A stair lift is a mechanical device that allows a person with mobility issues to safely travel up and down a flight of stairs. Like any piece of equipment, stair lifts can develop mechanical problems over time. If your home stair lift is malfunctioning, making strange sounds, or displaying error codes, there are a few things you should check before requesting a repair. You can often avoid repair calls just by understanding how your equipment works. Preventing a repair call could save you time and money, so consider these 11 common reasons for stair lift malfunctions and what you can do to fix them.
1. Check the Key Switch
If your stair lift isn’t moving, the first thing you should check is whether the key is in the correct position. Depending on your stair lift model, your key switch is located on the top landing chassis side or on the lower front cover of the chair’s armrest. Once you’ve located the key switch:
- Verify operation by turning the on/off buttons on the chair arm and on the separate control units to ensure buttons are in the on position.
- Alternately, if the power supply is transmitted through a spur, verify that the red light is on and wasn’t turned off accidentally.
- Remove and reinsert the key, making sure it’s in the correct position.
2. Adjust the Swivel Seat
All stair lift chairs have a standard swivel position. If the seat is swiveled towards the landing, the chair won’t work and will keep alerting you about the problem. Swivel the chair back to its riding position after each use, and the mechanism will lock it back into place. If the position is wrong, an error code will be displayed.
3. Lower the Armrests
Most stair lifts include armrests on the seat for added comfort and safety. These armrests must be in the down position for your lift to operate properly. When they’re left up, it triggers a safety switch. When this switch is engaged, it disables your lift when you try to activate it using the up or down buttons.
4. Check for Obstructions on the Stairs
Toys and other household items can obstruct the path of the stair lift. Check to see if there are any obstructions in the path or footrest. Tap on both sides to confirm whether the footrest is working properly. The lift will stop working if the underpan sensors detect any obstruction in its path. The display will indicate which sensor was triggered. If it’s safe to do so, see if you can move the stair lift in the opposite direction of the obstruction, and then remove the obstruction.
5. Confirm You Have Power
Most stair lifts have indicator lights that tell you whether it’s receiving power. If there aren’t any lights illuminated or only a red light is on, your lift isn’t getting any power. Because a stair lift is operated and controlled by circuits, it should also be safeguarded with a surge protector. If your stair lift isn’t getting power, you can:
- Check if the power supply of the stair lift is plugged into a working outlet.
- If it’s a switched outlet, make sure the switch is in the on position.
- If the outlet has a ground-fault circuit interrupter, check if the GFCI needs to be reset.
- Check to see if a circuit breaker has been tripped.
- Plug a lamp or other small appliance into the outlet, to see if it will power something besides the stair lift.
If the outlet is getting power but nothing works when plugged in, there’s something wrong with the outlet. However, if the outlet will power another appliance, the problem is with your stair lift.
6. Check the Battery Disconnect Switch
The battery disconnect switch is the main shutoff switch for the stair lift system. Finding this switch can be difficult because its location may vary by manufacturer. Typically, the battery switch is located on the lift carriage in a place that won’t be accidentally hit or knocked easily. Ensure the switch is turned on because it disables all functions of the lift when turned off.
7. Investigate Obstructions on the Track
Another common issue is obstructions in the track of the rack hinge rail. These tracks are easily obstructed by new flooring or carpeting, small objects, and trailing wires. An obstruction can interfere with the smooth operation of your stair lift or stop operation altogether.
- Regularly check these tracks for any type of obstruction to prevent bumpy rides or stopping in the middle of going up or down the stairs.
- Lubricate the entire track every few months to help ensure smooth operation. You may need assistance with this task if you have limited mobility.
If your stair lift should ever stop midway on the stairs, it’s safer to stay in the chair and attempt to restart or call for help. Always keep a cell phone or personal emergency alert device with you for this purpose. If you must get out of the chair before reaching the top or bottom of the stairs, do so slowly, safely, and ideally with someone there to help you.
8. Inoperable Remote Control
Most stair lifts come equipped with a remote control, which lets you send the chair to the top or bottom of the stairs without a person being aboard. If your handheld remote control isn’t working, it generally needs new batteries. If you’ve recently replaced your batteries and the remote control still isn’t working, they may have been installed incorrectly. To correct this:
- Open the back of the remote control.
- Confirm whether the batteries were properly installed.
- Replace the batteries, if necessary.
If you know you’ve properly installed brand-new batteries and the remote still doesn’t work, it may be defective, and you’ll need a new one.
9. Beeping and Other Sounds
Stair lifts typically make beeping or other sounds when failure of their parts is imminent. Beeps can also indicate a safety device has been activated, there’s been a drop in power, or another similar issue has occurred. Extra noises generally indicate there’s something wrong with the circuit, there’s a loose connection which possibly needs servicing, or it needs new batteries. If the device is running much slower than normal, it could be a sign that the motor is wearing out or is defective.
Your model will likely do either short or long beeps or a combination of one or more beeps and chirps. The number of beeps and/or chirps helps with diagnoses. If you can’t figure out what the noises mean, write down the sequence of the beeps. Switch the stair lift off to silence the noise, and then call your service technician and tell them what sounds your lift made.
10. Error Codes
Like beeping noises, most stair lift models also show error codes on some type of diagnostics display located on the device. Read your owner’s manual to become familiar with these codes. When you see an error code or codes displayed, your manual tells you what they mean. This often helps you diagnose common stair lift problems yourself.
11. Read the Manual
Reading through the owner’s manual before using your stair lift helps reduce malfunctions and may also provide important maintenance tips. However, before you begin troubleshooting or making any adjustments, be sure you’re doing so from a safe position. Ask for assistance for any tasks you can’t safely perform yourself due to limited mobility.
If simple adjustments don’t address a problem with your stair lift, call your dealer. Reliable dealers provide on-call support by expert, factory-trained personnel to keep the equipment they supply in perfect working condition.
Count on Our Trained Professionals
Day Elevator & Lift has been a trusted resource for accessibility equipment in West Hempstead, New York, since 1992. We’re a fully licensed, bonded, and insured company supplying dependable, cost-effective mobility products across New York and New Jersey. We offer premium stair lift models suitable for residential and commercial settings built by established manufacturers, including Bruno, Harmar, and Savaria. Our entire collection of stair lifts come with standard warranty options, and we pride ourselves on providing excellent after-sales support to all our customers.
Visit our showroom to view the numerous working stair lift models we have on display and see how these devices can make climbing stairs much safer for you or a loved one. Contact us at (800) 758-5438 and let one of our knowledgeable staff members tell you more about our extensive range of accessibility products or request a free on-site evaluation today.