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The essential requirement to maintaining fully functioning automatic gates that can be enjoyed for years to come is regular servicing.
Regular servicing keeps the motor, and the gates themselves, in working order, ensuring there are no unexpected and costly failures to address.
If you're a homeowner, ask the qualified person who installed the gates if they can assist with servicing.
How often should automatic gates be serviced?
The answer to this question depends on how often the automatic gates are used, and what for. Commercial gates with heavy daily traffic, or those at the entrance to an apartment block where residents are coming and going constantly, will need servicing more regularly than one that's only used for a normal home.
As a general rule, automatic gates that are only used two or three times a day may only need servicing once a year.
For those subject to higher demand, it's recommended a service takes place twice a year.
Gates that are rarely used may also need a twice-yearly service to ensure that all parts are still working freely.
Car park gates for an apartment block, which open and close frequently throughout the day, should be serviced at least three times a year.
Meanwhile, heavy-use commercial automatic gates will need servicing at least once a quarter.
Avoidable downtime can prove costly if you're running a business, so ensuring your automatic gates are fit for purpose is important.
The risk of your gates breaking down and costing you for expensive repairs increases if they are not serviced at least annually – even if they are only in domestic use.
Health & Safety Executive (HSE) advice to ensure automated gates are safe
The Health & Safety Executive advises that automated gates should be regularly serviced and maintained according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
Those service intervals are determined by the amount of usage for a gate during the day, calculated by the number of cycles it performs in a 24-hour period.
The HSE provides further information about gate safety and maintenance on its website here.
What elements are tested during a service?
Regular servicing involves thorough testing of a wide range of components essential to the smooth running of automated gates.
Some of the things a maintenance engineer will look at include:
Manual release system
It's recommended that all electric gates are fitted with a manual release system that enables you to open the gate in the event of a power cut or system failure.
They are usually key-operated, and generally rarely used, so can become stiff over time.
It's important the functioning of a manual release system is checked at least every three months.
Weather and location factors
In coastal areas, rain and salt in the air can have a detrimental effect on automatic gate system components.
This can increase the need to service the gates more regularly.
Snow and ice can interfere with the proper functioning of electric gates, as too can severe wind and heavy rainfall.
In most instances, any problems that occur will be temporary - for example, leaves or snow blocking the photocells, or jamming up the tracks that sliding gates run in.
In a few cases, the gates may need extra attention.
Heavy rainfall could highlight problems with the drainage around the gates, which may require more than just a simple soakaway.
In high winds, gates can act like a sail with huge forces placed on them.
This means that functions such as built-in obstacle detection systems won't work properly.
Regular servicing can help ensure gates are working well whatever severe weather throws at them, and that any weather-dependent issues can be addressed.
Wooden gates versus aluminium gates
There are a number of factors that mean that wooden gates need servicing more regularly than aluminium alternatives.
Hardwood gates are considerably heavier than aluminium gates of the same size.
This means that motors need to work harder to move them.
A larger motor will be required, and it's likely to suffer more wear and tear than a comparable one that would be fitted to aluminium gates.
Wood also expands and increases in weight according to the weather, which can place extra strain on the motor.
Problems can also occur around the hinges, which have to cope with the contractions and expansions of wood in different weather conditions.
In light of this, wooden gates should be serviced more regularly if problems are to be avoided.
Avoid costly repairs
As with a car, automated gates are made up of various moving parts.
These need attention from time to time to ensure they're running as reliably and as efficiently as possible.
Regular services present an engineer with the opportunity to assess any wear and tear, general damage or weather-related issues that could potentially cause problems later.
Emergency call-outs and parts can be expensive, so it's cost-effective to conduct regular services to identify a problem before serious issues arise.
The gates themselves should also be given attention during a service.
They should be able to open freely, and the hinges need to be greased regularly.
If they're not, then the motors will have to work harder, which in turn risks reducing their lifespan.
If the batteries die completely in either of these, the gate will no longer work.
At this point, the homeowner may call out an engineer and be faced with a call-out charge for just changing the batteries.
Replacing them should be a part of any service, ensuring the risk of downtime is reduced.
Keeping up to date with safety standards
Safety guidelines are continually being updated by the dhf, a not-for-profit trade association for companies associated with automatic gates.
Its advice applies to both residential and commercial properties.
Although automated gates may have complied with the relevant regulations when they were first installed, there may well have been changes since.
As time passes, the potential for serious incidents and system failures can increase.
Welds on gates can rust and then fail.
Other structural issues can ultimately lead to failures, which not only prevent the gate from functioning but may also pose a health and safety risk.
Liability for any accident that occurs ultimately lies with the person who originally installed the gate equipment.
However, if a homeowner hasn't ensured the gates are regularly serviced, then they could be liable.
The best way to ensure gates are compliant with safety regulations is to have them reviewed as part of a regular service. That is particularly important in commercial settings.
Court judgements have been made against companies that have left dangerous gates operational. Not only is this costly, it's also detrimental to the reputation of the business.
Non-maintained, dangerous gates can lead to serious injury, even death, so it's important to make sure they are compliant with the regulations.
The easiest method to do so is with a regular service and maintenance schedule.
The Machine Directive 2006 states that all new motorised gates must be force tested, as well as risk-assessed for compliance with the latest safety regulations.
Due to the evolving nature of the legislation, older gates may no longer be compliant.
Force testing for automated gates is vital, and it varies between gates.
For example, the procedure for testing sliding gates is distinct from the one applied to swing gates.
It involves gauging the force present, along with the amount of time the gate takes to react to the safety components being activated.
Regular servicing is vital to keep automatic gates running for longer
The principal reason why automatic gates need replacing more quickly than they ought to be is due to a lack of proper servicing.
A half-hearted servicing schedule, particularly for gates that are in regular daily use, is almost as bad as no servicing at all.
It's better to err on the side of caution.
Automatic gates are required to do an awful lot of work while having to withstand the worst that the weather can throw at them.
With proper maintenance, they can operate safely and smoothly for years.