As a medical equipment maintenance provider we strongly recommend that our customers follow all manufacturer’s recommendations when it comes to their patient handling equipment. This pertains especially to mobile hoists.
We are responsible as a service provider to make sure that we are following these recommendations and providing the best guidance possible to the healthcare sites we service.
It can sometimes be unclear to customers as to why they need to change their actuator, especially when the hoist is in good condition.
So here we’re going to cover the reasons why it is important to change your actuator when it is recommended to do so by the manufacturer.
What is an actuator and why is it important?
Actuators are used in a variety of moving and handling equipment where straight linear movement is required. They are used for equipment such as mobile hoists, profiling beds and integrated bath chairs.
Actuators are connected to a control box, which is then connected to a handset.
Actuator Inspections and Testing
Actuators are tested as part of the routine maintenance that is carried out on mobile hoists. During these inspections our technicians check the full functionality of the hoist while also making these checks on the actuator:
- Our tech will move the mast and boom to ensure the actuator is functioning correctly. They will move the actuators through the entire length of the lift to ensure it operates smoothly.
- As part of the load test our tech will also perform a noise level check for unusual sounds such as ticking, grinding or screeching
- They will also inspect the mounting brackets and points to make sure they are secure, undamaged and have no signs of excessive wear and tear
- Check the emergency stop button, to ensure it isolates the power to the actuator, when depressed
- Check the control box is correctly plugged into the actuator
It’s during these inspections that our tech is most likely to recommend a replacement actuator, should it meet the manufacturer’s recommendations for replacement.
Why should you replace an actuator and how often should you replace it?
During routine maintenance our tech may pick up some of the following issues which could mean a replacement actuator is required, or just the specific part needs replacing:
- The actuator jack plug or lead is damaged
- The cover to the actuator becomes damaged which could expose or compromise moving parts within
- The actuator and moving parts could start to leak grease
- Fulcrum pins can break or show wear and tear
- The actuator could be put under excessive stress and break if the safe working load of the hoist is exceeded
If your mobile hoist is in good working order and none of the above issues occur, you may wonder why the technician has recommended you replace the actuator – this is down to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
As actuators are sealed within a unit, you can never be sure if a failure has occurred. Therefore, manufacturers recommend actuators are replaced, as they are a safety-critical part, and they want to minimise the risk of failure.
This information can usually be found in the user manual or technical service manual of the equipment.
Some newer mobile hoists come with ‘smart monitors’ which provide information such as total lifting cycles, total work done, overloads and number of days since the last service, which can be used to quickly and easily evaluate the condition of the lift actuator.
Manufacturers recommend that actuators should be replaced at 40,000 lifts or sooner if deemed necessary following an inspection.
However, not all mobile hoists, especially older ones, come with a digital display, so the engineer cannot determine the total lift count.
If this is the case, then the age of the actuator can be used.
Age of Actuator
As mentioned before, you can check this information in the user or service manual, but the majority of manufacturers recommend the actuator is replaced at 10 years.
Please note, that with manufacturer’s guidelines, the cycle count or age of the actuator is only applicable where the hoist has been serviced and maintained according to the manufacturer’s recommendations and has passed inspection.
When to repair and when to replace?
If our technician does recommend a replacement actuator after an inspection or service – you may be wondering if it’s worth it, depending on the age and condition of the mobile hoist.
Actuators can vary in price, depending on the manufacturer and this is something to consider when deciding whether to repair or replace your mobile hoist.
Generally, if the cost to repair is greater than 50% of the value of the hoist, and the hoist is more than halfway through its expected lifecycle, then you should consider replacing the entire hoist.
What are the risks if you don’t replace your actuator?
Manufacturers recommend you replace your actuator when it’s close to or has exceeded its expected lifespan. As it is a recommendation, it is your decision as to whether to replace it or not. Below outlines the risks if you choose not to replace your actuator.
- Risk of Safety to Staff and Users – Whilst it may seem like unnecessary and additional costs to replace your actuator, consider the risk to your staff and service users if something were to go wrong. It could lead to a serious injury and even death. Whilst there are fail-safe mechanisms in place to reduce the chance of this happening, it could be the fail-safe that breaks at the same time.
- Equipment Downtime – If the actuator breaks or stops working unexpectedly, your hoist will be out of service. You will then need to wait until a tech can visit, diagnose the fault, and then repair or replace the actuator. If you replace it before it breaks, as part of a proactive maintenance schedule, you can put the necessary steps in place to work around this
If you want to check if your Actuators are in need of replacing contact ActivTec to book in a preventative maintenance schedule.