Are Nylon Garage Door Rollers Better Than Steel?


Nylon vs Steel garage door rollers

If you’re like me, you probably thought that all garage door rollers are the same. But there’s actually a huge difference between nylon and steel garage door rollers.

If you’re thinking on replacing your old rollers, then you’ll want to keep reading to find out the differences between them. Given the choice, there’s definitely one clear winner. 

Nylon garage door rollers are slightly more expensive than steel rollers. However, they’re quieter, more durable and less susceptible to wear and tear. While steel rollers usually need to be replaced after 3-5 years, nylon rollers commonly last over ten years. 

The rest of this article will cover the pros and cons of both nylon and steel rollers. Then we’ll talk about how long you can expect your nylon roller system to last.

Let’s get started.

Nylon Rollers

Nylon was first produced way back in in 1938 and it’s been turned into everything from stockings to toothbrushes to car parts.

Its a thermoplastic which means it becomes flexible and moldable at a high enough temperature, but turns solid when it cools. Because of its chemical makeup, it is extremely durable and breaks down extremely slowly over time. 

Nylon garage door rollers have far more pros than cons.  

Nylon garage door rollers

Pros

Nylon Garage Door Rollers are Quieter

The biggest reason that most people upgrade to nylon garage door rollers is that they’re so much quieter than plastic or steel rollers.

Because nylon is molded to specific shapes, it’s got a silky smooth texture that’s perfect for wheels. There’s comparatively little friction that allows it to easily glides over any surface it touches.

Most nylon garage door rollers have ball bearings to help reduce the friction even further. In general, the more ball bearings on each roller, the quieter and easier the roller will slide along the track. Typically, garage doors with nylon rollers have more ball bearings than steel designs – on average, between 7 and 13. 

Nylon Garage Door Rollers Last Longer

Because nylon can’t corrode or rust, nylon garage door rollers are less susceptible to moisture damage than steel rollers. Even if your garage door frame has rust on it, the nylon rollers will pass over it fairly easily.

In addition to the durability, nylon rollers are just as strong as steel rollers. Here’s another case where the number of ball bearings the roller has comes into play. More ball bearings allow the weight to be more evenly distributed. 

The combination of these components make nylon garage door rollers a better long term solution than steel rollers. As an extra bonus, they typically require less maintenance than steel rollers, especially if they have sealed ball bearings.  

Cons

Nylon Garage Door Rollers are More Expensive

When you compare nylon rollers vs steel rollers from the same manufacturer, the nylon rollers cost about 40% more.

Just looking at the cost of the materials, steel is more readily and is easier to manufacture. Also, because nylon rollers usually require more ball bearings than steel rollers, this also drives up the cost. 

However, although nylon rollers are initially more expensive than steel rollers, they’re actually less expensive over the long haul. Because of their long lifespan, these rollers will end up paying for themselves in just a few years. 

Steel Rollers

Steel is an iron alloy that is extremely durable and relatively inexpensive. Because of it’s low cost and high tensile strength, steel is used in a wide array of building materials. 

Steel has been used in garage door rollers since the first overhead door was created in 1921 by C.G Johnson, owner of the Overhead Door Corporation. It’s been a tried and true method for opening garage doors ever since.

Steel garage door rollers

Pros

Steel is Extremely Strong

The main reason why steel is used in so many projects is because it’s extremely strong and durable. After all, steel is used in everything from building construction to automotive parts.  

Unless there’s corrosion or rust due to humidity in your garage, the steel rollers themselves are not what needs to be replaced. In most cases, it’s the ball bearings that wear down first, causing issues with the system’s mechanics. 

Steel Garage Door Rollers are Inexpensive

On average, steel garage door rollers cost a little over half of the price of comparable nylon rollers. This is simply because the raw materials are easier to produce and more widely available.

In addition, steel rollers don’t require as many ball bearings as nylon solutions. That makes them easier to manufacture and helps drive down the price. 

Cons

Steel Garage Door Rollers are Louder

Steel door rollers are much noisier than nylon rollers.

Whenever you’ve got a metal wheel rolling along a metal track with exposed metal fasteners, you’re going to have a lot of vibration and noise.

Additionally, as the steel rollers become corroded over time, the rust can weaken the wheel and cause cracks or damage. This causes additional noise as parts of the roller hit parts of the track that they aren’t supposed to.

In extreme cases, this can even cause the door to get stuck, causing more noise (and cursing).

Steel Rollers Need More Maintenance

Because steel garage door rollers are much more susceptible to rust than nylon rollers, they require more maintenance.

As mentioned earlier, corrosion can actually damage the rollers or shift the alignment on the track. That exposes the rollers to further damage, accelerating the cycle.  

Additionally, the ball bearings are made from metal and are just as prone to rust as the roller itself. If the bearings start to rust then the roller can stop working altogether. That usually means you’ll need to replace the entire set of rollers.  

Because of this, steel rollers require more frequent lubrication than nylon rollers to stay in good working shape. While this isn’t a big deal, you’ll need to look after them several times a year instead of the once-yearly for nylon rollers.

For more information, I have an article that covers a quick, five minute garage door maintenance process that’ll help keep your rollers and track in great condition.

How Long Do Nylon Rollers Last? 

How long your nylon garage door rollers will last depends on a few things:

  • The weight of the garage door and condition of the track.
  • How many ball bearings are included.
  • Whether the bearings are sealed or not. 

The most basic nylon rollers have seven unsealed bearings. These rollers can last between 7-13 years, depending on how much use your garage door gets. Longer life nylon rollers have between 11-13 ball bearings in a sealed casing. These rollers usually have a lifetime warranty and will usually outlast your garage door.  

To really help your nylon garage door rollers to withstand the test of time, I recommend investing in double sealed ball bearings. That will almost double their lifespan. 

Summary

Nylon garage door rollers have several advantages over steel or cheap plastic rollers. They are quieter, more durable and require less maintenance than steel rollers. 

By contrast, steel rollers are noisy, prone to corrosion and rust, and require maintenance much more often.

It’s common to have nylon garage door rollers last at least ten years, and many have lifetime warranties, depending on the manufacturer.

One of the first upgrades I did to my garage was to replace my builder’s grade plastic rollers with Duralift Max nylon rollers. You can check out the entire installation process here to see how easy it was.

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