How Cold Weather Affects Garage Door Springs

Close-up of outdoor mercury thermometer showing temperature of 35 degrees

When you think about parts of your home that need to be winterized before the cold weather sets in, your garage door springs are probably one of the last things that come to mind. After all, they are heavy-duty steel components that look like they could survive almost anything short of a direct hit from a cannon. However, they are more prone to failure than you might imagine, especially when the temperature drops. To find out why this is so and what you can do about it, we invite you to read our guide to how the cold weather affects garage door springs. Hopefully, if you follow our top preventative tips, you won’t have to call a local garage door repair team this winter.

The Effect of Low Temperatures on Steel

The effect of low temperatures on steel is a little more complicated than many people realize. First of all, we should point out that for very low carbon steels, i.e. those with a carbon content of around 0.01%, there is no appreciable effect until the temperature drops below -103 degrees! Given that the coldest temperature ever recorded in the USA was -80 degrees, and that was in Alaska, not Colorado, you could be forgiven for wondering why we even bothered to write this guide in the first place. But please bear with us for a moment while we explain: we assure you we haven’t lost our minds.

The Steel Used to Make Torsion Springs for a Garage Door Contains Much More Carbon

The problem we encounter when considering the effect of low temperatures on extension and torsion springs for a garage door in Loveland, or anywhere else in Colorado for that matter, is that they are not made with steel that has a carbon content of just 0.01%. They are typically manufactured from high carbon steels: alloys that can be as much as 2.1% carbon. This is because the higher the carbon content, the stronger the steel. But hang on a minute, isn’t that a good thing? Don’t we want our garage door springs to be as strong as possible? Well, yes and no. We need to consider more than just the strength of the steel when we examine the effect that low temperatures have on our garage door springs.

Strength and Hardness

As the temperature drops, high carbon steel alloys become stronger and harder, which means a greater force is required to deform them permanently. An easy way to visualize this is to think about how steel items are forged in the first place. First of all, the steel is heated to an extremely high temperature. When it is in this state, it is very easy to shape, to bend with hammer blows, as anyone who has watched a blacksmith at work can testify. Conversely, the colder it gets, the more difficult it is to hammer into different shapes because it becomes harder and stronger. While strength and hardness may be good qualities for a spring to possess, there is another quality that is affected by the cold: toughness.

Toughness: Where the Problems Begin

When we talk about the toughness of steel, we are referring to its resistance to cracking or fracture. Unfortunately, as the strength and hardness of high carbon steel increases in low temperatures, its toughness decreases. The net effect, and what should concern us as garage door owners, is that it becomes more prone to breaking or fracturing during the coldest months of the year. But don’t despair because there are several measures you can take to protect your torsion and extension springs this winter.

How to Avoid Broken Garage Door Springs in Loveland This Winter

If you would like to minimize the chances of your springs breaking this year, we recommend taking the following actions:

  • Keep Your Garage Warm – Make sure that you never leave your garage door open any longer than is strictly necessary, in order to prevent the temperature inside your garage from dropping to extremely low levels during the winter. If you have an older door with little or no insulation, it is well worth thinking about having it replaced with a modern door that is well-insulated. The more insulation you have, the easier it will be to keep your garage warm and thereby stop the springs from becoming hard and brittle. If you don’t want to go to the expense of installing a brand new garage door, you should be able to find special insulation packs that are designed to be fitted to older garage doors.
  • Open the Door During Warm Spells – First, we tell you to keep the door closed and now we're telling you to leave it open. How can that make sense? The thing is, all the time your garage door is closed, the torsion springs are under tension, which eventually leads to metal fatigue. For this reason, it is a good idea to give them a break whenever convenient, such as on fine days when you are staying at home. Fine, warm days are, of course, less common during the wintertime but they do occasionally come around. And when they do, we recommend opening your garage door for a few hours.

If you follow our suggestions and still end up with broken garage door springs, you are welcome to call and speak to one of our garage door repair experts straight away. We offer a competitive repair service in all parts of Northern Colorado, including Loveland, Greeley, Longmont, Fort Collins and surrounding areas.

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