Elevators are a safe and reliable mode of transportation for your tenants and visitors, as long as they’re regularly inspected and serviced. But, as with all mechanical systems, problems can develop.
Not only can these problems lead to potential injury, but they can also expose you to expensive emergency repairs, excessive downtimes, unhappy tenants, code violations, fines – and possible legal liability. By learning to recognize early signs of elevator problems you can make sure you always stay one step ahead.
Detect the Early Signs of Elevator Malfunctions
Elevators need regular, consistent maintenance to keep all equipment running smoothly, but problems do occasionally start to appear between service visits. This can be things like unusual sounds, jerky movements, or buttons that stop working. By spotting the early signs of elevator problems you can address them before they become potentially expensive, disruptive, or dangerous, and you can save yourself major headaches down the road.
Let’s take a look at some potential warning signs to look out for.
Problems You Can See
Horizontal Scratches on Outside of Doors
Scratches are indicators that the doors are beginning to suffer from misalignment. Doors that are misaligned can cause breakdowns, and potentially trap passengers in the elevator cab.
- Change of Door Speed
If you see the doors slowing down or opening and closing erratically, it’s usually a sign that your operator system needs to be repaired or replaced. If this doesn’t get addressed early, it can lead to a total door system failure.
- Temperature Too Low
If your elevators are hydraulic, you should regularly check the thermometer of your motor room during the cold-weather season. If you see that the ambient temperature has dropped below 50 degrees, it needs immediate attention. Any cold-air leaks need to be repaired, and you may also need to install an oil tank heating system. If the oil in your system become unduly cold, it can cause the fluid to solidify, and your elevators will grind to a halt.
- Mis-levelled Stops
If you notice that your elevator stops just above or just below a floor, it’s a sign that needs to be taken seriously. It’s not only a dangerous tripping hazard, but in places like New York City it is also a violation of DOB code. The regulations require elevators to stop accurately and consistently within a finite limit of ½-inch above or below floor level. If a gap is ignored, it will gradually grow bigger and become more dangerous.
Top Tip: In older buildings, mis-levelled stops are often caused by using an old, obsolete traction system that relies on mechanical brakes to stop the car. As they wear over time, their accuracy decreases. To remedy this, you should get the brakes serviced immediately. Alternatively, you may want to look at upgrading your elevator to a modern control system with electrical stops that have built-in tolerance levels that always land the elevator in line with the floor.
Problems You Can Hear
- Screeching, Thudding, Banging and Clanging
A healthy elevator runs quietly. If you hear unusual noises, your elevator is indicating that there are mechanical issues that are on their way to creating future problems. These sounds shouldn’t be ignored, as any hidden issues can get worse over time. The quicker you address any audible elevator problems, the lower the repair costs and the shorter the downtime.
Problems You Can Feel
- Speed Changes
If your elevator speeds up or slows down significantly before stopping or if you notice the speed shifting, this is a strong sign of problems with cables, pulleys, and hoisting motors. To avoid a breakdown, contact your elevator technician as soon as possible.
- Sudden Jerking
Rough stops and jerking signifies that there is something wrong with the components that move your cab up and down, and it could be a sign that elevator failure is just around the corner. It’s important to address this quickly, to avoid passenger injury and potential between-floors stop.
- Unresponsive Buttons
Whatever type of buttons you use in your elevators, you should keep an eye on any issues with them responding erratically. If there’s an occasional glitch, get the button/s replaced before they become completely inoperative. Unresponsive buttons will no doubt lead to huge frustration among your building’s occupants and visitors.
Did you know? The “close door” buttons still seen in many elevators have often been rendered unresponsive on purpose, after the 1990 Americans With Disabilities Act required riders with disabilities to always be given sufficient time to board the car.
Play It Safe – Always Watch for Potential Problems
To minimize problems and keep your tenants safe and happy, it is helpful to be vigilant to the above warning signs and other advance signals that preventative service is necessary. But one of the surest warnings of a major upcoming elevator problem is if constant breakdowns are requiring repeated service call-backs to keep your elevator running. If this is happening to you – or your elevator is more than 20 years old – it is time to consider a system upgrade or modernization.
We’re Here to Help!
For help evaluating your elevator system and determining the best course of action going forward, call our team at the DC Elevator headquarters at 859-254-8224.