Replacing Garage Door Panels: Full Step by Step Guide


Sometimes we need to replace a panel on a sectional garage door due to damage. Or perhaps you’ve decided to replace the top panel with a window panel. Either way, there are procedures to follow to do the swap correctly and safely.

Replacing garage door panels can be a relatively simple process if you have the correct tools and know what you’re doing. I’ve created this step by step guide to replacing garage door panels to help you do the panel replacement safely if you wanted to do the replacement yourself.

Garage door panels come in a variety of colors and styles from a variety of manufacturers. Each manufacturer uses its own design for marrying the panels together, so it’s essential to make sure you get a panel with the same edge design. Hence, it meshes with your existing panels.

Assuming you got a replacement panel from the same manufacturer with the same profile as your existing panels and assuming you don’t need to replace any other components, the following instructions will help you to know what to do to replace a garage door panel on a sectional door.

I’ll share how to replace the bottom panel first; then, I’ll explain how to swap with an intermediate and the top panel, so no matter which panel, you’ll have instructions to do the job right.

Steps To Replacing The Bottom Panel Of A Sectional Garage Door

Replacing the bottom panel of a garage door is the most dangerous of panels to replace. However, with a bit of ingenuity and a lot of safety, you can follow my instructions to have a safe and effective repair. 

Note: This post may contain affiliate links which will take you to online retailers that sell products and services. If you click on one and buy something, I may earn from qualifying purchases. See my Affiliate Disclosure for more details.

If you are not 100% confident and comfortable with the repair, don’t hesitate to call in a professional.

Required Personal Protective Equipment

Here’s a list of what you’ll need in terms of safety for yourself; I’ve linked to each of the safest and best value of the products on Amazon too in case you don’t have any of them at hand:

Required Tools

These are the tools you’re going to need: (Again, all links take you to the product on Amazon)

Garage Door Bottom Panel Replacement Process

Here’s a step by step breakdown of how to replace the bottom panel on your garage door:

  1. Unplug any garage door opener and detach the trolley arm from the door. Set trolley arm aside for reinstallation later.
  2. Manually open the door to about 6 inches from the floor.
  3. Counting from the bottom, lock one of your locking pliers under the 3rd roller on the track, on either side of the door. The locking pliers should prevent the roller (and thus the door) from lowering.
  4. Repeat step 3 for the 4th rollers as well. It will use four sets of your locking pliers in total so far.
  5. On the left side of the door, undo the top half of the hinge located at the top of the bottom panel. ONLY undo the top half of the hinge.
  6. If there is a center hinge on the garage door located at the top of the bottom panel, you may remove this hinge altogether. Set it aside for reinstallation on the new panel.
  7. On the right side of the door, undo the bottom half of the hinge located at the top of the bottom panel. ONLY undo the bottom half of the hinge.
    What you have now done is separate the bottom panel from the intermediate panel. Although it won’t look like it yet, the panels will now move independently. 
  8. Place your step ladder, so you have full access to the winding cone on your torsion spring assembly.
  9. Using your winding bars, stick one end of a winding bar into the winding cone. Select a hole in the winding cone that is pointing downward.
  10. You should hold the other winding bar in your other hand while holding one winding bar in the winding cone. Using the bar already inserted, rotate the cone using the winding bar.
    CAUTION: Torsion springs have a lot of stored energy and can cause severe injury or death. If you are not comfortable with this repair, please contact a professional.
  11. As you raise the winding bar, you are releasing tension on the lifting cables. You will notice the bottom panel drops while your intermediate and top panels remain in place, secured by your two sets of locking pliers.
  12. Using the winding bar in your other hand, once you have rotated the cone enough to expose the next hole pointing downward on the winding cone, insert the other winding bar into the cone and take over the pressure of holding the torsion spring.
  13. Once you have transferred the torsion spring force to the second winding bar, you can safely remove the first winding bar.
  14. Repeat this process until the bottom panel is sitting on the floor. Add one extra hole of rotation to the winding cone and let the winding bar rest against the wall or door, so the wall or door holds the tension of the torsion spring via the winding bar.
  15. Install your last locking pliers onto the door shaft. The pliers should be on the bottom of the shaft and against the wall. The purpose would be a safety mechanism if your winding bar were to somehow come out of the spring.
  16. Now you should have the torsion spring sufficiently backwound to lower the bottom panel off the other panels, which your four locking pliers suspend under rollers on the track. The cables should be loose on either side.
  17. Using your socket set and either ratchet or powered impact tool, remove the bottom brackets of the bottom panel and the one hinge on the left-hand side. Remove the hinge on the left last as it is holding the section upright.
  18. Being careful not to pull on the cables, remove the bottom panel.
  19. Prep, your new panel by ensuring your bottom weatherstrip, is handy (installed last) and that any replacement hinges or rollers are also ready. Double-check which side of the replacement bottom panel is up to match the profiles of the sections, so they marry together nicely and seal your garage.
  20. Move your new bottom panel into position and install your bottom bracket on the left-hand side. Ensure the roller is in the track before you screw the bracket onto the door. If there is no lip on the bottom of the bottom bracket, it should be flush with the bottom of the panel. The bottom bracket must be secured with a minimum of 4 bolts or screws for safety.
  21. Install the top hinge on the left. Ensure that the roller is in the track before screwing the hinge onto the top of the left-hand side of the bottom panel. This hinge with the roller will now hold your panel upright in position.
  22. Install the bottom bracket on the right side. Ensure that the roller is in the track before fixing the bracket to the door. Both bottom brackets cables should be in line with the path they take behind the rollers and tracking.
    The bottom panel should now be in place in the track, but there will still be a big gap between the bottom and other panels.
  23. Head back up your ladder to access the torsion springs assembly. While holding onto the winding bar, you have holding tension. Using your other hand, remove the locking pliers from the shaft. 
  24. Grab your other winding bar in your other hand and insert it into the next hole in the winding cone beside the one that currently has your winding bar that is leaning against the wall or door.
  25. Lift the winding bar to relieve pressure on the bottom winding bar and remove the bottom winding bar from the cone.
  26. Lower the other winding bar, which you will notice raises the bottom panel.
  27. Repeat this process until all tension is back on the door, and using the winding bars, you can lift the entire door about an inch off the rollers.
  28. With all tension back on the door cabling, you can remove the winding bars from the cone.
  29. Go back over to the left side of the door and use your winding bars to shimmy the bottom panel over as needed, in case the panels did not line up perfectly when you lifted the bottom panel onto the other panels.
  30. Once lined up, install bolts back into the top half of the hinge on the left, the bottom half of the hinge on the right, and reinstall the center hinge if there was one.
  31. Now you can remove the locking pliers that are on your track.
  32. Raise the door, so you have easy access to the bottom of the bottom panel.
  33. Install your bottom weatherstrip. It is typically fastened on the inside, so the outside is clean without exposed screws or bolts. Ensure a small number of rubber overhangs each side by about an inch. It will help seal the door better this way.
  34. You can now lower your door and test it manually. The door should travel easily upward or downward using only one hand. The door should run nice and smooth.
    If the door seems too heavy or takes off upward on its own, then you will need to adjust the torsion spring tension. Take a look at my article on torsion spring adjustment to get the full rundown on that process.
  35. Lastly, if you had an operator trolley arm attached, you can reinstall that now. After reinstallation, plug your garage door opener back in and run a complete set of tests, including ensuring your remote controls are all working. Some older models require reprogramming after a power supply disruption. In this case, follow your specific opener instructions.

Steps To Replacing The Intermediate Panel Of A Sectional Garage Door

Now that you’ve read how to replace a bottom panel (the more difficult panel to replace), we’re going to do the same process for an intermediate. The difference will be in several of the steps. Here are the replacement steps:

  1. Lock one of your locking pliers under the roller on the track located at the top of the section ABOVE the panel you want to replace on either side of the door. The locking pliers should prevent the roller (and thus the door) from lowering.
  2. Repeat step 3 for the next set of rollers above the ones you just locked as well. This will use four sets of your locking pliers in total so far. If there are no other panels, use your two locking pliers to fasten under the other two locking pliers; to double them up for safety.
  3. On the left side of the door, undo the top half of the hinge located at the top of the intermediate panel you want to replace. ONLY undo the top half of the hinge.

On the left side of the door, undo the top half of the hinge located at the bottom of the intermediate panel you want to replace. ONLY undo the top half of the hinge.

  1. If there is a center hinge on the panel you are replacing on the top and bottom, you may remove these hinges completely. Set them aside for reinstallation on the new panel.
  2. On the right side of the door, undo the bottom half of the hinge located at the top of the bottom panel. ONLY undo the bottom half of the hinge.
    On the right side of the door, undo the bottom half of the hinge located at the bottom of the intermediate panel you want to replace. ONLY undo the bottom half of the hinge.
    What you have now done is separate the intermediate panel from the rest of the door. Although it won’t look like it yet, the panels will now move independently. 

You can follow the rest of the instructions, just substitute that we’re talking about an intermediate panel and not the bottom one. So, the other difference will be in the instructions next at steps 17-20, where you will use this instruction instead:

  1. Using your socket set and either ratchet or powered impact tool, remove the hinges still attached to the intermediate panel.
  2. Remove the intermediate panel.
  3. Prep your new panel by first checking to ensure which side is up (check the edge of the panel). 
  4. Install the top left hinge onto the panel and insert the roller into the hinge.
  5. Move your new intermediate panel into position by starting with the panel at a 30 degree (approximately) angle, getting the roller into the track.
  6. Angle the panel into position and set the panel on top of the other lower door panels.
    This placement of the panel should keep the panel in position as the top roller and hinge on the left are in place.
    Fasten the rest of the hinges on the bottom half of the panel to secure the bottom to the other sections beneath.

Continue with steps 23-35 for the bottom panel, and that’s it. Lastly, let’s take a look at replacing the top panel.

Steps To Replacing The Top Panel Of A Sectional Garage Door

The top panel is the easiest panel to replace. The door can be in the fully closed position, and merely use your four sets of locking pliers ABOVE two rollers on the left and the right. The locking pliers should hold the door down and prevent it from raising when you remove the weight of the top panel.

You can also drill a hole in the track on either side and stick your winding bar through the hole, stopping the roller from being able to move upward. Although, in my experience, some good locking pliers like Vice Grip work the best.

Once you’ve locked the lower panels down into position, merely undo the top hinge on the left side. Next, remove the top of the hinge below, also on the left. Now, you will have one side free.

If there is a center hinge at the bottom center of the top panel, you can remove it. Same for the operator trolley arm – you’ll need that clear and out of the way (don’t forget to unplug your operator before starting any of this work).

Then, go to the right side and only remove the bottom half of the hinge at the bottom of the top panel. This act will free the top panel from the rest of the door, while the top roller and hinge on the right stop the panel from falling out of position.

Raise the panel, so it clears the panel below and angle the panel into the garage, so the rollers easily exit the track. 

Remove the hinges and rollers from the right side of the old top panel and install them similarly on the new top panel.

Using a reverse angling motion to the way you removed the top panel, install the new one.

Once in place, just line up the panel and reinstall hinges/rollers as needed.

Remove your locking pliers from the track, reinstall your operator trolley arm, and test the door thoroughly.

John

I love fixing up my own home and I set up this blog to help others do the same.

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