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Beninca automatic sliding gate box

How to Open an Automatic Gate Manually During Power Fail or Malfunction

Imagine pulling into your driveway after a long day only to find your automatic gate unresponsive due to a power outage. The convenience of your electric gate suddenly becomes a hurdle. Fortunately, knowing how to open an automatic gate manually in such situations is pretty straightforward when you know how.

Key Steps

  • Identify your automatic gate’s manual release mechanism using the manufacturer’s user manual or visual cues on the motor housing or control box,
  • Make sure you have the necessary keys or tools for manual operation – these should have come with the gate motor.
  • For manual operation, safely disengage the gate motor following specific instructions for your model. For sliding gates, turn the release to slide the gate open; for swing gates, unlock the arm mechanism to push or pull open.
  • Regular maintenance, including annual inspections and lubrication, ensures the longevity and smooth operation of your automatic gate, mitigating potential issues and wear and tear.

Understanding Different Types of Automatic Gates

Residential electric gates can be categorised into sliding gates and swing gates, with boom gates being another common type for commercial applications. Each type of gate requires a specific electric gate motor – e.g. there are gate opener kits specific to sliding gates and swing gate opener kits.

An electric sliding gate operates through a rack with teeth inside the gate frame and a gear on the sliding gate motor. The gear meshes with the rack, enabling the motor to slide the gate open and close.

Swing gate motors operate by either rotating a gate’s arm or adjusting the point of attachment to the gate post, allowing the swinging motion.

To open and close an automated gate manually, each type of gate will be a little bit different. Typically, it will involve the use of a manual release lever, key, or handle in the event of a power failure.

Preparing for Manual Operation

Before you get started, you need to make sure it’s safe to operate the gate manually. Modern electric gates have powerful motors and the gates they operate can be very heavy. And of course, they’re powered by electricity. So you need to prioritise safety before you attempt to open the gate.

Ensure there are no vehicles or obstacles or people nearby. Always proceed with careful attention and patience, and avoid forcing the manual release system.

If you know how to disable your gate motor’s power supply safely, you should do so. You don’t want the power to suddenly come back on while you’ve got your head down next to the gate. Often your gate motor will have a control box that you can open with a key and will contain a master switch that disables power.

But if it’s not obvious how to disable the power supply and you’re not sure, it’s best to leave alone anything involving live electricity and wires.

Also keep in mind that after you’ve unlocked the gate motor from the gate, it will be able to move freely. So it’s good practice to tie the gates back to secure them, especially in windy or stormy conditions.

Locate Your Gate’s Manual Release Mechanism

The initial step towards manual operation is finding the manual release mechanism. This is typically identifiable by a lock on the motor housing, or the arm that connects from the motor to the gate, where a gate key can be inserted. If you’ve misplaced the manufacturer’s user manual, don’t worry, we’ll go through how to do this for the most common gate types.

Opening a Sliding Automatic Gate Manually

Your sliding gate motor will be housed in a plastic or metal box. First locate the manual override mechanism on this box. This will usually be a keyhole where you can open a latch or door. The keyhole might be hidden by a cover that you need to remove first.

Beninca automatic sliding gate box

Once you’ve found the override mechanism it’s time to get your key which you should have gotten with the gate opener. Usually it’s a normal key, but sometimes it will be a specialised key. If you can’t find a key and your automatic gate has a separate control box, check inside the control box.

Once you have the key, insert it into the keyhole and twist it open. You should then be able to open a latch or mini-door that will swing outwards.

For many sliding gate openers that’s all you need to do, the gate will now open freely. However some will require a further step. That might be to pull a lever, or turn a knob, or insert an hex key to turn a screw. Most manufacturers make it obvious what you need to do. You’ll often get a satisfying clunk or click signifying the gate is now released from the motor.

Sliding the Gate Open

After disengaging the motor and activating the manual override, you can manually slide the gate open by hand. The force needed to manually slide open an automatic gate can vary based on the gate and its mechanism. Refrain from applying excessive force to prevent damage.

If you aren’t able to disconnect the motor and are unsure what to do, either find and download a user manual for your specific gate model and follow manufacturer guidelines, or call a professional like Gate Gurus for help. Or if you’ve lost the keys to your gate we can help with that too.

Opening a Swing Automatic Gate Manually

Similar to sliding gates, swing gates can also be manually operated during a power outage. The process involves unlocking the arm mechanism and then manually pushing or pulling the gate open. There are 2 main swing gate types that will have different override procedures.

Unlocking a Gate With a Swing Arm Mechanism

The arm mechanism on a swing automatic gate operates by using a motor to initiate the gate’s movement. The motor links to an articulated arm that extends and retracts, facilitating the gate’s motion. To disengage the motor, follow these steps:

Locate the manual release mechanism. This is often located at the top of the motor housing, usually covered by protective caps. Remove the protective cap which will reveal a handle. Pull on the handle in the direction which should be indicated somewhere near the lever.

automatic swing gate manual override

If your gate opener is quite old it might require some force to open it. Do not hit it with a hammer or other object. You could slide a length of pipe on the handle and gain extra leverage that way however.

By turning this lever, it releases the motor from the swing arm which then allows the gate to move freely. If you have a double swing gate design with dual motors you’ll need to repeat this process for the other side.

Opening a Swing Gate with a Ram Motor

Locate the manual release mechanism. This should be located on top of the ram motor, but it could be on the side or underneath depending on the make and model.

automatic ram gate motor manual override

Open the mechanism with the key that came with the gate opener kit. It should swing open like a door – or indeed a gate.

For many ram gate openers that’s all you need to do, the gate will now open freely. However some will require a further step. That might be to pull a lever, or turn a knob, or inserting an hex/allen key to turn a screw. Most manufacturers make it obvious what you need to do, and you’ll often get a satisfying clunk or click signifying the gate is now released from the motor. If you have a double swing gate design with dual motors you’ll need to repeat this process for the other side.

Push or Pull the Gate Open

After unlocking the arm mechanism, you can manually open the swing gate. You may need to pull on the articulated arm.

The force needed to manually open a swing automatic gate varies based on the gate’s size and weight. Handle the gate carefully without applying excessive force to prevent damage.

Opening an Underground Gate Motor Manually

Much the same as the examples above, you’ll first need to locate the gate override mechanism. For underground gate openers this will usually be located on the underside of the gate close to the pillar that it hinges from. It might be covered by a plastic or rubber plug.

Once you’ve located the override mechanism, you’ll need to get your key. In the case of underground gate openers, the key will likely be in the form of a large hex/allen key with handle.

Manually opening an underground gate motor

Now insert the key into the correct slot and turn it until the gate releases. Most often you want to start with the handle closest to the pillar and turn the handle away from the pillar towards the centre of the gate. Each gate is a bit different, so you’ll want to refer to your gate’s specific operation manual.

Turning the release mechanism might be difficult if it hasn’t been released in a long time. Don’t use excessive force or try to turn it by hitting it. Instead you can place a piece of pipe over the handle to gain more leverage.

By turning the key it will release/detach the gate from the motor arm. Often you’ll feel or hear a clunk or click that tells you that the gate is now free from the motor. Now you can open and close the gate freely with your hand.

Re-engaging the Gate Motor after Power Restoration

Once the gates are fixed or the power comes back on, you’ll need to perform the same procedure but in reverse. After you’ve locked the gates back in place, test that they are indeed locked in by trying to open the gate by hand. If it’s still easy to open manually, you’ll need to try again.

If the gate won’t budge it should be locked into place. If you had turned the power off initially, now you can turn the mains power back on.

Test the Gate’s Functionality

Once you’ve reengaged the motor, you’ll want to give your gate a good check to make sure everything’s working like it should. Step clear of the gates arc and use your remote to open the gate.

Perform an Inspection of Your Automatic Gate

First off, see if your gate is hanging right. It shouldn’t be leaning or hard to move. If it’s a swing gate, the hinges need to be solid and not rusty. For sliding gates, make sure the rollers and the track they run on are clean and not bent.

Next, take a good look at the gate opener. If it’s making strange noises or looks worn out, that’s a red flag. Safety is key, so check those sensors and safety devices. They should stop the gate if something’s in the way.

Now, the electrical stuff. If you see any wires looking worn or any damage, that’s important. But be careful – messing with electrical parts can be risky, so call in a pro if you’re not sure.

Also, test out your remote controls and keypads to make sure they’re working fine.

A gate that’s working well should open and close smoothly and quietly, move at the right speed, and close up tight without looking worn out or damaged.

Maintaining Your Automatic Gate

A Gate Gurus technician inspecting an automatic gate opener

Regular inspections and gate maintenance are important to make sure your gate keeps working smoothly and lasts a long time. It’s a good idea to give your gate a once-over at least once a year. If you use it a lot, maybe do this twice a year.

Keep your gate clean. Dirt and grime can cause problems if they build up. Moving parts need to be well-oiled for smooth operation.

If your gate has a battery backup, don’t forget to check that the battery is charged and ready to go.

Remember, keeping an eye on these things can save you a lot of trouble later. But if you spot something wrong, it’s often best to get a pro to take care of it.

Gate Still Not Working Properly?

If your gate still isn’t working or it needs maintenance, it might be time to call a professional. If you’re in Melbourne’s south-east suburbs, Gate Gurus has you covered.

We’re experts in sorting out all sorts of gate issues. Whether it’s a stubborn swing gate or a tricky sliding gate, our team has the skills and experience to get it working smoothly again.

So, if you’re stuck with a gate that won’t cooperate, give us a call on (03) 9052 4903 or request a quote here.

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