion spring that requires a half turn added, and your automatic opener malfunctions and opens higher than normal, the cable will most likely come off the drum.
Garage door openers are not perfect, and any model can have issues with travel limits going too far. This happens on older units with physical limits and newer models with electronic limits. The combination of the torsion spring requiring adjustment and the opener going up too far is the perfect storm for a garage door coming off track.
Garage Door Was Locked and Opened
If you have a lock on your garage door and use an automatic opener every day, you want to make sure the lock is disabled. The reason for this is so no one accidentally locks the garage door and then presses the button to open the door.
If so, the garage door will come off track, and it could cause hundreds of dollars in damage. Take a look at the article we wrote on how to secure a garage door to learn more about garage door locks.
LiftMaster 841LM Automatic Lock is Jammed
If you have a LiftMaster wall mount 8500W opener, you most likely have the 841Lm automatic lock installed on the vertical track. This lock is also common with some of LiftMasters newer trolley style openers as well.
Like any mechanical part, automatic garage door locks can malfunction and jam, causing the garage door to come off track. We recently had a client with the 841LM lock, and it would not retract, which caused his garage door to come off track when opened.
How Do You Fix a Garage Door That is Off Track?
Fixing a garage door with a torsion spring that has come off track is all about getting the cables back on the drums, so they are both winding evenly. Many times, this starts by getting the garage door to sit evenly in the opening. Occasionally, this is an easy task, other times it takes experience to accomplish it without anyone getting hurt.
Because this usually requires dealing with a wound torsion spring, I recommend calling a garage door company to handle the repair. We have seen too many times when homeowners have gotten injured trying to repair their garage door. You can expect a standard off track garage door to cost anywhere from $150-$350 depending on the severity of the repair.
Garage Door Closes Unevenly?
If your garage door is closing unevenly, you most likely have a torsion cable out of the first groove on the drum. This is a common repair we see, and it’s a simple fix for any garage door technician. If that’s the only problem you are having, don’t let them overcharge you by convincing you it’s a lot worse than it really is.
If your garage door is equipped with extension springs, and it is closing unevenly, you may have a broken or sprung extension spring. Extension springs on a garage door act like independent suspension. Each side pulls independently of the other side.
When a spring is sprung or has gaps in it, the spring is no longer pulling the weight it is recommended for. This will cause one side of your garage door to sag when opening and closing. If you encounter this issue, you will need to have both extension springs replaced.
How Do You Realign a Garage Door?
Realigning a garage door can mean many things. It could be referring to putting a garage door back on track or your home may have shifted, therefore causing the garage door tracks to be misaligned. Either way, we recommend hiring a reputable garage door company to level the garage door or adjust the tracks.
Adjusting a garage door, so it runs properly, takes years of experience in the field. Many people think garage doors are simple, but there is a lot going on with geometry and physics that makes the system work. An experienced technician can perform simple adjustments that will make your garage door perform better day in and day out.
Why is My Garage Door Shifted to One Side?
Your garage door could be shifting to one side for a few reasons. The first reason could be the tracks were not installed properly. This can happen on many new installations if the proper steps were not taken by a professional garage door installer.
The second reason could be because the home has shifted. Many homes that need foundation repair will shift dramatically, which causes the garage door tracks to move with the home. This can affect both the vertical and horizontal tracks.
If you experience this issue, you may need to have a garage door company reset your tracks after your foundation was repaired properly.
How Does a Garage Door Become Unbalanced?
The most common reason a garage door will become unbalanced over time is the springs are getting weaker. This is common since springs are made of metal, and they will eventually fatigue over time and ultimately break at the end of their life cycle.
Adding some tension to springs is a great way to remedy an unbalanced garage door. Keep in mind that if tension is added to a spring at the end of its life cycle, it may break days or weeks after the service was performed. This means the spring was at the end of its life, and there is no way for a technician to tell you exactly when a spring will break.
Why Does My Garage Door Go up a Little and Stop?
If your garage door won’t open, you may have a broken spring above the door. When a spring breaks, it is common for the garage door to go up a little and stop. This is because the force limits on the motor are activating because the garage door is too heavy to lift.
Your garage door may be equipped with a standard torsion spring, or you may have a Wayne Dalton Torquemaster Spring. Broken torsion springs are easy to identify because you will see a 2” gap in the coils of the spring. A broken Torquemaster spring is harder to identify because the spring is mounted inside a tube.
You may not have a broken spring at all. What may be happening is the circuit board is starting to get weak, and you need to increase the up force on your motor. If your garage door is balanced when operating manually, try increasing the up force on your opener to see if this resolves your issue.
If your garage door opener doesn’t have manual limits, but electronic instead, you may need to unplug the unit or reprogram the limits. Unplugging the unit for a couple of minutes will sometimes reset the unit. If that doesn’t resolve your issue, try reprogramming the electronic limits using the buttons on the motor head.
Why Does My Garage Door Stop in the Middle?
If your garage door stops in the middle when opening, you may have a broken spring or the limits may need to be adjusted on the automatic opener. Like we discussed in the previous section, the opener may have pulled the garage door half open with a broken spring because the up force was set high.
Or, the spring on your garage door could be fine. Try opening your garage door manually to make sure it is easy to open, and it’s balanced. If that is the case, you may need to increase the up force as the circuit board may be getting weak. This will cause your garage door to not open and stop half way.
How Much Space Should Be Between the Garage Door and the Track?
The space between the edge of the garage door section and the vertical track should be around 3/8”-1/2” max. This gives the garage door enough room to operate in case the home settles or moves. If your home has settled or is having foundation issues, you may need to call a garage door company out to adjust the tracks after the foundation has been repaired.
How Long Do Garage Door Tracks Last?
In the old days, garage door tracks would last over forty years because they were constructed of heavy gauge metals. Today, builder garage doors are using thinner tracks and parts, which dramatically reduce their useful life.
We are seeing many builder doors that need to be replaced in under ten years, and some in under five years. National home builder contracts from garage door manufacturers have produced cheaper products year after year, and the level of quality doesn’t seem to have a bottom end.
So, to answer your question, if you have a newer garage door, it most likely will not come close to lasting as long as the door your parents or grandparents had installed.
How Often Do Garage Door Rollers Need to Be Replaced?
If your garage door is equipped with a quality ball bearing roller, you won’t have to replace them for a while. A good rule of thumb is to replace your garage door rollers when your spring breaks. If they are higher quality rollers, they can usually last a couple of spring changes, since better rollers are rated over 15,000 cycles.
Plastic garage door rollers that are typically installed on builder grade garage doors don’t have any ball bearings. The metal stem on the roller rides in the middle of the plastic wheel. Because the wheels are made of plastic instead of heavy-duty nylon, they have a tendency to wear sooner and many times unevenly.
How Do You Get the Garage Door Opener Chain Back on Track?
If the chain on your garage door opener has come off, you most likely have a broken drive sprocket or front pulley. This is a common repair on many chain drive openers around the five to ten year mark. If the top sprocket has broken, you will need to replace the part.
If your garage door chain is loose, many times it can be resolved by adjusting the chain tensioner. This is common as garage door chains will stretch and get looser over time. A garage door opener chain can also loosen if the chain tensioner does not have a lock nut. If that is the cause, the tensioner will always loosen up over time.
Because it can be tricky to get a garage door back on track, we always recommend calling a reputable company to do the repair. We have seen too many times when homeowners have injured themselves or their property during the process. Many times the neighbor is involved, and that doesn’t always end well either.
Hopefully, this article shed some light on why your garage door is off track and crooked. I can tell you from experience, there are very few homeowners that have properly installed a garage door back on track. It can be challenging for even the most experienced garage door technicians.
By hiring a garage door company to do the repair, you will prevent any further damage to your door, yourself, and the vehicles in your garage.