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Liftgate chains 101

February 5, 2023

Did you just purcahse a new chain driven liftgate or were you just assigned a Preventative Maintenance procedure for a chain driven liftgate? Either way, you're in luck because we’re here to help get you caught up with the basics of chain driven liftgates.

We’re rooting for you and your success, so let's get started!

What you'll discover in this article:

  • Why chain driven liftgates are used
  • What model liftgates are built with chains
  • Where you’ll find chains on a liftgate
  • How we keep our customer’s chains in shape
  • How we think about replacing liftgate chains
  • A couple extra tips and tricks

Disclaimer: The content of this article and website is available for informational and educational purposes only. It is not a substitute for the professional advice of a mechanic who has personally inspected your vehicle, liftgate, or any property, nor does it create a relationship of any kind between LiftGateMe and you nor LiftGateMe and your business. LiftGateMe does not make any warranties, whether expressed or implied, regarding the accuracy, adequacy, validity, reliability, availability, or completeness of any information in this article or website. LiftGateMe makes no guarantee of results or outcomes. Under no circumstance shall we have any liability to you for any loss or damage of any kind incurred as a result of the use of the website, products, or information provided by this website or LiftGateMe. You are using the information provided at your own risk.

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Why are chains used on liftgates?

A chain driven liftgate is more cost effective, durable, and usually are found on liftgates that lift light to medium loads up to, but not commonly more than, 3300 lbs.

What model liftgates are built with chains?

Nearly EVERY manufacturer has a chain driven liftgate. These are models on average lift capacities of up to 3300 lbs.

  • Maxon offers the RC series.
  • Waltco carries the MDL series.
  • Palfinger brings the ILM series to the market.
  • Thieman has the TVLR.

Where will you find the chains on a liftgate?

On most liftgates, the chain is located inside both columns found on the driver’s and passenger's side and it is found connecting to the lift cylinder and is normally behind the access panel at the threshold of the body where the gate is installed. The column chains also connect to the lifting cylinder which is found behind the access door or cover panel for the power unit. This access panel is located at the floor level of tha gate, mounted to and in between each rail.

How does LiftGateMe keep customers' chains in shape?

For a chain driven liftgate, it’s vital to check the condition of the chains and attaching components through routine Preventative Maintenance (PM) and while replacing/inspecting nearby items. At LiftGateMe, we always take the opportunity to ensure chans components are properly functioning to prevent unexpected downtime and injury.

Have a question? We'd love to hear from you.

No liftgate serial number? Click here for a visual guide to locate it, then contact us.

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Master Links/Pins Sprockets and Bearings

While inspecting these parts for safety purposes we at LiftGateMe start by lowering the gate to the ground. Putting the gate on the ground removes the tension on the moving chain and components which allows for better inspection. Having the gate on the ground also makes it easier to look at the mounting holes where the mounting pins go.

To start, our team assesses the individual and master links and pins. We replace them as needed if there are any signs of rust, seizing, or wear.  

The sprockets and bearing or bushings also wear and need a full inspection. Check the sprockets for wear and worn teeth, pitting and burs as they can cut into a chain, new or old; this can cause damage or failure of the parts.

With the gate on the ground, we then move the sprockets to ensure there is proper play in the bearing/bushing area and on the mounting pins. When the mounting holes of the sprockets or pins/mount get worn into an “out-of-round” shape, it can cause them to get stuck when the gate is in motion. If that happens, it can be catastrophic to the rest of the system and worse, could be harmful to your safety as well! So if an “out-of-round” or worn out sprocket gets stuck, and it’s only one side of the gate, the other side may move, until either the operator stops the motion, the moving side goes too far past the point of motion of the seized/stuck side causing it to bind in an unmanageable way or place, or worse, it could cause gate components to break causing failure or endangering operator safety.  

Replacing the Liftgate’s Chains

We recommend replacing the chains and/or components as a set for a few reasons.

A sprocket which requires replacing may have caused damage to other components in the vicinity. This damage could cause other components to soon fail leading to more downtime in the near future.  

Chains generally have the same life span on both sides of the gate and, as we’ve experienced, fail within similar timeframes. Instead of waiting for failure or scheduling twice the maintenance, we strive for efficiency and replace both at once. This does not mean they will always fail at the same time since chain links, sprockets, and bearings can all wear at their own rate. Replacing them as a set is a precaution and by doing so, also gives the technician the opportunity to inspect all components, verifying that they are in proper condition for safe, uninterrupted operations.

On several chain operated liftgates, both chains need to be removed to access one another. Since the removal of both chains is necessary for this work, our team proactively replaces both during the same job to avoid future risk and that same dreaded down time again!  

What else to know?

We have our mechanics use the proper, manufacturer recommended lubricants for all the moving parts. We also perform and schedule PM inspections on a regular basis. These two steps alone can help reduce down time and keep our customers lifting!

As always, refer to your specific manufacturer’s manual for information on how to best care for your equipment.

Take care of your chain system and continue to let your liftgate support you as well as lift you and your load up!

Talk soon,

Your Team at LiftGateMe

Have a question? We'd love to hear from you.

No liftgate serial number? Click here for a visual guide to locate it, then contact us.

Email is required : )
Required - how can we help?
What make is this request for?
Let us know that you're a human.
Thanks, we'll be in touch momentarily. Sit tight, you're in great hands : )

Thanks For Reading!

- Your Team at LiftGateMe


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