You don’t want to get out of your car and open your ranch gate anymore.  Maybe your wife made this decision after a rainy day.  She didn’t like cleaning her nice new shoes because she couldn’t get around the mud puddle in her rush to the office.  Or, maybe you both decided it was a necessity after you pulled up to your gate at night and saw a rattlesnake in your headlights.


Whatever the reason, you now MUST have an automatic gate operator.


So now, the first assessment you need to make before you add an automatic gate operator is whether it swings without any resistance.  In other words, do the hinges work really well.  The most common issue we find when clients want to add an electric opener to their existing ranch or driveway gate is that they do not have free-swinging hinges.


A lot of ranch gates have some version of these hinges:


home-made ranch hinge

Home-made Ranch Gate Hinges


j-bolt hinges

J-bolt Hinges


The above examples are fine for manual gates, but not automatic ones.  Any sort of resistance, sticking or wiggling, in the hinges of a swinging gate will cause an electrical system to malfunction.




If you have had the gate a while and the posts are stable and erect, we will recommend you add barrel hinges (also called bullet hinges).  Actually, if we are installing the operator and you don’t have good hinges, it is not just a recommendation.  We’ll add it to the package price or we will not do the install.  There is no point.  Without good hinges, we cannot warranty our work because the gate operator will have problems and quickly wear itself out.


Why are we suggesting barrel hinges?  The ones we use are very strong and high quality, yet still economical.  They are substantial hinges made for substantial gates.  The weight capacity depends on the size you get, but they are about $45/pair.  Most of the time we use this 7” pair.


boxed pair of barrel hinges

Pair of Barrel Hinges


So long as your posts have been in the ground for a reasonable amount of time and don’t lean, we can be relatively sure you don’t need a higher priced, adjustable hinge.  This is not a recommendation against adjustable hinges.  If you don’t need the adjust ability, we just don’t recommend that added expense.  Barrel hinges will work fine.


You say you have barrel hinges, but your gate installer still wants to replace them.  Well, we might say the same thing.  When was the last time you greased them?  Barrel hinges come with a grease zerk for a reason.  If you don’t periodically grease your ranch gate hinges, they will rust and need replacing.




Now, for the fun part –  our controversial stance on how to install barrel hinges.  We’ll argue that the grease zerk on the bottom is upside down.  Many of our friends and competition in the business install them that way arguing that is where the grease sits. We disagree because most of our clients do not grease their ranch or driveway gates hinges regularly.


The diagram below or at this link show the inside of a barrel hinge.  The side with the bearing (-SB) and the grease zerk (-G) is what can get water in it and rust .

7-inch barrel hinge diagram


In our opinion, if you have the barrel hinges installed correctly (with the grease zerk on top), water cannot get into the hinge and cause rust. Therefore, they will last longer even if you don’t grease them.  We still advocate you regularly grease your hinges to extend the life of them!


upside down barrel hinge

Upside-down Barrel Hinge


barrel hinge right side up

Right-side Up Barrel Hing


Here is a quick video about greasing your hinges:


What is your vote for the right way to install a barrel hinge? Comment below.


If you are getting ready to build and install a new driveway gate, checkout our checklist. Click here to get more details and download it.

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