Should You Repair or Replace? A DIY Guide on Garage Door Cables

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garage door cable repair

Garage Door Cable Repair and Replacement

As industry experts with nearly 10 years of experience installing and repairing residential garage doors, we often get asked by homeowners about issues with their garage door cables. These cables are a crucial component of your garage door system, connecting the spring mechanism to the door itself. When cables become frayed, rusty, or simply worn out from years of use, they can break and prevent your door from opening properly.

garage door cable repair

Replacing broken cables is a common DIY garage door repair that, while not overly complicated, does require attention to detail and safety precautions. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll walk you through the entire process to help you confidently tackle cable replacement on your own.

Why Cables Matter in Your Garage Door System

The cables in your garage door system serve the critical purpose of transmitting the lifting force from the springs to the door. Without functional cables, the springs cannot lift the full weight of the door to open and close it.

There are two main garage door designs that use cables:

  • Torsion spring systems: The springs mount to a metal shaft above the door. Cables attached to cable drums on the shaft connect to the bottom corners of the door.
    • These systems rely on one cable on each side.
  • Extension spring systems: The springs stretch and contract vertically along the horizontal tracks. The cables run from the springs over a pulley and down to the bottom of the door.
    • These designs have two cables on each side – a lift cable and a safety containment cable.

No matter which system you have, the cables experience tremendous wear and tear each time you operate the door. After years of use, they eventually give out. Catching and replacing cables proactively is crucial before cable failure leaves your garage accessible or family members get injured by a falling door.

4 Signs Your Cables Need Replacement

Because garage door cables sit off to the sides of the door, they often go unnoticed until something goes wrong. But catching minor cable issues early can prevent dangerous failures down the road. Watch for these 4 key warning signs:

1. Visible fraying, rust, or damage: Periodically inspect your cables for any visible defects like frayed wires, corrosion, or kinks in the cable. Any visible cable damage means replacement is needed.

2. Slack in the cables when the door is open: Properly tensioned cables remain taut when the door is open. Any visible sagging or loose, hanging cables indicate excessive stretching or deterioration.

3. The door struggles to open or close: If your opener strains to open the door and cables lack tension, the cables may be too stretched to lift the door properly.

4. Increased noise from the door system: While some noise is normal, loud squealing or grinding sounds can mean cables are rubbing, winding improperly, or ready to snap.

By replacing damaged cables before they actually break, you prevent the door from crashing down unexpectedly and causing injury or property damage.

“Catching cable issues early and replacing them at the first sign of wear helps avoid dangerous cable breakage while the door is in use,” says Chris, owner of Jennings Garage Door Service in Riverview, FL. “Don’t wait until cables fully break to replace them.”

Safety Tips When Replacing Garage Door Cables

Before diving into the cable replacement process, I cannot stress enough how important proper safety precautions are. Garage doors weigh hundreds of pounds and contain wound springs carrying immense tension. Show caution, work slowly, and focus entirely on the task at hand.

  • Recruit strong helpers to assist you
  • Use gloves to protect your hands
  • Wear safety goggles to shield your eyes
  • Lock the door opener and ensure it cannot activate
  • Fully open the door to access the cables
  • Secure open door with locking pliers on tracks
  • Use ladder for elevated access if needed
  • Work deliberately and don’t rush

Taking a few extra minutes to work safely prevents tragic accidents from occurring. Also, attempting repairs without the proper preparation often leads to mistakes needing correction later. So make safety the number one priority.

“Safety is not negotiable when working on the garage door system. From unexpected spring tension to the weight of the door itself, stay alert,” emphasizes the Jennings Garage Door pros.

What You’ll Need to Replace Garage Door Cables

Before starting cable replacement, you want to ensure you have the necessary equipment and replacement parts on hand. Attempting repairs without proper cables and tools leads to frustration and wasted time.

You’ll need to have the following equipment and supplies:

  • Replacement lift cables (get exact size match)
  • Winding bars
  • Locking pliers
  • C-clamps
  • Tape measure
  • Wire cutters
  • Ladder
  • Lubricant spray

Sourcing quality stainless steel aircraft cables specifically designed for garage doors provides durability and strength. Avoid low-cost generic cables that can prematurely fail. Measure your existing cables to find the matching replacements.

You’ll also need tools for unwinding old cables, winding new ones, securing the door, and adjusting tension properly. Having everything prepped in advance makes the installation process vastly easier.

Removing the Broken Garage Door Cable

Once you complete all safety preparations, you can move forward with removing the broken cable:

  1. Determine your garage door design: Inspect your system to confirm whether you have extension or torsion springs. This dictates the cable removal process.
  2. Release the door tension: With the door fully open, place locking pliers or C-clamps on the vertical and horizontal tracks. This holds the door securely in place and releases tension on the cables.
  3. Detach hardware and unwound cables: Carefully loosen any cable clips or bolts at the bottom corners of the door to detach the cables. For extension springs, remove pulley bolts too. Slowly spin the cable drums by hand to unwind the cables from the drums.
  4. Inspect for damage: Before installing new cables, check for signs of binding, rust, or misalignment on each drum, pulley, and spring. Repair any issues first, if found.

Pay particular attention to the spring system and don’t proceed if springs appear cracked or fatigued. Call a garage door professional for repairs beyond cables in this case.

  1. Measure old cables: Use a tape measure to note the length of the existing cables, from end to end. This ensures you get replacement cables with the perfect length.

Installing New Garage Door Cables

Once the old cables detach from the system without issue, swapping in new cables involves carefully retracing your earlier steps:

  1. Thread cables into place: Start by threading the new cables around any pulleys, through the springs, and towards the door. Avoid twisting them at this stage.
  2. Wind cables onto drums: Secure cables to the drums with bolts/nuts or by inserting ends into slots. Manually turn the drums to rewind each cable evenly across its full length, without gaps between wraps.
  3. Adjust tension: Position cables to have equal tension on both sides. For extension springs, leave 1/4″ gaps between curled ends and pulleys.
  4. Tighten securely: When aligned properly with the correct tension, tighten all bolts and hardware to lock cables in position. Double check for secure connections.
  5. Test operation: With cables taut on both sides, disengage all locks on the door tracks. Open and close door manually to verify smooth operation without binding or rub points. Adjust cables further if needed before reconnecting opener.
  6. Lubricate components: Spray cable pulleys, bearings, and springs with silicone lubricant to prevent premature wear, squeaking, or grinding noises.

Taking time to properly install tensioned cables prevents future issues with door travel and alignment. Rushing through assembly often requires rework.

**Pro Tip:** When installing multiple lift cables in extension spring systems, ensure you don't twist cables by [crossing them]( as this binds door travel. Keep cables spaced evenly apart and winding in parallel.

Preventing Repeat Cable Breakage

If you’ve dealt with broken garage door cables before, you surely want to avoid repeat cable failures and repairs. Luckily, you can take proactive maintenance steps to maximize cable lifespan moving forward:

  • Lubricate hardware twice per year: Apply garage door lubricant spray to pulley bearings and springs so cables glide smoothly without rubbing or binding stress.
  • Inspect cables periodically: Check for visible wear or slack monthly. Catching minor fraying early prevents major cable failure later.
  • Listen for grinding sounds: Cables winding over each other sound abrasive. Ensure cables don’t cross paths.
  • Have cables adjusted: If doors become challenging to open/close and cables lack tension, have cables professionally re-adjusted to balance the system.

With preventative maintenance and awareness of early warning signs, your new cables should operate for years without issues. Schedule seasonal garage door tune-ups to detect problems before they intensify.

When to Call a Garage Door Service Pro

While the aforementioned guidance helps DIYers tackle basic garage door cable replacement themselves, know your limits too. If any of the below scenarios occur, skip the DIY and call qualified pros instead:

  • You don’t fully understand cable routing or connections
  • Existing cables show extreme wear or damage
  • Components malfunction during disassembly
  • Springs appear cracked or fatigued
  • You don’t have compatible replacement cables
  • Reassembly isn’t restoring proper door function
  • You feel unsafe performing the work

In any of these situations, the Jennings Garage Door Service team can complete cable repairs expertly and address underlying issues. Our years of hands-on experience makes the process smooth and efficient for homeowners. Leaving complex repairs to professionals also keeps you safe.

“Our expert technicians have all necessary training and equipment to replace damaged cables and ensure optimal door operation once again,” Chris, owner of Jennings Garage Dor Service states.

Knowing when to call for support prevents you from getting hurt and causing further damage. Trust our competence to get your garage door working its best once more.

Concluding Thoughts

Replacing worn or broken garage door cables may sound intimidating, but breaking the process into manageable steps makes DIY cable replacement totally achievable. Just focus on safety, use quality replacement parts, take your time, and don’t be afraid to call in a professional when needed.

Equipped with the guidance above, you can now confidently handle this repair yourself. Just monitor those cables moving forward and perform preventative maintenance. Catching small issues early prevents costly, dangerous breakage down the road.

If cable issues persist or you want a pro to tackle replacement for peace of mind, call Jennings Garage Door Service today to schedule service. With nearly 10 years of experience repairing and installing residential garage doors in Riverview, FL and surrounding areas, we can expertly restore safe, smooth operation to your garage door once again.

Jennings Garage Doors and Openers is a locally-owned business in Newport News, Virginia with years of expertise in the garage door industry. With each passing year, our organization strives to achieve one goal: to develop long-term ethical and professional relationships with our clients.

Trust that our experts will go above and above to create the ideal new garage door or openers for your property. All of our repair services are backed by warranties, so you can rest certain that you’re in excellent hands. We will do all possible to ensure that your garage door and garage door opener services are completely satisfactory.


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