Have you seen the cables on your garage door? Probably not. Cables aren’t something that stand out when you look at a garage door system but they serve a key function. In this post, Garage Door Cables 101, we’re giving you a full rundown on the different types of garage door cables, causes of failure, and how you can prevent cables from breaking.
- Types of Garage Door Cables
- What Causes Cables to Fail
- How To Prevent Cables from Breaking
Garage Door Cables 101
Garage doors consist of several parts↗. Each part of the door system has an important role but I would argue that the most important parts are the springs and cables. Without properly functioning springs and cables the motorized garage door opener wouldn’t be able to lift the door up the track. All that being said, finding the right garage door cables shouldn’t be difficult. There are three main types of garage door cables.
- Lifting Cables
- Retaining Cables
- Emergency Release Cables
The cables correspond with the type of spring system on the door— torsion or extension.
LEARN MORE ABOUT SPRINGS: Torsion Springs vs Extension Springs
What Type of Springs Does Your Door Have?
Your garage door will either have torsion springs or extension springs. Torsion springs are located directly above the garage door opening and extension springs are located along the door track. Newer homes typically have torsion spring systems.
- Torsion Springs are located on the wall above the garage door opening. These springs wind and unwind storing and releasing energy as the door moves up and down.
- Extension Springs are located along the left and right door tracks. They are connected to the track and to the door. When the door is closed the springs are extended, when the door opens the springs coil up.
Types of Garage Door Cables
Garage door cables are made from strands of wire that are twisted together. Like springs, they vary in size and strength. Cables are also given ratings to indicate how much weight they can carry. Verifying the strength of your springs is crucial especially if you have custom doors.
Make sure you understand which cables you need before you make your purchase.
Lifting cables are used in torsion and extension spring door systems. Their purpose is to lower and lift the garage door.
Torsion Spring Lift Cables
In torsion spring systems, cables are wrapped around drums and are anchored to the bottom brackets on each side of the door. The cable is routed up to the torsion springs above the door. The winding of the cables also winds the torsion springs allowing them to generate and release the energy needed to lift the door. If the lift cable breaks the springs cannot wind and the door won’t open.
Extension Spring Lift Cables
In extension spring systems, cables are attached to the bottom brackets on each side of the door. The cable is threaded up the height of the door and through a pulley that is attached to the extension spring. The extension spring is hooked onto the upper track support bracket and to the pulley.
Retaining Cables for Extension Spring Doors
Retaining cables are used in extension spring door systems. The cable’s purpose is to act as a failsafe device in case the extension springs break. The retaining cables are threaded through the center of the extension cable, if the extension spring breaks these cables should prevent the broken spring from flying off. Broken retaining cables can prevent extension springs from lifting a door.
Retaining cables are also called safety cables and they are not used in torsion spring systems.
Emergency Release Cables
The emergency release cable is also called the emergency release cord or ERC. The ERC allows you to manually open your garage door when the power goes out, the circuit breaker trips, or if the door opener motor breaks.
Garage Cable Failures
Two of the biggest problems we encounter with garage door cables are broken cables and loose cables.
Broken cables are caused by friction and corrosion. Cables rub against other parts causing the cables to weaken and fray over time. Cables that come into contact with water eventually develop corrosion which breaks down the metal.
Avoid using your door opener when your cables are damaged. Turn off the power to your door opener and open the door manually until you are able to have the cables replaced by a garage door technician.
What Causes Cables to Fail
In addition to corrosion and friction, there are several other reasons why cables fail. Below is a list of a few possible causes.
1 – Broken Springs
Cables and springs work together to lift and lower the garage door. Broken springs can cause the cables to loosen, tangle, or even break.
2 – Weak Springs
Springs act as counterbalances to the weight of the door, which means the springs have to be properly weighted to counter the force of gravity that pulls at the door when it’s being raised. If your door system has weak springs the cables can loosen and fall off the drums.
3 – Wrong Size Drums
Cable drums accommodate certain cable diameters, choosing the wrong size drums can result in cables slipping out of the drum’s grooves.
4 – Wrong Cable Strength Rating
Cables and drums are rated for at least 500 pounds but if your door is heavier than that you need to pay close attention to the ratings. Choosing a small cable for a heavy door can lead to broken cables.
5 – Poor Installation
Cables need to provide equal support on either side of the door. Loose or uneven tension in the cables will affect lift performance.
How To Prevent Cables from Breaking
The best way to prevent broken cables is regular maintenance. You can schedule semi-annual tune-ups for your door as well as perform minor maintenance checks several times throughout the year. The reality is cables do a lot of work and it’s only a matter of time before they get worn out. Keep an eye on them and schedule a cable replacement service as needed.
Listen for signs that something is wrong with your door. The strain on the cables can cause the door to squeak, shake, or become unbalanced. If you notice any of these problems look for loose cables or signs of fraying then contact a professional for a full diagnosis.
Call Heritage Garage Door for Repairs or Replacements
Our technicians can inspect the garage door’s overall performance and identify immediate and potential problems. Work with a pro to find the best remedy for your situation.
If you hear or see any problems with your door and need help contact our team to schedule an inspection.
Heritage Garage Door operates in Southern California.