What is the Difference Between an Extension Spring and Torsion Spring on a Garage Door?


Garage Door SpringUnderstanding the difference between extension spring and torsion spring on a garage door is important for any garage door owners that may need to make a repair. While both types of springs serve a similar purpose, they both serve that purpose in very different ways.

Another reason you need to understand the differences comes from the inherent dangers associated with dealing with garage door springs in general. Keep in mind that “extension” and “torsion” represent categories of springs that also come in various subtypes and configurations. But it’s easier to break them all down into these two types.

Extension Springs and How They Work

Extension springs are the most common type of garage door spring. If you have an overhead garage door, there’s a high chance that it uses extension springs. These springs look just like any other spring, such as the ones you see on a mattress.

They will have a hook or loop at their ends. You can usually find them mounted on either side of the garage door above the horizontal tracks. When you open your garage door, the extension springs will stretch. The tension from that action will counterbalance the weight of the door.

The more the springs stretch, the more weight they’re supporting. That means there’s a possibility that the spring can break from too much stretching, as well as from general wear and tear. In addition, these springs do not operate independently. They require a steel safety cable, pulley fork, and very precise installation.

Routine maintenance of your extension springs can help them last longer. However, practice great care when dealing with extension springs. The tension built up in them can cause damage, injury, and even death if the spring pops.

Torsion Springs and How They Work

Torsion springs, sometimes called torque springs, are typically found mounted to the garage door header. Torsion springs are really a coiled spring of the type you see on mousetraps. When you open your garage door, the spring twists around the center steel shaft. It’s a winding and unwinding motion rather than a stretching one.

Difference Between Extension Spring and Torsion Spring on a Garage Door

There are many differences between these two types of springs. The way they work is different, but it’s that difference that creates other dissimilarities.

  • Torsion springs last longer
  • Torsion springs can hold more weight
  • Torsion springs allow for smoother operation
  • Broken torsion springs will not cause damage

And while these things can make torsion springs seem far more appealing, it also makes them more expensive, and harder to replace. Also, just because they’re often more safe, it doesn’t mean there aren’t inherent dangers. The torsion spring still works with extreme tension, so there’s always a possibility of something going wrong.

By contrast, extension springs have the advantage of commonality. They’re typically cheaper to buy, cheaper to replace, and cheaper to have installed. Although, these types of springs have more exposed parts, and are dependent on other parts as well. That means that even if the extension springs are brand new, other parts may need replacing.

Both Types Require Maintenance and Careful Use

It doesn’t matter what type of spring you use, the truth is they both require routine care, according to Home Repair Central. The cycle life and reliability of all springs has a lot to do with your usage habits.

  • Don’t leave your garage door open
  • Avoid letting chemicals and elements touch your exposed mechanisms
  • Don’t overuse your garage door
  • Don’t use your garage doors in ways it was intended for

Your maintenance steps can vary depending on the specifications outlined by your spring or garage door manufacturer. In general,

  • Give your garage door and mechanisms a visual inspection
  • Make sure all nuts and screws are tightened
  • Keep moving parts lubricated
  • Don’t ignore problems and signs of wear

No matter what kind of spring you use, it’s important that you make sure they’re operating to the best of their abilities. In that sense, there is no difference between the two. No spring of any kind can or will last forever. Problems will occur; things won’t work like they once did.

At that point, you should hire professional to take a look and make the required repairs. While it’s possible to replace either type of spring yourself, it’s not something to be attempted by the uninitiated.

You Can Convert Between Springs

It’s possible to convert from one type of spring to another. Or, if you plan to upgrade your garage doors completely, you can specifically seek out a new one that uses a specific type of spring.

Now that you know the difference between extension spring and torsion spring on a garage door, you can make a far more informed decision.

Related Resource: Replace Windows on a Garage Door