Garage Door Opener Types: Chain Drives, Belt Drives, Screw Drives, And Jackshafts

Garage Door Opener Types

Garage door openers probably aren’t something that a lot of us invest much time thinking about, and why would we? Speaking personally, if the garage door is opening and closing as it should, then I move on with my day without a second thought. But, if I start noticing it struggling, or if it begins to rattle around in a long series of painful creaks and groans, I might start to consider replacing that relic from the 90’s that I’ve still got hanging up. When it comes to selecting a new alternative to your noisy, clanking mess of an opener, you have a few garage door opener types to consider.


Garage Door Opener Types: Chain Drive

Let’s start with the chain drive option, as it’s something of a classic. Basically, a chain, similar to the chain on your bicycle, transfers power from the motor to the trolley connected to your garage door. The motor pushes or pulls the garage door up and down in its tracks, via the chain. This option works similarly to every other garage door opener type we’re listing, only with a chain rather than an oversized screw or a belt.

The chain drive has its advantages. It’s probably, generally speaking, the cheapest of your available options. Chains tend to be strong and reliable, and they can last for years if you keep up with maintenance.

You might consider that chain drives tend to make a lot of noise. If your garage is connected to your house, this might be an issue for you. Additionally, just like with your bike or your motorcycle, the chain on your garage door will need lubrication and adjustment from time to time. The upkeep process will probably only take a few minutes, and will likely only need adjusting once or twice over the life of the garage door opener. Even still, you might consider this a hassle.

Garage Door Opener Types: Belt Drive

This type works identically to the chain drive, only it uses a steel-reinforced rubber, fiberglass, or polyurethane belt instead of a chain. The belt driven garage door has gained a lot of popularity over the last few years, probably owing to its quieter operation. Because of their smoother operation, belt drives also tend to run a little bit quicker than the other garage door types on the market. Plus, with advancements in technology over the past few years, belts have become stronger and more durable. If a belt does ever need replacing, the chances are pretty good that the replacement process will be less of a headache than with a chain drive.

They do, however, tend to run a little bit more expensive than the chain drive openers. Extreme heat and humidity might affect performance, possibly causing the belt to slip. Plus, while strength has improved, the belt driven garage door opener might not be the ideal choice for people who have heavier garage doors.

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Garage Door Opener Types: Screw Drive

Garage Door Opener Types

Listing the screw drive garage door here might actually more of an exercise in nostalgia, as most manufacturers have moved away from making screw drive garage door openers these days. Basically, rather than using a belt or chain to transfer power, a long, threaded bar turns, pulling the trolley and door up or down.

These types gained a lot of popularity years ago, due to their smooth action and ease of use. Fewer moving parts means less opportunity for breakage or maintenance. They don’t require adjustments like the chain drive will. Plus, they tended to operate more quietly than chain drives.

Why have manufacturers, by and large, bailed on the screw drive? Mainly, this type of garage door opener had problems in extreme temperatures.    Major fluctuations in temperature conditions would cause these units to malfunction pretty regularly. Plus, they tended to cost more than chain drives, and they still required yearly lubing. As technology developed, belt drives became the quieter option.

Garage Door Opener Types: Jackshaft Openers

Garage Door Opener Types jackshaftThese garage door opener types represent the newest advancement in technology. Rather than mounting a motor and rail system in the center of your garage, the new jackshafts mount off to the side of the door. The motor, in this case, turns a torsion bar that mounts directly above the door. As the motor turns the torsion bar, the garage door raises and lowers.

This system has gained some traction recently, partly for its aesthetic appeal, but also because it runs quietly. It can handle high lift garage doors and homes with issues surrounding ceiling clearance.

The problem with this type comes down to cost and side clearance. This type will run considerably more than any of the other garage door opener types. Plus, if your house hasn’t been built with enough clearance on the side of the door, jackshaft openers might not be viable options anyway.


Final Thoughts

All this to say, you’ve got options when it comes to choosing your next garage door opener. If cost and reliability are major factors, chain drives might be the way to go for you. If smooth, quiet operation sounds like something you’d be into, consider the belt drive. Screw drives seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur, though if you still use that type, replacement parts can still be found. Jackshafts look like the wave of the future, and if clearance and cost are not major factors for you, this type will run quietly and reliably in the upper corner of your door frame.

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