gate rollers

Gate Opener Installation: A Step-by-Step Guide.

Juggling groceries, packages, and wrangling kids while trying to open your driveway gate can be a daily struggle. A gate opener can be your superhero, saving you time and hassle while adding a layer of security to your property. This guide will walk you through everything you need to know to install your own gate opener, transforming your driveway into a smooth and secure entrance.

Gate Evaluation: Before You Begin

The first step with a new installation is to design a suitable gate or inspect your existing gate for its suitability to be automated. Almost any gate will work, but there are a few crucial elements to consider:

  • Number of Wheels: It might be tempting to add a third wheel in the middle of the gate for stability, but this can cause significant problems. With three (or more) wheels, the centre wheel can act as a lever, causing one of the other wheels (and the gate with it) to lift, shifting the rack position. This, in turn, could cause the gate motor to skip teeth and lose its position. More than two wheels should only be considered for extremely long (think more than 8 meters) and heavy gates. Under no circumstances should any wheel lose contact with the rail, even for a short period of time, while the gate is opening or closing.
  • Rack Mounting: The rack will be mounted onto the gate AFTER the motor has been secured on its base. Typically, the rack is mounted onto the gate at a height of about 100 – 150mm above the ground level. Therefore, it’s important that the gate has a sufficient base frame to accommodate the rack.
  • Wheels and Rail Compatibility: The gate wheels and rail (or track) need to be compatible. Some gates use angle iron or flat bar to run on, but this is not recommended. These types of rails can cause the gate to pinch or become unstable. The best rail to use for sliding gates is round bar. There are several gate wheel sizes available for round bar, and the wheel and round bar rail should match each other. Make sure that with the gate standing on the round bar, there is still space to mount the rack at about 100-150mm above ground level.
  • Top Gate Guidance: Finally, the gate will be guided by a set of rollers at the top. This means the gate will also require a stable surface at the top for the rollers to guide the gate as it opens or closes.
gate foundation

Site Preparation: More Than Just a Level Surface

As important as the gate itself is the site preparation. Most manufacturers will tell you that the site where the gate will be running must be absolutely level. Although this isn’t completely true, there’s good reason for this statement. Here’s why:

  • Slope Considerations: If the gate is automated on a slope, it could start opening or closing on its own while disengaged, which can be extremely dangerous. Additionally, a slope adds extra strain on the gate opener. On a level surface, the weight of the gate is directed straight downwards. But on a sloped installation, a portion of the gate weight acts as a load on the gate motor. Every 10 degrees of slope adds approximately 17% of the gate’s weight as a load to the motor. The manufacturer will specify the gate opener’s maximum running force but a typical value for this is about 18kgF. A 100kg gate on a 10 degree slope will add an additional 17kgF to the operator even before considering any friction forces.
  • Power Supply Options: You have three options for powering your gate:
    • High Voltage Motor: This requires a mains AC supply to be right by the gate and professional installation with special armored cable might be required. There are stricter municipal regulations and higher long-term costs associated with this option. This option would typically be used at complexes and businesses. Be sure to get an electricians certificate of compliance on completion of this installation.
    • Low Voltage Motor: This option uses a power supply in your house with low voltage wires running underground to the gate in conduit. Be sure to use suitably thick wire to avoid voltage drops over the distance that could affect battery charging. This option is typically used for residential properties.
    • Solar Panels: This can be a very complex and expensive option, it holds no cost benefit above a low voltage installation and should only be considered for very specific scenarios. We’ll cover solar power installations in a separate article at a later date.

Safety First (and Convenience Too!)

When preparing your site, consider these safety and warning devices, they might require you to lay additional conduit piping underground during initial installation:

  • Safety Beams are highly recommended (or even mandatory in some areas). You have a choice of three different types of safety beams available to you.

    • Wired safety beams offer faster response times and work well over longer distances but they do require a cable to be run from the gate motor across the driveway.

    • Semi-wireless safety beams require only the receiver side connected to the operator. While easier to install later, it’s best to do this during initial gate installation. They only need a wire connection to be run underneath the track to the receiver module while the transmitter module is battery operated.

    • Finally, you could also choose to use completely wireless beams, but they are generally far more expensive, have a shorter range of operation and only work with specific operators. Be mindful of potential sunlight interference, especially with early morning or late afternoon sun. Perimeter beams on the property could also potentially cause interference.

  • Electric Locks adds an extra layer of security to your gate but not all gate motors are able to control these.

  • Pillar Lights can boost visibility and security, especially at night around your property.
  • An intercom allows visitors to alert you of their presence at the gate. With everyone carrying a cellphone these days this might not strictly be necessary any more but if you decide to put one in you will need to put some cabling down for this as well.
  • Loop detectors make it easy to exit your gate. These devices require some cutting into your driveway or installation prior to putting down the driveway.

Site Drainage and Foundation:

  • Make sure that the gate rail and motor platform will be above the flood line. This means that you need to make sure that the rail and motor will not be standing in a puddle of water when it rains. This is important because stones and sand will be washed up against the rail when it rains. This will cause the gate to experience an extra load and stones could potentially cause the gate to register an obstruction.

  • Avoid running the gate in any form of channel. Debris will quickly collect here causing frustration. In addition, if the motor is below flood level, water and sand will over time ingress the pinion seal causing premature failure of the operator.

  • The rail needs a strong foundation (concrete is ideal) to handle pressure from the gate and vehicle crossings.

  • Use strong anchors, preferably welded to the rail, for a secure foundation.

  • Don’t forget physical end stops welded directly to the rail (not a post which could result in gear wind-up) to prevent the gate from becoming a runaway train. These end stops should be at least half the wheel height.
gate rack

Choosing the Right Gate Opener Muscle

The best time to pick your gate motor is after your gate is up and running smoothly. You can then measure the gate’s start-up and running force using a simple pull scale. Most people overestimate gate weight, choosing a motor that is far more expensive than what is really necessary. The motor primarily needs to handle the pulling force of the gate while the actual weight of the gate is of lesser importance. If it is possible for you to lift up the one side of the gate when it comes off the rail the gate most likely weighs less than 150kg.

Installing Your Gate Motor: Building a Solid Foundation

Each gate motor manufacturer has specific installation instructions. Here are some general pointers to get you started:

  • Solid Concrete Foundation: Pour a concrete foundation with the motor base plate securely anchored in place. Make sure all the conduit pipes are neatly positioned before pouring the concrete.
  • Motor Adjust-ability: Most motors are designed to be mounted on a base plate that allows the motor to be slid in and out from underneath the rack. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to avoid compromising future maintenance.

Rack Installation: Connecting the Gears

How you install the rack depends on the manufacturer and the type of rack you choose (nylon or steel).

  • Nylon Rack: Generally easier to install and offers good performance. DACE, for example, offers self-spacing nylon rack for a simplified installation process.

  • Steel Rack: More difficult to align, harder to install and a bit more costly but could last longer if installed in areas away from the coast.

General Steps:

  • Follow the manufacturer’s instructions specific to your rack type and positioning. Many manufacturers requires the gate opener to be lifted by 2mm prior to rack installation and then to be lowered again. DACE’s self-spacing rack eliminates the need for this process.
  • Once the motor is in position for rack installation it will be necessary to slowly work from one side attaching the rack to the gate. Place the gate in the closed position and rest the rack on the pinion. Make sure there is at least 10cm overlap so that the motor does not run out from under the rack.
  • Try to keep the rack level with the ground and clamp the rack to the gate on the pinion side. Now move the gate about a meter and ensure the rack is still lying on the pinion. At this point make sure the clamp did not shift at the end of the gate when the gate was moved. Attach the rack to the gate as close as possible to the motor itself.
  • Move the gate back to the starting point, make sure the rack is resting gently on the pinion and secure the end of the rack to the gate. Now that the first section of the rack is attached to the gate start opening the gate slowly, attaching it to the gate every 400mm or so depending on mounting holes available in the rack. If the rack has slotted holes, screw the rack onto the gate in the middle of the slots. This will allow rack adjustment at a later stage. Add additional lengths of rack as might be needed.
  • Once the rack is attached to the gate remember to lower the motor by 2mm if required.

Mounting the gate marker:

Most gates uses a gate marker to tell the operator the gate position. Gates not using a gate marker typically uses the end stops to determine its position (another reason for these to be solid) making it a bit noisier than gates using a marker.

Wiring up:

The time has now come to connect all the wiring. Take extreme caution if you are installing a high voltage motor. Make sure that the new electrical installation was certified before proceeding. Also make sure that the isolation switch is switched off. Connect all the wiring as per the user manual of the motor.


Putting it All Together: Programming Your Gate Opener

Once you’ve got the motor installed and the rack securely attached to your gate, it’s time for the grand finale: programming the motor. This process varies depending on the specific model you have, but most user manuals will walk you through it step-by-step.

Pro Tip: Before you power up the motor (battery or mains), take a moment to review the programming instructions. Some motors might require you to adjust certain switches beforehand. It’s also a good idea to open the gate a meter or so before starting the programming sequence.

See Also: Should You Use Lithium Iron Batteries for Your Gate Motor?

Congratulations! You’ve just automated your gate! Now you can enjoy the convenience and added security of a gate motor. Remember, if you encounter any challenges during the installation process, consult the manufacturer’s manual or seek help from a qualified professional.

Happy automating!

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