Why Does My Electric Gate Not Work? (Common Problems)

We’re thinking of getting one of those fancy electric gates at home. You know, the ones that open and close automatically. This should stop the dog and chickens escaping so much!

One thing that puts me off though are some of the problems (sometimes frequent), that homeowners experience with their electric gates. That’s why I’ve been researching them for this article.

There are many reasons electric gates do not work, including dead batteries, cold weather, damaged photocells, dead remote batteries, power outages, being stuck in manual mode, signal interference or something physically blocking the gate.

Let’s look at the common problems with electric gates in more detail, and work out how we can find solutions for these issues – and maintain our gates – so they don’t happen again…

Why Does My Electric Gate Not Work?

The Main Reasons Your Electric Gate Doesn’t Work

Here are the main reasons an electric gate won’t open – or close. And this is a great troubleshooting resource for gates.

  • Photocells. Just like with your garage door, there are safety features that prevent gates from closing on cars, dogs, people, cattle, or anything blocking the path. There are two photocells mounted on opposite sides on the gate. An infrared beam shoots between them. When the gate is in motion, if the beam is broken, the gate stops. The gate stops, then is programmed to fully open. Sometimes, though, the gate refuses to close and the problem is the beam. Check the photocells closely. Have they been damaged and are misaligned? Is the beam blocked by leaves or weeds? Bet you didn’t know that slugs LOVE photocells.
  • A power outage. Often, a power outage has blown the fuse. Sometimes lightning causes a fuse to blow as well. Unfortunately, a power surge can follow an outage. If you board is blown and something smells burned, your gate may have been surged. You can buy surge protectors that help.
  • Your remote isn’t working because the batteries are dead. All remotes have a small red light that lights up when you depress the button to open or close the gate. If your little red light isn’t lighting up, then the remote is the problem. It’s probably the batteries, but remotes don’t live forever, either. If the remote is dead, then call the gate manufacturer, the installer or research online how to get a new one and how to reprogram it. 
  • If the remote used to work but doesn’t all of a sudden, and the batteries are good, it could be that some other device is interfering with your remote. Check with the manufacturer or installer. You may need to get another receiver and new remote controls – ones that have a different frequency. Or, get a remote that has several frequency options.
  • The safety edge is brushing against something. Safety edges are very sensitive. Like the photocells, they are designed to stop the gate from harming anything. Obstacles like grass, weeds, blowing dirt, overhanging branches and sticks will stop a gate. 
  • The gate is stuck in manual mode. Check out your manual. Some automatic gates switch to manual mode when their annual checkup time comes. 
  • The track or rail is dirty, too worn, or obstructed. Debris like pieces of plastic can blow onto the track or even rocks can cause the mechanism to jerk and stop. Check out whether the train and track are broken, cracked, or worn.
  • Cold weather. Extreme cold will cause the gate to open more slowly or not at all. Cold temperatures cause metal to contract, and most gates are mostly metal. Grease gets thicker and batteries don’t work as well. Wait until warmer weather, then see if the gate works. If cold weather stops you often, then consider adapting your batteries and grease for cold weather.
  • Dead batteries on the gate. You may have a gate that runs on AC power, but it may still have small components like photocells or the safety edge transmitter that runs on batteries. First check if you have any warning lights blinking at you on the information panel. Then locate the batteries. Read the voltage the battery needs, then check the voltage on the battery. Checking voltage on a battery is easy. Get a voltmeter, multimeter or from your local hardware store. Here’s a video on how to use a voltmeter on a battery.

How Do You Manually Override An Electric Gate?

One of the reasons to buy a gate is for security. Luckily, manually overriding a gate is not that easy.

First, check your manual. Check online to see whether your gate manufacturer has a handy video for you to watch. Some manufacturers have provided a tool you’ll need, so you’ll need to locate the tool. For safety reasons, most manufacturers recommend the tool be kept in your house in a secure place. 

Then, shut off the power. For simple gates, if it’s a swing gate, you should be able to disconnect the gate arm with a bolt. If the gate is a slide gate, disconnect the chain.

At this stage, be aware that your gate is open to anyone.

Once you have gone manual, check that the gate moves freely. If it doesn’t then the problem is mechanical. Check for dirt or something that has blown in that would prevent movement. Clean out any debris with a can of compressed air or a brush. Then, lubricate the hinges – check online or in your manual for the best lubricant.

Check that all parts are moving smoothly, like the wheels for a chain or sliding gate. You may need to replace the wheels if they have been bent.

Why Does My Electric Gate Open By Itself? (And Slowly)

If you can rule out any mechanical problems – you’ve gone manual and the gates open and close smoothly, then you can probably assume you have an electrical problem. You could need a new motherboard; you could have a power problem or interference.

Even though gates are powered by AC current, they need DC current as well. If you know you’ve had a power outage, then your gate may work for a while afterwards, but it may start to slow down and eventually stop working. Check out the battery voltage and examine the connecting cables. Can you see any wear or corrosion?

If your gate is opening and closing at weird times, you could have interference. Maybe someone nearby just installed a garage door opener at the same frequency as your gate. Wi-Fi and cell phones are sometimes to blame, too.

How Long Does an Electric Gate Motor & Battery Last?

Most batteries last 2 to 5 years, but climate pays a big part. Battery life also varies with brand, style of battery and charging method.

Just like for car batteries, cold can reduce the life of a battery. If you live in a cold climate, consider insulation for your gate batteries.

Electric gate

How Do You Maintain Electric Gates? (To Stop These Issues)

Here’s a DIY checklist of common maintenance items. Be sure to check out your gate manufacturers recommendations first or watch any videos they may have made on routine maintenance

Experts recommend professional maintenance 1 or 2 times a year for low-use gates (like homes). The amount of maintenance will vary with the type of system – high-end systems are generally more maintenance-free.

  • Take a broom, brush, compressed air or a cloth to clear out the gate path and mechanisms every few months or after heavy rains or winds. Get rid of any bee nests or ant hills that are forming. 
  • Visually inspect any wiring for damage from animals or corrosion.
  • Grease up the moving parts. Get some grease on the roller wheels, articulated arms, sliding stainless steel rams, wheel hubs, and bearings. Use marine grade grease in a grease gun (NOT WD-40).
  • Lube the drive chain, truck assemblies and gearboxes. 
  • Tighten the bolts or screws on rollers, panel bolts and truck assemblies. The vibrations of the gate and weather changes can loosen bolts and screws. Make sure the chain tension is tight. Tighten the brake assembly and pulley. 
  • Check the photo eyes units. They need to be looking straight at each other with nothing in between like grass or weeds.
  • Make sure the gate installation – to posts or fences – is secure. Don’t let gates drag on the ground. If you have a very wide gate, this is a common problem. Keep your bolts tight.

Here’s a good reference for gate maintenance.

Summary

Despite some of the problems we’ve discovered with electric gates – through researching this article and also speaking with our neighbors who have them – I still think we’ll go ahead and invest in some.

We’ve got three kids and animals on the property, so opening and closing gates is something I do many times on a daily basis. It would be great if an electric motor did it for me. That’s one less chore checked off the dad list of things to do!

As I see it, if you maintain your gates properly then as with all things they’ll work better and last longer. Time will tell of course, but for now I’m moving on to deciding which gates to go with – and what company to buy them from. 🙂