Lessons learned installing a torsion spring in a typical residential garage

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Danny D:
Personally, I would disagree with the advice to remove the pulley at one end of the torsion rod and slide the spring off that end. It's been years since I did my sister's garage door, but:
A) it seems to me that there must be something supporting the ends of the torsion rods where the pulleys are, and that "thing" may prevent the removal of the spring.
B) In my sister's case, she only had about a foot of space between the end of her torsion rod and the side wall of her garage. So, there really wasn't enough space to slide the new spring onto the rod easily.
C) My sister has a double garage, and her GDO uses two torsion springs. If I recall correctly, I was told that if one torsion spring breaks, it's best to replace both because the other won't be too far behind. And, if a person is going to be replacing both springs, it's not much extra work to hire a couple of teenagers to lift the whole assembly off the garage wall, replace both springs when the assembly is on the ground, and then put the whole assembly back up again.
It's been years since I did my sister's GDO, so I may be wrong on some points I'm making here.
Every web site you read about working with torsion spring GDO's will tell you it's dangerous, and that's mostly because of the possiblity of the winding bar slipping out of your grip and swinging around to smack you in the face or head. But, if someone has never done this kind of work, they don't know how much force will be in that winding bar, and therefore how dangerous what they're attempting to do is. And, that lack of certainty is fertile ground for the imagination to run wild with all kinds of tragic scenarios. When Y2K was upon is, because no one was certain there wouldn't be a problem, people were hunkered down in their own make shift bomb shelters with a month's supply of food and fresh water. Lack of certainty makes EVERY possible outcome a possibility.
--
nestork


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On Sun, 09 Dec 2012 00:01:00 +0000, nestork wrote:

Thanks. This is a good 'lesson learned' from having done it yourself!
It's common to have little space at the sides so many DIYs show how to bend the spring in an "L" shape to get it back on the torsion rod.
Also, some spring anchor plates (like mine) have a "U" shaped opening, which allows more freedom of movement of the torsion rod outward.
In addition, once both cable drums are loosened, you can slide the torsion bar laterally as long as you need to get the spring off (if you have room on the 'other' side of the garage).
In my case, I simply removed on cable drum and took down the entire torsion rod.
But, there's just no way you're gonna get the torsion spring off that torsion bar, in any case, without removing at least one cable drum. :)
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On Sun, 09 Dec 2012 00:01:00 +0000, nestork wrote:

I agree. That's the advice from every single web site & installer, although almost all will also say that if the second spring is less than a few years old, then they'd leave it be.
The main reason to replace both if the first spring broke at the end of it's useful life is that the second one is gonna break soon so you may as well save the additional service call.
Of course, if you do it yourself, you 'might' save some money just replacing springs as they break - but - personally - I'd use a broken spring as a golden opportunity to upgrade both springs anyway.

Hmmmmmm.... I hope you first unwind both old springs BEFORE removing the assembly from the door; and I hope you replace the assembly before winding the new springs.
If you don't ... very very very very bad things are going to happen.
Once you unwind the springs, removing the assembly doesn't require the neighbors' kids. Since I was relocating my anchor plate, I had to remove mine and it was trivial to take down from the doorway. Mine was only one torsion spring, but two springs would only have been four pounds heavier, as we've already ascertained separately in this thread).
Springs are only roughly 10 pounds each. The torsion bar is simply a 9' hollow steel 1" tube. The cable drums are cast aluminum.
The whole thing doesn't weigh much at all - so I'm not sure why the need for the extra kids. Nothing wrong with having help (I wish my kids would help me sometimes), but an average guy can easily handle the removal himself.
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On Sun, 09 Dec 2012 00:01:00 +0000, nestork wrote:

Every chain saw manual tells you it's dangerous, just as every pool owner knows a pool is dangerous. Every day you ride your motorcycle, you face danger. And every time you mow the lawn, you face life-threatening injuries.
Winding and unwinding garage door torsion springs 'is' dangerous.
On the Richard Kinch site, there is a calculation where the end result is that the force, if something goes wrong, is such that the winding bars will be thrown at greater than the speed of a bullet. An 18 inch long bullet is definitely not something you would want your body to be in the path of.
In addition, having the torsion bar suddenly spin up to 7 or 8 revolutions could cause the door to suddenly do strange things, which could startle someone and cause them to topple off the ladder.
However, given the rather minimal forces it took me to wind my quarter-inch thick torsion spring, I would think it unlikely that a winding bar would casually slip out of your grip. It could slip out of your grip, but, I would think it perhaps more likely that THE WRONG SIZE winding bar could (easily) slip out of the winding cone. Or that the right size winding bar which is not placed fully into the winding cone could slip out of the winding cone.
Those would be dangerous mistakes that Dan Musick's DIY warns against. - He says, NEVER NEVER NEVER use a screwdriver, for example! - He shows how to tape the winding bars, to see when they go in all the way. - He explains how to measure 'swing', which is the fit tolerance of the bars. - He warns to keep your head and body out of the kill zone. - He warns against the use of flimsy ladders and of untidy work environments. - He warns against unbolting the stationary cone before unwinding springs. - He warns to disable the GDO so that nobody opens it from the outside while you're working on it. etc.
I suspect many (perhaps even most?) of the accidents are due to people NOT following those simple safety procedures ... which are all fully within the users' control.
There are things OUTSIDE the users' control that can go wrong.
For example, there is the remote possibility of the winding cone breaking, or of the spring breaking. Or of an earthquake happening just as you start to unwind the spring. Or of a black widow spider biting you as you wind away.
These are simply risks you have to live with.

As Richard Kinch said, it's no more dangerous than a whole bunch of other dangerous things we men do all the time.

I agree that I was very surprised how uneventful and unfrightening the entire operation was. Unwinding is clearly less stressful than winding; but even winding is on the stress level of, say, climbing a tall ladder.
The forces, while formidable if let loose, are easily that which any adult male would have no problem whatsoever with (at least for the 0.250"x36"x2"ID spring that I wound and unwound a half dozen times).
At the beginning, my biggest fear was that I would forget a step; but, I had mulled the entire sequence over in my mind many times before I ever took wrench to bolt - so it was actually anti-climactic when I first wound and unwound my spring.
Even so, I was doubting myself, thinking "this is so very much easier than everyone made it out to be ... maybe I'm doing something wrong".
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Yeah, when something that might be difficult turns out to be very simple, you are left with a feeling that maybe you are doing something wrong. Two days ago, I helped a neighbor replace his old curb-side mailbox post. Snow plow broke it last winter, and it was being held up by two boards, one on either side of the post.
We drilled a horizontal hole 1" diameter thru the conglomeration a few inches above the ground and put a 3/4" 3-foot long bar thru the hole. We used a couple of 8-foot long 2x4's, one on each side of the post, under the horizontal bar to pry the post upward. After 2" upward movement, the entire post could be lifted by one person. New post was same 4x4 dimension. It dropped down into the hole and concrete that appeared to be at the bottom and fit like a glove. Not more than 10 minutes from start to finish including mounting a new mailbox on the post. Both of us said we were amazed that things went so smoothly, we had mentally allowed at least an hour for the project.
Now we have to see how well it holds up<g>.
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The only 'special' tools needed are two 18" long 1/2 inch diameter steel winding bars (for most residential springs) - but - I did see this fancy torsion spring winding tool which, I guess, if you installed springs all day every day, could make your life a little bit easier & more efficient:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LgXDhpdC0q4

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Danny D. wrote:

Well Danny D. I've been following your door saga since day one. I must say you are the first person here to actually go out of their way to learn every aspect of the door and spring operation! When you first started posting and running into trouble I thought, "oh man, he's in a world of hurt now". You are a trooper though. You kept asking questions, you found the proper resources, and you never gave up!
I'm proud of you. At first I didn't know if you were going to make it and have to call out a pro to fix your errors. You kept digging for more and more information and now you've basically become a pro yourself. Now that you know the geometry and what each moving part does, installing a new door from scratch won't be a problem for you. You already know the "hard part", that is bewildering to most DIY'ers.
Congratulations, I'm sure you feel a great sense of accomplishment - as you should!
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On Sat, 15 Dec 2012 09:05:55 -0600, G. Morgan wrote:

Thanks for noticing. You were the first to respond to my query, and you were the one who noticed that I had placed the rollers in the wrong slots for my other door. You also advised me when that second door was sticking in the tracks (ironically, that was resolved by moving the rollers!).
I took (almost) all your advice, e.g., to make sure the winding bars were seated well. And you explained why nobody works on the garage door when it's open, and your humorous color-code mnemonic was a good one, and you helped me understand those fancy spring-winding tools weren't needed.
I tried your relag suggestion; but it failed due to the lack of substantial wood below the anchor plate (which you and I were both unaware of).
You even were the first one (IIRC) that pointed me to the DDM Doors web site - which - after having read every single page - I would say is clearly the best on the net!
About the only suggestion I didn't take of yours was when you explained how you manage to unwind your torsion springs all at once! (Whew!)
I try to be responsive and to post pictures, and to pay it forward. While not everyone appreciated the effort, many have helped me on this endeavor and for that help I am indeed very grateful.
You and they make the USENET a fantastic resource for all of us.
BTW, even though Dan Musick's videos are all anyone would need, this 2-part real-time series from a young homeowner is pretty good: 1.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dio-hYjXNzg
2.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mR4VA_Qmw4M&feature=fvwp&NR=1

Another decent video that hasn't yet been mentioned is this one which shows in a humorous way how to lubricate your garage door:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y1lUm7koF2A

One of the best benefits of homeowner DIY is that you know the right spring combination was put on the door. This short video from the same company above shows how to do a balance test, and it even shows what happens to the opener gear when a repairman puts the wrong spring on (because that's what he had on the truck).

http://www.youtube.com/watch
? v=xI3yfyb6tc0&list=UUpNHXeWQMBHIIA6uqJ8bOlA&index=3
BTW, about the only GD company that says it's safe to do is this one: (They equate the task with changing a tire & they sell you the guides.)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=O92zPJxfdxY

But there is always more to learn.
For example, an enigma I haven't found the answer to on the net yet is why the OLD broken spring still shows latent winding spirals ... as if it's still wound up?

That paint on the old broken spring used to be a straight line; so why does the old spring still show 7 spirals as if it's still wound?
Also notice the winding spirals are in the opposite direction from the original. Why would that be?
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Danny D. wrote:

Lol.. Yeah, those are only for springs that will never be used again.
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Danny D. wrote:

Because when the spring is compressed, it's not exposed to the elements. When you wind the spring it shortens in length by a few inches, then you tighten it. When unwound, that extra length is visible.
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On Wed, 19 Dec 2012 07:20:38 -0600, G. Morgan wrote:

I don't understand.

I guess you're saying that the old spring was exposed to the elements while it was in the wound state - and yet - the backside of the spring isn't exposed to the elements so the backside is noticeably less rusted.
So, I guess, the backside gets a straight line of less rust while the spring is still wound seven times - and when that spring breaks, that straight line turns into an opposite spiral of less-rusted spring steel as the now-broken spring instantly spins back the 7 times to unwind?
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On Fri, 21 Dec 2012 08:52:44 +0000, Danny D. wrote:

I wrote to Richard Kinch and to Dan Musick at DDM Garage doors, to ask them about this weathered line in my broken torsion spring:

Both engineers kindly responded with great information that explains this anomaly and, interestingly, which provides a useful homeowner 'trick' to know when your springs might be slipping over time!
First, Dan at DDM Garage Doors explained that many springs have this reverse wound spiral because dust collects at the TOP of the spring.
As G. Morgan astutely surmised, this linear collection of dust on a wound spring, over time, causes differential weathering, which shows up as a straight line on a wound spring.
When that wound spring breaks, the weathering shows up as a reverse spiral on the unwound spring.
Interestingly, Richard Kinch provided ways to make use of this feature: 1. We can PAINT a line on a wound spring to judge slippage over time 2. We can LOOK at an unwound spring and count the number of turns 3. We can LOOK at an unwound spring and determine the chirality
Of course, there are OTHER ways to note slippage, turns, and chirality, but this feature can be used as a doublecheck!
Indeed, there are still lessons to be learned even AFTER installing a typical garage door torsion spring!
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IN a door install, I always do a chalk line on the spring to count the number of winds. john
"Danny D." wrote in message
On Fri, 21 Dec 2012 08:52:44 +0000, Danny D. wrote:

I wrote to Richard Kinch and to Dan Musick at DDM Garage doors, to ask them about this weathered line in my broken torsion spring:

Both engineers kindly responded with great information that explains this anomaly and, interestingly, which provides a useful homeowner 'trick' to know when your springs might be slipping over time!
First, Dan at DDM Garage Doors explained that many springs have this reverse wound spiral because dust collects at the TOP of the spring.
As G. Morgan astutely surmised, this linear collection of dust on a wound spring, over time, causes differential weathering, which shows up as a straight line on a wound spring.
When that wound spring breaks, the weathering shows up as a reverse spiral on the unwound spring.
Interestingly, Richard Kinch provided ways to make use of this feature: 1. We can PAINT a line on a wound spring to judge slippage over time 2. We can LOOK at an unwound spring and count the number of turns 3. We can LOOK at an unwound spring and determine the chirality
Of course, there are OTHER ways to note slippage, turns, and chirality, but this feature can be used as a doublecheck!
Indeed, there are still lessons to be learned even AFTER installing a typical garage door torsion spring!
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On Fri, 21 Dec 2012 10:29:01 -0800, jloomis wrote:

To be clear, this residual dust spiral we just learned about is NOT the line chalked (or painted) on the spring BEFORE it's wound.
The chalk line you're talking about would show up as a straight line on a broken (untensioned) spring.
The dust spiral line I'm discussing occurs AFTER the spring is wound. It shows up as a residual SPIRAL on a broken untensioned spring!

While there are 3 "potential" uses of this residual dust spiral: 1. We can PAINT a line on a wound spring to judge slippage over time 2. We can LOOK at an unwound spring and count the number of expected turns 3. We can LOOK at an unwound spring and determine the expected chirality
Dan Musick replied that he doesn't find the residual dust spiral of use in talking to customers over the phone. He says: 1. The amount of explanation required to show how to determine the number of turns if there is a residual mark is too great, over the phone 2. There's no guarantee the springs were wound correctly in the beginning. 3. Galvanized springs loose as many as two turns of tension, due to fatigue, over their lives.
But, to the trained (and knowledgeable) eye, the residual dust spiral contains useful information - if the owner only knew how to read the dust spiral on the broken spring.
This lesson learned is not obvious, and never was discussed in the alt.home.repair newsgroup in the past.
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One more lesson learned, is I tried to remove the old spring from the stationary and winding cones. It's not easy. At least not with just a vise and pipe wrench.
I failed, but I only tried for about 10 minutes on each cone.
Now I know why the new residential springs ship with the cones already attached!
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Danny D. wrote:

They use a high pressure crimping machine to attach the winding cone at the factory. The spring and cone are always sold as a unit.
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On Sun, 23 Dec 2012 14:11:09 -0600, G. Morgan wrote:

When I was looking at Dan Musick's DDM Garage Door web site, his charts showed you'd save about 10 bucks or so by requesting springs sans cones.
10 bucks on a $30 spring is an appreciable percentage of the overall cost.
His site even shows how to unwind and re-wind the springs off and on the cones. http://ddmgaragedoors.com/diy-instructions/torsion-spring-cone-replacement.php
REMOVE STATIONARY CONE: a. Install bolts & nuts from the spring anchor bracket in the stationary cone b. Next, grip both nuts in a vise. c. Hook the end of the spring wire with a pipe wrench or large channel locks, d. Turn the wrench until the spring comes off the cone. If you do not have a vise, position the spring on the floor and place a winding bar between the bolts. Hook the end of the spring wire with the pipe wrench, and lift up on the winding bar while pushing down on the end of the wrench. Repeat this process until the cone is loose.
REMOVE WINDING CONE: a. To remove the winding cone secure the cone in the vise, b. hook the end of the wire and c. turn the wire off the cone in the same manner. If you do not have a vise, use the same procedure above, with the only difference being that you will insert the bar into the winding cone.
However, having tried it briefly (with just vise & wrench), I see now why most would say it just isn't worth the trouble - so I heartily recommend buying springs with the winding and stationary cones factory installed.
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Hey DD, Thanks for the great info.
I tried to wind my new spring today, and have a big problem. I can not get 90 degrees turn with 18" winding bars due to the structure of the door and the ceiling. I can wind it with 7" bars, but I can only get 13 quarter-tu rns before it's too difficult to turn. I'm thinking of using 18" bars with a bend in them, or knocking a hole in the garage ceiling. Any other ideas ? Thanks again
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onthegroove wrote:

Let's look here to see if Dan Musick has ideas already in his videos: http://ddmgaragedoors.com/diy-instructions/replace-garage-door-torsion-springs.php
I'm viewing those videos now ...
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Danny D. wrote:

springs.php

He didn't cover it - and - well - I'm having a hard time visualizing how 18" couldn't be available, nor, how a 45 degree turn wouldn't be available (since the garage door is many feet in length), so we're gonna need a pic.
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