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…
The Main Reasons Your Electric Gate Doesn’t Work (Electric Gate Troubleshooting)
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.
Why is My Electric Gate Not Working After Rain?
In theory, your electric gate is an outdoor product, so is designed to work in rain. In theory. However, if your electric gate motor hasn’t been properly sealed, rain could get in and cause all sorts of problems.
If water gets into the electric gate motor PC board, it will cause it to short circuit and stop working. If this happens, you’ll find out pretty quickly, as your gate will stop working.
Gradual rainfall damage can also cause problems. If the rain keeps getting in, the components will start to rust, resulting in irreversible damage to the motor.
The answer? Make sure your motor is correctly sealed in the first place. If this has already happened, get the electric gate motor checked out to assess any damage, then seal it again, thoroughly.
Why is My Electric Gate Keypad Not Working?
If your electric gate keypad has stopped working, hopefully, it’s just that the batteries have died. This is an easy fix: try a new set of batteries. Hopefully, your gate will swing back into life.
If it doesn’t, the next step is to reboot the system (look for something like a Reset button). Try again, and if this still doesn’t do the trick, contact your professional gate installer or supplier for advice. In the meantime, set your gate to manual operation.
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.
Can Electric Gates Be Forced Open?
An electric gate (that’s switched on and isn’t in manual mode) can be forced open, but it requires a lot of brute force, and the gates won’t come out well from this.
If you need to force the gates yourself, you shouldn’t have to risk doing any damage. If the gates get stuck in the closed mode, you can use the manual release mechanism, which is typically a key that you insert into the motor housing. This allows the gate to be opened without damage.
But what about intruders? Can they force open your electric gates? Well yes, but with enormous difficulty, and breaking in through electric gates is hardly what you’d call a stealth job. Electric gates remain a fantastic deterrent to intruders.
Swing gates can be forced by pushing at the edge furthest away from the hinge. This can be prevented with a locking mechanism that holds the two gates together.
Sliding gates are even harder to force open, as they can be opened only by pushing against the vertical supports that hold the gates. Good luck with that…
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.
Why Do My Electric Gates Open Then Won’t Close?
As we mentioned earlier, if your gates are behaving strangely, it could be because there was a power outage. This short film shows you how to reset your gates after a power outage.
Otherwise, check the motor and cables for wear or rust. Interference from other electrical items in the neighborhood can also cause erratic behavior.
But before you start running checks or quizzing the neighbors, just have a check around the gates. They may simply not be closing because a ball or a bit of debris has blown in front of them during the time they were open.
Why Do My Electric Gates Close Then Open?
If your gates close then open, it’s likely to be a sensor problem. They could be damaged or just dirty, or there could actually be something obstructing the sensors (this is why your first stop should always be a visual check of the vicinity).
If there’s no obvious physical reason, switch the gates to manual operation and get them professionally checked out. It could be that the limit switch (the type of sensor on electric gates) is malfunctioning, and you’ll need this fixing. You really, really don’t want the gates to mess about when you’re driving through them.
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.
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.
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. 🙂