Coming back from trick-or-treating (though it is only treating these days) with the oldest daughter, I pressed the garage door opener button in the car only to see the garage door open about a foot and stop. This has happened twice before since I moved into this house so I knew what to do. Fortunately my wife was home at the time so I could go in through the front door instead of squirming though the mud (after two solid days of rain) to get under the door.
The garage door is a solid wood door probably installed when the house was built nearly fifty years ago. It is a beast in the weight department and has also seen its better days. On both previous times the garage door hasn't opened, one of the solid wood panels has split causing the wheels that ride in the track to bind. I have fixed them by scabbing on another piece of wood with screws to get by. I say get by because we plan to add on a new garage to the house and turn the existing garage into more living space and I don't want to put a new or even install a used garage door when I'm only going to have to tear it out a year from now.
Unfortunately when I got into the garage, I quickly determined that a split door panel wasn't the problem. I also ruled out it being a door sensor problem too. Everything looked fine but the garage door would only open up about a foot and then act as if it was bound up and stop. When I manually disconnected it from the drive chain, I could move it freely (but with a lot of effort as the door weights a ton) so I couldn't find what was binding it. So after a couple hours of trying to figure out what was wrong, I decided to call a professional.
He took one look at it and saw the problem which is why I suppose he is a professional. The springs were way undersized. Not only did it make it hard to lift the door manually, but it also overloads the motor causing it to shut off after raising the door a foot. To fix the problem it was going to set me back $300 for properly sized springs or the alternative was spending $1000 on a new door to fix our non-standard door opening only to tear it out a year from now when I build a new garage with standard door openings. So I agreed to the new springs option.
As the professional was measuring and weighing to size correct springs, that was when I noticed the writing on the wall beneath the springs in the above photo. As it turned out, it was the correct spring size that someone had probably written there after replacing them 23 years ago. Unfortunately someone put in a new door opening system more recently before we bought the place and the guy who did so not only did the job extremely cheaply (according to the professional) but he put on extremely undersized springs purchased from the local box store.
The new properly sized springs are installed and are actually the ones in the photo above. They were twice as long and the wire gauge was much thicker. Now instead of grabbing on with both hands and heaving with about 75% of my available strength to press the garage door overhead and then hold it there while groping for a stick to prop underneath it, I can easily open it with one hand and it stays up by itself. As you can see in the photo, I scratched out the old date and put the new date underneath so if the addition plans fall through and we end up selling the house to someone else first, perhaps they might have some better information that I did.