elevator malfunction
July 16, 2006 5:58 AM   Subscribe

I am currently renting a home that has an installed elevator built by American Crescent, that spans three floors. It appears to be 'jammed'...

...and is not ascending or descending when asked. The elevator chamber closes off using a simple acordion style door, after which an external door closes. I've checked all three floors, all doors are closed. I'm able to jimmy the lock to peer into the shaft and cannot see any 'reset' buttons. I've confirmed that all the locks on each floor are engaged so it doesn't appear that the elvator is tricked into thinking there is an open connection somewhere keping it from operating. I've tried resetting the fuse at the box. I've checked the website and cannot find anything via Google on troubleshooting.

Any itinerant elevator mechanics out there with advice?
posted by docpops to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
I am not an elevator mechanic, but I have a friend who works for Otis ("good to the last drop") Elevator, and he is adamant that elevator work be left to the professionals. It is almost impossible to screw up an elevator in such a way as to make it fall, but there are numerous other safegaurds to prevent such things as the doors opening on an empty shaft (you may recall what happened to Dr. Drake Ramoray) or the elevator moving when it is not expected to (as happened to this poor guy). A Google on fatal elevator accidents will give you many more examples. As this is a potential safety issue, I would think the landlord is responsible for fixing it. And although I didn't think about your screen name before posting, I think you will see that doctors seem to be at increased risk.
posted by TedW at 6:53 AM on July 16, 2006

There is real wisdom in TedW's advice.

That said, I'm not an "itinerant elevator mechanic," but long ago, I did routine elevator maintenance as part of my job. Based on that, and a quick perusal of the American Crescent Web site, it appears that their "Residential elevators are powered by submersible pump units driving a piston which moves the roped hydraulic lift." Unlike commercial counterweighted elevators I serviced, there is no clutched lift motor above the car, but instead some kind of hydraulic pump probably below the car, in a basement or service well, connected to a series of ropes and sheaves which will offer some distance multiplication of the hydraulic ram's stroke when lifting the car.

So the immediate troubleshooting questions are:

1) Are any safety mechanisms activated that prevent the movement of the car? (Visual inspections and electrical measurements of the control circuits to confirm correct operation).

2) Is the lift rope and pulley(s)/sheave(s) intact? (Visual inspection to confirm).

3) Is the hydraulic power source operable, not leaking, and connected to the lift rope(s), and operable through a normal range of travel? (Visual inspection to confirm, along audible noises of normal operation and pressure checks of function)
posted by paulsc at 7:20 AM on July 16, 2006

(more derail but relevant: when I try to let people on an elevator, I stick my hand or foot into the gap between the elevator doors to re-open the closing doors (I always forget the stupid button is there). I think I might stop after reading about doors slamming on people's heads and chopping them off. That's scary.)
posted by ajpresto at 9:21 AM on July 16, 2006

Ajpresto-that beheading incident occured when the victim stuck his head into the shaft to see if the elevator was coming as the indicator lights were not working. He unfortunately did so just as the car passed his floor, decapitating him. A similar incident happened a few years ago in New Orleans, when a hospital elevator left the floor while a patient was being pushed into it on a stretcher; this is why elevator safety interlocks that most people don't even know about are so important. If everything is as it should be there is almost no risk in doing what you describe; indeed, everyone does it.

Which brings to mind another medical-related story; most people do as you and use their hands to stop elevator doors from closing and let others on. However, one surgeon I know is so concerned about his hands that he uses his head instead.
(As an anesthesiologist I enjoy telling that joke every chance I get)
posted by TedW at 10:48 AM on July 16, 2006

As a 20 year elevator mechanic, my advice to you is: Please leave the elevator alone before you get yourself hurt or killed. There could be any number of things wrong with the unit that is preventing it from operating properly and safely. The unit needs to be checked out and repaired by a professional. I know it looks like a fun challenge to get it going but you are putting yourself at serious and unnecessary risk.
posted by Shalerman at 4:26 PM on July 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for all the input, esp. the gruesome anecdotes. Even better, AskMeFi proves yet again that sage advice abounds in the ether.
posted by docpops at 8:07 PM on July 16, 2006

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