Garage Door Opener Drive Systems: Four Options Introduced And Explained

Not too long ago, electric garage door openers almost always used a chain mechanism to open and close them. However, in recent years, a variety of drive mechanisms and garage door parts have been made available to homeowners. Each has its own features as well as advantages and disadvantages. Below is an explanation of the four common garage door opener drives in use today:

Chain drive

Chain drive garage door openers have a well-regarded record of use among homeowners, and they are still a reliable, cost-effective choice among garage door opener drive mechanisms. They raise and lower doors via a long, linked metal chain that resembles a bicycle chain; sprockets on the opener move the chain which is, in turn, attached to the door. Here are some of the advantages offered by a chain drive opener:

  • Economical – chain drive openers are the least-expensive of all available opener drive mechanisms.
  • Familiarity - garage door professionals are knowledgeable about chain drive openers due to their commonality and long history of use in residences. This makes installation and repair accessible to customers from almost any location.

They also present a few disadvantages that should be kept in mind:

  • Noisy – chain drive openers are usually the loudest of all opener systems.
  • Damage-potential – the use of a long, heavy metal chain presents possible dangers for parked vehicles if a link breaks or a chain slips from a sprocket.

Screw drive

A screw drive garage door opener utilizes a long, threaded rod that manipulates the garage door when the rod is turned one direction or another. The screw drive opener is advantageous for the following reasons:

  • Quiet – the use of a rotating screw makes the operation of these doors less noisy than competing chain drive openers.
  • Fast – the screw can be rotated at higher speeds than a sprocket can be turned, and this can permit garage doors to open at a fairly quick pace.

Screw drive openers have some disadvantages worth keeping in mind:

  • Unreliable operation – in some climates where large temperature variations are common, screw drive openers have a propensity to malfunction. Temperature differentials can cause moving parts to misalign due to expansion and contraction of materials.
  • Relative expense – screw drive openers are moderately more expensive than chain drive openers.

Belt drive

Similar to the way a chain drive opener functions, belt drive openers use long flexible belts instead of linked chains. This system offers homeowners the following advantages:

  • Quiet – belt drive openers are much quieter than chain drive systems.
  • Reliability – the belt used in these openers can be expected to last many years and operate without significant concern about its maintenance or adjustment.

Belt drive openers posses one slight disadvantage compared to their chain-drive "cousins", and that their higher price tag.

Wall-mounted drive

A wall-mounted drive system is radically different than chain, screw or belt openers. Rather than using a ceiling mounted motor that manipulates the door via a mechanism of some sort, wall-mounted drive openers are attached directly to the door's torsion bar. They present the following advantages to their users:

  • Non-interfering – for homeowners with a need to keep their ceiling space clear, wall-mounted drives are the best option since the hardware is mounted on the wall next to the door.
  • Reliable – by eliminating the need for an intervening mechanism, the wall-mounted opener has fewer parts that can fail. This also eases maintenance requirements.

Wall-mounted drives have these disadvantages:

  • Expense – these openers are typically among the highest priced systems on the market
  • Smaller window of usability – wall-mounted drives require that doors possess certain characteristics for successful use. A number of variables can cause a wall-mounted drive to be unsuitable for installation, including wrong door size and type,  as well as non-complying torsion bar and spring specifications.