Why did my garage door come off its tracks?

There are a number of reasons why a garage door could come off its tracks and hit the ground. Probably you are asking yourself “Why do I need to know the reasons my garage door could come off its tracks?” By understanding what could cause such an event, it will assist you in staying constantly vigilant for any potential problems that could arise.

Let’s be clear at the start: a garage door that comes off its tracks is extremely dangerous. There is a definite risk of serious injuries to you or a family member. With this knowledge, you can take the necessary preventive measures to keep you and your loved ones completely safe when using your garage door. Now, we will look at those situations where we might run into this type of problem.

Garage door off its tracks

The main cause: you hit the door with your car

The most common case of a door coming off its tracks is due to homeowners hitting their doors with their cars. Almost all of us have had this happen. Late for work or in too much of a hurry to be home, you pull out of or enter your garage too fast without the door being completely open… and crash! As well, some folks have simply backed into the door, forgetting to open it with the remote. A heck of a way to start the day!

When hit by a vehicle, a garage door most often suffers damage to not only its two lower sections but also the whole door system. As well, the said vehicle doesn’t have to be moving fast – maybe only 3 to 5 mph (5 to 8 km/h) to do real damage. What usually happens is that a couple rollers come off their tracks, leaving the garage door hanging precariously from its lift cables.

If this happens to you, the first and safest thing you should do is turn off your car and get out of the garage. Next, call a local garage door specialist to come and put everything back in proper working order. Look on the housing of your garage door opener, or on the door if that’s possible, to find a sticker with the name of the company that installed the door system. Do not attempt to repair it by yourself.

Finally, there are one or two calls left to make: call your car insurance agent and the one for your home insurance.

The horizontal tracks bend under the weight of the door or the tracks aren’t aligned properly

The second most common case is linked to low quality horizontal tracks being installed for your door system. With a double garage door, say 16 feet (4.9 meters) wide, be aware that the total weight of the door can range from 225 to 400 lb. (100 to 185 kg.). When horizontal tracks are not made from steel strong enough to support the door, a sudden slight impact to the door can cause the tracks to bend and the door to fall to the garage floor. Ideally, tracks should be made from 14-gauge steel (0.073″ or 1.8 mm thick) and reinforced with an L-shaped angle iron (2″ x 2″, 13 gauge) to prevent the tracks from bending inward.

The other problem connected to the horizontal tracks comes when the tracks aren’t parallel and properly aligned with the vertical rails. This frequently happens when the bolts on the bracket that hold the horizontal tracks have become loose. When loose, they cause the bracket to wobble at the slightest vibrations from opening and closing the door. Eventually, the tracks will end up no longer being parallel so that the rollers risk coming off the tracks.

One or two rollers wear out and break

If one or two of your garage door rollers break prematurely from extreme wear, or they are of lower quality, this could cause additional stress to be put on the other rollers in the hardware system. This stress could cause other rollers to break as well or come off the tracks. And it doesn’t end there: extra weight put on the other rollers can also make the horizontal rails bend, and we all know what happens then. Don’t forget that the heavier your garage door is, the more serious the consequences.

broken rollers on a garage door

On the market, there are different types of rollers for garage doors. They come in nylon, steel and nylon-covered steel and each has a different useful life. An important question to ask concerns ball bearings: How many bearings should a steel roller or a nylon-covered steel roller contain? Ideally, the more, the better, as they increase performance and the useful life. Request rollers with at least 10 ball bearings.

There are also different size rollers, short or long, based on the length of the steel stem attached to the roller. Short-stem rollers are meant for single garage doors while long-stem rollers are suggested for double doors, 16″ (4.9 m) wide. Furthermore, with double doors, it is worth installing double hinges at the ends of the door. The combination of “long-stem rollers with double hinges” ensures you’ll have peace of mind and a garage door that operates well.

One of the lift cable broke

This is a fairly rare occurrence but it could happen, especially if your garage door is older and you have never had it tuned up. The lift cables are located on each side of the door. Each cable winds around grooves in a drum, with the drum attached to a steel shaft holding a torsion spring. If, for any reason, the alignment of the door is disturbed, the cable won’t line up correctly in the drum, then unravel and break without much warning.

Broken lift cable

When a lift cable breaks, all the weight of the door will transfer to one side. However, only one side cannot hold the full weight of the door. What normally happens in this case is one side closes completely while the other side remains up in the air. With the door in such an unbalanced state, it’s easy to see why the rollers would come off the track system.

Cable size is calibrated based on the weight of the door. Thus, the heavier the door, the larger the diameter of the cable must be. Regular inspections of the garage door cables can help avoid this type of breakage. Ask a garage door specialist what your cable diameter is. A 7-strand lift cable with a diameter of 1/8″ is suitable for any residential garage door.

If I need a technician to inspect my garage door…

Then contact a garage door professional in your area. This specialist can email you a quotation for a service call, or gladly come to your home to resolve whatever problem you are having with your garage door.

In the case where you decide to change your garage door, or to get an idea what a new door would look like, use a design center like the one from Garaga or peruse their image gallery.

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