Navigating Garage Door Openers: Chain vs. Belt vs. Screw Drive vs. Jackshaft

Garage door openers all serve the purpose of opening and shutting your door, but not all models are created equal. Between chain, belt, screw drive, and jackshaft openers, each has different costs, noise levels, setup requirements, and more. What’s best for you is largely dependent on what you want to get out of an opener, and what works depends on your garage set up. North Shore’s experts have decades of experience in the industry, so read on to learn the pros and cons of each main opener and which is best for you!

What are The Four Main Types of Garage Door Openers?

There are four main types of garage door openers, appropriately named after what components make them unique:

  1. Chain drives are a reliable and cost-effective choice. They rely on a chain to lift or lower a garage door. While they may produce more noise compared to other types of openers, their durability and affordability make them a popular choice for many homeowners.
  2. Belt drive garage door openers function the same as chain drives, only as the name implies, they use a belt in place of a chain. Belt drives offer quiet and reliable performance, making them an excellent choice for homeowners seeking a more peaceful garage door operation. While they may be more expensive than chain drive systems, their benefits in terms of noise reduction and reliability often justify the higher cost.
  3. Screw drive systems utilize a threaded steel rod (or screw) to move the door along its track. Screw drive garage door openers are reliable and efficient. They require minimal maintenance in the right conditions, and are suitable for various garage setups. However, homeowners should consider climate and temperature sensitivity when choosing between screw drives and other openers.
  4. Finally, jackshafts are installed on the wall beside the garage door where it connects to the door's torsion bar or shaft instead of the ceiling as the other three are. They are incredibly quiet and durable, and a popular choice for those who want to free-up their ceiling space and make an opener as unnoticeable as possible.

Understanding Garage Door Openers

Chain Drive Opener

Chain drive garage door openers operate by using a metal chain that is attached to a motor and guided along a track to lift or lower the garage door. When activated, the motor turns the chain, which pulls or pushes the door along its track. This style of operator is known for being durable and able to handle even the heaviest of garage doors due to the strength of the metal chain. It is also one of the cheaper openers on this list, making it a cost-effective option if price is a factor.

The highlight of chain drives is also their main drawback—the chain can be very noisy during operation and may shake slightly. This can be an issue for homeowners who need to operate their garage door late at night when other members of the household are already asleep, or in tightly packed neighborhoods. While advancements in technology have led to quieter chain drive models, they still tend to be louder than belt, jackshafts and screw drive openers. Additionally, chain drive systems may require periodic maintenance, such as lubrication of the chain and gears, to ensure smooth operation and prevent excessive wear and tear.

Belt Drive Openers

Belt drives function similar to chain openers, with the key difference being they use a belt instead of a chain. The belt is typically made of sturdy rubber or synthetic materials. When the motor is activated, it rotates a gear, which turns the pulley, causing the belt to move and the carriage to lift or lower the garage door.

One of the primary advantages of belt drive openers is their quiet operation. The rubber belt absorbs vibrations and reduces noise, resulting in a much quieter experience compared to chain drive systems. This makes belt drive openers ideal for homes where excessive noise may be a concern.

However, it's important to note that belt drive openers typically come with a higher price tag compared to chain drive openers due to being a quieter system, though many homeowners find it well worth the investment. Also, while belt drives are durable and can last for years, their lifetime is not as long as the solid metal chains used in chain drives.

Screw Drive Openers

Screw drives use a threaded steel rod lift mechanism, where the rod is rotated by the motor which moves the trolley and door open and closed as required. This differs from chain and belt drives that must wind up to move a door rather than rotate a steel rod.

Screw drives are great to install in garages with lower ceilings. They also do not need to be adjusted as often as the prior openers do upon installation. Screw drives also contain less parts than other openers and thus have less of a chance to malfunction and require maintenance.

However, screw drives can be temperature sensitive, and are not recommended in areas that suffer major temperature fluctuations. Also, while they are a fairly quiet system and make less noise than chain drives, belt drives consistency beat them in being a quieter opener.

Jackshaft Openers

A jackshaft garage door opener is installed on the wall beside the garage door where it connects to the door's torsion bar or shaft. This setup allows the opener to control the movement of the garage door by directly turning the torsion bar, which in turn winds or unwinds the torsion springs responsible for counterbalancing the door's weight.

Since jackshafts are mounted on a wall, they free up your ceiling space from the extensive equipment that traditional openers rely on. This makes jackshafts ideal for those who prioritize aesthetics and want to make their garage visually appealing. They’re also great if your garage lacks headroom or is tight on space. Some garages have obstacles like lights, pipes, stored personal items or ducts on the ceiling that can interfere with the installation of a traditional garage door opener. Jackshafts eliminate this concern. They are also quieter than other types of openers due to being made with fewer moving parts.

The clear aesthetic advantage of jackshafts bleeds over into the price, which is more expensive than chain and belt systems. You may also want to opt for another opener if your garage does not have a Torsion Spring Door system, which is ideal for jackshafts. They also tend to have a weight limit, which can make them ineffective when operating heavier types of doors. Finally, sometimes a garage just won’t be able to fit the equipment for a jackshaft. Be sure to check your garage’s setup and the opener’s installation requirements to ensure you can use this style of opener.

Choosing the Right Garage Door Opener


Chain Drive 

Belt Drive 

Screw Drive 


Noise Level









High if in extreme temperatures



Generally the most affordable

Low-mid price range

Average cost


Higher cost


10-15 years 

10-15 years 


10-15 years

15-20 years

Space Efficiency

Takes up ceiling

Takes up ceiling


Takes up ceiling


Very efficient, frees up entire ceiling

The ideal garage opener largely depends on what features you want and your garages setup. While chain drives are generally cheaper compared to other systems, there are an array of features that can be included on multiple models that affect the price. Some openers have the option of backup batteries, which allow you to access your garage when the power goes out.

Many newer models offer smart technology integration, which allows you to operate your garage door remotely through a smartphone app. With smart technology like myQ and Aladdin Connect, you can check your garage door's status from anywhere with a few taps on your phone. This is great for homeowners who want peace of mind wherever they are. Amazon Key is another great feature some garage openers utilize, which allows your door to be securely accessed by Amazon to have packages and groceries delivered inside a garage. Both myQ and Aladdin Connect are compatible with this feature.

In some cases, the most basic model of a typically more expensive opener may be less than a cheaper opener loaded with smart technology and other life-enhancing features.

The setup of your garage should also play a major factor when considering the best opener. If you have a low ceiling (as many older garages tend to have), certain overhead models might have difficulty being installed. Garages located in extreme temperatures should pass on having a temperature-sensitive screw drive installed, and the noise of chain drives could keep you up if your garage is attached to your home.

With so many variables, it can be daunting to know if your opener is compatible with your garage or not. Consulting a professional is a great way to ensure you make the best choice. Luckily, North Shore Commercial Door has experienced staff on standby with decades of experience to assist you in choosing the ideal opener and ensuring it’s compatible with your garage. Contact us today!

Installation and Maintenance Tips

When it comes to installation, jackshafts have less parts compared to other openers and can be relatively easy to install if you have experience, while the more complicated trolleys and pulleys of other models are often best left to a professional. During installation, it’s important to ensure your door is balanced. When you lift up your door and find it uneven and difficult to move, calling a professional to balance it is wise.

Please note that if any step of installation requires working with a door’s torsion spring STOP and hire a professional. Torsion springs are tightly wound and can be deadly if mishandled, so it’s important to have someone handle them who knows what they’re doing.

No matter how good an opener is, with time they can malfunction. For this reason, it’s important to periodically check your opener—no matter which type it is—to search for any signs of wear or damage. You can also tell if something is wrong through out of the ordinary behaviors or sounds such as stalling, louder operation, rattling, and grinding. Using lubrication on an opener’s moving parts—like their gears—will help keep them running smoothly and prolong their lifespan.

Raise Your Door Higher with North Shore Commercial Door

With openers lasting an average of 10-15 years, the model you choose will be a long-term investment, so you want to make sure to pick one that complements your garage and affirms your lifestyle. Feel free to contact our friendly staff for all of your opener queries! After deciding which opener will raise your garage door to new heights, why not install weather seals on your door to keep pests, debris, and extreme weather from infiltrating your space? Or keep up on garage maintenance with our handy blog.