DIY – Garage door lubrication


October 11, 2013 by

Is your garage door sticking? Is the electric opener reversing? A little lubrication might be all you need to solve the problem.

When we had our new garage door installed, the technician told me to lubricate everything once a year with pure silicon spray to keep it operating smoothly. Life is busy and two years passed. One day the door started reversing sometimes when it tried to close. Nothing seemed wrong; then, I realized that I’d never lubricated it.


Lubricating the door mechanisms is very easy. There is really no excuse, other than forgetting, to prevent you from performing this maintenance task yearly.

Tools and Time

Tools: None
Supplies: Pure silicon spray, paper towel
Time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: Easy

Lubricate the garage door mechanisms

All components needing lubrication are on the inside of your garage door. Unless otherwise noted, all parts are lubricated with the garage door closed.

Caution: Make sure nobody tries to operate the garage door while you are lubricating the components. Be careful where you stand or hold on to steady yourself, so that you don’t get injured if the garage door is inadvertently operated while you are working on it.

Note: Pull your cars outside before you begin lubricating, so you don’t spray silicon on them. The spray shouldn’t hurt the finish on your car, but it will leave a mess for you to clean up.

Apply a squirt of silicon spray on the following garage door components, wiping off any excess lubricant so it does not drip:

  • Roller bearings – there are several of these on the side of each door. You are lubricating the bearing between the shaft and the roller.
  • Roller shafts – there is a shaft on each roller bearing. You are lubricating the shaft where it is slid inside its holder.
    roller shaft
  • Door tracks – there is at least one track on each side of the door. Some garage doors have a second shorter track on each side. Spray a light coating of silicon along the length of the track where the rollers travel.
  • Hinges – There are several hinges on each seam between the door panels. You are lubricating the pivot point of each hinge.
  • Shaft bearings – There is a shaft that runs across the top of the door that has a bearing at each end. Wider doors also have a bearing in the middle. You are lubricating these bearings in a similar fashion to the way you lubricated the roller bearings.
    end bearing
    center bearing
  • Cables and cable drum – the cable drum is typically part of the shaft bearing at each end of the door. You want to lubricate both the cable drum and the cable. This is easiest when the door is fully open and the cable is wound around the cable drum (unlike the unwound cable drum that is shown).
    cable pulley
  • Springs – For springs that are wound around the shaft at the top of the door (shown below), spray the length of the spring (it helps the spring coils rub against each other with less friction).
    spring lube
    If your door has expansion springs that are hung from cables next to the horizontal part of the door tracks (not shown), you do not need to lubricate the springs.
  • Pulleys (if present) – Some door types have additional pulleys (not shown) to help guide the cables. If you door has any additional pulleys, lubricate the pulley bearings and the slot on the pulley that the cable rides in.

If you have an electric garage door opener, lubricate these components, too:

  • Linkages – There is a linkage that connects the garage opener to the door. Lubricate all pivot points in the linkage.
    opener linkage 1
    opener linkage 2
  • Pulleys and sprockets – Some opener designs have pulleys to guide cables or sprockets to guide chains. If you door opener has any pulleys or sprockets, lubricate the bearings and the area where the cable or chain rides.
    opener drive pulley
  • Drive chain (or screw) – All openers have some sort of drive mechanism. The most common drive types are chains or screws. Whatever drive mechanism you opener uses, lubricate the full length of it.
    opener chain

Run the door up and down and you’ll see an immediate improvement. My door hasn’t reversed once since I lubricated it. If the door does not operate smoothly after lubrication, see Basic garage door troubleshooting.

Basic garage door troubleshooting

If you are having problems with your garage door and don’t see any obvious problems or damage, try lubricating it (see Lubricate the garage door mechanisms).

If your door still has issues after lubricating it, check the following:

  • Optical sensors – These sensors are typically installed on the bottom of each door track to detect obstructions and stop the door. The sensors use an invisible beam of light that passes between them: if the beam is broken, an obstruction is indicated. If the sensors get knocked put of alignment, the door will start closing and immediately stop and reverse. The sensors usually have LEDs on them to indicate correct operation. Flashing LEDs generally indicate an obstruction or sensor misalignment. If there is an obstruction, remove it. If the sensors have been knocked out of alignment, you can move them until the indicator LED stops flashing (see the documentation for your door opener for information about how to adjust the optical sensors).

    On this sensor, the green LED indicates it has power.

    sensor 1

    On the other sensor, a solid red LED indicates that the light beam from the first sensor is being received. A flashing red LED on this sensor indicates that the light beam is not being received (obstruction or misaligned sensor).
    sensor 2

  • Springs – Garage door springs are designed to balance the weight of the heavy garage door so that it can be easily opened. These springs can snap. When they do, the door will become unbalanced and heavy.

    Warning: Do not try to open a garage door if a spring is broken, or you can cause more damage. Working on garage door springs is dangerous and some types of springs cannot be worked on without risk of serious injury.
    spring full

  • Emergency release – The emergency release allows you to open the door if your automatic opener breaks or if there is a power failure. If the emergency release is engaged, the garage door opener will operate while the door remains stationary.
    opener release
    To operate the emergency release, pull down on the red and white rope (if so equipped) until the tab in the release mechanism disengages (the door typically settles a little when the emergency release is activated).

    • You can typically lock the release in the disengaged position by pulling the release tab slightly forward or backward after it disengages.
    • To return the emergency release to the normal position, slide the release tab forward or backward slightly until it snaps into the slot. You might need to run the opener or door up or down a bit so that the drive mechanism fully engages

    See the documentation for your door opener for information about how to operate the emergency release.

  • Switch – Some opener switches have a vacation lockout switch (see arrow in the photo below) that allows you to disable the door opener while you are away on vacation. If this switch is put in the wrong position by mistake, the door won’t open.

    • If you are using a wireless switch (keypad, handheld, or a switch installed in your car) to open your door, make sure the battery in the switch isn’t dead.
    • Most wireless switches (including the ones installed in your car) have a security code. If a switch no longer operates, and the battery is OK, you might need to reprogram the switch.

    See the documentation for your door opener and switch for information about how to reprogram a switch to control your door opener.

  • Control adjustments – All door openers have a bunch of adjustments on them: end of travel when opened, end of travel when closed, tension force, etc. How to make these adjustments is specific for each opener type. See the documentation for your door opener for additional information and instructions.
    opener controls


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