It is more important to maintain the gate itself, than the engine. In order to do this, you must keep the gate wheels clear of debris, sweep the tracking and make sure that there is no chance of debris, leaves or sand falling onto the track. If the ground is raised, build a retaining wall to keep the ground back. Make sure there is a flow for water to get out so that the water doesn’t build up around the motor. Make sure that the wheels aren’t seizing and are running smoothly at all times.
With regard to the motor, it is most important to ensure that nothing gets inside the motor such as rats, insects or ants. Placing poison inside the machine is usually effective for example; blue death works well for ants and mothballs help to keep rats out as they don’t like the smell. Poison becomes more necessary during the summer months, especially in the Gauteng area, as the rain disturbs insect or rodent nests.
Ants are the biggest problem. They get into the motor and destroy everything. We’ve encountered everything from snakes to rats, spiders and geckos inside motors, all of them contributing to the destruction of the motor's inner workings which is why it is so important to keep creatures out with poison, mothballs etc. unfortunately no motors are totally sealed.
In addition to pest problems, remember not to grease any part of the motor, including the gate wheels or racking. The grease will simply attract dirt and turn into grinding paste which will cause more problems than solutions.
How long should a motor last?
If motors are working correctly and are pushing the correct load for their make and model they should last 10 to 15 years. A major problem occurs when people put motors on gates that require the motor to work at 100% of their capability all the time. This means that the motor will simply wear out faster. Using the analogy of a car motor: your car can go at 180 km per hour, but if you drive at 180 km all the time, the motor will simply not last. It’s the same with a gate motor. If your motor has a 20 kg thrust output, you should not place a gate on it that requires more than 10 kg thrust. This way it can do the job easily. So make sure that the right gate motor is used for the weight and size of the gate.
Which type of gate motors do you recommend?
There are three main players in the automatic gate market in South Africa. They are Nice Hansa, ET and Centurion. Centurion is by far the market leader, producing and supplying more machines than anyone else. However, they do not have the widest range of motors.
Nice Hansa has a wide range of motors and they certainly make some of the most powerful motors available. There are many differences between different makes of motors however, and it is ultimately the client’s decision as to what they will use. Our advice is to always look at what you are buying. Do a comparison report and make sure that you choose the best motor for your requirements.
It is important to remember that cheap is not always best. You need a motor that will do the job and a company that will be around to service and maintain your motor. If the person doing the installation is only going to make R500, rest assured that he won’t be around to provide you with follow up service.
What are the most common gate problems?
The most common problem with gate motors are situations where the incorrect gate motor has been installed. This results in the gate having to work too hard. Another major problem is circuit boards which need to be replaced due to lightning strikes, insects getting onto them or electronic problems. Circuit boards give problems when they get old. Like most technology, board technology is getting better all the time, and that often means that it is not worth repairing a system that is 10 years old. It is often more cost-effective to replace it with a better, newer system, that will have updated technology and a warranty. This being said, most machines can be repaired.
What do I need to do to maintain my motor?
There is no maintenance required on automatic gate motors. If the gate gives you a problem simply phone a professional company to come and sort it out for you. There is no maintenance to be done because all of the working parts are contained in a sealed gearbox. Besides keeping insects and rats out of it there is no maintenance you can do.
If a metal gate becomes rusty, first clean the flaking rust off it by using a steel brush or sandpaper. You do not need to sandpaper or sand it down to the metal. There are many rust converters that can then be applied to the gate. Polycell is effective. You simply apply the converter to the rust and it converts it back to metal. You should usually wait a day before you paint over the problem area. Most people don’t bother washing their gates but if you want to you can. For this reason it is better to rather use darker paint than a white paint or light coloured paint. With darker paint mud and streaks won’t show up.
DIY - Repairing your motor yourself
If you fancy yourself as a DIY person there are certain complexities that you should look out for. You can’t just look at it and say Oh, this or that looks different. What may often look like the problem on the surface is not actually the problem. You would need to take a symptom such as the gate is going halfway and stopping and reversing. This could be a number of things. It could be motor settings, the limits switches that are giving a problem, it could be a problem with the infrared beams, it could be battery problems, all of these diagnosis’ from just one symptom. You need parts or equipment to test all these different areas and isolate the problem. The problem a DIY person will have is that they will not have all the necessary equipment to test the motor. You could go and buy a battery and replace it only to find that that is not the actual problem. The machine still does the same thing and you are stuck with the battery.
Generally it is easier and quicker to pay a technician who can come with the various parts. They will put a battery in and see that it’s not the battery; they will put your battery back and find the actual problem. This will save you going backwards and forwards to a supplier. The biggest advantage that you will then have is the warranty on repair. We work with these types of problems all the time and can usually fix the problem very quickly and get you get up and running again.
The other problem of trying to do DIY is that if you don’t know what you’re doing you can cause more harm than good. You can install the motor, or part, incorrectly which may cause damage. I have experienced people putting 220 volts onto a 12 volt terminal not knowing what they’re doing and incinerating the whole system. If you know what you’re doing that is fine, but if you don’t you’ll spend money and still not solve the problem or you might cause more problems or damage than were originally there.
Gate motors in South Africa
There are many types of gate motors on the market. We specialise in the Nice Hansa, ET and Centurion systems range. The reason we do this is because we cannot carry parts for every type of motor on the market.
Because we specialise, we know these three brands inside and out.
These three brands do everything. Nice Hansa has a very wide range, and Centurion is the best known on the South African market. They are both very good brands and are the market leaders.
We don’t believe it is good to be a jack of all trades: it is just not and to be an expert on all 15 possible brands on the South African market as some of these brands are very small and insignificant. We have 10 service teams in the field, and it would not be feasible to try and train our staff in the repair and installation of 15 different electrical gate motors.