Stair lifts are generally very reliable devices. But even stairway lifts made by the most reliable manufacturers and installed by highly trained technicians sometimes don’t budge when you try to use them. After all, there are many, many electronic and mechanical moving parts on a modern stairway chairlift, most of which are designed for your safety and convenience.
So what do you do if your stair lift won’t move? There are a number of common causes, mainly related to power and safety features, that you can check if your stair lift is stuck. Read on to learn our most common stair lift troubleshooting tips, and find out how to get your lift moving again.
1. Ensure the master switch is turned on.
This switch is usually on the stair lift “carriage,” which is the part underneath the seat that rides up and down on the rail. The master switch, usually red, white, or black in color, might be on the front, side, or back of the carriage. We wish we could be more specific, but it really depends on the make and model of your stair chair! Note: some stair lifts also have an extra on/off switch on the armrest. All switches must be in the “on” position, which is when the “I” symbol (or “ON”) is pushed down.
2. Check the key.
Many, though not all, stairway chairlifts have a key, which is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, this can prevent small children from using the stair lift when adults aren’t looking. On the other hand, it can also allow them to remove the key and put it in a tiny pocket (or who knows where) when adults aren’t looking! Make sure that the key is pushed in, and if it turns, that it is turned to the “ON” position.
3. Make sure the battery charger is plugged in.
If your stair lift was left unplugged for a very long time, the batteries might have drained and your stair chair lift won’t move. Plugging in the battery charger to the wall outlet may or may not recharge the batteries—but it’s worth a shot! If not, call a stair lift company with trained technicians, or read on for more stair lift troubleshooting tips.
4. Check ALL the “up”/“down” buttons…
Every modern stairway chairlift comes with a control button/joystick of some sort on one of the armrests, as well as at least two remote controls. Try all of them to see if any of them work. You may simply have dead batteries (usually two AA-size batteries) in one of the remote controls, which you can easily change out yourself just like a TV remote.
5. Make sure there’s nothing blocking the safety sensors/pressure switches.
All modern stair chairs come with safety sensors on the sides and bottom of the footrest, as well as the sides and bottom of the carriage. These sensors consist of metal or plastic panels that, when pressed in, stop the stair lift from moving. The idea being to prevent a pinch or crushing hazard on the stairs. We’ve seen everything from magazines to pencils caught in these spring-loaded sensors—so make sure they all pop back out when you press and release each of them.
6. Ensure the seat is swiveled and locked into place.
Some stairway lifts make a beeping noise when the chair is not swiveled and locked into the riding position, but others don’t. This is an easy thing to check, and you should hear a “click” when it locks into place. You know it’s in the riding position when it’s facing sideways on the stairs (not toward the upstairs landing, or the bottom of the stairs).
7. Make sure the “downhill” armrest is in the folded-down position.
Some stair chair lifts won’t move if the armrest closest to the bottom landing is folded up when using the armrest control to move the stair lift. (The remote controls should still work though, no matter what position the armrests are in—as long as the seat is swiveled properly, as described in the previous step.)
8. Hold the control button down for at least five seconds.
Your stair chair lift may have a built-in time delay, which is intentional. This is to make sure that the person pushing the button really wants to move the stair lift. Otherwise, a slight, accidental nudge could move the chair lift when a person sitting or standing nearby doesn’t intend to do so. For this reason, it’s important to hold down the control button for a few seconds to make sure that the “up” or “down” command registers. The length of this time delay varies by stair lift model but will not exceed five seconds.
9. Consult your owner’s manual.
Your owner’s manual is a great stair lift troubleshooting resource. This often comes in the form of a small booklet given to you by the installation technician. It can sometimes be available online as well. This can come in handy if your stair lift has a diagnostic function. Some chair lifts have a small digital read-out on the carriage or underneath the seat. If it does, you can either look it up in the owner’s manual or use it when you call a professional stair lift company for service.
10. Call a Professional!
At Arrow Lift, we service and repair nearly every make and model of stair lift. While no one can truly claim to have “seen it all,” with over 35 years of experience, we come darn close! If your stair lift won’t move, and you’d like to schedule a maintenance appointment, call us at 888-815-4387 or send us a message.