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There are many types of Gate Operators, also referred to as Gate Openers, and selecting the correct model to automate your driveway gate is essential. This article describes the different types of gate openers available, such as top swing arm, bottom swing arm, linear or ram arm, below grade, underground or in-ground and slide gate operators.

   Top Swing Arm Operator:

Top Swing Arm Operators are the most common gate opener. The better quality brands are known to last 20 years. These units have a heavy metal frame, and large, oil soaked gear boxes. The aesthetic drawback to these units is that the arm attaches to the gate near the middle height, and is highly visible.

Top Swing Arm Gate Openers are relatively easy to install. Although most units have an access door to the circuitry, you generally have to disconnect the gate arm from the operator and pull the entire cover off to service the mechanics of the unit. There is a release lever located on the arm where it attaches to the operator, that disengages the arm.

Top Swing Arm Gate Operators are available in a variety of configurations; 115V through 460V AC, 24VDC, AC or DC motors with solar options. These units are available for single gates up to 20’ long and weighing 13,000 lbs. The most common operators are rated for 600-800 lb gates

   Bottom Swing Arm Operator:

Bottom Swing Arm Operators have their arm on the bottom which gives the gate a pleasing appearance when viewed from the outside of the property.

Very few companies make this type of unit. Doorking is the main company manufacturing them.

Bottom Swing Arm Openers feature easy to access mechanics and electronics, just pop the cover and everything is accessible. The clutch is one of the best and easiest to adjust. Another good feature is the fast speed of the unit, which can open a gate in about 6 seconds – about half the time it takes for almost all other types of operators. The DoorKing 6100 Bottom Swing Gate Opener is featured in the images above.

   Linear Arm or Ram Arm Operator:

Linear Arm, also know as Ram Arm Operators, are very popular and are the easiest type of operators to install. They attach directly to the post and are small and unnoticeable. The electronics are housed in a separate control panel. These operators are available in mechanical or hydraulic versions. Many of the mechanical linear operators are available for solar installation.

Mechanical Style Linear Arm Openers are the most common. The operate like a bumper-style jack, and use a similar “jack screw”. The jack screw is a long threaded rod that spins and moves the equivalent of a nut up and down the shaft with the gate attached to it. The larger mechanical ram arm openers can handle a gate up to 14' long and weighs 500 lbs.

Although these units do not require positive mechanical stops, they are recommended. All mechanical linear arms have a little play in them. When used on a single gate, it is recommended that a positive stop be added to the post or column opposite the operator. The operator should be adjusted so that the gate comes to rest on the stop with a little bit of pressure. When used on bi-parting gates it is recommended that adjustable end stops be used to assure a pleasing appearance where the gates meet in the center.

Hydraulic Style Linear Arm Openers are more expensive and can handle larger gates of up to 2,200 lbs and 22’ long. These units work just like any hydraulic system utilizing a pump, reservoir, and piston. Hydraulic units cannot use limit switches. Instead they rely on timers to run the motor for designated periods of time. When the gate is fully open or closed, the pump runs for a few extra seconds.

Hydraulic operators require mechanical positive stops. They are used to position the gate in both open and closed positions. Operator force is adjustable by use of pressure valves. These operators are very safe due to the ability to precisely control how much force the operator applies to the gate. They are not available for solar installs due to the hydraulic pump which runs on 115 or 230 VAC.


   Below Grade, Underground, or In-Ground Operator:

Below Grade, Underground or In-Ground Gate Operators are used on high end installations where aesthetics are important. Typically, Underground Openers are used on bi-parting gates and frequently seen in the company of columns. These operators are available in mechanical or hydraulic versions.

Underground Hydraulic Operators are for heavier gates. In general, the underground operator is limited to gates 10’ in length. This is why almost all in-ground opener installations are for bi-parting swing gates. The hydraulic version requires positive stops which are added separately.

Frequently the operator is attached to the columns internal skeleton as part of an integrated system. All of these operators have thrust bearing assembly with a disconnect gear that allows the gate to stay in place if the drive assembly needs to be removed for service.

At Gate Equipment we build custom skeletons that have the below grade operators, hinges, flush mount control cabinet, and lighting pre-installed. This makes this complex installation possible for the handy person. Shop For Skeletons

   Slide Gate Operator:

View Slide Gate Install Diagram

Slide Gate Operators are most commonly used for commercial gate automation systems. However, slide gates are an excellent choice for residential driveway gate automation when the site has limitations. In general, a slide gate installation takes more talent and money to get right and should only be attempted by do-it-yourselfers with good mechanical skills.

A slide gate opener is a good choice when the gate is on a steep grade and you cannot, or do not want to open the gate outwards. Sometimes it is a matter of controlling a very wide entrance where a swing gate would be impractical. If your driveway has much side-to-side slope, you should consider an operator that has a braking system.

Slide openers are available in AC, battery, and solar powered models. Commercial units are available that can operate gates up to 40’ long, and weigh several thousand pounds