Electric Gate Problems
What Can Go Wrong With Electric Gates?
Electric gate problems are not common but they can become more likely in certain circumstances. Here’s our guide to what causes electric gate problems and how to avoid them.
Electric gates are made up a range of different components that are all assembled together to make a new bespoke ‘machine’. Some of these are off-the-shelf like the components that make up the gate automation system. Others may be bespoke, such as wooden or iron gates, brick piers or gate posts and any groundworks.
Although driveway gates with motors opening and closing them automatically may look relatively simple, these systems are more complex than they seem. Consequently, things can sometimes go wrong, and your electric gates can stop working.
Regular maintenance can help keep well-designed and carefully installed electric driveway gates working well. However, it may be worthwhile to understand what could go wrong with automatic gates to help understand preventative maintenance’s role in minimising electric gate problems.
What Causes Gate Automation System Breakdowns?
Electric Gate Problems Caused By Mechanical Wear and Tear
Mechanical components that move and sustain considerable forces will eventually succumb to mechanical wear and eventual breakdown. Greasing moving components and joints, and cleaning out abrasive grit and dirt during regular servicing helps to reduce wear considerably. Maintenance also allows your installer to carry out visual inspections and test for possible component wear. They can then replace worn components before they have the chance to fail.
Gate Automation System Electrical Issues and Electronic Component Failure
Electric issues in automatic electric gate systems are often caused by the intrusion of insects, spiders and slugs into electric components like safety photocells. For some reason, slugs are attracted to electronic circuit boards. They may like the taste, but they often get electrocuted when they create a circuit by crossing two current carrying parts of the board. Spiders spin webs inside photocell housings that block the infra-red beams these safety devices rely on for their operation.
Occasionally, power from the house to the gates is interrupted when over-zealous gardening or building works damages an armoured power cable buried alongside the drive.
It is also possible for an electronic component in an electric gate system to simply fail. This could be a manufacturing issue, age-related or because water got into the electronics.
If electronic components fail, the usual problem is the electric gates simply stop working. You don’t want your gates to keep working if safety photocells, safety edges, loop detectors, obstacle detection or anything else designed to make your gates safe fails.
In all cases, regular maintenance can help spot the tell-tale signs of water, insect or spider ingress. It may even be possible to suggest that a component that is over a certain age be swapped out for a new one, but unfortunately regular servicing will not predict the spontaneous component failure that occurs for no obvious reason. In that case, you’ll need someone to track down the fault and repair your electric gates.
Damage To Gates Caused By Impact
A swing gate is like a big lever. You can create a huge force at the pivot (hinges) by applying a smaller one at the opposite end of the lever (gate). So, if you push or pull a swing gate hard enough at the opening end, you can damage hinges and gate motors. The longer the gate is, the stronger this principle of leverage works.
It’s not uncommon to see swing gates that have been hit by cars or forced open by strong individuals with broken motor gearboxes or motor arms and other mechanical linkages.
You can avoid this happening when the gates are closed by having your installer include a magnetic lock (maglock) in your gate automation system. This incredibly strong lock will hold the two ends of your swing gates tightly together when they are closed. This helps prevent them being pushed open and you getting the bill to replace broken motor components.
Underground Gate Motor Flooding
Underground gate motors are installed in housings which are sunk into the ground beneath swing gate hinges. This makes them mostly hidden, so underground motors are popular with homeowners who don’t want to see their gate openers on their electric gates. Unfortunately, this can also mean that these gate motors are vulnerable to flooding unless they’re installed with sufficient drainage.
If you have underground gate motors installed without adequate drainage, the pits will fill up with water when it rains, and the motors will become submerged in water. This is one way to almost guarantee that your underground gate motors will fail.
If an installer has made this sort of mistake, the only solution is to have a more competent gate engineer remove the motors and their foundation pits and dig out a suitable soakaway before reinstalling the pits and motors.
Gate Remote Transmitter Issues
When you press a button on it, the hand-held remote control used to open and close automatic gates sends a signal to a receiver built into the gate’s controls. This instructs the control panel to operate the gate motors and start your gate or gates moving.
These remote control transmitters use radio signals to communicate with their corresponding receiver but sometimes, something electrical can interfere with this signal.
There’s a process a trained gate installer will use to identify and eliminate possible interference sources, but it’s fairly involved and best left to the experts.
When gate transmitters fail, even obsolete models can often be replaced if there’s one remote left that still operates the gates. In this case, a new gate transmitter is programmed to copy the frequency of the surviving remote.
If the last remote is eaten by the dog, run over by your neighbour or simply crumbles to dust from old age, replacing the receiver and transmitters together will solve the problem.
Bad Gate System Installation
A swing gate is like a big door on hinges and a sliding gate slides along a track laid across the driveway entrance. Both need powerful motors that have to be carefully installed for optimum performance and longevity. Get something slightly out of alignment during installation and they are going to wear quickly and cause your gates to fail.
Underground motors installed without sufficient drainage, badly aligned components, electrical gremlins caused by untidy wiring and any number of other issues created by bad installation could make gates unsafe, wear quickly and cost more to run.
A trained installer will provide exactly what you want in terms of how the gates look, how the gates will be used and what is possible in the available space. There’s no doubt that they may charge you more than a bad installer. But in the long run, you’re paying for the peace of mind that comes from knowing your gates are as safe as possible and assembled to run smoothly and efficiently.
Damaged Electric Gate Issues
Unless it’s really severe, gate damage doesn’t mean your electric gate stop working. But bumping them with a small hatchback will damage closed gates much less than a delivery truck or moving lorry. When gates get bent out of shape or component boards break, it’s time to get them repaired.
Iron and steel gates may need welding work back in the workshop that built them in the first place. Wooden and aluminium gates may be repairable by just removing and replacing the damaged sections. But if frames and any load-bearing uprights or cross members are damaged, the integrity of the gate could be compromised.
It’s a good idea to install motion-activated safety lights to illuminate your automatic gates at night when they are operating. These lights will also come on when a vehicle gets close to the gates in the dark and may help prevent a collision by a careless driver.
Gate Age-Related Issues
Electric gates live outside in all weathers and are expected to operate on demand at any time. Some materials handle this better than others but oxygen in the air combined with water causes a lot of gate damage. Essentially, if water and air get under the protective coatings on wooden or iron gates, they can start the processes of rot and rust respectively.
Once started, rot will slowly destroy a wooden gate and rust will eat away at iron gates. In both cases, the process can be slowed with time-consuming maintenance but it will eventually happen. And when it does, the once-beautiful gates that greeted visitors start to look shabby.
Electric Gate Problems Caused By Poor Maintenance
The answer to many of the gate issues raised above has usually been maintenance, either preventative or retroactive. However, bad maintenance can cause as many issues as no maintenance. The worst thing about bad maintenance is the gate owners think that their gates are being looked after, and they carry on using them oblivious to the possible issues.
We recommend that gate owners and operators always hire recommended and experienced electric gate installers to install, repair and maintain electric driveway gates.
If you’d like our help with a current gate issue, maintenance to keep possible future problems at bay or you’re looking to have brand new electric gates, call Electric Gate Repair London now on 0800 195 1479 or email email@example.com. You can also contact us here.