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The Proper Way To Wind Garage Door Springs In 11 Steps

If you need to wind your garage door springs, never fear; you are not alone. Garage door springs can be a menacing challenge and pose a significant risk to you if you don’t know what you’re doing. So, I’ve brought you years of experience to help you get the door counterbalance back safely.

Properly winding garage door springs is imperative for your personal safety. Improper winding practices may result in serious physical injury or death. Please review each step to ensure you are working safely.

I’m not trying to scare you, just want to provide a healthy level of respect for torsion spring power. I’ll explain the fundamentals, so you understand the forces that are present. Also, I’m going to deliver a step-by-step guide, so you know what you’re doing – just like the pros, so stick with me, and let’s get these springs wound!

NOTE: Before you begin, you need to understand the fundamentals of torsion spring technology. DO NOT SKIP THIS NEXT SECTION!

Fundamentals Of Torsion Spring Technology

You may or may not care about the physics involved in your garage door torsion springs, but trust me, knowing the basics is as crucial to your safety as any personal protective equipment ever could be.

Let’s take a look at the basics. We’ll start by acknowledging that there are several types of garage door springs:

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  • Stretch springs for old one-piece steel doors
  • Internal torsion springs found in Wayne Dalton torsion assemblies (mainly in North America)
  • Exposed torsion springs found on the majority of sectional garage doors manufactured in the last decade.

For your sanity, we’ll just cover winding the exposed torsion springs that are by far the most common.

All About External Torsion Springs

Okay, so without boring you to tears, let’s talk a moment about how a torsion spring works. Sectional garage doors have one or two torsion springs typically. A single car garage usually has a single spring, and double car garages usually have two.

The torsion spring acts as a counterbalance to lift your garage door. The purpose is to make the garage door manageable to lift.

For example, a standard two-car garage door is usually 16’ wide x 7’ high. If we assume that the top panel has windows, and if we assume the door is insulated, it might wind up weighing upwards of 500 pounds or even more.

Older wooden doors might weigh considerably more as well.

Now, if you were to try to lift the door on your own, as dead weight, you’d probably throw out your back before you get the door open. So, humans needed a way of countering the weight of the door.

Some systems add actual weights and pulleys, but the torsion spring design is most common and efficient.

The torsion spring mounts over the door shaft. The door shaft is attached to drums that wind and unwind cables attached to the bottom of the door.

While the lifting cables lift the door when they are rolled onto the drums above, the torsion springs help counter the weight of the door pulling down on the cables, trying to unwind them from the springs.

The torsion spring attaches in two places; on one side, it is fixed with at least two bolts to a secure bearing plate affixed to the wall. It is the stationary side of the spring.

The other side of the spring has what we call a winding cone that has set screws that screw down to the door shaft. The winding cone also has holes to insert winding bars. Get familiar with this as it will be central to our spring winding method, coming up next.

The spring winds upward around the shaft multiple times, building up torsion force. When enough winds are added to the spring, it will counter the weight of the door. That’s right – hundreds of pounds of weight will be easily lifted by force wound into the spring. Are you getting a sense of why they are so dangerous yet?

The Proper Way To Wind Garage Door Springs

Safety equipment is key when winding garage door springs


Now that you know how garage door torsion springs work, you need to know how to work with them safely.

If you are not 100% comfortable working on torsion springs, call a professional. They are very dangerous and require experience, care, and a high degree of safety when working on them.

The ideal personal protective equipment you must wear when working on torsion springs:

  1. Hard hat – if a winding bar slips out of your hand and flies at your head, a hard hat might help to save your life.
  2. Safety glasses – Torsion spring cones have been known to explode under pressure. Wear glasses to protect your eyes in case this happens.
  3. Gloves – Tight-fitting work gloves protect your hands from spring coil pinches and help prevent winding bar slip due to sweaty hands.
  4. Safety steel-toed boots – Because there is nothing worse than dropping a steel winding bar on your foot.

Do not, under any circumstance, take for granted the power stored in a torsion spring!

Tools Needed

  • Three pairs of locking pliers like the Vice-Grip brand.
  • Step ladder
  • ⅜ wrench or 16 point socket with ratchet
  • Winding bars

The Process

  1. Place your step ladder, so you have full access to the winding cone side of your spring.
  2. Lock one pair of locking pliers about 2 inches above a roller on the side track. It will prevent the door from traveling up more than 2 inches as the roller should hit the locking plier and be unable to pass it.
  3. Lock both other pairs onto the shaft, one on the shaft, leaning against the wall above the shaft, and the other on the shaft, leaning against the wall below the shaft. This way, the shaft cannot move in either direction, effectively locking the cable tension in place.
  4. Insert your winding bar into one of the winding holes in the winding cone. You will hold on tightly and expect the bar to jerk with force when you loosen the set screws using your other hand and the wrench.
    If you have a second person who can help, all the better. That way, you can securely hold the winding bar with both hands. The bar will want to whip downward and around. You need to expect this as you hold the bar securely.
  5. Loosen the set-screws, one at a time, or preferably have someone else loosen them as mentioned. If there was tension on the spring, the bar will want to forcefully swing downward, as mentioned. Be highly cautious or call a professional if you are not 100% confident you can manage this.
  6. To increase the tension on the spring, raise the winding bar upward. You will feel the force on the bar as it wants to snap downward. Insert the second bar with your other hand once the first bar has been lifted enough to expose another winding hole on the winding cone.
    Not sure how much tension the spring needs? Here is the general rule: For every foot of door height, you need a full revolution of the torsion spring (1 full revolution = 360 degrees = 4 winding holes on the winding cone).
    Variables can affect this rule: paint, materials of the door (wood vs metal), age, windows, or other additions like structural struts.
  7. Once you feel you have added enough tension, secure the set screws firmly against the shaft to hold the spring tension onto the shaft.
  8. Before removing your final winding bar, after tightening the set screws, holding the bar, you need to remove the two locking pliers off the shaft. DO NOT remove the winding bar from the winding cone yet.
  9. Once the locking pliers are removed from the shaft, you will be able to push the winding bar up or down and notice movement in the door. The door should stay on the floor and not lift off the floor on its own.
    Using the winding bar in the cone, you will move the bar to test and see if it needs a lot of force to lift the door. Remember, you still have a locking pliers on the door track, so the door won’t move more than 2 inches, which is what we want if you have too much tension (the door would take off upward if tension were too high).
  10. If the door stays on the floor but is relatively easy to lift with your winding bar in the cone, it is likely safe to remove the winding bar from the cone now.
  11. Remove the locking pliers from the track and manually test the full functionality of the door. Ensure you are guiding it so that you can feel how much tension might be needed to add or remove in case the door is out of balance. The door should float halfway open without raising or falling. The door should stay on the floor when closed. The door should stay fully open after opening. If all of these are true, you have successfully added tension and balanced your garage door.