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Your garage door is the largest moving object on your house and it probably weighs more than 300 pounds. So if it malfunctions, it can do a world of damage—to your cars and to you, if you happen to be standing too close.

Even if you’re handy around the house, consider leaving garage door repairs to the pros. Repairs can be dangerous because of the weight of the door.

Luckily, with some simple, regular maintenance, your garage door is likely to operate smoothly for a decade or more. 

Here are a few tips for keeping what might be the most-used door to your house in worry-free condition:

  • Test the safety of your door every six months. Lay a two-by-four on the floor directly under the door and close it. The door should automatically reverse once it senses an object in its way.
  • Likewise, the door should reverse if you place your hand in front of its photo eye.
  • Even if your door is working OK, it’s a good idea to ask a knowledgeable garage door tech to send a pro out for preventive maintenance every now and then. It will cost less than $100 to lubricate and adjust the door and head off some problems before you get stuck in your garage with a door that won’t open.
  • Between professional check-ups, keep an eye on the hardware and moving parts like cables and rollers. If they begin to look worn or if your door isn’t rolling up and down normally, you’ll know it’s time for repairs.
  • Lubricate the moving parts of your garage door frequently. Don’t overdo the lubricant, though; oily hardware attracts dirt, and built-up dirt can interfere with smooth operation. Before you attempt even minor repairs yourself, refer to the owner’s manual that came with the door.
  • Weatherize your garage door, especially if it’s old and uninsulated. The opening is so large that warm air escapes in a large gush every time you open the door in the winter. And in the summer, the temperature in an uninsulated garage can bake up to 100 degrees or more. If there’s a gap between the bottom of the door and the garage floor, replace the weather barrier—or stop—on the bottom of the door.
  • Keep  your steel or aluminum garage door surface clean by hosing it down regularly. Wash it with mild detergent and a cloth as needed.
  • If your door is wood, you’ll probably need to sand it down and refinish it almost every year. The altitude and our plentiful sunshine take a toll on wood doors. Without annual maintenance, the wood surface can bake, flake, crack and peel.
  • Likewise, check your wood door for signs of rot, especially at the bottom. Thoroughly sand away any black spots, and then refinish. If you’ve had the same garage door since before 1992, it’s time to replace it. Doors built after 1992 have more safety features, like door openers with a redundant safety device. So in addition to reversing on contact, every post-1992 door has a photo eye.
  • Garage doors are designed to last for around 10 or 15 years. If it’s time to replace yours, you might be surprised by how many options you have. Consider investing in an energy-efficient insulated door. You’ll have the choice of wood, aluminum, steel and even glass. The newest, new super-low-maintenance doors feature a composite with a skin made from melamine or polymers and backed by steel and foam insulation. This “faux wood” is fashioned to look so much like the real deal that nobody will guess it’s not. Some new steel doors are painted with a textured, wood-grain finish that can fool anyone who’s looking at them from the street.

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