If you’re like me, you probably thought that all garage door rollers are the same. But there’s a massive difference between nylon and steel garage door rollers.
If you’re considering replacing your old plastic rollers with a set of new rollers, you’ll want to keep reading to find out their differences. Given a choice, there’s 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 garage door rollers wear out 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 rollers to last.
Let’s get started.
Nylon was first produced in 1938 and has made its way into everything from stockings to toothbrushes to car parts.
It is 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 incredibly durable and breaks down slowly over time.
Nylon garage door rollers have far more pros than cons.
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 steel or plastic garage door rollers.
Because nylon is molded to specific shapes, it’s got a silky smooth texture that’s perfect for wheels. This helps reduce friction, making for a smooth operation as the garage door operates.
Most nylon garage door rollers have ball bearings (small metal balls inside the roller) 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 rusts, the nylon rollers will easily glide over it.
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.
These components make nylon garage door rollers a better long-term solution than steel rollers. As a bonus, they typically require less maintenance than steel rollers, especially if they have sealed ball bearings.
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.
Looking at the cost of the materials, steel is more readily and easier to manufacture. 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 cheaper over the long haul. Because of their long lifespan, most homeowners don’t need to replace rollers as often. This helps justify the cost difference to many people.
Steel is an iron alloy that is durable and relatively inexpensive. Because of its 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 is Extremely Strong
We use steel in everything from construction to automotive parts mainly because of its high strength and durability.
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, the ball bearings wear down first, causing issues with the system’s mechanics.
Steel Garage Door Rollers are Inexpensive
On average, steel garage door rollers cost slightly over half the price of comparable nylon rollers. 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, making them easier to manufacture and driving down the price.
Replacing an old set of plastic rollers with steel garage door rollers is an affordable option, especially if you don’t plan on staying in the house long-term.
Steel Garage Door Rollers are Louder
One of the most common complaints about garage door openers is the noise, and steel rollers are much noisier than nylon rollers.
You will have a lot of vibration and noise whenever you’ve got a metal wheel rolling along a metal track with exposed metal fasteners.
Additionally, as the steel rollers corrode over time, the rust can weaken the wheel and cause cracks or damage. This causes higher noise levels as the damaged roller hits parts of the track that it’s not supposed to.
In extreme cases, this can 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 damage the rollers or shift the alignment on the track, exposing the rollers to further damage and accelerating the cycle.
Additionally, the ball bearings are made from metal and are just as prone to rust as the roller itself. If the ball bearings start to rust, the roller can stop working altogether, which 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, check out my five-minute garage door lubrication process to help keep your rollers and track in excellent condition.
How Long Do Nylon Rollers Last?
How long your nylon garage door rollers will last depends on a few things:
- Weight of the garage door.
- Condition of the metal garage door tracks.
- Number of ball bearings.
- Sealed vs. exposed ball bearings.
The most basic nylon rollers have seven unsealed ball bearings which can last between 7-13 years, depending on how much use your garage door gets. Longer-life nylon rollers have between eleven and thirteen ball bearings in a sealed casing. These rollers usually have a lifetime warranty and will usually outlast your garage door.
To help your nylon garage door rollers withstand the test of time, I recommend investing in double-sealed ball bearings to almost double their expected lifespan.
Nylon vs Steel Garage Door Rollers: The Verdict
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 frequent maintenance.
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 made to my garage was replacing my builder’s grade plastic garage door rollers with Duralift Max nylon rollers. Check out my entire garage door roller replacement process to see how easy it was.