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garage_door_maintenance(MCT)—It’s easy to ignore your garage door. But it’s a bad idea, because a broken overhead door is more than a hassle. It’s a danger.

Your garage door is generally your home’s largest moving object, and possibly its hardest-working component. The average electric opener raises and lowers the 150- to 250-pound door more than a thousand times a year.

To ensure that your system operates smoothly, quietly and safely, it’s wise to inspect it periodically, as often as monthly. Here’s what garage door pros who’ve earned top ratings from Angie’s List members recommend:

Evaluate visually: Make sure springs aren’t rusty, broken or on the verge of breaking. (Be cautious around the springs, as they are under extreme tension. Unless you really know what you’re doing, leave repair, replacement or adjusting of springs to a pro.) Look for loose fasteners, worn tracks and hinges, frayed cables or crooked roller wheels. Some rollers need to be replaced after three or four years. Springs typically last five to 10 years, depending on the amount of usage.

Test the automatic reversal system: Required by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission since 1991, this feature causes the door to immediately stop and return to the open position when it detects an obstruction. To test your door’s auto-stop feature, place an object, such as a cinder block, in the path of the closing door. When the door contacts the object, it should quickly reverse itself.

Test the infrared motion system: This feature, about six inches off the ground, should — if an obstruction moves within range — cause a closing door to stop and reverse itself.

Test the emergency manual release: This is a bright red handle that hangs from a rope. If the door were to malfunction or the system lose power during an outage, you should be able to pull the release and move the door up and down on your own.

However, if the door won’t move easily, don’t force it. Call a pro instead. Likewise, call an expert if the door gets stuck in a partially open, crooked position. You don’t want the door to crash down should the spring system be unable to counterbalance the weight.

Tighten loose bolts and lubricate moving parts: Use garage door lubricant, silicone spray or powdered graphite on rollers, hinges and springs. Every three to four years, wipe springs with motor oil. (But avoid lubricating old, rusty springs because they could break.) Wipe the door opener chain with a light oil, as spraying may make a mess.

To hire a pro for an annual inspection and tune-up, expect to pay $100 to $120. Angie’s List members report paying between $100 and $300 for garage door repairs, such as roller or spring replacement. Service after hours or on weekends may add $100 to $150.

The cost to install a new door ranges from $700 to $1,500 or more, depending on size and materials. Insulation and windows add to the price. An opener system adds $350 to $500.

When hiring a garage door service provider, look for companies with good consumer ratings, who provide proof of insurance and appropriate licensing, and who have an established location.

Angie Hicks is the founder of Angie’s List, a resource for local consumer reviews on everything from home repair to health care. Follow her on Twitter @Angie_Hicks.

Distributed by MCT Information Services