Automating your gate serves a dual purpose, namely improving home security and providing convenience. In fact, many insurance companies might even take the presence or absence of a gate motor into account when calculating your monthly premium.
But what can be done to ensure that you really enjoy the maximum benefit of having a gate motor installed? These operators can be compared to cars, look after them and they’re sure to look after you. You’d be surprised at the many things you can do yourself to ensure that you always have a smoothly running automated gate.
1. Keep the Rail Clean
If you have a sliding gate at home or at the office, your gate runs on a metal rail normally constructed from round bar. Earlier I compared your gate motor to a car and, likewise, the rail can be compared to the road surface. You’ve probably felt your car’s suspension taking a beating when you drive over a bumpy road filled with debris and potholes – now imagine how hard your gate motor has to work if the load it’s carrying (the gate) is permanently working against it. It is therefore important to always keep the rail clean of stones and debris that might have been blown onto it. Once a month, take a leaf blower or even a good old-fashioned broom and give the rail – which is essentially the “road” your gate travels on – a decent once-over. Also keep the wheels and guide-rollers running freely; apply some lubricant every now and then and spin them a couple of time by hand to ensure that they are still running unimpeded.
2. Check the Battery Condition
Since we live in an age plagued by frequent power outages, most modern gate motors are DC-operated, meaning they run on one or more batteries and provide autonomy should the electricity fail. While a standard 7 Amp Hour used within its specified duty cycle should offer a lifetime of two to five years, atmospheric conditions or bad quality batteries (as well as age) could potentially lead to erratic gate motor operation. As a rule of thumb, check the battery leads and terminals every two months or so for the presence of corrosive build-up and clean off if necessary. Once again, the comparison can be made between a gate motor and a car – with the battery essentially being the lifeblood of the system while the charger can be seen as the alternator, keeping the battery fully charged.
3. Check the Oil Level
Like most mechanical systems, the internal gear set of a gate motor requires lubrication to prevent wear of moving parts. While most operators will be filled in the factory and not require the oil to be changed or topped up at any stage, it is still advisable that the oil level be checked regularly to ensure that there has been no leakage. Contact your local manufacturer to obtain the correct grade for your operator, and also ask them whether you should be checking for any associated mechanical failure that could be causing the lubricant to leak.
4. Give it a Clean
Ants, lizards and all manner of other creepy crawlies favour the heat generated by the motor electronics and will frequently nest behind the controller or even in the gearbox, if they’re feeling particularly adventurous. It might be necessary take a brush to the operator, particularly if the system is behaving erratically and there is no obvious cause for it. But remember, while you are free to use approved solvents for cleaning the controller, electronics generally do not respond well to water!
5. Heed the Call
Many new-age operators provide incredibly useful audible and visual feedback via LCD controllers and onboard buzzers. Sometimes all that is needed is to pay attention to what your motor is telling you and then take corrective action. Some advanced models even have sophisticated diagnostic screens that provide the user with all the information needed to keep the gate operating smoothly – from the state of the onboard electronics to the level of charge of the battery.
6. Have it Serviced
Quite unlike a car, your gate motor needs only be serviced by the manufacturer every two years or so – but it still does need to be serviced. Like any electro-mechanical system, there are parts that wear with age and use and could lead to unreliable operation. Bearings, gears, pinions and motor brushes might all need replacement after a few thousand operations, depending on how hard the unit works.
Always keep in mind that, although there are some proactive measures you can take, it is always advisable to have a qualified technician work on the system.