Don't ignore your garage door

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Having a functioning garage door is an everyday necessity, especially if your car is locked inside with no escape route.

Your garage door is the largest moving object and potentially the most dangerous one in your home, yet it's the one that often goes without needed maintenance.

"Garage doors are the most forgotten item on your house until they don't open and you're late for work. A lot of times consumers forget to take regular care of their garage door which could leave them in a pinch and it also can be dangerous," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List.

Garage doors can weigh hundreds of pounds and are used almost daily in most homes; meaning parts eventually wear out and need replaced.  A routine inspection, however, can help keep your garage door functioning smoothly – and most importantly, safely.

Your garaged door is the largest moving object in your home and used almost daily – meaning parts eventually wear out and need replaced. Some common problems include a door that won't open or close, and doors that make squeaky or scraping sounds.

Angie's List asked highly rated garage door repair companies about inspections and taking care of your door.

  • What's included in an inspection? Typically for around $80-$100, a garage door professional will do an inspection and tune-up, which should include adjusting springs and cables, lubricating moving parts, tightening all hardware, tracks and hinges, inspecting the safety sensors and opener gears, as well as troubleshooting other issues. By staying on top of needed maintenance, you'll protect yourself from potentially expensive repairs down the road.
  • Common problems: One frequent problem with garage doors is a broken spring. Springs generally last anywhere from 5 to 7 years before needing replaced. Living in a cold-weather climate can cause springs to wear out even faster. Other common issues include squeaky hinges, stripped gears, and liquid or debris covering the photo sensors, which can keep the garage door from shutting.
  • DIY maintenance: You can keep your garage door operating smoothly on your own in between inspections by lubricating the tracks with a small amount a silicone spray. Adding a lubricant like petroleum jelly to the bottom of the rubber door seal can help keep it from sticking to the ground when the temperatures drop below freezing.  Avoid contact with springs and cables and never take bolts out or hardware off your door. Because of the high tension involved with garage doors, serious injuries can occur if handled improperly. When in doubt, call out a qualified professional.
  • Testing your garage door:  You can also test the functionality of your garage door on your own in manual mode. Disconnect the opener by pulling on the release cord or lever. The door should lift up easily. If it is difficult to lift, there could be a problem with the spring tension and you should contact a professional.
  • Is it safe? One important safety feature on most garage doors is the reversing action they take if there is something blocking the door as it closes. You can test the reversing feature by placing a small piece of wood on the floor in the center of the door and pushing the button to close the door. When the door comes in contact with the wood, it should immediately reverse back to the open position. If it doesn't, contact a qualified service provider for repair.
  • Don't forget curb appeal: Your garage door is exposed to the elements the same way the exterior of your home is, but it has the added challenge of also moving and vibrating several times a day. If the paint is flaking off, this added movement will accelerate your need to paint. Make sure that you prepare the door for paint before you start the process.
  • Time to replace? Sometimes garage doors are beyond repair. Signs that you need to replace your garage door include cracking and warping. Some garage door brands come with varying degrees of insulation which could lower your heating and cooling costs.

A power outage is out of your control, but an expert explains what you can do to make sure you don't get trapped.

"If your power ever goes out and your door is down the best way to open it is to just pull this red string. A lot of openers have a detached where you pull down and back and that disengages it, so the inner slide doesn't pick up. Then you can come over and grab your door and just lift it up and then when your power is back on just re-hook this just pull this back towards the door and it will engage and click in. Then the next time your power picks back up just run the opener and the inner slide will pick up the traveler," explained Jeff Mowery, a garage door contractor.

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