Garage Door Safety
A garage door is the largest moving appliance in the home. These doors are often operated by electric door openers. Proper installation, operation, maintenance, and testing of the garage door and automatic opener are necessary to provide safe, trouble-free operation.
Here are some helpful safety tips. This list is not intended to be a comprehensive list of every safety precaution. Always consult your manufacturer's installation or instruction manual for safety information about your model.
For Garage Doors
- Replace Old Springs. Your garage door's springs are arguably the most important and most dangerous part of your door. Springs wear out. When they break, injury can result. If you have an older garage door, have your springs inspected by a professional technician and replaced if needed. If your door has two springs, replace both, even if one is not broken. This will not only prevent any damage caused by the breaking of the second spring, but also keep your door working efficiently.
- Check Your Cables. Visually inspect the cables that attach the spring system to the bottom brackets on both sides of the door. If these cables are frayed or worn, they are in danger of breaking, which can cause injury. Due to the dangers associated with high spring tension, these cables should be replaced only by a trained garage door dealer.
- Squeaky Springs? Springs can squeak and be noisy. This is caused by normal use and does not necessarily indicate a problem. Before calling a professional service technician, use a lubricant (Dupont Teflon Chain-Saver Lubricant, GDL - Garage Door Lubricant, light weight oil 10w or less or Lubriplate White grease). If the noise persists, call a professional garage door installer for service.
- A Do-It-Yourselfer? Installing a garage door can be very dangerous and is not recommended for a novice. DASMA recommends that trained door systems technicians install garage doors. If you attempt the installation by yourself, be sure to follow the manufacturer's installation instructions carefully.
- Safety Cables. If your garage door has extension springs, you need a safety cable that runs through the spring and secures to the wall or ceiling at each end. When your garage door is down, extension springs are under high tension. If the spring breaks, it may cause injury. A safety cable can keep that broken spring contained. If you have extension springs but do not have a safety cable, call your local dealer for a safety inspection.
- Struggling Door? If your door does not go up and down smoothly, you may have an unsafe condition. Even older door systems should operate smoothly. If the awkward operation continues when the door is manually operated, you may have a spring system that is out of balance. This can cause premature wear and tear on other important door components. Spring systems are dangerous and should be repaired only by trained professionals.
- Watch Your Fingers! Every year, many unsuspecting homeowners injure their fingers by placing them between the door sections to pull down on the door. According to DASMA Standard 116, if your door lacks pinch-resistant joints, you should have lift handles or suitable gripping points on the inside and outside of the door. Even if your door has an opener, the door must occasionally be operated manually. Never place your fingers between the door sections. If you manually open or close the door, use the handles or the safe gripping points!
- Tamper Resistant Brackets. Since the bottom brackets on a garage door are connected to the door's springs, these brackets are under extreme tension. They should be adjusted or loosened only by a trained door systems technician. Many manufacturers now include tamper resistant hardware that prevents loosening of the brackets by a novice.
- Use the Old Track? When buying a replacement garage door, some homeowners are tempted to save a few dollars by putting the new door on the old track. However, your old track may not fit with your new door, depending on the thickness of your sections, the weight of the door, the headroom required, the location of the garage door opener, and other considerations. The track and sections work together as a system. For maximum performance and long life, you should use the track that is designed for your specific door. Otherwise you may be voiding the warranty of your new door.
- Regular Service. Your garage door is probably the largest moving part in your home and is typically used every day. Over time, parts can wear out and break, creating potential safety problems. Although you should provide monthly safety checks and maintenance to your garage door system, an annual visit from a trained door systems technician can keep your door operating safely and smoothly for a long time.
- Man the Manual. Keep the owner's manuals for your door and opener hanging near the door for easy reference. Every model of door and opener has specific safety instructions unique to that model. Where is your manual?
For Garage Door Openers
- Do It Yourself? Installing a garage door opener is generally easier and safer than installing a garage door. But improper installation can create a hazardous situation. DASMA recommends that a trained door system technician install your opener. If you do it yourself, be sure to follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully. Also remember that an improper installation can void your warranty.
- Not in Sight? Not Safe! When closing your automatic garage door with a push button or a remote control transmitter, you should always watch the door until it completely closes. Reason: Make sure no person or animal gets caught under a closing door. Take a few seconds to be safe.
- Do You Have a Reinforcement Bracket? Some do-it-yourselfers neglect to install an opener reinforcement bracket to the top section of the door. Failure to do so can damage your door. Do-it-yourselfers should check the installation manual for specific instructions.
- Get a More Powerful Opener? If your door feels heavy or requires two hands to open it, the door is probably out of balance and needs adjustment. A variety of problems can cause this, and if you try to fix it yourself, you could get hurt. Call a local trained door systems technician to diagnose the problem and offer a solution. The answer is not a more powerful garage door opener. Openers are designed to open doors that are properly balanced.
- Sensitivity Training. Garage door openers are designed to reverse direction when a descending garage door meets an obstruction. If your door does not reverse readily after contacting an obstruction, the opener's sensitivity adjustment may be set improperly. This can create a dangerous situation. See your owner's manual for how to adjust your opener's sensitivity. DASMA recommends that a trained door systems technician perform this work.
- Safety Reverse. Since 1993, all openers manufactured for the U.S. must include a second safety reversing feature such as photoelectric eyes. These are installed near the floor. Once the invisible beam is broken, the door reverses automatically. If your opener lacks a similar safety reversing feature, it's time to get a new opener.
- The Six-Inch Rule. The photo eyes mentioned above should not be installed higher than six inches above the garage floor. If the eyes are installed higher, a person or pet could get under the beam and not be detected by the photo eyes.
- The Five-Foot Rule. The wall push button for your garage door opener should be mounted at least five feet above the floor, out of the reach of children. Running under a closing door can be a deadly game. Teach your children never to play with opening and closing the door.
- Do You Know Where Your Remote Controls Are? For the reasons just mentioned, keep the remote controls for your openers where children cannot play with them. Warn children of the dangers of playing with the garage door. For security reasons, be sure to keep your remote controls locked up. If you park a car outside your garage, be sure to lock your car so that potential burglars cannot access your remote control and gain easy access to your garage.
- Rolling Codes. Some thieves are able to "record" your transmitter's signal. Later, after you're gone, they replay that signal and open your door. However, if your transmitter (the remote control) has rolling code technology, the code changes after every use. This renders the thieves' controls useless. Contact your garage door opener manufacturer or your local garage door dealer for more information.
Testing and Maintaining the Garage Door Opener
Consult the owner's manual for additional recommended maintenance for your model of door opener. If you don't have the owner's manual, look for the opener model number on the back of the power unit and request a manual from the manufacturer.
Make sure your opener has a reversing feature. If a reversing feature is not present, the opener should be replaced. Garage door openers manufactured after January 1, 1993, are required by federal law to have advanced safety features that comply with the latest UL (Underwriters Laboratories) 325 standards. Contact your manufacturer or installer for additional information.
- Test the reversing feature every month. First, test the balance of the door. If the door is properly balanced, then proceed.
- With the door fully open, place a 1-1/2" thick piece of wood (a 2" X 4" laid flat) on the floor in the center of the door.
- Push the transmitter or wall button to close the door. The door must reverse when it strikes the obstruction. (Note that the bottom part of "one-piece doors" must be rigid so that the door will not close, but will reverse when it contacts the obstruction.)
- If the door does not reverse, have it repaired or replaced. Have a qualified technician adjust, repair, or replace the opener or door.
Force Setting Test
Test the force setting of your garage door opener by holding the bottom of the door as it closes. If the door does not reverse readily, the force setting may be excessive and need adjusting. See your owner's manual for details on how to make the adjustment.
Additional Safety Devices
Many garage door openers can be equipped with additional safety devices, such as photo eyes or edge sensors, to protect against entrapment. Keep in mind that adding more safety devices will not make an old opener meet the current UL standards. Make sure the additional safety devices are properly installed and adjusted (see owner's manual).
Testing and Maintaining the Garage Door
Perform routine maintenance steps once a month. Review your owner's manual for the garage door. If you don't have a manual, look for the model number on the back of the door, or check the lock handle, hinges, or other hardware for the manufacturer's name and request a manual from the manufacturer.
Look at the garage door springs, cables, rollers, pulleys, and other door hardware for signs of wear. If you suspect problems, have a qualified person make repairs.
Regularly lubricate the moving parts of the door. However, do not lubricate plastic idler bearings. Consult the door owner's manual for the manufacturer's recommendation.
Periodically test the balance of your door. Start with the door closed. If you have a garage door opener, use the release mechanism so you can operate the door by hand when doing this test.
You should be able to lift the door smoothly and with little resistance. It should stay open around three or four feet above the floor. If it does not, it is out of adjustment. Have it adjusted by a qualified service person.