What’s in a Pit

The elevator pit is a needed part of any elevator.
Abe Lincoln has plumbed the depths of “the pit” many times.

If you drop a penny in the crack between the elevator car and landing where does it go? This question has plagued mankind since Archimedes built the first elevator in 236 BC. Where does everything that’s dropped down that crack end up?

The answer is the pit, the area that is at the bottom of the hoistway underneath the car. So besides dropped pennies, you can find credit cards, rat poison, food and lots and lots of dirt. Just ask Mike Rowe, he did a Dirty Jobs episode based on the elevator and he winds up in the pit.


In addition to the grime there are also some important parts that need servicing, so they should be inspected on a regular basis.

First of all some of the items that are supposed to be there include:

  1. Buffer springs to catch the car if it falls or over travels.  Traction elevators will have a set of springs under the counterweights as well.
  2. Piping if you have a hydraulic elevator.
  3. Hydraulic jacks that raise the car either rest on the pit floor on either side of the car or go into the ground below it.
  4. Traction elevators have a governor sheave that controls the rope brake.
  5. A ladder so the technician can descend into the pit.
  6. Electrical wiring including a light and outlet for working purposes.

Fixed Pit Sample 1It is very important for technicians to enter the pit for more than collecting loose change. The area needs to be cleaned, but not just for aesthetic reasons.  If the pit is clean, small leaks can be discovered and fixed before they become a problem. If it’s a dirty, soupy mess, leaks can’t be detected.  If it’s clean, any parts that may have fallen off the elevator will end up in this area, alerting the the technician of the need to fix something.

Clean Pit
A clean pit is important for service and maintenance.

Another reason that your friendly repairman would need to inspect the pit is to check for accumulating water. This can be very damaging to the elevator equipment and it must be pumped out and measures taken to prevent any more flooding.

Although it seems like a simple hole in the ground the pit does have useful purposes. It has to be deep enough for all the stuff listed above: everything hanging off the bottom of the car like cables and toe guards.  And the mechanic needs a refuge space in case he is working and the car comes down. The faster the car speed, the deeper the pit needs to be.

Ultimately, the pit is more than a garbage can and it houses important components that make elevators run smoothly and safe. So next time you’re tempted to drop a penny down that crack, think about the guy that has to pick up all of that trash at the bottom. Don’t drop anything at all, or at least make it a one-hundred dollar bill.

For more information on proper service and maintenance of your elevator regardless of age or type contact Phoenix Modular Elevator at info@phoenixmodularelevator.com. We make owning and operating an elevator easy.  

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