May 18, 2017

Redneck Gate Opener

Redneck Hack No. 1: The Redneck Gate Opener

The Fat Rancher isn’t lazy.  No siree.

But he does believe in saving wear and tear on his truck and knees.  So finding a solution to open the gate at “el rancho” from inside the truck was a challenge in search of a hack.

Now, if The Fat Rancher had a fancy gate, he might be inclined to purchase a solar powered gate opener.  But, TFR has seen more of these openers hanging in the breeze (inoperative) than opening gates.   Spend several hundred dollars on something that is prone to break?  Nope.

So he needed a solution that was cheap to replace when it crapped out.  Then it hit him: All he needed was a remote lock and a spring to pull the gate open.  While not a complete solution, it reduces the jumps from the truck by 1/2.  That’s a start!

How to do it

Might Mule Gate Lock

Using the Mighty Mule FM245 with a hand fashioned hasp attached to a galvanized gate.

What I ended up using was a Mighty Mule FM245 Cable Gate Lock (available at Home Depot for $45) with a hand fashioned hasp attached to the galvanized gate.  In order to align the gate with the post, the end of the 2″ x 5″ zinc plated U-Bolt ($2.48 from Lowes) will need to be bent 15 degrees about an inch and a half from the end.  Then mount it in place with backing nuts and split washers.  Hint: If wind blows the gate closed from an open position, sheet metal where the bolts go through the gate may rip due the force of the hasp slamming against the lock. Reinforce this attaching point by using two of the back plates that accompany the U-Bolt, one on either side of the sheet metal gate.

U-Bolt used for gate hasp

5″ x 2″ U-Bolt (Courtesy Lowes)

Now, the next tricky part was arranging a spring to retract the gate when the gate lock is released.

I looked at a pulley and spring arrangement, but the combination of required torque and the stroke distance (17′ on a 12′ gate. Pythagoras’ theorem, than you very much!) made this unworkable.

The solution? A spring reel seemed right.  So off to the hardware store we went in search of an affordable reel.  As it happens, Amazon had a Bayco retractable extension cord on sale (Bayco Retractable Cord Reel with Three Outlets, $43).

Extension Cord Reel

Bayco Extension Reeled Extension Cord (Courtesy Tractor Supply)

This was disassembled (CAUTION: Dangerous Spring!) and the extension cord was replaced with braided nylon cord.  A rewind of the cord into the housing and voila!  Cord retractor!

The reel was mounted to the post behind the gate hinges and the retractor cord was routed through a pulley affixed to the gate stop and then tied to the gate next to the hasp.

So the Mighty Mule lock releases the gate, where the cord retractor is tensioning the gate hasp against the lock. The cord retracts pulling the gate to the stop by the side of the road.  Closing the gate by hand extends the cord, rewinding the opening spring.

Now, I have to tell you that The Fat Rancher’s wife was incredulous when she first saw the “Redneck Gate Opener.”  But two years later it has save her many a trip out of the car in rain and Texas heat.  She’s a believer now.

Me? I still want a fancy iron gate with open/close action.  But I have to admit, watching the gate spring open against the gate stop still puts a smile on my face.  And when I accompany the

Cord Retractor

Extension cord retractor “repurposed” as a cord retractor for the gate.

opening action with a happy verbalization of “Sproooiiiinnnnng!” my thirteen year old grins at the nutty old man.  That’s something I wouldn’t get with a real gate opener!

Don’t miss the Redneck Gate Opener in action:

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