Motors For Your Horizontal Rolling Hangar Door

There are two types of motor operator in the marketplace:

    1. Operator driven by a steel wheel.
    2. Operator driven by a rubber tire.

When selecting a motor operator for a hangar door, there are several factors to consider:

    1. Door Size and Weight: The motor operator should be capable of handling the size and weight of the hangar door. Larger doors will require more powerful motors, larger wheel diameter and larger ASCE Rail.
    2. Power Source: Determine whether the building will have sufficient power to drive the door.
    3. Speed: The hangar door motor operator should include a Variable Frequency Drive (VFD) which can adjust the speed at which the motor operates. By using a VFD, the motor’s speed can be precisely controlled to ensure smooth and efficient operation of the hangar door.
    4. Durability and Reliability: Consider additional features beyond the motor operator that contribute to the longevity of your hangar door motor. These features include UL certification, soft start and soft stop capabilities, a cable system, and a tug bolt attachment.
    5. Push Buttons: Decide whether the momentary push button stations should be installed on a fixed wall or directly onto the hangar door. Additionally, consider whether they should be located inside the door, outside, or both. On floating door configurations consider our “stack” and “call feature”.
    6. Safety Features: Ensure the motor is equipped with necessary safety features to prevent accidents and adhere to safety regulations. These features might encompass safety edge technology, a warning buzzer, strobe light, emergency stop functionality, and momentary push buttons that mandate personnel to accompany the leading door panel during movement. Avoid features like Wi-Fi or wireless key fobs for remote door operation which significantly raise the risk of door accidents.
    7. Maintenance Requirements: Evaluate the maintenance requirements of the motor operator. There is more information on this within the article.
    8. Cost: Finally, consider the cost of the motor operator and factor this into your budget. Balance the upfront cost with the long-term reliability and performance.

Steel Wheel Driven Motor Operator

Mechanism: This type of motor operator uses a steel wheel that runs along the hangar door track.

Operation: As the motor rotates, it drives the wheel, causing the door to move along the track and pull or push the door accordingly.


    • Durability: AeroDoor steel wheels boast an industry-leading warranty lasting up to 25 years, unmatched by any other competitor. Renowned for exceptional strength, these components can endure substantial loads, rendering them a durable and long-lasting system for exceptionally large and heavy hangar doors.
    • Smooth Operation: Steel wheels ensure uniform motion along the rail. Additionally, the brush located along the bottom edge of the hangar door serves to deter debris and other undesired elements from entering the tracks during operation.
    • A steel wheel with a grease pin will require minimal maintenance compared to rubber tires, as they are less prone to wear and degradation over time. This will result in lower maintenance costs and less downtime.
    • Higher Weight Capacity: Steel wheels typically have a higher weight capacity compared to rubber tires, allowing them to effectively operate larger and heavier hangar doors without compromising performance.


    • Maintenance: Steel wheels require periodic lubrication to ensure smooth operation and prevent wear.
    • The initial expense for a steel-wheel-driven motor operator exceeds that of a rubber-tire-driven one. However, its longevity and superior performance should be taken into consideration.

Rubber Tire Driven Motor Operator

Mechanism: A rubber tire (solid or pneumatic) is mounted on a shaft driven by the motor. The tire is in contact with the ground providing traction to move the door.

Operation: When the motor rotates, it drives the shaft and tire, causing them to rotate and move the door along the ground.

Overall, while rubber tire operators may offer some advantages such as initial cost savings and flexibility, they can have drawbacks in terms of durability, traction, weight capacity, lifespan, and susceptibility to damage.


    • Convenient: Can be retrofitted to existing hangar doors with minimal disruption and cost.
    • Versatility: Rubber tire systems can be used on various surfaces.
    • Budget: Perfect for projects on a tight budget.
    • Suitability: Small hangar door openings.


    • Wear and Tear: Rubber tires wear out and need to be replaced.
    • Susceptibility to Damage: Rubber tires are more susceptible to damage from debris, sharp objects which can lead to operational issues and downtime.

How to Choose

The choice between a steel wheel-driven motor operator and a rubber tire motor operator is influenced by factors including the hangar door’s dimensions and weight, the operational surroundings, preferred budget, and maintenance preferences.

Steel wheel systems are recognized for their robustness and seamless performance, albeit they may entail higher initial costs. Conversely, rubber tire systems offer versatility for both new and existing door systems, yet they may necessitate more frequent tire replacements.

Here are some scenarios where using a steel wheel motor might be more appropriate:

    1. Heavy Load Capacity: If the hangar door is exceptionally large or heavy, a steel wheel motor shall be preferred due to its ability to withstand higher loads. Steel wheels are typically stronger and more durable than rubber tires, making them suitable for big and heavy hangar doors.
    2. Rough or Uneven Surfaces: In environments where the ground surface is rough or uneven, steel wheel motors shall provide better stability and traction compared to rubber tire motors. Steel wheels would be less prone to slipping and can maintain consistent movement along the track.
    3. High Frequency of Use: If the hangar door is frequently opened and closed throughout the day, a steel wheel motor may be more suitable due to its durability and resistance to wear and tear. Steel wheels won’t degrade over time compared to rubber tires, at least not if the steel wheel is made to AeroDoor specifications.
    4. Harsh Environmental Conditions: In environments with extreme temperatures, moisture, or chemical exposure, steel wheel motors may offer better resistance to corrosion and damage compared to rubber tire motors. Steel wheels are less susceptible to degradation from environmental factors, making them suitable for challenging conditions.
    5. Long-Term Durability: If the goal is to maximize the lifespan of the motor operator system and minimize maintenance requirements, a steel wheel motor may be preferable. Steel wheels typically require less frequent replacement and maintenance compared to rubber tires, especially in demanding environments.
    6. Explosion Proof: The steel wheel motor operator stands as the sole option for aircraft hangars obligated to adhere to explosion-proof classifications.

It’s important to consider these factors alongside the specific requirements and constraints of the hangar door project to determine the most suitable motor type. In some cases, a combination of factors may necessitate the use of a steel wheel motor despite the potential advantages of a rubber tire motor, or vice versa. Consulting with AeroDoor can help in making an informed decision based on the specific needs of the project.

Manual Door

There are multiple scenarios in which opting out of motor operators for a bottom rolling hangar door may be deemed acceptable. Nonetheless, it’s crucial to deliberate on this choice diligently during the design phase, as retrofitting motors afterward can incur greater expenses.

Below are situations where a manually operated hangar door might be more suitable:

    1. When the hangar door is small enough, that moving the door leaves by human force is safe to do so.
    2. In cases where an existing bottom rolling hangar door is being retrofitted or replaced, and the decision is made to continue using manual operation.
    3. If there are budget constraints or cost considerations that make it impractical or unnecessary to install motors for the hangar door at the current time.
    4. In situations where the hangar door is infrequently used or does not require frequent opening and closing, manual operation may suffice, and investing in motors may not be deemed necessary.

Power Requirements

Electric motors should always be sized according to the door system provided. Typical shall be 480V, 240V or 208V, 3 phase and control voltage 24VDC.

AeroDoor motor operators are individually tailored and crafted to meet your unique door needs, providing adaptability for alternative options. Prior to finalizing any electrical system design, we strongly recommend consulting with us regarding voltage and amperage requirements.

Power Failure

If there is a malfunction or power outage affecting the hangar door motor, it should be feasible to manually disconnect it and connect a tractor or aircraft tug to the door’s leading edge for mobility. The hangar door manufacturer should equip each leading-edge panel of the hangar door with a tug bolt to facilitate this procedure.

Once the issue for power failure is identified and fixed, the motor can be reconnected for normal operation.

Safety Features

Controls: Door controls should have momentary mushroom head buttons. Momentary buttons require continuous pressure to operate, which reduces the risk of accidental door activation compared to toggle switches, Wi-Fi controls, key fobs etc. Momentary buttons greatly enhance safety by minimizing the likelihood of unintended door movements.

Manual Release: A manual release mechanism allows for manual operation of the hangar door in the event of a power outage or system failure.

Visual and Audible Alerts: Visual beacons and audible sirens provide warnings to personnel in the vicinity of the door, alerting them to the door’s movement.

Overload protection: These mechanisms prevent the motor operator from operating if the load on the door exceeds a certain threshold, reducing the risk of damage to the motor or door components.

Safety edge: Not a standard feature but an upgrade for your consideration. Sensing edges detect objects or obstructions in the path of the door while it is operating. When an obstruction is detected, the motor operator stops or reverses the door’s movement to prevent damage or injury. Learn more about AeroDoor safety edges which meet and download specifications for your next project.

Wind Pins / Hurricane Pins: While not a standard inclusion, manual safety locks are highly recommended as an upgrade in certain regions of the world. These pins descend into the concrete floor space to firmly secure the hangar door in the closed position, especially amidst turbulent weather conditions.

Explosion Proof Classifications

Steel wheel-driven operators can be engineered to be explosion-proof, designed to operate safely in environments where there’s a potential for explosions due to flammable gases, vapors, or dust. These motors incorporate sealed enclosures, spark-resistant materials, and sturdy insulation to prevent the ignition of hazardous substances.

For comprehensive safety, it’s essential to pair this motor system with explosion-proof classified conduits, junction boxes, and other electrical connection materials. If the explosion-proof classification extends beyond the top of the door, the use of SOOW cable or a cable reel is necessary to transfer power from the building to the hangar door’s motor and controls.


Warranty conditions differ from one manufacturer to another. While most hangar door manufacturers commonly offer a standard 1-year warranty for door motors, controls, and wheels, AeroDoor sets itself apart by adding an impressive 25-year warranty for steel wheels. This difference is particularly noteworthy for those contemplating a steel wheel operator.

Please read the AeroDoor Warranty here.


AeroDoor offers the manufacturing and installation of new bottom rolling hangar doors, which include motors, controls, and options outlined in this article.

For existing hangar doors requiring new or replacement motors or safety edges, AeroDoor also offers comprehensive services, covering motor installation, control panel setup, and all essential low-voltage wiring, junction boxes, and conduit.


These FAQs cover some common inquiries regarding hangar door motor operators, but for specific queries or concerns, it’s recommended to reach out to a professional installer or manufacturer for personalized assistance.

What is the process for transferring power from the building to the hangar door motor operator?

Usually, the building owner provides power to the edge of the door opening, which is then routed to the motors by the door manufacturer. The approach to power delivery varies depending on the design and size of the hangar door system. Below are some common methods employed by hangar door manufacturers to supply power to hangar door motors and control panels:

    • Trolleybus: These configurations consist of a suspended track positioned between the top guide rails of the door, facilitating power transmission to the motors through connectors or trolleys. Although more expensive than SOOW Cable, trolleybus systems are frequently preferred for their capacity to accommodate more complex setups. Trolleybuses excel in supplying power for floating hangar door configurations and are suitable for non-explosion-proof environments exclusively.
    • SOOW Cable: An electrical cable positioned along the top of the door, typically extending from the corner of each door leaf. Ideal for taller door leaves compared to their width. Suitable for non and explosion proof environments.
    • Extension Chord or Cable Reel: In some cases, power can be supplied to the motor using an extension cord or a cable reel. This method allows for flexibility in positioning the motor and may be useful in situations where a fixed electrical connection is not feasible.

More information on trolleybus and SOOW.

How many motor operators are needed on a hangar door?

Most hangar doors are powered by a single motor operator, which can range from 1.5hp to 3hp, situated on the inside edge of the leading door leaf. However, exceptionally large hangar doors may require multiple motors.

The hangar door configurations also dictate the number of motor operators needed. A unidirectional door typically has one motor operator, a bi-parting door necessitates two motor operators, and a floating door requires up to 4 motor operators. We have prepared demonstrations for each hangar door configuration, outlining the specific number of motor operators required.

What push buttons are on the hangar door control panel?

We have prepared demonstrations for each hangar door configuration, outlining the quantity of push buttons required to maneuver a hangar door.

What about electrical interlocks?

Each personnel door rough opening shall be furnished with an electrical interlock, ensuring that the leaf or group of leaves it pertains to cannot be operated when the personnel door is open. AeroDoor can also include an indicator light on the control panel to signal when the walk door is open. The same theory applies for overhead tail doors and most other door related features that can be a cause for concern.

What is the “soft start, soft stop” featured in this article?

Soft start and soft stop feature for hangar door motors provide gradual acceleration and deceleration, respectively, enhancing safety, reducing wear and tear on the door components. Not all hangar door manufacturers offer this feature as standard.

What does the term “cable system” refer to in the durability section of the article?

A cable system is a recommended upgrade for exceptionally large hangar doors as it serves as a mechanism for supporting and guiding the movement of the door panels. It typically consists of cables attached to the door panels and routed through pulleys or tracks, allowing for smooth and controlled operation of the door.

The cable system helps distribute the weight of the door evenly, ensuring proper alignment and reducing stress on the motor and other components. Additionally, it allows for efficient opening and closing of the door, particularly in larger hangar door configurations.

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Paul Blake Author
Director of Sales , View My Profile

Paul has over 14-years of sales and marketing experience in the hangar door industry. Prior to this, Paul spent 8 years working in a sales division of Apple Inc, where skills in supply chain, selling and customer service were taught at a multinational level.