Chain fall hoistA Chain hoist is a valuable tool that lots of industries use to handle many materials safely. This often includes moving construction materials, engines and other objects from one place to another.

A chain hoist can move these objects safely because they take advantage of their outstanding design to make moving loads easily and efficiently. As a result, chain hoists are exceptional value, giving individuals the capability to quickly move extremely heavy loads without the help of someone else.

As you can see, you just don’t pick a pretty hoist or buy the cheapest hoist. Gather all the information and details you can and make an informed purchase.

Types of Chain Hoists

There are various different types of chain hoists available which are suitable for specific jobs, the question is, which type of chain hoist do you need?  To help, I have listed the different options available so you can make an informed decision.

Air Chain Hoist

The air chain hoist is capable of lifting weights up to 3 tons but is lightweight, compact and easy to use, which makes it a perfect choice for both home and commercial requirements.  With speeds of between 45 – 120 FPM, safely lifting and lowering loads is quick and smooth.  Air chain hoists are reliable and durable, requiring very little upkeep on a year to year basis.

With built-in stops and an external braking system, you can rest assured that you can safely lift and lower your load. The pull chord allows you to maintain control at all times, and with the bonuses of an ergonomic throttle, muffler to suppress noise when in operation and the option to use a hook or lug suspension, the air chain hoist really has you covered for most jobs.

Electric Chain Hoist

An electric overhead hoist is often specified when the application calls for more frequent and faster lifting, such as on a factory production line. An electric hoist with a motorized trolley is ideal for repetitive lifts which are required to travel long distances. A wide range of capacities and speeds are available for both hoists and motorized trolleys.

Mechanically, an electric hoist is very similar in design to a hand hoist. To put it simply, physical operator input (force applied to hand chain or lever) is replaced by an electric motor and controls. The controls are needed to start and stop the hoist motor and reverse its direction. A push button pendant station is normally used to control the hoist and/or trolley motions.

Electric powered hoists are available in hook, lug or trolley (push type, hand geared or motorized) suspensions.

The electric hoists lifting medium can be either chain (coil or roller type) or wire rope. Wire rope hoists are gener- ally used for higher capacities, faster speeds, smoother and higher lifts. However, chain hoists with the same capabilities as wire rope hoists have become increasingly popular in recent years. Coil and roller chain hoists are the most popular in the 3 ton and smaller sizes because these hoists are generally smaller in size, lighter and less expensive to manufacture.

All chain hoists provide true vertical lift (load does not vary from the hoist centerline during hoisting or lowering). Specially constructed wire rope units can also be furnished to provide true vertical lift when required.

Lever Chain Hoists

Sometimes called power pullers or come-along-winches, the lever operated hoist is typically used for pulling heavy loads or stretching and tightening objects for transport, however, you can also you a lever chain hoist for lifting heavy objects.

Very much like a hand chain hoist, which we discussed earlier, the lever hoist is designed to use a lever or handle instead of a hand wheel. The operator simply uses the lever to raise or lower the load in small, controlled increments. This is not a particularly fast method of moving a heavy object but it is reliable, simple to use, and the control is important for irregular loads.

Parameters to consider when specifying lever hoists are:

Frame and lever construction – aluminum, steel or cast iron (customer preference).

  • Capacity (lbs. or tons) – the weight of the load to be lifted. A hoist’s rated capacity is the maximum load for which the hoist is designed by the manufacturer to lift.
  • Lift (ft.) – the maximum length of travel required for raising and lowering the load. Standard lifts are generally 8 ft., although some companies standardize on 10, 15 and 20 ft. lifts.
  • Hand Chain Drop – the length of chain required for the hoist’s hand chain. The drop is normally 2 ft. less than the length of lift, which prevents the chain from contacting the floor. The actual length of hand chain required is approximately 2 x lift minus 2 ft., since the chain is in a continuous loop when it travels around the hoist’s hand chain wheel.
  • Suspension – how or where will the hoist be attached? Most hand chain hoists are sold with a top hook used for single point suspending. They can also be hooked on to a trolley, or built special with a top lug or eyebolt. This allows attachment to a low headroom style trolley for more permanent installations.
  • Accessories – are there any other special requirements? Many hoist manufacturers offer special options such as chain containers to hold the excess load chain, plated chain for corrosion resistance and special spark resistant features for hooks and chain. Contact the manufacturer if these, or other options are not listed in the price books.

Some manufacturers offer overload protection devices for lever operated hoists as an added cost option. Friction type internal clutches, or overload handle indicators, are available to warn the hoist operator of an overload condition. The internal clutch is similar to that used on the hand chain operated hoist. One particular design of an overload handle is a mechanical device built in to the handle. The handle will deflect when an excessive handle force (overload) has been applied to the unit. This warns the operator that the tool is being overloaded.

Manual Chain Hoists

By far the simplest chain hoist that you can use, the manual or hand chain hoist is capable of lifting very heavy loads and thus extremely helpful in the garage or on the go.  For more information on how to use these in your garage or when hunting, take a look at the best deer hoists or best engine hoist pages.

If you are not sure how the manual hand chain hoist works, take a look at this great video to get a better idea.


Headroom dimensions become important for applications which require operation in close quarters (low ceilings, obstructions, short lifts, etc.). Headroom information by model number and hoist capacity can be found in the manufacturer’s sales specifications and you would typically use this for a Jeep top hoist or canoe storage hoist.

Hook Mounted Units

The distance between the bearing surfaces of the upper and lower hook at the high hook position (or the minimum distance between hooks).

Trolley Mounted Units

The distance from the bottom of the beam to the bearing surface of the lower hook, at the high hook position.

Push Type Trolley & Components

Trolleys are available in several different configurations. The most common are the hand powered (plain or push type) as shown above. Also available, are hand geared (hand chain driven) and motorized (electric or air powered).

A push type trolley is normally used for moving light loads and if load spotting accuracy is not critical. The trolley is moved along the beam by pulling the hoist’s load chain, usually in the lower hook block area. Hand geared trolleys are used for heavier loads, load spotting accuracy, or if the trolley is mounted very high. Powered trolleys are often used for heavy loads, longer distances, repetitive applications, or where faster speeds are required.

Additional Research

Ask Questions!

If you search and find a hoist that you believe is the proper choice for your application, we suggest you contact the seller or manufacturer with any and all questions you may have. They only stupid question is the one not asked. To find the contact information of the hoist you are interested in, click on the listing image or title. You will then be able to find the sellers contact information. If you are still not satisfied, write down the model number and contact the hoist manufacturer. They know their equipment best.

Safety First!

  • We would like to remind you to always wear a hard hat, safety glasses and leather gloves when operating a hoist.
  • Hoists and beams should be inspected by a certified inspector annually. More frequent use requires inspections more often. Check for signs of wear before each use.

If you are in doubt or inexperienced with hoists, it’s best to be safe and purchase the correct equipment for your application. We suggest you contact a hoist expert.