The Most Common Causes of Breakdowns in Mobile Hoists and How to Reduce Them

Published On: 15th September 2022

15 Minute Read

Mobile hoists are crucial pieces of equipment, that are relied upon by care staff in care homes, hospitals and SEND schools, to deliver the care that users need. They are sometimes used as an alternative to ceiling hoists.

Whilst they may differ in design, features and functionality – they all have common breakdown causes. Mobile hoists are prone to these issues because they receive heavy use, are always in demand, and are moved around the care facility a lot.

As a company that is routinely called out to repair mobile hoists, we’ve put together this list of the 6 most common causes of breakdowns with mobile hoists and how to reduce them. This will give you and your staff a better understanding of what could go wrong, so you can try and avoid it in the future.

Below is a list of the common causes of breakdowns which we will explore in more detail:

  1. Flat Batteries
  2. Handset not Working
  3. Emergency Stop Button Pressed
  4. Electronic Issues
  5. Castors Breaking
  6. Legs or Frame Breaking (Structural Damage)

1. Flat Batteries

Batteries are used on all electric mobile hoists to allow them to function. Whether you operate in a busy or quiet care environment, flat batteries for mobile hoists can be a common issue. When batteries are flat, not holding their charge or not charging at all, it can cause the mobile hoist to stop working or only work intermittently.

This typically occurs because the batteries are only charged little and often, or left off charge for long periods. This challenge is intensified in care facilities which operate multiple mobile hoists throughout with the same type of battery pack.

Consider this scenario:

Care staff use a mobile hoist for a transfer, see the battery is low so put it on charge

A short while later, another care staff then needs the hoist, so takes the battery off charge to use it. However, because the battery was only on charge for a short while, it doesn’t last long and so is put back on charge.

The next care staff does the same thing and soon the battery fails because it has been taken on and off charge, too many times without reaching its full charge.

Reduce Battery Related Breakdowns for Mobile Hoists:

The best way to prevent this issue from occurring is to implement a systematic method of charging your hoists. This not only helps to reduce the cost of engineer call outs, but it can also prolong the life of your mobile hoist batteries, further reducing costs on replacement batteries.

We explain more about this simple "3 step method" through an instructional video on the blog linked below.

"3 Step Method"


To extend the life of your hoist batteries, it is recommended that the battery pack is charged regularly, even if it is not being used. This is because a hoist battery will deplete (lose power) slowly, even when not in use.

2. Handset not Working

All electric mobile hoists are operated by a handset, to allow you to operate the lift action of the mobile hoist and the legs, if they are powered. Medaco are often called out to look at mobile hoists with handset issues or asked to supply replacement mobile hoist handsets for customers to fit themselves (if there is obvious damage to the handset, which is causing the issue). Either the handset can stop working completely, or it might only work intermittently on some of the functions.

Handsets on care equipment are durable. However, they can receive heavy use in certain environments such as busy care homes and SEND schools. Especially if they don’t have ceiling hoists installed, they rely on mobile hoists more.

There are several causes of faulty handsets which, unfortunately, mostly occur through incorrect use.

The most common cause we see is people pulling the mobile hoist along by the handset, instead of pulling or pushing the hoist by the handles. As handsets aren’t designed to be pulled, or carry the load of a mobile hoist, it causes the handset wires and connections to come loose or break.

When handsets aren’t stowed away correctly, they can also get caught in doors, or trapped under furniture which also causes damage to the wires, cables or the handset itself.

Broken Handset on Hoist

Reduce Handset Related Breakdowns for Mobile Hoists:

Staff training is key to reducing this issue, and reducing the unnecessary costs associated with handset breakdowns or replacement parts. Regular refresher training on how to use the specific mobile hoists within the work environment, as well as how to care for and maintain the hoist, should reduce this type of callout, or the need for constantly replacing the handset. It’s important to remind staff that mobile hoists must not be pulled along by the handset and cord, even with nobody in the hoist.

Before calling out an engineer, check if you have another mobile hoist which uses the same handset. You might be able to substitute it to see if it works. If it does, we can send out a replacement handset to you, on next-day delivery which reduces the cost of the call out and any associated equipment downtime.

3. Emergency Stop Button Pressed

Pressing the emergency stop button is a very common reason for call outs with mobile hoists and can be frustrating for care facility managers when they realise it is a simple fix.

Every mobile hoist has an emergency stop button and when pressed, it prevents any further operation – which is crucial during an emergency. Due to the crucial need for this button, it is in an easily accessible place. However, due to this design, staff commonly believe the hoist has stopped working but they may not realise someone has pressed the button accidentally - either by themselves or by someone else, such as a student in a school or a resident in a care home.

Reduce Emergency Stop Button Related Callouts for Mobile Hoists:

Check and Reset: Whilst you can’t stop anyone from accidentally pushing the emergency stop button, you can make sure you check if it’s been pressed before you call out an engineer. If it has, you can easily reset it by pulling it back out (this involves twisting the button on some hoists) and testing the hoist again. This could save you a call out charge and further equipment downtime.

Even though mobile hoists vary across different manufacturers, the emergency stop button is a safety feature and therefore similar from hoist to hoist. So, whilst it might be in a slightly different place, or be a different size – it is a clear red button on the hoist, usually located on or near the battery pack, which can be pressed in and pulled or twisted out.

Below are various mobile hoists and the location of their emergency stop button:

Emergency Stop Button
Emergency Button 2

4. Electronic Issues

As we’ve mentioned before, electric mobile hoists have different electronic components to help them function, compared to a hydraulic mobile hoist. Whilst this makes them easier to use, unfortunately these components can cause issues in care environments.

On mobile hoists, the electronic components that cause issues, include the actuator and control box. As well as the batteries and handset issues mentioned above.

Some mobile hoists will have more electronics for different uses, such as a powered lift, powered cradle and powered legs, which means more parts have the potential to go wrong.

Reduce Electronic Related Breakdowns for Mobile Hoists:

As with all other equipment, the better care you take of it, the less likely something will break. Proactive service and maintenance checks from a service and maintenance provider, as well as taking good care of your mobile hoist in between these checks, will reduce the likelihood of electrical issues occurring.

During a LOLER Inspection and annual service on your mobile hoist, engineers will inspect the electronic components to ensure they are functioning correctly, there are no unusual sounds, no signs of wear and tear, and everything is secure. If they spot anything that doesn’t look right, they will make recommendations to have it repaired or replaced proactively before it breaks completely.

Find out More About Inspections and Service on Mobile Hoist Actuators Here

Service Engineer Testing Mobile Hoist

5. Castors Breaking

Mobile hoist castors are one of the most common spare parts that Medaco replaces for their customers. Whilst they might not be the most expensive spare part, the costs can soon add up across all mobile hoists at all your sites – if they are frequently replaced due to damage.

Castors Wear!

Debris, carpet fibres and fluff, are often getting caught within the castor components, stopping them from turning and moving freely. If left to build up, it can make it a difficult task to unpick the fragments and so they end up being replaced.

Mobile Hoist Castor Wheel

Impact Damage

When mobile hoists are being moved around the care facility, they can get bashed against walls, door frames, furniture or other large obstacles. This can cause damage to the castors, as they aren’t designed to withstand this kind of impact. Even surfaces which are bumpy or uneven can take their toll on castors.

Environmental Damage

The final cause of damage to castors is the environment they are used in. In conditions where it is humid or wet, such as a swimming pool, spa or hygiene area, the castor mechanisms can become corroded over time which means they need to be replaced.


Reduce Castor Related Callouts for Mobile Hoists:

Cleaning, maintenance and regular checks are key to reducing this issue. Making sure that you remove debris from the castors, is an essential part of castor care, and can reduce the need to replace them as often. Ensuring they are wiped down and dried after being in a wet environment can also help to prolong their lifespan.

Finally, reminding staff to take care of the mobile hoist when moving it around the care facility, will not only reduce damage to castors but also to your walls and furniture.

6. Legs or Frame Bending (structural damage)

Another reason we are called out for mobile hoist breakdowns is damage to the legs or frame of the mobile hoist. There are several causes of this, which, unfortunately, usually occur through incorrect use.

Frame damage can occur if the mobile hoist is slammed against skirting boards, door frames or furniture, such as when trying to put them under profiling beds. They are moved around the building often and aren’t always easy to move if you have carpets or uneven floors.

Another cause of leg or frame bending can occur during the transfer of a service user. When staff lift service users from the floor, they can accidentally get the sling caught around one of the legs. If they don’t realise and start the lifting motion, this can put strain and tension on the leg and boom of the mobile hoist, causing them to bend or break.

Overloading the equipment past the safe working load, can also cause damage to the frame of the mobile hoist.

Reduce Leg and Frame Related Callouts for Mobile Hoists:

Providing your staff with regular training, on the correct use of the specific equipment, will help to reduce callouts associated with this issue.

Ensure you remind them of the checks they should complete on mobile hoists before every use. This includes checking the safe working load of the equipment, to ensure it isn’t overloaded.

Reminding your staff to take care of your equipment, or having the correct number of mobile hoists for your service users, could help reduce issues associated with moving the equipment around your care facility.

Taking Care of Your Mobile Hoists

Prevention is always better than cure. So, maintaining and caring for your mobile hoists in between your LOLER inspections and PPM visits is vital to help reduce these common causes of breakdowns. It also helps to prolong the lifespan of your equipment, reduce equipment downtime, reduce costs of call outs and maintenance, and increase safety for staff and service users.

Check out these 7 maintenance tips to prolong the lifespan of your patient handling equipment:

Link to Full Article:

7 Maintenance Tips to Prolong the Lifespan of Your Patient Handling Equipment

It’s also important to remind staff about the safety checks that staff should carry out before every use of a mobile hoist. Our helpful blog, video and checklist can be used as guidance for new staff and refresher training for current staff.

Read the Full Article:

How to Carry out Mobile Hoist Safety Checks Prior to Each Use

Should You Repair or Replace Your Mobile Hoist?

If your mobile hoist keeps having the same issues and it’s not due to incorrect or misuse, it might be due to the age, and therefore maybe time to replace your equipment.

We’ve written a blog on the top considerations when looking at repairing or replacing your equipment.

There are many different mobile hoists to suit different budgets. Some are more budget-friendly but may not be the best quality. Whilst others are more expensive, but better quality, you therefore have a better warranty from the manufacturer and may not breakdown as often. All this needs to be considered when purchasing a new mobile hoist and is covered in our recent blog ‘The importance of whole life cost for moving and handling equipment’.

If you are looking to purchase a new mobile hoist, check out our product comparisons and expert reviews to help you decide which one is right for you and your care facility.

Best Mobile Hoists for Care Homes