Every now and then my garage door gets a little noisy or sluggish. Like most things, the metal parts of your garage door needs a little preventative maintenance to keep working the way it should.
Lubricating your garage door at least once a year should be part of that process.
What kind of garage door lubricant should you use?
You’re probably used to grabbing that can of WD-40 and just spraying the tracks.
Well, put it back down. You probably won’t be using it today.
I’ll tell you why in a little bit.
I used to do that every few months and think my job was done.
But I really wasn’t using the right tools for the job.
What I should have been using was a White Lithium Grease.
Lithium? Isn’t that a Nirvana song about anti-psychotic meds?
Well…yes. But it turns out that Lithium also makes for a great lubricant too.
What you actually want from your garage door lubricant is for it to cling to the parts and not run down the side of your door. The advantage of a lithium grease is just that: it stays where you spray it.
Take a look at these pictures: The spray on the left is regular WD-40, while the spray on the right is a lithium grease.
You can see how much regular WD-40 runs after only two seconds. Which do you think will lubricate your garage door longer?
Can You Use WD-40 to Lubricate Your Garage Door?
I don’t want to bash on WD-40. It’s a great spray cleaner and degreaser.
Notice I didn’t call it a grease, which is what we want to use today.
The ‘WD’ in WD-40 actually stands for Water Displacement. Meaning that is can help to remove rust by breaking down the chemical bonds on oxidized metals.
Sorry…I was a chemistry geek in high school. It comes back sometimes.
But if you’re a die-hard WD-40 fan, I’ve got good news.
WD-40 makes a White Lithium Grease specifically for stuff like this.
Now, I’m not saying that you need to use a WD-40 product, or even that this is the best garage door lubricant. Really any White Lithium grease will do the job.
There are several brands out there that will do the trick. If you’ve got one that you love, then by all means use it. You can find the WD-40 White Lithium Grease on Amazon for about $6 a can.
How do you lubricate a garage door? (Step by step)
So now that we’ve got the right tools, let’s go get started.
There’s an old saying: If it moves and it’s not supposed to: use duct-tape. If it doesn’t move and it’s supposed to, use WD-40.
Now that we’ve got the right type of WD-40, we’re going to be using it…A LOT.
Garage door lubrication: Hinges
Let’s start with the hinges. They take a lot of abuse because they’re what holds the door together as it moves up and down the track.
Using the nozzle, spray Lithium grease on any of the moving parts on the door hinges. While you’re here, check to see if any of the bolts are loose and tighten them up, if necessary.
Garage door lubrication: Rollers
There’s two parts to lubricating the garage door rollers: the metal shaft that slides in the bracket on the door itself, and the ball bearings on the roller wheel.
To lubricate the metal shaft, spray some grease at the edge of both sides of the bracket (as shown below). If you get the right angle, this should force grease into the entire bracket.
Once we get to the final step and open the door a few times (spoilers!) the grease will be spread evenly along the entire shaft.
The other thing to lubricate on the rollers are the ball bearings themselves.
Most garage doors come with metal rollers that are durable, but need a lot of maintenance. If you have these kind of rollers on your door, look on the inside of the wheel to find the bearings. Shoot a little grease to keep them moving freely.
Plastic rollers don’t have any bearings, so there’s nothing to lubricate. That’s the good news. The bad news is that plastic rollers really weren’t designed to last more than a few years. If you’ve got these on your door, you should look to replace your garage door rollers with nylon rollers as soon as possible.
Some garage door rollers are sealed so there’s no maintenance needed. If you’ve got sealed rollers on your door, gave yourself a little pat on the back and move on to the next step.
Garage door lubrication: Door Arm
The door arm is what connects the pulley to the door itself. Don’t forget to add a little grease to the connection points to keep them running smoothly. Be sure to hit both the top and the bottom of the door arm.
Garage door lubrication: The center rail
Here’s where I had it all wrong.
I was spraying the bottom of the center rail, thinking that it would help.
Think of the track like an upside-down ‘T’. The trolley runs along the top edge of the track. If you lubricate the bottom of the track, you’re spraying things that are never going to get touched.
What you should be doing is spraying the TOP edge of the track. That’s what makes contact with the edges of the trolley as it moves along, pulling the door up.
In my case, the track is almost completely enclosed, which shields it from any dust or debris that can get in and clog up the system. It doesn’t mean that I get a free pass and never have to lubricate this section. But it becomes a lower priority.
What you don’t need to lubricate: The track
A common misconception is that you need to lubricate your garage door’s track to help the rollers move up and down.
That’s actually doing more harm than good.
Because the track is exposed to the outside air, any sticky substance (like a grease) will attract dust and debris which will actually gunk up the rollers as they run over it.
This is going to make your garage door opener work harder and a lot noisier.
There’s one and only one place on the track that could maybe use a little grease to keep things running smoothly. Look up on the corner of the track where there are raised bolts holding the pieces of track together. Spray a little grease on the bolts to make it easier for the rollers to run over them.
…or the chain
Never lubricate the chain.
The chains on your garage door opener are lubricated from the factory, and that should last the life of the motor.
Cleaning the track
Remember that can of the original WD-40 that I told you to put down earlier?
Here’s where you can use it.
The regular WD-40 with the red cap is an amazing cleaner and degreaser.
If you’ve got any gunk, grime or other nasty buildup on your garage track, then just spray a little WD-40 on it, wait a minute or so and wipe off. Feel free to use a scouring pad on the tougher spots. The goal is to get the track as clean as possible so that the roller wheel slides along with as little drag as possible.
Final Step: Open the door
The final step is to open and close the door a coupe of times. I like to do two full cycles to make sure the grease is spread evenly across all the parts (open and close is one cycle).
You should notice that the door is smoother than before and it should be making a lot less noise – even if it you didn’t think it was that loud in the first place. In my case, because I had a new home, my door wasn’t that noisy, but it had started stuttering as it opened.
Five minutes of TLC and it was like I had a brand new door again.
You should be lubricating your garage door at least once a year, depending on how often your door is used. But if you’re like me, you’ve probably only thought about garage door lubrication when you start noticing those annoying squeaking sounds.
If a little grease doesn’t make the squeaks stop, try a lot of grease. 🙂
If that doesn’t work, then it’s time to think about how to make your garage door quieter.
While you’re working on your garage door rollers, I recommend taking a look at your garage door sensors to clean off the lenses and make sure they’re operating correctly.