Unfortunately, some customers do not become aware of their garage door torsion springs until after they break. They do not realize that the springs do all of the work when it comes to opening and closing the garage door, let alone that there are two very different types of torsion springs. One type, oil tempered, is a much better choice when replacing them, so it is important to know the difference and know which ones the garage door professional that is hired are putting on the garage door when replacing the broken ones. However when the springs are broken, the car is trapped, and the customer needs the repair done as soon as possible, they are less likely to begin research on torsion springs to assure that they are getting the right springs for a fair price. Hopefully, this will help differentiate the two types of torsion springs so that the customer is not at the mercy of a repairman with no knowledge of what they are agreeing to.
Oil tempered torsion springs are the older of the two types of torsion springs and in our opinion the superior choice when replacing your torsion springs. They begin as a high carbon steel rod that is ran through a series of dies going down in size until the desired wire size is achieved. (a range of wire size/length is necessary to create combinations that will balance a range of door weights). Oil tempered springs are then heat treated with a series of heating and cooling phases using hot oil so that they can adequately handle the infrequent stress applications applied to them whenever the door is opened or closed. Although this system of oil tempering makes for a great torsion spring, it can also leave an oily residue on the wire itself and also makes it susceptible to rust. Not wanting and ugly rusty spring or oily fingerprints all over the garage door area, both installers and customers searched for a solution.
In the 1990’s the solution became the Galvanized torsion spring. It was believed that by adding a zinc coating to the wire, it would be protected from rust and also prevent the oily residue from getting all over the installer and subsequently anything else they touched. However, galvanizing also weakened the spring itself. It was soon realized that in contrast to an oil tempered spring, that stretched and weakened at such a low rate that no adjustments were necessary until it finally reached the end of it’s cycle life and broke, the galvanized spring lost it’s tension at such a higher and faster rate that it needed to be tightened approximately every six months or so. In addition to the cost of having a professional come out and tighten and re-balance the door, each time it was tightened the spring’s cycle life was shortened. That means that if an oil tempered and a galvanized spring were installed at the same time, the customer would end up replacing the galvanized spring first, on top of spending extra money on all of the adjustments and tightenings needed for the door to work properly. This also adds extra wear on the opener, but that is a topic we are going to tackle on another day.
So why do garage door professionals still use or offer galvanized springs? Generally because they are cheaper and more readily available. New construction and door manufacturers use galvanized springs more commonly than oil tempered to keep costs down and present a more attractive product, and they do a decent job, but if you are replacing a broken spring and want the least maintenance possible (both types perform better with regular lubrication) oil tempered is the way to go.