When cold weather strikes, some automatic gate openers may stop working properly. If your gate opener isn't functioning smoothly, then you need to know how to equip your unit to handle the low temperatures. Below is why automatic gate openers can struggle when the thermometer reading drops and what you can do to correct the trouble:
Causes for malfunctioning due to low temperature
Automatic gate openers typically fail to operate properly in winter because of two primary problems:
1. The lubricants on the moving parts of the gates thicken too much - Greases are designed to be used in certain temperature ranges, and an improper grease/temperature match can add too much resistance during operation.
2. The 12-volt battery loses its effectiveness as the ambient temperature drops - Lead acid batteries lose are less efficient as temperatures decline; most batteries are only about half as effective at zero degrees Fahrenheit as they are at 80 degrees.
With either one or both of these issues, chances are good your gate will struggle to open in winter. As a result, your efforts to fix the gate should center around correcting the above problems.
Tools and materials needed
- ½-inch foam insulation panels
- Utility knife
- Tape measure
- Wire brush
- Construction adhesive
- Cold temperature grease
- Conductive grease
- Old towels or rags
- Rubber gloves
1. Raise the battery's temperature - Since most gate opener batteries are installed inside sheet metal enclosures, there is little protection for the batteries from the cold weather. That's why you should install foam insulation inside the box to keep internal temperatures higher.
To install the foam, measure and cut out sections for all four sides and the bottom of the compartment using a tape measure and utility knife; cut along a straightedge to make the cuts clean and square. Remove the battery from the enclosure, then add several zig-zag lines of construction adhesive to one side of the foam insulation pieces. Push the panel cut-outs onto the walls and floor of the compartment and allow the adhesive to dry completely. Never cover the top of the compartment, as it may prevent dangerous or explosive gases from venting out of the enclosure. Slide the battery back into the enclosure once you have installed the panels.
2. Clean the battery terminals - During cold weather, any resistance to current flow will lessen your battery's effectiveness to the point where it cannot open the gate. As a result, you should clean the terminals on the battery as well as the battery cable terminals to remove corrosion. Slide the cable terminals off the battery, then use a wire brush to vigorously scrub the surfaces to remove all traces of corrosion. If you wish, apply a light coating of a conductive grease to inhibit future corrosion on the terminals.
3. Verify the battery is charging properly - The battery in use in a cold weather situation should be checked out to ensure it is accepting a charge. Some batteries have a limited lifespan, especially if poor charging practices are used, so take the battery to a local automotive parts store for a check. Be sure to replace a bad battery with a new one that has the same specifications as those designated by the manufacturer.
4. Remove old grease and apply cold weather grease - Once the battery concerns are addressed, the last step is to lessen the resistance offered by the grease. While wearing rubber gloves, use an old rag or towel to remove old grease from the rollers, pistons or any other components. You will not need to remove all the grease, but being thorough will help provide lessened resistance. Next, apply cold weather-formulated grease to the locations specified by the manufacturer of the unit.