Ultimate guide: Most common problems with automated gate openers & Ten golden rules

Installing automatic electric gates is not that easy. It is a really complicated process and this is why it is extremely important for the future owners to know what they will use the gate for. They should thoroughly explain to the technician what the purpose of that gate will be so that the technician could recommend the most suitable gate for them. The future owners will also have to choose between different materials, styles, colors, types of automation and ways of opening. There should be a safety check done by the technician before the gate is installed so that the technician could know if the gate is suitable for the given conditions.

PROBLEM

As with any other device, some problems may occur during the installation process. These are some of the most usual ones.

1. Problems due to cold weather and low temperatures

There are several problems your gate might experience when the low temperatures strike. You might notice some delay in opening of your gate, or even the inability to open at all.

Metal components will contract as the temperature drops and unless you are using grease specially intended for lower temperatures, the grease will thicken, too. All this makes it harder for the gate to move and open since it requires more power.

Another problem is the battery since it is inside a metal box. Due to this, as the temperature gets lower outside, the internal temperature of the battery will also drop and this will make it harder for the battery to start because of the reduction of the electro-chemical reaction. This reaction is meant to produce the electrical current which allows the gate system to operate.  You may have noticed that if you try to open it a couple of times, it will finally work.

Review: US Automatic Sentry 300 S Commercial Grade Automatic Gate Opener

What happens here is very similar to what happens to your car when it is cold outside. When the engine won’t start because it is too cold outside, you can turn on your headlights for half a minute or a minute and then the engine will start. The same thing happens when you repeatedly try to start the engine. These actions create an internal resistance in the battery causing it to physically warm up from the inside, just enough to start the engine.

If you hear a clicking sound coming from your gate, that is the indication that the battery solenoid switch is trying to close, but it can’t because the power is too weak.

Luckily for all of us, there are several corrective steps that a person can take. If you follow the order of these steps, you will get an inexpensive solution to your problem.

  1. Disconnect the cables from the battery and then clean the ends of the cables, as well as the battery terminals.
  2. If your battery box is made of metal, then you should take some Styrofoam insulation and apply a thin layer of it onto the bottom and the sides of the box.
WARNING – Never apply the Styrofoam insulation on the top of the battery!!!

Since Lead acid batteries emit Hydrogen gas during the charging process, the top part of the battery and the battery box MUST be vented to eliminate the hydrogen and prevent a disaster such as an explosion.

  1. Look at the solenoid switch and its electrical connections. You should look for corrosion and if you happen to find any, you have to clean the terminals.
  2. Take care of the rollers and bearing surfaces. You will have to clean them and then apply grease which is specially meant for cold weather. You can find this type of grease in any store for automotive parts.
  3. You should check the trickle charger and make sure that it is charging properly.

If all these steps did not help you and you still notice problems with the working of your gate opening mechanism, then I suggest you to take your battery out and take it to an auto parts store to be tested under load. There they will tell you if you need to buy a new battery or not. If it happens so that you need a new one, make sure you buy a battery which is rated for “High Cold Cranking Amps” and not the “Deep Cycle battery” because these “High Cold Cranking Amps” batteries are designed to provide maximum amperage for a short period of time, even when the battery and the weather is cold. “Deep Cycle battery” is meant for long continuous small amperage loads. This battery could be used on electronics on recreational vehicles or on boats and for lights.

 

2. The gate is not reacting, moving or making any sound

  • First you should check if the breaker and the switch are working properly.
  • Check the outlet in which the gate is plugged. You can use some other device to see if they work when plugged in the same outlet.
  • Then look at all your outlets to see if their ground fault interrupter is tripping. You have to check all of them because if GFI is tripping this action will cause power to be cut from any device in the GFI’s circuit.
  • The problem might be the remote controller, maybe it’s broken, the batteries are dead and need replacement or it has run out of its “working hours”.

3. The gate doesn’t stop where it is supposed to

If your gate doesn’t stop where it is supposed to it is mainly due to the limit switch nut or cam failing to hit the limit switch at the designated time. If you have a slide gate you’ll notice that a lever is holding the limit nut in place. It’s riding inside the slots of the limit nut. To solve this problem you have to press it back out of the slot on the limit shaft. This will put it back in its correct place.

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4. The gate doesn’t open unless there is someone standing next to it

This problem can occur in two scenarios.

  • One reason might be the antenna which was cut or just shortened. Try to put it as high as you can and be careful not to let it touch any other metal surface.
  • The other might be that some other source of transmitting is interfering with your source. Check to see if there is any possible source of radio transmitting near where you live. This could be a radio station, a military base, a flight path or an airport. If it happens that you do have these sources near you, then you will have to get a special receiver and an antenna.




Check the face of your receiver cover. It is common that gate openers have separate receivers. Look for the names like Multi Code, Liftmaster, Linear and Mega code. Check your remote clicker because it will have the same name as the receiver cover does. While pressing the remote you should listen and wait for the click coming from the rec receiver.

Review: Mighty Mule FM350

5. The gate doesn’t close

Mechanical problems

  • Check to see if there is something blocking the gate physically. Check the wheel bearings to see if they are broken and check the chain and track too to see if they is any visible damage on them. For a swing gate you should check the gate arm for damage, as well as the hinges since they could be stuck or even broken.
  • If you still can’t find the cause then do the next thing. After making sure that the power supply is off, detach the chain for a sliding gate or detach the gate arm for a swing gate. Now try to move the gate to open/close it. If it can be done it means that there is nothing mechanical causing the problem. If you can’t move it means that there is a mechanical issue involved and that it would be smart to call a professional technician.

Electrical problems

  • First check to see if any of the other house residents have maybe entered the “hold open” command and you didn’t know about this.
  • Then you should check for the key switch. Maybe the corrosion took its toll on the electrical switch on the back of the key cylinder, or the fire department came to your house without you knowing it to test the fire department key switch and they simply forgot to put it back to its regular operation.
  • This problem can also occur when devices like the photo eye or any other are preventing the gate from closing. You can check to see if the photo eye is working properly. First check to see if the safety LED light is lit. You should find this light on the opener control board. Look at the reflector if you have one. Maybe it is misaligned or even wet. By waving your hand in front of the photo eye, you will find out if it is working properly or not. The clicking sound means that everything is in order. Sometimes insects can cause malfunction of the photo safety sensors and control boxes since they prefer warm places. You should check from time to time and clean them with a dry cloth.
  • You should check the edge transmitters. These will be found on the gates with reversing edges. There could be a battery issue which means you will have to change the battery. Make sure you buy the right type of battery depending on the type of your edge transmitter. If there is nothing wrong with the battery, then the problem is the transmitter itself. The corrosion might have gotten to it or if it might be damaged in some other way. You would have to replace that transmitter with a new one if this is the case.
  • You should use the breaker to cut all power off. This action will automatically cause the gate to be released. Make sure to look at the loop detectors when you turn the motor on. The lights on the loop detector will tell you if you have a loop problem. It is possible that something is putting pressure to the loop too. If the lights are lit red, then you’ll know that you have one of these two situations on your hands.

The best way to get your gate fixed is certainly to call a professional technician to fix it.

6. The gate goes in the opposite direction

This is not a rare problem with sliding gates. Usually, the common cause of this problem is some kind of blockage on the gate track. A number of things can be the blockage. Stones, papers, bags, pieces of other materials and objects. This can be easily cleaned with a broom. Check the rollers to see if they are in a good condition and working properly. There might be something stuck in them too.

If you happen to have a swing gate, then you have to check its joints to see if the lube has worn off. After doing this, you should make sure that the level of the gate is correct. You will do this by disconnecting the gate from its power source. Observe its behavior. It should sway evenly.

7. Remote controller doesn’t work

As on any remote controllers, there is a little red light on the top part of it. This light will be lit when you give a command to the gate to open or close. If the light didn’t lit up when you pressed the remote key, then you problem can either be the batteries or the life span of the controller. Try changing the batteries with the new ones. If the problem continues after you have replaced the batteries then it is obvious that you need to buy a new remote controller since the old one has probably run out of its “working hours”. You can call a technician or a supplier from who you bought it. The technician will program the new remote controller and your problem will be solved.

8. When to use Manual Release Mode?

There will be situations when you will have to put your gate into manual mode. You may experience a power outage or your gate isn’t working because it’s broken or you forgot to do an annual service and it’s showing difficulties in its operating. If the power is off this mode will allow the gate to open and close. You should have a manual release key in your possession and the gate should have been tested to see if it works in manual mode.

9. The swinging gate doesn’t open

There can be three causes for this problem.

  • The first one is because the remote controller is broken, its batteries are dead and they need replacement or it’s just run out of its “working hours”.
  • Then it could be your ascending driveway’s fault. If this is the situation you are in, then either make the gate open to the other side if it’s possible or just hang the gate to a higher post so it doesn’t reach the driveway as it opens.
  • Since the gate safety loop sensor is present at most gates, you should check it to see if this sensor is the cause of malfunction. It is made to prevent the gate from harming any person, animal or object that might be on its path. If the sensor notices an obstacle it reverses the gate process/disables it. If the sensors aren’t working properly, you should call a technician.

10. The gate keeps making a beeping sound

If your gate keeps beeping, especially during the night after the storm and making battery low sounds, you should try to add one more battery, that is, more power. It is possible that after the storm your battery might make sounds as if it is dead but the next day everything will be fine. This might occur with Mighty Mule Gate openers. If the trick with adding the second battery doesn’t work, then you can just contact the company’s customer support.

Review: ALEKO AR1450 Slide Gate Opener

 

Ten golden rules:

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  • The gate does not work manually. Before turning your gate into an automated gate, you have to make sure that it can work normally in a manual mode. If it shows any signs of irregular working process, these problems will not just disappear when you turn it into automated gate.
  • Avoid installing automated gates on ascending surfaces. This position of the ground surface will put a lot of pressure on the automation and you will have to buy some more equipment to make it work. It isn’t impossible but if you can avoid it, I suggest that you do so.
  • Using the wrong equipment. Never use the equipment which is not specified by the manufacturer of the gate! You have to buy the correct equipment because if you do otherwise and your gate malfunctions, you will not be able to file a complaint and your guarantee will no longer be valid.
  • Provide drainage if necessary. If your motor will be installed below the ground surface, you have to provide it with fitting drainage. If the water has nowhere to go, the motor will not function properly.
  • Be responsible! Don’t try to install the gate yourself. If you save some money on not calling the professional for this job, it may end up in a disaster. There are licensed technicians who should install your gate and who will take legal risks of the installation. You don’t want to be taken responsible for a disaster which could have been avoided if you have just called the right person.
  • Beware of the wind. If you are living in an area where there is a lot of wind, you would want to think before you pick your future gate. You should then definitely avoid close boarded wooden gates. ‘Open railing’ gate might be a better solution but even this gate will not work perfectly depending on the strength of the wind.
  • Gate controllers. It is really important, as I have stated above, to explain to the technician how and what the gate will be used for. This way the technician will be able to provide you with the best solution for opening and closing of your gate. Choices you will have are: vehicle detectors, keypads or card access, radio remote controllers, ground loops or probe, GSM via your mobile phone or push buttons.
  • Don’t forget about pedestrians and visitors. If you don’t have a separate entrance, you will have to think about the ways for pedestrian visitors to enter your estate. There must be a way of letting the household residents know that they are at the entrance. The best solution is usually an intercom. You can add a video camera too. You can choose to use a keypad and also decide whether your gate will open both leaves partially or only one leaf so that pedestrians might enter.
  • You have to provide access for regular visitors like postmen, gardeners etc. This can be done by a time clock which would decrease security measures on the gate at a specific time of the day and therefore allow specific personas to enter your estate in an easier way.
  • Total gate security – If you want to be completely sure that is not possible to forcefully enter through your gate, think about adding some extra locks to the gate or if it is really necessary add some posts in front or behind the gate.
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