Can I Avoid the Garage Door Opener Installation Death Wish?
March 21, 2013 3:38 PM   Subscribe

Will installing a replacement garage door opener (as opposed to a new one from scratch) relieve me from worrying about death by tension spring if I do-it-myself?

I need a new garage door opener to be installed. I have been putting it off doing it myself because I am afraid of getting injured from the tension spring. In fact, I have three friends who have permanent facial scars due to tension springs injuring them, thus my fear.

However, I am considering giving it a go, anyway, because:

1) I am extremely handy around the house: I do all house repairs and remodels except for anything involving natural gas lines (and tension springs).
2) I am replacing an existing garage door opener; I am not starting from scratch. The tension spring is already there, the door tracks are smooth, there is already bracing coming from the ceiling for the opener, etc...

Of course I understand everything else is still relevant with installing an opener (wiring for the censors, adjustments, etc), but for the purposes of my question, I am only concerned about the possibility of injury.

Given points 1 and 2, above, is this actually a simple (relatively speaking) project and I am worried about nothing?

(P.S. Anon because this is actually a surprise for someone's birthday who might be searching for the same type of question on my behalf.)
posted by anonymous to Home & Garden (8 answers total)
Installing a garage door is not too bad with a helper. I've done a few. I am, however, still terrified by those springs. I think it's like being eaten by a lion: one of those fears that keeps your genes in play.
posted by BeeDo at 3:55 PM on March 21, 2013

I don't think OP is installing a garage door. I think he's replacing a garage door opener. He wouldn't need to touch the springs.
posted by dance at 4:01 PM on March 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oh, my mistake. That is probably one-personable. I'd still get the hibbityjibbities near the springs.
posted by BeeDo at 4:07 PM on March 21, 2013

Yeah if this is a standard rail driven garage door opener you won't be anywhere near the springs. I did mine by myself.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:32 PM on March 21, 2013

Yes; the springs should have nothing to do with the opener. All they do is counteract the weight of the door itself. If anything, the springs would have to be even stronger for a hand-only door, to make it easier to lift.

So if you do it right, you shouldn't have any issue with the springs. It is functionally the equivalent of screwing a rope to the top of the door that pulls it up.

If you are absolutely terrified of the springs, look up how to "disarm" them. The coil springs that ride on a shaft above and parallel to the door have holes in them in which you can insert steel rods that will prevent them from uncoiling. All counterweight systems should be under almost no tension when the door is up, so one option is to do as much of the work as possible with the door up.
posted by gjc at 4:43 PM on March 21, 2013

Like others have said, you don't need to touch the springs unless you're replacing the actual door.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 5:27 PM on March 21, 2013

Previous posters are correct. If you have an existing garage door, replacing the opener will not require you to do anything with the springs. I just installed a used garage door onto my carport, tracks, door, springs, opener, and all. The opener just pulls the door up and down and doesn't touch the springs.

Do NOT "disarm" the springs. There's no reason to touch them at all when replacing the opener unless they need adjusting anyway. And they only need adjusting if the door is very hard to lift, or if it lifts on its own. "Disarming" the springs will put you at risk for any spring-related injury. If you insert something in the adjustment holes, and the springs break or otherwise decide to unwind catastrophically, they can fling the object at high speeds. Adjusting the springs is not hard when you have the right tools (NOT just a couple of screwdrivers) and are careful, but why touch them if you don't need to?

Replacing the opener should just be a matter of disconnecting it from the door, then disconnecting it from the front and back attachment points. Installation is the reverse of removal, accounting for any quirks in the new opener. The front attachment point will likely be close to the torsion springs, but you shouldn't need to touch them to do the installation.
posted by Calyx Valerian at 5:31 PM on March 21, 2013

gjc: "If anything, the springs would have to be even stronger for a hand-only door, to make it easier to lift."

Nope. The springs are set to completely balance the weight of the door. This is so that, if the garage door opener breaks or must be bypassed (power outage) you can pop the detent and lift the door yourself. The opener only moves the door, not really "lift" it.

Most Sears/DIY store openers have instructions for replacing what you have. You will not need to do anything with the springs.
posted by notsnot at 5:47 PM on March 21, 2013

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