How to Fix Garage Door Cables That Keep Coming Off

wooden garage door

Garage doors work year-round to keep our homes secure and allow easy access to the garage. Many parts come together to make the garage door open and close smoothly and safely. When one of the components starts coming loose, it can significantly impact the convenience and safety of your garage door. 

Dealing with garage door cables that frequently come off their drums can make your life more difficult. Additionally, the added strain on your cables and garage door can cause other parts to wear out and break even faster. While putting the cables back in place fixes the issue temporarily, you need to identify the cause of the problem to help maintain your garage door and its safety. 

Learn more about fixing garage door cables and how to replace a garage door cable with this article.

What Do Garage Door Cables Do?

Garage door cables help lift and lower the garage door, working with the springs to operate the door smoothly. Garage doors use lift cables to open and close, and some systems may also require retaining cables:

  • Lift cables: These cables wrap around the circular rolls attached to the garage door’s spring system. Torsion spring systems use cable drums, while extension spring systems use sheaves. The cables work as a pulley system by wrapping around the circular component to help lift and lower the door. 
  • Retaining cables: Garage doors with extension springs use garage door safety cables called retaining cables. These cables hold the spring parts in place if the spring breaks, preventing injuries and damage from flying pieces. Torsion springs are anchored, so they don’t need retaining cables as a safety precaution. 

Signs of a Garage Door Cable Issue

Issues with a garage door cable can be a serious safety problem. You need to know what to look for to help protect yourself and your household from a garage door injury. Garage doors are extremely heavy and they can be dangerous when damaged. Here are some signs to look out for if you suspect you have a cable issue: 

Fraying or Rusted Cable

Check for fraying or rust when inspecting your cables. Fraying occurs when cables rub up against other components, creating friction. This friction leads to cable separation and breakage. Look for broken wires or separating cables — these are signs of fraying and must be corrected immediately. 

You’ll also want to look for cable rust. Rust will eat away at the cables, weakening them and leading to breakage. 

Loud Bang When Using the Door

While all garages make some noise during operation, unusually loud banging sounds are a sign there’s something wrong. Hearing a loud bang could indicate: 

  • A cable has come loose or snapped. 
  • The springs need lubrication.
  • A spring has broken. 

If you lubricate your springs and still hear the bangs, call a professional immediately. 

Wire or Cable Hanging From the Door

technician working on garage door

Spotting a dangling wire usually means a garage door cable has snapped, typically due to fraying or rust. You need regular visual inspections and professional maintenance to check for signs of cable damage. If rust and fraying go unchecked for too long, the cable will snap. 

If you see a hanging cable, you’ll need to bring in a professional to replace it before you can use the garage door again. 

The Door Seems Heavier Than Usual

You may notice your garage door opener straining to lift the door. When this happens, disengage the opener and try opening the door manually. If it feels heavier than it usually does or you struggle to open it, stop using the garage door immediately. 

A suddenly-heavier garage door often means a spring or cable has snapped or needs readjustment. Springs and cables lift most of the door’s weight, even when you’re using it manually — if one of these isn’t working correctly, nothing is taking that weight for you. Whether you need a spring or cable replaced or adjusted, you’ll need a professional who can make the repairs safely. 

The Door Is Screeching or Scratching While in Use

Unusual garage door noises can have several causes, all of which are immediate causes for concern. If your door is making loud screeching or scratching noises, it’s not operating safely. Check your cables and springs to see if anything is off. 

Loose or snapped cables can throw the door off-balance, causing it to drag on the ground or scrape when it moves. Suddenly hearing unusual sounds means you need a professional to find and fix the issue. 

What Causes Garage Door Cables to Come Off?

There are several reasons your garage door cables might have come off. Garage door components are designed to work seamlessly together, operating your door smoothly and without delay. A cable that isn’t sitting in its spot on the drum or sheave affects the garage door’s operation and is a risk to your safety. 

If you’re constantly dealing with cables coming off, there might be a deeper issue you need to address. Understanding the causes of cable issues can help you identify the source of your problem. Let’s look at some of the reasons your garage door cables might come off. 

Improper Drums and Cables

white aluminum garage door

Garage door drums and sheaves are made to fit a specific cable measurement. Each drum has a spool that holds a specific cable size. A too-small or too-large cable won’t sit in the grooved properly and will fall off. You may find that your garage door cable came off the drum if the diameter, length and track configurations don’t line up. 

Door Set on an Object

When a closing garage door settles on an object instead of the flat ground, it creates cable slack and an uneven weight distribution. Slack in the cables means they’re more likely to slip out of their grooves. 

If an object is in the space where your garage door sits, it’s likely to make your garage door cable come off. While most modern garages have safety sensors and auto-reverse functions to help prevent this, they may not catch all items. 

Improper Installation

Any installation mistakes can quickly lead to loose cables and other door issues. If one drum is tighter than the other, the cable may unwrap on the looser side. Uneven installation also means one side of the garage door will hit the ground first, leading to slack and slipped cables. 

Look for uneven wear on the bottom or gaps when your garage door is closed. Call a professional to correct your installation if you notice any of these signs. 

Broken Torsion Spring

The weight a torsion spring holds will release if it breaks while the door is open, and the door will fall closed. This situation is extremely dangerous, as garage doors without torsion springs will close with massive force. When the spring breaks, it also creates cable slack — the cable can come loose from the grooves or even snap. 

Broken Extension Spring

Extension springs help close the door, creating tension to bring it down at a controlled pace. When these springs snap, it’s common for garage door cables to become tangled up or unwrapped. Having retaining cables will help prevent injury if this problem occurs. 

What Causes Garage Door Cables to Break?

what causes garage door cables to break

Having garage door cables that keep coming off can be a safety issue, especially if another broken component causes it. However, broken cables are an ever bigger safety issue. It’s crucial to keep an eye on your cables to catch any wear before it causes the cables to break. 

Here are a few potential reasons for broken garage door cables:

  • Cables rubbing against metal: Garage door components require regular lubrication to keep everything running smoothly. Without lubrication, the parts will begin to rub against each other, creating friction. With enough time and friction, your cables will start to wear away and eventually break. 
  • Corrosion: Salt and moisture from damp environments can lead to rust and corrosion. Rust will eat away at your garage door cables and eventually cause them to break. Regular inspections and rust prevention are vital for keeping your cables corrosion-free. 
  • Violent drops: Any broken springs can cause sudden, violent drops. The force of these drops may cause your cables to break. You can avoid this by practicing good spring maintenance and watching out for excessive force when opening or closing your garage doors.

Can You Open Garage Doors With a Loose or Broken Cable?

You should avoid opening garage doors with a loose or broken cable. When the cable on one side of the garage door isn’t working correctly, all the tension is on the side with the still-functional cable. That excess tension puts extra strain on the remaining cable, increasing its chances of snapping. Your garage door might get stuck or fall while opening. 

When you have a loose or broken cable, contact a professional for assistance and avoid using the garage door. All the other components are under strain if the cables aren’t working correctly and you could strip the garage’s internal nylon drive gear. A professional will help get your garage door working safely so you won’t have to struggle with a malfunctioning door. 

How to Fix Garage Door Cables That Keep Coming Off

If you’re comfortable around garage doors, you might be able to fix your loose cables by securing the torsion tube and springs. Once you’ve done that, you’ll just need to rewind the cable. 

If you notice that the garage door cable came off the spool, here’s how to replace garage door cables:

  1. Completely close the garage door. 
  2. Pull the red cord hanging from the opener to release the garage door from the track.
  3. Open the garage door manually.
  4. Attach vice grips on the track below the door to keep it from moving.
  5. Disconnect the cable from the peg on the garage door frame.  
  6. Ravel the cable so there’s no more slack and reattach the cable end to the peg. 

This task can be challenging if you don’t have experience with garage doors and only applies if your garage door has no other issues or you’re replacing old cables. If you think there are other issues or feel uncomfortable handling the cables, it’s best to get a professional inspection. Your cable might be coming off for many reasons, and a professional will have the tools and experience to quickly and safely identify and fix the issue. 

You should always get professional assistance if your garage door cable is loose when open or continues to come off the drums. Garage door components can carry a safety risk. If you aren’t comfortable with fixing the cable yourself or don’t have experience with garage doors, don’t hesitate to get in touch with a professional for assistance. 

Any sudden spring release or system failure could cause severe injury. Garage doors are extremely dangerous and a professional technician is always the safest route. It’s better to call a professional if you’re unsure than to risk your safety.

How to Prevent Garage Door Cable Issues

Regular maintenance is the best way to prevent cable issues that require garage door cable repair. Garage door components require regular inspection and upkeep to help avoid issues like cable breaks. Your garage door can last 15 to 30 years with good maintenance. Getting your garage inspected by a technician annually will help to catch cable issues early and can prevent the cables from falling off. 

Use this garage door cable maintenance checklist to help you prevent cable problems: 

  • Inspect cables for fraying, breaks and rust.
  • Clean dirt and debris build-up from cables.
  • Lubricate occasionally according to your manufacturer’s instructions. 
  • Examine extension springs for wear and tear. 
  • Get an annual professional garage door inspection. 

Most people use their garages frequently, which can increase the wear and tear on your garage door components. In addition to regular maintenance, try to use your garage door only when you have to move cars or objects in or out. Using your other doors for entry will help relieve the strain on your garage. 

Contact Garage Door Specialists for Garage Door Repairs

Cable problems can occur no matter how well-cared for or high-quality your garage door is. The significant weight and strain on garage door systems make them susceptible to wear and tear. While you might be tempted to try fixing issues yourself, an expert garage door repair service can save you time and money without risking your safety. 

At Garage Door Specialists, we pride ourselves on delivering professional, effective garage door services to our customers in Chicago’s North and Northwest suburbs. With over 30 years of experience and several Angie’s List Super Service Awards, you can count on our team to take care of any garage door issues you might have. 

If you need professional garage door assistance, visit us online to request service with us today!

yellow house with white garage doors