top of page
  • Writer's pictureScott O'Hare

Challenges Faced with Deferred Elevator Maintenance

Updated: Apr 30

Avoid Deferred Elevator Maintenance

Much like the car you drive every day, elevators require regular maintenance to operate safely and reliably. They are the only piece of major equipment in a facility that everyone uses, and as a result, the elevator industry is a life safety trade. The importance of elevator maintenance cannot be overstated, serving as the linchpin in ensuring the safety of passengers.

In the long run, regular maintenance not only saves costs for property managers and facility managers but also prevents entrapments, misleveling, machine malfunctions, and elevator equipment breakdowns that can endanger passengers.

Elevator maintenance mechanics, depending on the type of contract, regularly visit to check equipment and minimize risks of elevator downtime. However, a growing trend among large, global elevator corporations is overloading elevator maintenance routes, causing mechanics to defer maintenance.

Elevator Maintenance Challenges

In the United States alone, there are more than one million elevators. The average expected lifespan of one of these elevators is 20 to 30 years. This is, of course, assuming that the elevator receives regular maintenance as mandated by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) A17.1 elevator code. Sadly, this is not always the case.

Forty years ago, elevator maintenance mechanics managed routes consisting of 30 to 40 elevators each. Since the code mandated a minimum of quarterly visits for all elevators, mechanics had ample time to complete the lengthy list of maintenance tasks required for each elevator car.

However, in the last several years, the number of elevators has increased at a more rapid pace than the number of maintenance mechanics. Elevator companies have started overloading maintenance routes, assigning a couple of hundred elevators to each mechanic.

The more elevators on a route, the less time a mechanic has to complete all the tasks they need to accomplish. With less and less time on each car, mechanics find themselves deferring maintenance tasks on a regular basis, which can lead to various consequences, impacting both the performance and safety of the elevator system.

Potential outcomes of deferring elevator maintenance include:

  1. Increased Wear and Tear on Building Systems: Elevators have numerous moving parts, and keeping these components in good working condition is essential through regular maintenance. Deferring maintenance tasks may speed up the wear and tear on critical parts, potentially leading to the untimely failure of components.

  2. Reduced Reliability: Deferred maintenance can result in decreased reliability of the elevator system. Malfunctions and breakdowns are more likely to occur when components are not properly maintained, leading to service interruptions and inconvenience for users.

  3. Safety Concerns: Elevator safety is a top priority. Neglected maintenance can compromise the safety of the system, increasing the risk of accidents or incidents. For example, issues with brakes, cables, or control systems that go unaddressed could pose serious safety hazards.

  4. Costly Repairs: While deferring maintenance might save money in the short term, it often leads to more significant problems over time. Neglected issues may escalate, and when repairs are eventually needed, they could be more extensive and costly than routine maintenance tasks would have been.

  5. Non-compliance with Regulations: Elevator systems are subject to safety regulations and codes. Deferred maintenance might result in non-compliance with these regulations, exposing the property owner to legal and regulatory consequences.

  6. Negative Impact on Reputation: The reliability and safety of elevators contribute to the overall satisfaction of building occupants. Deferred maintenance leading to frequent breakdowns can tarnish the reputation of the property manager or building owner.

Quantity vs. Quality: What You Can Do as a Property Manager or Building Owner

Elevator mechanic inspecting elevator door operator

Prioritizing quantity over quality in elevator maintenance routes has detrimental consequences. Elevator companies, driven by the desire to expand their portfolios, often overlook the crucial aspect of allowing mechanics sufficient time for comprehensive maintenance. Proactive maintenance not only prevents problems but also extends the lifespan of the equipment, reduces the likelihood of emergency repairs, and enhances overall user satisfaction and safety.

Property and facility managers play a pivotal role in ensuring elevators reach their maximum life expectancy by selecting companies prioritizing quality and safety. When evaluating your elevator service provider, keep the following questions in mind:

  • Are the pits, car tops and machine rooms clean and free of debris?

  • Depending on your jurisdiction, Maintenance Control Plans may be a requirement.  If so, are the Maintenance Control Plans filled out and signed by the mechanic each visit?

  • Are your elevators running smoothy with minimal down time incidents or entrapments?

  • Does your contractor respond to entrapments and callbacks in a timely manner?

By asking the right questions and staying informed, property managers contribute to a safer and more reliable elevator ecosystem.

Is It Time to Switch Elevator Companies?

If any of the answers to the above questions indicate a negative response, it might be time to consider switching elevator companies. Proactive decision-making is crucial to ensure that elevators receive the attention they require. Evaluate the maintenance plan in your existing contract and determine if you are receiving adequate service.

Prioritizing Quality Over Quantity with Metro Elevator

For those seeking more information on evaluating if their current elevator contractor is deferring maintenance, or if you’re looking for a highly skilled elevator inspector, our teams at Metro Elevator offer valuable insights. With locations in New England, New York, Virginia, Raleigh, the Carolinas, Coastal Carolina, the Northwest, and NorCal, we are committed to elevating safety and reliability in the elevator industry.

Two elevator mechanics conducting regular maintenance tasks

Each Metro Elevator division is locally owned and operated, guaranteeing the highest level of service and attention. At Metro Elevator, we always prioritize quality over quantity. We optimize our elevator maintenance routes to ensure mechanics have sufficient time for comprehensive maintenance on each elevator.

We’ll work with you to develop a property manager elevator checklist so you know exactly what to expect from our mechanics. Contact us today for a free consultation or to learn more about our repair, modernization, or new installation services.     


Scott O'Hare has over 35 years of elevator industry experience and is currently President of Metro Elevator New England. Learn more about Scott and his team.


bottom of page