Things Fall Apart

December 30, 2015

On the one hand, it’s amazing how long old stuff can last. On the other, when your house was built in the 1950s, there’s an awful lot of old stuff that’s just waiting to break down. An example is the roller assemblies that our garage doors hang from.

It’s basically the same system as used to hang barn doors. One end of the door was clearly out of whack a couple years ago, and I fixed it at the time by buying a replacement set of Stanley rollers (technically, box rail trucks online. That these are still available is a testament to the robustness of the original design - it’s simple, it works, they (eventually) wear out and need to be replaced, so you can still buy them. That said, the original was almost certainly made in the USA, and the replacement almost certainly isn’t; while the design is almost the same, I suspect that the steel alloys used are not as good now as they were then, and the small details are a bit rougher now. The new one probably will only last half as long, but given that’s 25 years or so, probably good enough by today’s standards.

I had the foresight at the time to buy an extra set of rollers - the garage door takes two, and I figured I’d eventually need the others. So when the door became rather suddenly immovable, I figured that foresight had just paid off.

Having the benefit of the experience (albeit stale by a couple years) of replacing the other set of rollers, I made short work of the job. What I wasn’t prepared for, was how dramatically smoother the door suddenly became! Evidently, I should have replaced these rollers at the same time as the others – or maybe sooner.

A look at the old rollers shows why. These once had ball bearings and the two roller wheels were, once upon a time, connected by a shaft of constant diameter. The bearings are long since gone, and the shaft has been left to grind itself away on the metal frame of the housing, leaving what you see here. Eventually the shaft wore through completely, causing the wheels to fall akimbo and make the door instantly much, much harder to budge. Not that it was all that easy to begin with! The garage door had, over many years, very gradually got harder and harder to move – gradual, at least, following the initial catastrophe of having the bearings fall out, whenever that happened! That should have prompted the homeowner to take action, you’d think… but the door has been pretty tough to slide open and closed ever since we bought the house, and as long as it was actually working I didn’t think too much beyond assuming that’s what this style of old door was like. I envisioned a track full of gunge and goop, all gummed up and impossible to clean out… Oh how wrong I was!

With two sets of real bearings at each end, the door almost flies down its track. We now have to be careful not to overdo the opening or closing… lest we inadvertently fling it way too hard. It’s a one-finger operation, instead of put-your-back-into-it. It is, by comparison, a joy to use. Ahhhh.

The satisfaction derived from fixing such a little thing is all out of proportion to the actual amount of time and difficulty it takes to accomplish. The moral, I suppose, is to tackle and knock down those chores as soon as possible, and thereby get the full advantage of the improvements. Sigh, that’s always easier said than done!

OK, off to the next chore.

Things Fall Apart - December 30, 2015 - chad r. frost