Routine Gate Maintenance

One topic that every old, new, or potential gate owner should cover is the proper maintenance of a gate. Everyone knows that every great product requires care, and a gate opener is no different. Let’s discuss some simple tech tips to keep your gate opener operating at its full potential for years to come.

For this entire discussion, we will be referring to the Estate Swing E-S1000 gate opener due to its popularity. If you have a linear actuator style gate opener, you may notice that your opener may stop and try to reverse when opening. This problem is occurring due to buildup on the screw drive, so we’ll tackle that problem first.

Blaster Spray Garage Door Lubricant
This is the GateCrafters’s choice of lubricant for your gate opener’s screw drive

Heat and humidity can cause surface rust to form on your screw drive. To perform the task you need a screwdriver and Blaster’s Spray Garage Door Opener Lubrication (seen above). What you want to do first is extend the gate opener arm fully and remove the limit switch track. Spray just a small amount of the lubricant into the holes at the bottom of the tube assembly. To get an even coating of the lubricant, run the opener either manually or via remote. Repeat this process to ensure that the arm is sufficiently lubricated. Once your arm is gliding smoothly, re-attach the limit switch track and make sure the limit positions have not changed by operating the gate (adjust as necessary).

WD-40's Specialist Water Resistant
GateCrafters recommends WD-40’s Specialist Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant for all exterior moving parts of your gate opener.

Now let’s shift our attention towards the piston and get that lubricated. This process requires two materials: WD-40 Specialist Water Resistant Silicone Lubricant and a rag. Grab your lubricant and spray it onto the piston surface. Now, using the rag spread the lubricant on the piston surface in its entirety. This process will help protect the rubber scrub seal and prevent any surface rust or corrosion. Once this is complete you are now halfway through the process.

While your silicone is curing from the previous step, you can now lubricate your post and gate brackets. This is often one of the most overlooked areas of proper gate maintenance,  yet it is the easiest step. You just grab your WD-40 lubricant as mentioned in the previous step and apply a liberal amount to the opener’s pivot points.  That wasn’t to bad, right?

Now we are on to the final step. We can now cover an area of the gate that should get the most attention: the lubrication of your gate hinge. Any high quality gate hinges will feature a zerk grease fitting, and now is the time to grease the ball bearings with your choice of grease. You can use anything from marine grease to any automotive grease. Just a quick note: when you are inspecting your hinges, be sure to place a level on your gate. You are doing this to ensure that your posts haven’t shifted over time causing stress on the opener.

By doing all these essential yet simple routine check-ups, you can extend the life of your system and prevent any issues down the road. We here at GateCrafters recommend performing these checkups every 3-months and the internal lubrication once a year. That’s all from “GateCrafters Tech Tips” for today. Watch the video below for a visual representation of the steps above.

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When Do I Need a Charging Control Board for my Gate Opener?

 

One of the many questions that we receive regarding gate openers is “When does my gate opener system require a charge controller?”  So we sat down and put together a quick video guide explaining your options.

Just as a reminder, the info in this post and video typically only applies for 12VDC systems from Apollo, Estate Swing, LiftMaster, GTO, and Mighty Mule.  Typically 24VDC systems do not utilize solar power or batteries and so you will always have a charge controller in your system (if needed).

Most residential gate opener systems use solar panels between 5 and 30 watts.  When you buy any 5 or 10 watt solar panel from GateCrafters they have a built in charging diode that prevent the battery from being discharged during the night.  These panels can be directly mounted to the battery terminals on a group size 24 deep cycle battery.  When you start using solar panels greater than 10 watts, you will need a charging control board.  GateCrafters offers a very popular 12VDC charge controller that works with solar panels up to 30 watts and 1800mA A/C charging transformer.

Charging control boards are intended to extend the life of your batteries in your gate opener system.  Most solar gate opener systems utilize group size 24 batteries, however some use smaller batteries such as, 7ah batteries.  Systems with the smaller size batteries will always have to use charge controllers.  This is due to the charging device (whether it is a solar panel or charging transformer) over powering the battery, therefore decreasing its useful life.

When working with commercial 12VDC gate opener systems, you will typically be using solar panels greater than 30 watts.  GateCrafters sells solar panels up to 245 watts and has charge controllers to work with these higher wattage panels.  If you are looking to add a commercial solar powered gate opener system please call the technicians at GateCrafters.com and they will be able to specially design a system based on your needs and unique solar zone.

Stay tuned for more helpful advice from the staff at GateCrafters.com

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Maintenance Free vs Maintained Gate Openers

In the world of retail products the buzz words “maintenance free” are being promoted as the solution to home owner peace of mind. In the gate opener industry this is being promoted as well. We take issue with this idea for one primary reason:

Commercial grade products are built to a higher standard of reliability than residential products.

Commercial grade products require maintenance and if maintained properly will give many years of service.

Then if you have a product that is “maintenance free” can it really be commercial grade quality and last for years? If such a thing existed wouldn’t it dominate the commercial market?

This is why the notion of “maintenance free” is really just another way to say it is priced to be discarded and a new one purchased. The manufacturers of those products don’t intend it to be kept for long periods of time or repaired.

Maintenance is not a difficult task on most gate openers. Take for example the E-S 1000 or Classic. A “once a year” form of maintenance that will keep it working beautifully is screw-drive lubrication. Here is a video of the process.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9OHBvEIemEk

Mechanical products simply perform better when maintained. So our suggestion on maintenance free gate openers is to consider what is being said about maintenance free and why.

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Reliability is in the gate, not the gate opener

After serving a decade as a lead gate opener technician across a dozen different brands of gate openers one idea has been posed to me during tech calls multiple times. “Why can’t a gate opener just be reliable like my garage door opener? That thing never fails.” If you step back and look at this question and weigh the variables involved it is a wonder that most gate openers are as reliable as they are.

Lets first look at garage doors. You may have noticed two large coils above the garage door. The tension on these coils keep your garage door perfectly balanced. If your coils are set properly you should be able to lift your garage door fairly easily and if you let go of the door it will neither rise nor fall. This is important to understand because if your coils ever go out of balance the first thing you will notice is your garage door opener will malfunction. But of course it is not really the garage door opener malfunctioning – the door just needs to be rebalanced. The garage door opener cannot force the door open or closed if there is resistance. Second the garage door runs on side tracks that are kept well lubricated and out of the weather. This is another scenario if the garage door malfunctions the lubrication of the door wheels would be a good starting area. On the note of out of the weather this also includes not having wind pushing against the door in the direction it is trying to open, yet another advantage of garage automation. Lastly garage doors are all built to relatively similar specifications in terms of size, weight and stability.

So looking at the above it is fairly obvious that the garage door opener has it made in the world of automation. And second to that people are fairly understanding that when there is an issue with the garage door opener, the garage door itself could very well be the cause.

Now we look at driveway gate automation. Similar to having your coils perfectly balanced on a garage door, a swing or slide gate must be able to swing or roll easily and if you let go it should neither swing or slide one way or the other. Meaning it should be perfectly balanced. This is very dependent on the posts and the type of hinges (or for slide gates the levelness of the ground/track). Yet in the gate business we have yet to see much consistency to this at all. We recommend ball bearing hinges yet still see different type of pin hinges or butterfly door hinges all the time. But even when we see ball bearing sometime the hinges are not sized properly or are mounted incorrectly. The posts also lack consistency. Sometimes they are wood, sometimes metal. Sometimes the gate hinges are bolted to the side of a house or column, sometimes the posts are not in cement in the ground but rather strapped to another post. We even once saw a gate with the hinges lag bolted to a tree (please note this is a bad idea, trees grow, your gate will be forever changing height and levelness). Next is the gate itself. Unlike the consistency in garage door design, with driveway gates you could have many different materials, weights and designs. We see wood gates, vinyl gates, steel gate frames with wood planking, aluminum decorative gates, chain link, ranch style 3 rail, and many others especially in the realm of home-made gates. And even with the materials above there are many styles and grades of those materials. Lastly is the outdoor factor. Wind, rain, and snow can all affect how your gate swings. Wind is an especially difficult factor. Every gate opener is designed to stop before crushing something. There is no way for the gate opener to tell the difference between the gate pushing against wind versus pushing against a human. And it does not matter how powerful the motor, the safety controls are all built to be sensitive to this and not crush something. After comparing the challenges that a driveway gate contends with in terms of automation versus a garage door it is always surprising to us that the ease of opening of a garage door gets far more scrutiny than the ease of opening a driveway gate. Gates that are being automated endure many justifications and compromises when being analyzed; rationalizations about swinging only slightly off level or the gate swings, just takes a little force but not a lot. Or it sags slightly. Or the hinges are old and pin style but the gates are small so it is ignored. Or the gate is longer than it should be but can be pushed open with one finger on the end of the gate so it should be fine (note: gate length is very important, the whipping action once the gate is in motion created by too long of a gate for specification of a particular gate opener can cause obstruction).

Understanding these challenges if you are a home owner with driveway gate automation will eliminate a lot of your frustration. If you lubricate your garage door once a year, do it once a month for your poor weather beaten gate. If your gate is leaning, reinforce it. If your gate is old, very heavy or a wind sail of a design; replace it with a light weight decorative aluminum gate. Also check out our upcoming video on easy DIY ways to judge your gate for being automation friendly.

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Repurposing solar lamps as lights for driveway gate posts

One of our more inventive customers has come up with an elegant, functional and cost effective solution for adding a lamp to his driveway gate post. Many customers with driveway gate wish to add lighting to their gates. This can be for many purposes, decorative, security, functional and warning.

Our customer wanted a decorative solar lamp for easy installation and to light up the entry area throughout the night. They had taken a common ground mounting solar lamp they found at Lowes:

 

Hanging solar lamps
Hanging solar lamps found at Lowes

 

And used an adhesive to affix the base of the lamp to the gate posts. With our 3×3 gate posts the base of the lamp fit perfectly over the top of the post. As you can see in the photos this was a really nice solution and required very little installation work.

 

Gate post solar lamps
Close up of lamps mounted to gate posts
lamps attached to the gate posts
Overview of the driveway gate with the lamps attached to the gate posts

 

 

GateCrafters.com also has solutions for lighting your entryway in coordination with the gate opener. One option is a 12VDC solar lamp kit. This kit comes with a 12VDC LED bulb that screws into a standard lamp fixture. This means you can purchase at the hardware store any outdoor lamp that is intended for 120VAC that suits your tastes. This can be used as a standalone system that comes on via timer at night or tied to the gate opener to turn on with a cycle of a gate opener and stay on for a length of time after.

We also have another option for a lamp that is directly powered from the gate opener circuit board (if the particular model has 12V or 24V outputs intended for this purpose). These lights would be for warning of gate movement to prevent accidents.

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This One Gate Opener Installer Trick Could Cost you Hundreds

At GateCrafters.com we have been selling gate openers online to the DIY community for more than a decade. However there are many customers that, due to our amazing volume prices, purchase form us and do not install the gate opener themselves. They hire someone to install the gate opener for them. Now we also work with many installers directly and through customers that choose not to do it themselves and hire someone and we do want to make clear that the vast majority are honest and truly just want to get the job done, working well, and at a reasonable price. However there is one tactic that some unscrupulous installers have been doing for quite some time that we wanted to make you aware of. It is a trick they pull; and just about all the times we see it, the trick unfolds the same way.

The scenario is this: A customer contacts a gate opener installer and gets a very reasonable bid and the installer says they are fine with the gate opener being a different brand that they are not supplying. The installer comes out to the property and begins the installation. During the first hour or so something will come up and they will inform the customer they cannot complete the installation due to the gate opener. Sometimes they will claim a part is missing, defective, not the correct product for their gate or in the worst cases they will intentionally destroy a piece to make it uninstallable (like connecting power to where power is not supposed to be connected and then undoing their work to hide the evidence).

The installer will call the customer out to the gate and inform them that due to no fault of their own they cannot complete installation and will have to charge them for the travel and time spent since they did not supply the equipment and the equipment is at fault! While the customer is trying to make sense of what they are being told sometimes they even tell the customer they don’t have confidence in the equipment and they won’t even come back out to complete the job if they pay them again; this adds more panic for the customer as they have to now pay a person for nothing and find a new installer.

Then the supposed favor comes out: As the customer is reeling over this added hassle and cost that has surfaced the installer comes through with a nice gesture. They say, “Look, I feel bad for you, I will tell you what. I will waive the charges for my morning spent trying to install the gate opener you purchased. Just return that one to the company you got it from and buy today the XXX brand gate opener I have on my truck, I have been installing this one for years and I can have you done in a few hours.” To the customer it is a difficult decision that needs to be made on the spot. Either send the installer away  and fight them on the charges they bill you and find someone new (and maybe even have to get a part replaced if they destroyed something) or give in to avoid headache even though you are now getting an opener you didn’t research yet and may be over paying for.  We have seen over the years this trick applied across every brand of gate opener we sell.

Our suggestions for avoiding this:

  • Hire a handyman service that is not in the gate opener industry as your installer. Because the products we sell are DIY they are easy enough for anyone to install even if it is their first time.
  • Ask for examples of other properties they have installed brands on that they do not sell.
  • Do It Yourself – it really isn’t difficult and we are here to help you.
  • Become well versed on the product using videos and manual and go through the contents prior to arrival of an installer. Be aware of what the installation procedure should look like so you can tell if they are not doing something right. This approach is good for the people that could easily install this themselves that just don’t feel like putting in the labor.
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A second life for a single gate opener control board

If you are the owner of an Estate Swing E-S 300, E-S 500, E-S 1600, E-SC 1600, E-S 1000 single swing gate opener and have an issue where the Motor1 terminals are no longer putting out power you are in luck – here is a quick fix to not have to replace the control board.

First lets explain the gate opener symptom:

The gate opener will stop opening on command from an accessory. When the control box is opened you notice that when you press your entry device the display says OP or CL and then counts as if the gate opener motor is supposed to be moving. If you do not see the display on the control board counting this is not the solution to your issue.

Before you decide the gate opener’s Motor1 output is finished, do two things:

A. Check the 3rd fuse on the lower left side of the board (3rd fuse being the one on the right, fuses are in small rectangular black boxes) for continuity using a continuity meter or ohm meter. If you do not have a multi-meter swap the second fuse with the third fuse, the second fuse is for the secondary gate opener motor, which in a single gate operation you won’t have, so it should be a good fuse that you can utilize as a spare for the primary arm. (If your board is old and only has 2 fuse boxes, not 3, ignore test A; your motors are not fuse protected)

B. Take your large red and large black from the motor1 terminals and touch them directly to a 12V battery. Polarity of red to positive / black to negative will make the gate opener move one direction and reversing the polarity will make the gate opener move the opposite direction. DO NOT use anything but a battery to do this test, you can use your car battery for this. (if your opener is 24V you can still use a 12V battery, it will just move half speed. All you are wanting to see is if there is power applied to the motor that it will indeed move)

If you have the symptoms above and A and B are checked you can do the following to get a second life from your control board:

1. Move your large red and large black gate opener motor wires from the motor1 terminals to the motor2 terminals.

2. Move your small yellow, red, and black gate opener limit switch wires from limit1 terminals to limit2 terminals.

3. In the limit1 terminals block use two small pieces of wire to connect all three terminals together. Referred to as jumpering the terminals.

4. Remove power from the circuit board and change the number 2 dip switch to the ON position. This will be the UP position, labeled as dual gate on the control board.

5. Change your P4 setting to 00. This is the “delay between leafs” setting. (If you have a really old board with only 4 parameters instead of 5 or 6 parameters this will be your P3 setting instead of P4)

Now you should be able to operate your gate opener again.

Picture of Modifications to be done to operate a single gate opener off the secondary gate terminals
Modifications to be done to operate a single gate opener off the secondary gate terminals
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Gate opener post brackets can be mounted anywhere

All brands of gate openers that are linear actuators (piston style gate openers)

Linear actuator gate opener
Linear actuator gate opener

have a bracket that the gate opener instruction manual specifies is to be mounted to the post of the driveway gate. This post bracket typically is there to hold a horizontal bracket that the gate opener attaches to and pivots on. Our technicians at GateCrafters.com get weekly phone calls in which customers are thrown through a loop as to how to proceed with their installation because of the post brackets and a mounting problem they have.

First we will explain what is happening with the gate opener installation. The horizontal bracket previously mentioned that the gate opener attaches to needs to be in a very specific location that is a measurement form the hinge of the gate. However many people don’t have a gate with hinges mounted in a standard way where they are on the driveway face of the post. Some people have hinges on the rear face of the post or have a column next to the post. [see picture below of a drawing a customer did of their issue]

driveway gate mounted different than example in manual
driveway gate mounted different than example in manual

In these scenarios the post bracket cannot be mounted in the suggested location from the instruction manual.

If this is the case you are dealing with, do not fret, there are only two requirements to the post brackets and once you understand these it will give you the freedom to solve your issue:

1. The post brackets must be bolted to a stable object, not necessarily the gate post.

2. The post brackets must hold the horizontal bracket in the correct location for the correct gate opener setback.

Other than these two requirements the posts brackets can technically be mounted ANYWHERE. GateCrafters.com sells a secondary mounting post,  http://www.gatecrafters.com/product_detail_1047.aspx, for just this purpose. You can sink this post in the ground near your gate and mount the post brackets on this post it that will allow you to position the horizontal bracket in the correct location. Other options are mounting to a fence or wall.

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Gate opener and keypad with open AND party mode hold open function

The Estate Swing E-S 1000H single gate opener, Estate Swing E-S 1000D dual gate opener, Estate Swing E-S 300 single gate openerEstate Swing E-S 302 dual gate openerEstate Swing E-S 500 single gate openerEstate Swing E-S 502 dual gate openerEstate Swing E-S 1600 single gate opener, Estate Swing E-S 1602 dual gate openerEstate Swing E-SC 1600 single gate openerEstate Swing E-SC 1602 dual gate opener when paired with the Estate Swing Stainless Steel keypad can work in party mode via a selected code.

Party mode is when you normally have your driveway gate function with auto re-close but you can override the auto re-close for an indefinite period of time via an easily accessible device rather than a setting on the gate opener circuit board.

To do this with the above mentioned gate opener and keypad are going to run an additional 2 wires from the keypad to the control board. These wires will be from the blue and orange wires of the keypad. These wires will go to PhotoCell block terminals Photo and Gnd. The wires will replace the jumper that is currently in the terminals.

Then you will program an Auxiliary code on the keypad. To do so enter programming mode, press 2, enter a code to hold the gate open. Then define the auxiliary output by entering programming mode, pressing 6, and then typing 2100.

It will work this way: when the driveway gate is open and in auto re-close count down the user will type in the auxiliary code in the keypad. This will stop the auto re-close count down. When you wish to stop holding the gate open, type the auxiliary code in again and the gate will count down the re-close time and shut.

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Apollo gate opener remotes

When purchasing an additional remote for your Apollo gate opener it is important to look for the correct product and this can be tricky for someone not familiar with the gate opener system and how it is sold. Apollo gate openers with the 835/836/635/636 series board were never sold with a particular remote. the distributor was given the option to include the remote brand of their choice. So quite literally you could have any remote under the sun. See this video for more details:

GateCrafters.com can help you choose the correct one if you send us a photo of your gate opener remote or your gate opener receiver. One tip for all of our customers as well. There are 10 dips switches in the center of the control board, these are not related to your remote even if your remote has 10 dip switches. We have had that call numerous times after someone purchases the new remote they match the dip switches with the ones they see on the circuit board and it won’t sync. This is because the correct dip switches will be found in the receiver, not on the circuit board.

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