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The difference between traction & hydraulic lifts

12 March 2021

What's the difference between traction & hydraulic lifts?

When looking to install a new lift, it is important to understand the different type of lift systems available, how they work and the pros and cons of each – ensuring you make the best decision based on the building the lift will serve.

Hydraulic lift systems operate with the use of a pump. The pump runs electronically and pushes hydraulic fluid (oil) into a cylinder. The cylinder in turn, pushes the ram of the lift upwards due to the increased pressure, thus lifting the lift car too. When the lift car is called to descend, valves open allowing the hydraulic fluid to flow back into the fluid reservoir.

Due to the increased pressure, hydraulic lifts are often utilised for lifting heavier load weights; therefore, are suited to operate as goods lifts. However, due to lifting heavier weights and the reliance on the pump, hydraulic lifts are often slower than other lift systems such as traction; therefore, are recommended to only serve fewer floor levels.




Traction lift systems feature a motor. The motor operates by either moving in one direction to lift the car upwards, and the other downwards. Traction motors are attached to a sheave which has a rope that sits in the ‘v’ shaped grooves of the sheave. The rope is attached to both the lift car and a counterweight – ensuring that when the lift rises, the counterweight lowers to relieve power pressure on the entire lifting system.

Due to this, traction lifts travel at much faster speeds and are more suited to higher story buildings. As a result of increased speed, traction lift installations are often more expensive than hydraulic.


Traction lift diagram


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