Have you ever been to those communities with the fancy keypad entry systems? I’ve even lived in one and it was often broken! Maybe you already have a gate or would like more security or don’t want to open a gate in the rain. In any case, motorizing your gate with an automatic drive gate opener can be simple and . . . . surprisingly . . . not that expensive.
The Drive Gate
Hopefully you’ve planned for a drive gate between 12 and 16 foot. If you have a wider opening, consider making a double gate where one of the gates is automatic and the other opened manually when needed. We have had a dump truck driver back through our single 12 foot gate without problem. It was plenty wide. We purchased our drive gate at our local tractor supply store, here is a link to a similar gate on amazon in a variety of sizes. If you are loaded in the money department (please come back and use my link so I can make a few dollars), these very fancy gates could also be made to work.
If you go 16′ or bigger, you may need to attach a support pole to the gate post that rises a few feet and then attaches with a cable to the end of the gate. This extra bracing will help support the additional weight. The gate opener will not work if the gate drags on the ground.
What you need to make an automatic drive gate
Requirement #1: To make your gate automatic, it must NOT have a wheel on the ground or be “lifted up” in any way to move. In other words, it must swing freely on only its hinges.
Requirement #2: You will also want to convert to bolt type hinges which are easiest to adjust. Here they are in a variety of lengths for different width posts, 6″, 8″, 10″, and 12″. Buy one that is 2″ longer than your bracing post. Bolt type hinges allow precise adjustment of the gate without taking the gate down.
Requirement #3: You’ll need to buy the gate opener. Our small 12″ gate can be opened with the smallest gate opener they have. Here is a small chart for your reference
- 18′ gate – Mighty Mule MM560
- 16′ gate – Mighty Mule MM360
- 14′ gate – No Specific Model, probably okay with MM260
- 12′ gate – Mighty Mule MM260
I’ll admit that My first MM260 died after a year and a half and initially I was scared of the reviews on amazon. However, Mighty Mule is the only automatic gate opener in town unless you want to spend thousands instead of a few hundred. I would love for the replacement (going on 2 years old now) to last forever, but even if it only lasted for the one year warranty and died each year, I would still buy a new one. That works out to roughly $20 a month for an automatic gate, which is worth it for the convenience alone. I’m already doing better than that on the second one.
Requirement #4: A battery and either wire or a solar kit (see optional stuff). The cost of wire was the same as the 5W solar kit and also saved long term on the cost to charge the battery so it was a no brainer for us.
Avoid the Mighty Mule recommended battery (short Life). Instead go to any store and buy the smallest lawn & tractor battery, should be less than $30 and a battery box (can store the extra wires in here). Solar and wired both require a battery!
Drive Gate Installation
Step 1: Mount and brace your gate posts if you haven’t already.
Step 2: Drill holes for the bolt style hinges. Thread one nut with washer onto each hinge and put through holes. Once through, put remaining washer and nut on. By adjusting these two nuts you can raise and lower the end of the gate.
Step 3: Point the lower hinge up and hook your gate onto it with help. Point the upper hinge down and simultaneously hook it onto your gate. At this point your gate is probably resting on the ground. Tighten the bolt hinges as necessary to level your gate! It is much easier than the screw type hinges!
Step 4: If the gate swings freely, you are ready to install your automatic gate opener. Follow the instructions provided with the gate opener. Some clarification from my mistakes . . . open the gate to a little more than 90 degrees and do something to hold it there while you fit your brackets and mark the drilling locations. My gate has a few extra holes in it . . . You will later program the start and stop locations with the remote.
Step 5: Open the transmitter, move the switches to a few random positions and take a photo (so you can program other transmitters). Hold the transmitter button while turning on the gate opener to program it for ~10 seconds. Also while the control box is open, you will probably want to set the auto close function to its maximum (~2 minutes)
So the automatic gate opener itself will come with one remote you can use from your car or house to open the gate. The real beauty of this system is in all of the optional features you can install. We personally have the gate lock, extra remotes, solar kit and two keypads.
Automatic Gate lock – Though expensive (~$130), this secures teh gate to keep my kids in and strangers out. Without this feature, someone could simple push or squeeze their way into or out of your yard. This is the reason I need to semi-annually adjust the gate height via the bolt type hinges. During the wet season it sags a bit more than the dry season, but 2 minutes with channel lock pliers and everything is lined up again. Comes with a set of keys to open if the power dies.
Remotes. New Single button Model. 2 Pack Old Model. We are only familiar with the old model “PRO Clicker”. The range and battery life are superb. Enduring daily repeated use from inside our house at 150′ and working without exception. We have replaced the batteries 1 time in 4 years. You can buy as many as you like and give to friends and family.
Keypads, wireless – We have one on the outside for people who know the code to get in, and one on the inside for people to get out with. Wireless worked wonderfully for about a year and then died. The keypads have the option of being wired however, which also means they don’t need batteries to work. After being wired, they have been working well. I think the one that lost wireless also lost part of its backlight. Potentially, this was the fault of severe weather(hurricane) and water intrusion, ants building a nest inside of the unit. Crazy stuff happens in Florida sometimes.
Keypad & Gate Entry with Intercom – Well doesn’t this sound nice . . . Well it isn’t. It has poor reviews for a reason. It would never sync with the intercom even when 10 feet away. The package I received seemed open, but I wouldn’t bother. If you want a way to be notified of whether people are at your gate, try these wireless doorbells paired with an extra transmitter kept in your house.
Keypad Mounting Post– I just used an extra 4×4 post. I suppose this would be a little easier pull up to in a car, but no one has ever complained.
Vehicle Sensor – Can be used to open the gate automatically when a vehicle was sensed. This would be nice when visitors leave our house so they could leave without knowing our code. I couldn’t justify the cost personally.
Solar Panel 5W & 10W– If you have to bury wire for over 75 ft or so, it is worth it to go solar. The cost of the wire is the same as the smaller solar panel and you will not
have to pay to charge the battery with your own electricity. Our small 5W panel has never let us down. In 4 years, we have replaced the battery one time and it turns out the gate opener itself was faulty, not the battery. We open and close our gate sometimes 30 times a day and it has never slowed down or shown any signs of fatigue (We do live in sunny Florida).
Pin Lock – If you are worried someone will steal your gate opener. Not terribly expensive, but a padlock would work just the same.
Push Button – Are we kidding, I thought the idea was security. Oh right, that might not be your idea too. Well, here you go, very cheap way to open gate.
Automatic Drive Gate Opener Final Thoughts
You are now or will soon be the proud owner of an automatic drive gate. You’ll be able to reminisce about the shame of standing in the rain opening your gate. You will most certainly be the envy of your neighbors. I am complimented often on my personal gate.
Some of this stuff can be purchased at your local feed stores but it will likely be marked up considerably or have set on a shelf for a very long time or have been bought and returned with missing parts compared to the online versions I linked to above. If you do purchase something, please use one of my affiliate links above. If you buy something within 24 hours of clicking one of my links I make a small commission which I use to keep this website running.
Questions, ideas, comments below!