garage door extension springs

Extension Springs vs. Torsion Springs: What’s the Difference?

Your garage door is a critical part of your home. It’s so important that people who replaced their garage doors in 2020 recouped almost 95% of the cost when they sold their homes.

Keeping your garage door in good working order is important for both safety and aesthetic reasons. One component you shouldn’t overlook is the springs. Your door has either extension springs or torsion springs.

Before you can replace your garage door springs, you need to know more about the type of springs you have.

Learn about the differences between garage door extension springs and torsion springs here. You’ll be able to order new springs with confidence.

How Do Garage Door Extension Springs Work?

An extension spring works using resistance. The spring returns to its original position after you stretch it.

Garage door extension springs are usually located above the upper horizontal tracks that guide the door up and down on each side.

The end of an extension spring is a loop or hook that attaches to a pulley. Cables, hinges, and spring mounting brackets are also part of the system for garage door extension springs.

When the garage door closes, the extension springs stretch. They will stretch almost twice their coiled length and stay in this position of tension while the door is closed. When you want to open the garage door, the springs release their energy to lift the door.

How Do Garage Door Torsion Springs Work?

Torsion springs are located parallel to the garage door on the wall above the door. They’re made of tightly wound coils. They twist on a horizontal bar.

Torsion spring systems include bearing plates attached to the frame of the garage wall and cable drums at each end of the garage door.

The design of torsion springs gives them stored energy. They support the weight of the garage door by using torque.

The coils turn slowly on the shaft to help the door open or close. The springs tighten when the garage door closes and unwind when it opens.

In the past, torsion spring garage door systems often had one large spring. Many garage doors now use two smaller springs instead of one large one. If one spring breaks, the other one will keep the door from falling down and potentially injuring someone.

Pros and Cons of Extension Springs

Extension springs are the most common type of residential garage door system. They have several positive features as well as some negative ones to be aware of.

Pros

Extension springs are more common than torsion springs because they’re less expensive. They’re also easier for homebuilders to install.

Some smaller garages may not have enough room over the door to install torsion springs. Extension springs are the only choice in such situations.

Cons

Extension springs can be extremely dangerous. They are under extreme tension, so if a spring breaks it becomes a missile-like projectile. Safety cables are very important to help prevent this from happening.

The end connections of an extension spring are weaker than the body and often fail before the spring itself. 

Garage doors with extension springs have more components. These parts can also fail, leading to possible injury or property damage.

Extension springs support less weight than torsion springs, and they don’t last as long. They can also be noisier.

Pros and Cons of Torsion Springs

The advantages to using torsion springs for garage doors is making torsion springs more popular. Torsion springs give you many benefits. They also have a few disadvantages.

Pros

A torsion spring garage door system has fewer parts. It requires less maintenance. Torsion springs last longer than extension springs.

In addition, torsion springs are stronger.

Torsion springs need fewer adjustments. They help keep the door in balance. They give you a steady, controlled opening and closing motion.

Torsion springs are safer than extension springs if they break. They’re built around a bar, so they won’t become flying projectiles.

Cons

Torsion springs take up room above the garage door. They’re also more expensive than extension springs.

Do You Need Heavy Duty Springs?

If your garage door weighs more than 200 lbs, you need heavy-duty extension springs, these will have metal clips on the end of the spring instead of a hook or loop

You may want high-cycle torsion springs if you open and close your garage door frequently. Regular garage door springs have a lifespan of around 10,000 up and down cycles. Heavy-duty torsion springs can handle between 20,000 and 50,000 cycles.

Finding the Right Sized Springs

Extension and torsion springs are available in different sizes and lengths. Using springs that are the right size keeps your garage door working safely and efficiently.

The door weight, height, and track radius are some of the factors that determine what size springs your garage door has.

The Door and Access Systems Manufacturers Association (DASMA) created a color-coded system for spring sizes. Extension springs and torsion springs have their own color codes.

It’s always a good idea to measure the door to ensure you get the right replacement springs, though. Because of the differences between extension and torsion springs, you’ll need slightly different information to find the right size for one or the other.

Garage Door Extension Spring Sizing

To verify the size of extension springs you’re looking for, you need to know three numbers:

  • Door height
  • Door weight
  • Spring length without the loops

You can weigh the door by lowering it slowly onto an analog bathroom scale. To measure the spring length, you need to compress the coils to get the un-stretched length.

You can sometimes avoid having to make these measurements if you find the manufacturer and model number of the door. You may be able to find the necessary information online.

Garage Door Torsion Spring Sizing

You need four pieces of information to find the right torsion springs:

  • Wind direction
  • Wire size
  • Inside diameter
  • Overall length

Torsion springs are either left-wind or right-wind. The end of a left-wound spring points clockwise. The end of a right-wound spring points counter-clockwise. The cone and drum of a left-wound spring are black. They’re red on a right-wound spring.

To measure the wire size, measure the distance between 20 coils. Then divide that number by 20.

You may find the inside diameter measurement marked on the winding or stationary cone. For example, if you see 2.0 you know the spring has a diameter of two inches.

Ordering Your Extension or Torsion Springs

Extension springs or torsion springs will both raise and lower your garage door. They work differently, though, and they each give you different benefits.

For all of your garage door spring needs, DIY Garage Door Parts has what you’re looking for. Our large selection of garage door extension springs and torsion springs is made in the USA. We stand behind our products with a lifetime warranty.

Contact us if you have questions about replacing your garage door springs. We look forward to helping you finish your project.

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