Sunday, February 9, 2014

Project report: Discrete electric garage door remote control options

For those who saw this post shortly after I posted it, please note that I have changed it.  It used to be only about the addition of a switched remote hidden in the Vespa's saddle, an excellent choice.  Now it's about two excellent options, one better than the next.

First I'll deal with the new option which was posted on ModernVespa minutes after I posted news of my genius modification.  I'm tackling that first because it's a totally awesome choice, and much easier to install and use than the option I just finished installing that took the better part of a year.  I could have done it in a single day, but I chose to do in tranches and savor the process.

The Flash2Pass option

I don't have to say much about this, and it's amazing.

All you need to do is buy a Flash2Pass unit.  There are two components.  One end (the receiver) you install in your garage like any other garage door receiver module.

The other bit is a box that you install on your bike (for a Vespa I'd tuck it into the headset fairing).  The bike unit wires to the high beam circuit.

The manufacturer claims the unit will operate any garage door opener made since 1982, including the more recent models that use rolling codes.

Here's how it works.  You just flash your high beam twice.  Presto!! The door opens.  The first press of the high beam switch energizes the transmitter unit, and the second press sends the signal to the receiver in the garage.  It's genius.  And so convenient.

But I don't have one.  I have my button-in-the-saddle-solution.  If you think you want one, click here.

The button-in-the-saddle option

There are a couple of minor modifications I've been tinkering with very, very slowly.  They both go back to some time last spring or summer.

One of them is a garage door opener modification.

It was a little tricky, but I'm finally done.

Here's the concept.  Solder a couple of leads to a universal garage door opener remote, connect them to a small momentary push button switch, then mount the switch through the seat hinge, just under the front lip of the Vespa's saddle.  The remote control unit then just sits in the saddle, tucked into the compartment where the rain cover sits.

The button is so discrete as to be virtually invisible, yet within very easy reach.

The nice thing about this little trick is that the garage door remote is always handy, easy to trigger while riding up to the garage, yet completely out of the way, and finally off my keychain.  Having the remote on the keychain wasn't the end of the world, but it required just a little too much concentration to watch where I was going, control the bike, fumble with the remote to locate the button with my gloves on.  It was a small pain, but a pain nonetheless.

The dicey bit was taking the remote apart and soldering a couple of fine leads onto the remote's switch terminals, without damaging any other components on the circuit board.

Believe it or not, I did it.  I was sure I'd destroy the remote.  But I didn't. 

Here's how the button-in-the-saddle option works.

Electric drill and drill bits
Pencil-tip soldering iron
Vice grips
10mm socket wrench and socket driver
Wire strippers / cutters
Crimping tool for electrical connectors
Skylink key-chain universal garage door remote
Small gauge solder
Spade type male and female crimp connectors
Small momentary push-button switch
Very small gauge electrical wire (I got what I needed from an old cell phone car charger)
Black electrical tape

1. I read this thread on the Modern Vespa forum very carefully.

2. I searched "soldering wire to circuit board" on YouTube and found a few videos that were helpful.

3. I bought a fine tip battery operated (4xAAA) soldering iron at The Source (formerly Radio Shack).

4. I found an old bit of non functioning electronic stuff (an X10 controller that gave up the ghost) and extracted the circuit board to practice on.

5. I got some fine insulated wire that I had lying around.

6. Using some small gauge electronics solder, I first tinned the soldering iron.

7. I stripped a tiny bit of insulation from the wire to expose the wire strands, twisted the strands (individually and separately not twisting the wires together), and tinned them with solder.

8. I used a pair of small vice-grips to gently hold the wire steady for the tinning step.

9. I clamped the vice-grip gently to the circuit board to keep it steady enough for soldering.

10. I found large-ish solder mounds on the circuit board and practiced melting the solder with the iron. Turns out that nothing was destroyed, the solder just liquifies ever so slightly.

11. I then held a piece of tinned wire to a solder mound and applied heat until the solder liquified. Bingo! The wire was soldered to the board. As simple as that. No need to apply any additional solder other than the tiny amount that what was tinned to the wire, and the solder on the board.

12. I repeated this a few times to make sure I could do it reliably and that my first attempt wasn't a fluke. Each time I chose smaller and more difficult solder points on the circuit board.

13. I took the garage door remote apart and took out the circuit board.

14. Mine is a Skylink brand universal key chain remote with a single button. I located the two solder points for the switch on the back of the board.

15. Using my new-found soldering skills, I successfully soldered two wires, one to each switch terminal.

16. With a very sharp craft knife (a scalpel actually) I cut a channel in the plastic case so the wires could pass through when the remote was re-assembled.

17. I reassembled the remote and re-installed the battery.

18. I held my breath, crossed my fingers and shorted to two wires, the LED flickered, and the garage door opened!!
19. Almost a year later, I had some time to devote to scooter stuff and decided to take the project a few steps further.  I soldered leads to the little momentary switch, and soldered a couple of male and female spade connectors to the switch leads, and to the remote leads.  That way I'll be able to disconnect and remove the remote should the need arise.  Reprogramming the remote for instance, or changing the battery.
20. The next little bit involved the bike.

21.  I first checked to make sure that the remote actually operates the garage door from inside the Vespa's pet carrier.  No problem there.

22.  I removed the underseat storage bucket to get to the seat hinge.  Using the 10mm socket wrench I removed the two bolts holding the saddle.

23.  I took the saddle indoors to take a close look at the hinge.  There is already a hole in the hinge but it's a little too small for the switch.  I drilled out the hole a little more and mounted the switch.  So far so good.
24.  I re-installed everything, but found the switch was just too far recessed under the saddle to be really convenient.

25.  After taking the saddle off and paying close attention to the way the hing operated, while the clearance was very tight, there was room to move the switch a little further forward.  I drilled a second hole, remounted the switch, re-installed the saddle and tried the switch again.
26.  This time it was perfect.  Easily accessible, even with heavy gloves on, and works like a charm.

27.  The body of the remote is tucked into the rain cover compartment.
28.  The main button on the remote remains accessible, which means I can still trigger the remote directly if the saddle is open.

29.  Another project done.  It only took eleven months of sporadic attention.  Done in a disciplined way, with the benefit of this project report, it's a nice way to spend a Sunday in the garage listening to Jazz and getting your fingers moderately dirty.

I think I'm going to like the convenience, and I'll be able to take the other remote off my key chain.  Less is more.


Coop a.k.a. Coopdway said...

David, very nicely done. Your disciplined approach goes down really well with me, thank you.

VStar Lady said...

But David just think how many calories you could burn getting off the Vespa, walking to the garage, opening the garage door, walking back to the Vespa. I think, like Coop - you have just too much (winter created) time on your hands.

David Masse said...

Thanks Coop! And I really like your pie (chart)! Plus it doesn't go to my waistline.

David Masse said...

Karen, saddle time is precious. So in my cabin-fevered crazed state, it makes fractured sense to spend hours and hours fiddling with stuff I know little about, in an attempt to conserve saddle time, at the expense of time spent walking to and fro in my driveway. Nuts, I agree, but time well-wasted.

Plus I like Coop's pie (chart) and I sympathize.

So what's keeping you from fiddling with farkles?

VStar Lady said...

Well ... my bike is somewhere hidden in the depths of a storage barn where I couldn't, I expect, see it even if I wanted to ... but I did buy new bags ;0)

David Masse said...


RichardM said...

Nice installation. I had wired a garage door remote into one of the "glove compartments" in the fairing. But ended up simply using Velcro to hold it into the fairing in a protected spot. I didn't use a waterproof push button switch and the contacts corroded. Rather than simply replacing the switch with a better one, I just removed the wires and simply stuck the remote onto the dash.

David Masse said...

Richard, the moto forums are amazing ressources. I had been following the thread I refer to in the project report as inspiration for this modification. Naturally I posted this solution to the MV thread. In a reply to that post a member pointed to Flash2Pass. If my switch corrodes (and maybe even if it doesn't) that is the way I'll go for sure. What an elegant solution. So much so, that I will revise my post to suggest that product.

David Masse said...

Karen, I saw the new bags on your blog Very nice indeed!

Dar said...

Wow that is pretty swish! Unfortunately I have a 1947 garage with two wood doors and it requires me to get off the bike and open them, oh to have a luxury like this at the end of a hard day of riding or on those dark rainy nights when getting home from work. Awesome job!

RichardM said...

Lori at For Love of a Motorbike posted a review of the Flash2Pass a few years back. It won't work for me as I occasionally need to open/close the garage door from the top of the driveway.

David Masse said...

I assume that you can use your remote from the top of the driveway, why wouldn't Flash2Pass work? It's RF like your remote, not line of sight. The high beam is not the actuator, it's the current from the switch that sets off the transmitter.

David Masse said...

Then again Dar, it's like living in a simpler earlier time. 1947, right on the cusp of the 50's, when the world was on the brink of the baby boom revolution. John, Paul, George and Ringo were about to start grade school. Simpler might be better.

RichardM said...

I wasn't sure how it worked though I haven't really looked much further than price on Amazon. Before my alternator upgrade, I usually had the headlights off before pulling into the driveway. With my little keychain remote, it usually takes several attempts to get the garage door to open or close and once it gets much below zero it will reverse halfway down about half the time. Still looking at it but for now the strip of Velcro works until I can find a better location to hide the remote. Ideally, I'd like to get rid of the battery as well so it's always at full power even at -30.

Unknown said...


check those aligning beams at the bottom of your rails. they have to beam towards each other. There is a light at one end and a "receiver" of light at the other. During cold weather your rails "chatter" and the beam does not always shine on the receiver as it is rolling down. You should lube your rails each October before the winter sets in. Wood contracts and expands causing the beam to come out of alignment and when they do your system THINKS that something has gotten between the beams and as a safety precaution the door retracts and changes direction.

When the door is UP there should be a red LED on one or both sides. just loosen the screws and reset their positions. Your's might need tweaking.

Riding the Wet Coast

Unknown said...


I used to have a double carport with remote door which had to be removed so I don't have your first world problem anymore.

what a co-incidence. I also have the same soldering iron, and I also had that same skylink remote. If I can find where I put it, you can have it. Just fly to Vancouver and I'll hand it over to you

why didn't you telll me when I was there. I love to solder circuits. don't forget I'm a hobbyist. Since that remote wasn't mine I would have no problem working on it

Riding the Wet Coast

David Masse said...

Bob, good analysis. That would explain the halfway up malfunction.

Richard, the Skylink remote is 12 volt and you could run it off the bike. The Flash2Pass runs off the battery by design. No need to change batteries or have reduced performance as the battery in the remote runs down.

David Masse said...

Too funny Bob.

Alex moner said...

No need to apply any additional solder other than the tiny amount that what was tinned to the wire, and the solder on the board. Bob Rudd

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