How To Properly Maintain A Linear Actuator Gate Opener

Linear actuator gate openers are in widespread use in residences due to their relatively-low cost and reliable operation. Linear actuator openers utilize a screw-drive mechanism to open and close gates; this electro-mechanical system requires little intervention from homeowners other than periodic maintenance. However, neglect of this maintenance can lead to operational problems or even shorten the lifespan of the system. Below is how to perform critical maintenance procedures on your linear actuator gate opener to keep the system functioning smoothly for years to come:

Tools and materials needed

Step-by-step procedure

1. Understand how your gate opener functions - It is important to understand how linear actuator gate openers function to demonstrate the need for performing regular maintenance. The opener consists of two telescoping tubes: the operator arm and the piston. At the far end of the operator arm housing, an electric motor is connected to a long threaded rod contained inside the housing. As the motor turns the rod, it causes a nylon nut to move up and down the length of the rod. The nut, which is attached to the piston, moves the piston in and out of the operator arm housing; this movement is what opens and closes the gate.

Keeping the threaded rod and piston well-lubricated are keys to smooth operation of the gate opening mechanism. If they develop surface rust or their lubricant coatings dry up, then the rod or piston could bind or catch during operation. This causes the gate's obstruction monitoring system to falsely detect an obstruction and prevent the gate from closing or opening properly. In addition, stress is placed upon the motor and could eventually result in its premature failure.

2. Move the gate arm to its fully extended position - To provide adequate lubricant access to the threaded rod, the gate arm needs to be fully extended so the piston is out of the operator arm housing. Open the gate fully at the control panel or by using the remote gate opener. Once the gate is opened, disconnect power to the gate at the main breaker. This will prevent a possible injury if the operator arm is accidentally activated during maintenance.

3. Remove the operator arm end cap and limiter track - The operator arm end cap holds the gate limiter track in place on the operator arm housing; it is necessary to remove this cap to obtain access to the lubrication openings on the housing. Use a screwdriver to remove to loosen the cap and slide it down the piston out of the way.

After the cap is out of the way, the limiter track should be easy to remove from the operator arm housing by pulling it downward. Be careful not to pinch or pull the wire connecting the limiter track to the motor electronics.

4. Spray lubricant into the operator arm housing - Once the end cap and limiter track have been removed from their mounting locations, the lubrication holes will be exposed. Insert the spray silicone lubricant tube into each hole and spray 3-second blasts into each one. Allow the excess lubricant to drain out the holes for a couple of minutes.

5. Reattach the limiter track and end cap - After permitting the lubricant to drain from the operator arm housing, position the limiter track back in its place, then slide the end cap back down the piston so it keeps the limiter track from moving. Tighten the screw on the end cap to hold it down securely.

6. Lubricate the exterior of the piston - The last step before restoring power to your gate opener is to spray silicone lubricant on the exterior of the piston shaft. This will keep the piston from developing oxidation and also help prevent moisture from entering the seal at the end of the piston where it enters the operator arm housing. Spray the piston thoroughly with lubricant until it is well covered, then lightly wipe any areas that are dripping with lubricant.

7. Restore power to the gate opener mechanism - Once you have finished applying lubricant, connect power to the gate opener, then test the functioning of the mechanism. Cycle the gate open and closed several times to distribute the lubricant inside the operator arm housing and along the threaded rod.

For more tips about caring for your electric gate, contact the manufacturer or a local fencing and gate company.