Everything You Should Know About How To Lubricate Garage Door

By Jack | Resources

Jul 15

Garage doors are workhorses; they slide up and down multiple times a day and help protect your home and your vehicle from invasion and the elements. While a good quality door opener will last for years without needing much, a little TLC goes a long way.

Below, we’re sharing how to lubricate garage doors, so they last for years. Plus, get the info you need to make sure you’re choosing the right lubricant, and you’ve taken care of all the most important moving parts.

How Your Garage Door Works

an old garage with damaged wooden door

Garage door maintenance (any kind of maintenance, really) sounds pretty complicated until you know how the whole thing works; then, it’s extremely simple.

It’s Always About the Weight

Almost every garage door system operates through the use of a counterweight. Counterweights are used to lift elevators and to operate cranes and even carnival rides! There’s a fulcrum or tipping point with a weight on one side and the object you want to lift (in our case, a garage door), on the other side.

Releasing the weight or the door causes the other side to lift, resulting in the garage door opening or closing. Most systems utilize one of two counterweight systems.

Extension Spring System

An extension spring system relies heavily on (you guessed it) springs! Thanks to wire coils’ ability to store energy, springs stretch from cables to the corners of the garage door so that they’re able to help pull the door open.

The weak link here is the springs; most garage doors open 1,500 times a year so as you can imagine, those springs can wear down quickly. Special note: this is why lubrication is so vital, and a big part of why you need to be lubricating your garage door routinely!

Torsion Spring System

The other type of garage door system is a torsion spring system. This type is more common than the extension spring system but utilizes the same principles (albeit, indirectly) since it mounts a spring above the door opening, horizontally.

Instead of springs attaching to the bottom corners of the garage door, its cables, which results in energy being stored in the cables as they’re wound and released, instead of in the springs. We bet you can guess the weak points in this system. That’s right, the cables!

Break It All Down

Today, we’re mostly going to be talking about torsion spring systems since, as we mentioned, they’re the ones that are most likely in your garage right now. Here are the different parts:

The operator consists of the gears and motor. The motor typically has about ½ of 1 horsepower and about 6-amps. If that doesn’t sound like much, you’d be right--thanks to that brilliant counterweight tech, you don’t need much energy to open and close the garage door!

The T-rail or drive guide holds the all-important chain (or belt, or screw, or whatever is doing the pulling), which connects to the trolley, which connects to the door itself.

Also, inside your operator is the height adjuster and the inverter and battery. The height adjuster allows you to determine the force of the door as it closes as well as how far it goes before it closes and the inverter switches your household AC power to DC.

What Kind of Belt?

One of the things you’ll need to lubricate is the belt, screw, or chain, and the kind you have will make a big difference in how often (and to what degree) you’ll need to use oil. Here are the differences:

The chain is cheap and traditional. It looks like a bicycle chain and acts like it. It’s also very, very noisy, though it rarely breaks.

The belt is made from Kevlar, so it’s expensive, but it is super quiet. You won’t hear a thing as it’s molded teeth rotate through the operator’s gear.

The screw threads up and down and needs lots of lubrication--and it must be lubricated with silicone. It will also cause your trolley to wear out more quickly than a belt or chain. The reason people choose it, however, is that it’s quieter than a chain (though not as quiet as a belt) and cheaper than a belt (though not as cheap as a chain).  

Feel like you’ve just taken a crash course in garage door construction? Great; now it’s time to learn how to lubricate garage doors just like the ones we’ve been explaining to you!

It’s So Noisy in Here

Even if your garage door utilizes a belt, the chances of hearing a racket every time you open or lower the garage door are still pretty high. Most people think that’s normal, but did you know you don’t have to live with the noise?

That’s right; you can take steps to quiet your garage door’s operation, even if it uses a chain! This is what makes lubrication so important. Not only does lubricating your garage door help it to last as long as possible, but it also helps to keep the noise level to a minimum--if, that is, you’re doing it right.

Here are the steps for how to lubricate garage doors, so they’re quiet and last forever!

1. Test, Close, and Unplug

exterior of a garage installed with two country style garage doors

Before you start anything, open and close your garage door a few times and check to see how it’s working. How noisy is it? Does it look like it’s getting stuck in an area?

You can make adjustments now or later to the height and force of the door (doing so will help it live longer), and you can also make a mental note of places on the track that are especially dirty or “sticky.”

You’ll need to work with your garage door in the closed position, so make sure you lower it completely before unplugging it. This might be a good time to make sure you have a secondary source of light in your garage because if your garage door light is the only one, you’ll have a hard time completing this project!

Don’t forget the unplugging part--you don’t want to work on the motor (especially with an electricity-conducting oil) while the power’s connected.

2. Start Cleaning

woman painting a white garage door with black paint

Lubricant won’t stick to dirty parts, so start by cleaning out the tracks. A damp rag should do the trick just fine; the trick is to get all the build-up, dust, and assorted debris that are adding to the friction and causing your opener to work harder than it has to open and shut your garage door.

Don’t just wipe the inside; wipe the outside also, since you’re already there and since it won’t take long for that dirt to migrate to the inside. You don’t need to bust out the toothbrush to scrub every speck out, but be thorough and get the whole track, even if it takes a hot minute.

If you want (and if your tracks haven’t been cleaned in some time) you can use a vacuum to get the dirt out from the tracks. If you live in a part of the world where’s there’s a lot of sand or debris in the area (the desert, for example), this might be especially helpful. A hose extension can also help you reach places you might not be able to get with your rag.

3. Lubricate

photo of a glass garage door

Do not, we repeat, do not use WD-40! WD-40 is not a lubricant and is best used for other purposes; instead, use a silicone-based lubricant or a lithium-based grease, both of which you can purchase online or at a local hardware store.

Ideally, find a grease that is designed for a garage door and comes in aerosol form, as it will be much easier to apply than oil or grease (and it won’t attract new dust or dirty the way oil will). When in doubt, check your garage door opener owner’s manual for a recommendation.

Here’s what you’ll need to lubricate:

  • The hinges (You’ll want to lift your door manually a few times so you can get the spray to every part of the hinge. Don’t overdo it, but do cover the hinges thoroughly.)
  • The rollers (These are the round pieces attached to the hinges that have ball bearings inside of them. It’s the ball bearings that need the lubricant.)
  • The springs and bearing plates
  • The armbar and lock (This will prevent rust, so make sure you spray inside the keyhole.)
  • Top of the rail (not the bottom)

It’s So Easy...

If you now think that lubricating a garage door is a piece of cake, our work here is done! Taking care of your garage door system is easy, and with the right lubricants and a little elbow grease, your door will be (quietly) sliding open and close for years to come.