Common Garage Door Terms You Should Know


Using a garage door is as much a part of our everyday lives as preparing food or taking showers. On average, garage doors are used three to five times per day or 1,500 times each year. Garage doors utilize different kinds of springs which are built to last between 5,000 to 20,000 cycles. A cycle represents each time the door is opened and closed. These figures mean that your garage door may remain problem-free for three to 13 years. Since more usage equals greater wear and tear, the need to replace or repair your garage door is inevitable. 

Being well-versed in how your garage door works and the components that make it possible is essential if you need to describe the problem to a garage door service professional. You may be interested in learning so you can make the repairs yourself, but as you read through this information, you’ll see why that isn’t recommended.

Garage door assemblies are complicated and there are many small parts and accompanying definitions, so we will introduce you to only the most essential working parts that you should know.

These terms have to do with how the garage door is raised and lowered.

  1. Garage Door Track – also called the rails, these are the vertical metal tracks attached to the outsides of the garage door opening and the horizontal ones attached to the ceiling that hold the garage door in place.
  2. Rollers – found inside the track and made of various materials, they allow the door to roll smoothly up and down inside the door track.
  3. Cable Drum or Drum – also known as a spool, the drums are mounted above the door on each side and balanced using torsion spring systems. There will be one on the right side and one on the left side.
  4. Pulley – these are located at the ends of the extension springs and mounted on the top corners of the track assembly
  5. Lift Cable – the lift cable can be attached two ways depending on the spring system. For an extension spring, it will be found inside the pulleys. For a torsion spring, it will be attached to the cable drum assembly. The lift cable works with the spring system to lift the door.
  6. Extension or Stretch Spring – this type is suspended over the horizontal track and is controlled by the lift cable.
  7. Torsion Spring – mounted along with the cable drums and above the door on a pipe or shaft, it uses torque (twisting force) to balance the door weight as it is lifted and lowered.
  8. Retaining or Safety Cable – used with extension spring systems, it runs through the center of the spring and helps keep the door from falling if one of the system components fails.

The next set of terms applies to how the garage door is assembled.

  1. Panels and Hinges – the individual portions of the door are called panels and are connected with hinges that allow them to flow through the curved portions of the door track.
  2. Top Fixture – just like it sounds, it mounts onto the top section of the door to attach it to the opener.
  3. Bottom Fixture – these are mounted onto the bottom sections of the door and hold the lift cables. The lift cables are under extreme tension. That’s why they should only be removed or repaired by a qualified installer. A cut or loose cable can cause severe physical injury.
  4. Astragal – this is the weather-stripping material that runs along the bottom of the door to seal gaps.

This final set of terms applies to the garage door opener. Whether your opener uses a screw, belt, or chain drive, it will operate in the same manner.


  1. Circuit Board – the brain of the opener, it processes the commands from the controls to open and close the door.
  2. Safety Beam or Photocell – these are mounted on both sides near the bottom of the door and complete the circuit that makes the door operate. It stops the door when a blockage is detected.

When your garage door is malfunctioning, it will be helpful to use these terms when describing the problem to a repair technician. 

If you need garage door parts or a new garage door, call a qualified insured repair service like Thomas V. Giel Garage Doors, Inc., to safely get your door back into top working condition.