In the past 20 years, legislation has made garage doors less likely to crush people or things that get in the way of its descent, but over 30,000 garage door-related accidents per year make it clear that these large rolling devices can still be hazardous.
Most of the problems result from safety equipment failure, broken springs or cables, or human error. To avoid becoming a statistic, exercise caution with your garage door, help your family stay safe, and know when to call a professional for repair and maintenance.
Safety Equipment Failure
Early legislation required the doors to have safety reversing methods and light beams or other sensors that stop the door or reverse it if anything is in its way. This legislation, passed in response to over 85 child deaths, does not make a garage door or its safety features failsafe. Assuming that the safety devices were properly installed on doors by manufacturers, the safety measures can fail as the door gets old, falls out of adjustment, or wears out.
Spring Or Cable Failure of Garage Doors
Regardless of safety measures, the overhead door is a large piece of equipment that weighs hundreds of pounds. Its up-and-down motion occurs on a track and operates on the principle of a counterbalance system, which means that a force offsets the door’s weight. In a typical door, it is the springs that provide force. If they or the cables that attach them to the door fail, the door comes crashing down while the loose spring or cables snap out of control.
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As the door moves up and down, it can be an attractive nuisance that dares people to try to get in and out before the door comes down. Even adults play “chicken” and try to get their car in or out before the door closes. Kids love to play with the buttons that are mounted on the wall of the garage and with the remotes. They even enjoy hanging on the door and putting their fingers in the tracks.
Bottom line: The garage door is not a toy.
Keeping Your Family Safe From Garage Door Hazards
Here are a few safety rules that will keep you in your family safe.
1. If you have an old door opener, it’s time to shop for a new one. Basic safety features and a lot more come with even the cheapest current models.
2. Instruct your kids to stay away from wall buttons, remotes, and escape levers. If they are in the area when the garage door is going up and down, instruct them to stay away from the door.
3. Follow your own advice and respect the overhead door. It is not an adult toy either.
4. Inspect the door, verify that nuts and bolts are tight, and lubricate the springs with silicone lubricants. Better yet, call in the pros for annual maintenance or if you notice anything in need of repair.
5. Test the safety features by placing a 2×4 board flat under the garage door and activating the opener. If the door does not stop before hitting the board and then reverses itself, adjust the down limit screw and retest. Call for service if you’re not successful in making this feature work consistently.
6. Make sure your door operates smoothly without hanging up and stays in a partly open position. If it doesn’t, your door can be off balance or off track. This is not the place to flex your DIY muscles; call for professional service to make sure safety and accuracy are in place.
7. If you suspect a problem with the springs, call in the professionals. Spring failure leads to many of the accidents reported yearly, as the spring force in a garage door is equal to its weight.
Having an automatic garage door opener offers protection from the cold, plus safety, security, and convenience. If you keep it in good condition and refrain from taking unnecessary chances, you will find it both a safe and useful asset to your home.