Best Manual Hoist Guide 2020 - Lever Hoist vs Chain Hoist?

by MTN Productions LTD February 24, 2020

If you’re in the market for a new manual hoist, it’s important to know what type of hoist will provide your business with the most benefits e.g cost-saving, simple and efficient operation, and simple maintenance. Whether you own factories, construction sites, auto shops, or warehouses, this manual hoist guide will help you pick the right one.


What is a Manual Chain Hoist?

With working load limits (WLL) up to 50 tons, Manual Chain Hoists are widely used in multiple industries for moving heavy objects. Here are their key features and benefits:

1. Lift very heavy loads with ease by using mechanical advantages

A manual hoist turns a strenuous labour-intensive work process into an efficient one to minimize work-related musculoskeletal disorders caused by manual handling and awkward or tiring positions.


The device eliminates the need for a team of workers to lift a heavy load up to 50,000kg down to one person, so your workers can do other activities while one lifts the load. This, in turn, increases productivity meaning you’ll be saving time and money.

2. No power supply required and cost-saving

As no electricity is required, it is especially advantageous for lifting work in open-air grounds and places where no power supply is available. They are small in size and well-fit in a toolbox for easy carrying, especially Yale Handy Lever Hoist with a length of 24 cm only. These portable tools are great for drifting loads when no overhead crane is available or there is limited access. More examples will be shown in the next chapter.

If the budget plays a big role in deciding what type of hoist to buy, manual chain hoists are one of the more cost-efficient options. 

3. Simple design with trouble-free operation

If your business operates at a small venue, a manual chain hoist will be a great choice since it’s portable. Its simple design also makes it easier to repair and maintain. There are no wires or motors to sift through during inspection. If you’re looking for a low-maintenance hoist, you’ve found the one.

lever hoist vs chain hoist
Fig.1 Yale Lever Hoist (Left) and Yale Hand Chain Hoist (Right).


Lever Hoist vs Chain Hoist?

There are 2 main types of manual hoists: Lever Hoist and Chain Hoist. They are both simple and portable, and work without electricity. Chain hoists move a load by pulling a chain while lever hoists by cranking the lever/handle forwards and backwards. A lever hoist has the advantage of being able to lift in vertical and horizontal positions whereas a general chain hoist is usually used vertically. A chain hoist usually has a greater capacity of up to 50,000 kg.

The section below is to compare chain hoists and lever hoists in terms of capacity, lifting mechanism and application. 

Manual Chain Hoists
Fig.2 Lever Hoist vs Chain Hoist.

    A. What is a Hand Chain Hoist?

    A hand-operated chain hoist is also known as ''chain block'' or ''chain fall''. ''Chain Block'' is an older term and commonly used in the Asian lifting industry. It is a mechanical device used for manually raising or lowering a heavy material, a vertical position, by pulling down on the chain.

    How Does a Chain Hoist Work?

    Once a small pulling force is applied to the hand chain, it is transformed over a long distance to make a hand-chain wheel turn a series of cogs, axles, gears, and sprockets. They increase the mechanical work applied when pulling the chain many times, and in turn rotates the second load chain to lift or lower your heavy load.

    The whole process transfers a small force over a long distance to a large force over a short distance, explaining why a chain hoist is great for lifting heavy loads when speed is not important.


    As a force multiplier, it gives you the ability to lift very large loads up to 50,000 kg (See Yale VSIII Hand Hoist) with ease by using mechanical advantage. Its working load limit (WLL) is greater than a lever hoist's one.

    How to Use a Chain Hoist?

    Common ways to suspend a hoist is by attaching it to a beam with a beam clamp or to a secure anchor with a shackle. If the load has to be moved from one place to the other, a trolley will be the right suspension choice that can traverse the length of the beam flange it is attached to, carrying the load to the desired place with minimal effort.

    After securing the hoist and the load, you can put it to use for your application by pulling the hand chain by hands.

    Manual Chain Hoist Use
    Fig.3 Yale VSIII Hand Hoist Operation.


    Hand-operated chain hoists are ideal for high vertical loads. You can still operate the pulling chain from the ground even when the hoist is positioned up high. Most hand hoists are used for infrequent maintenance applications where speed is not a requirement. They should not be specified for continuous lifting applications, especially when long lifts are required. Typical uses are to:

    • Lift and hold beams and pipes in place for welding or bolting operations
    • Maintain a turbine for critical lifts and installs where precise, micro-movements are required
    • Be used as coal gun hoist in the wind energy industry
    • Install and remove valves in the oil & gas sector
    • Lift pumps, generators, or other heavy equipment in water treatment facilities.
    • Lift loads from the higher levels on construction sites
    • Remove engines from cars easily in automotive garages
    • Lift items to and from the belt in assembly-line factories
    • Others: machine shops, workshops, or warehouses farms etc to load or unload goods. 

    B. What is a Lever Hoist?

    Lever (chain) hoists or called come alongs can be used in most positions, including horizontally and vertically, for applications like pulling, dragging, stretching and positioning heavy loads across industries by operating the lever/handle with one hand. The design of a lever hoist is similar to that of a hand chain operated hoist. 

    How Does a Lever Hoist Work?

    Ratchet lever hoists have a ratchet and pawl system fitted with a load chain. A manual action of cranking the handle/lever forwards and backwards allows the system to turn, making the chain pass over it to either bring in the chain or advance the chain out, i.e. to move the load.


    Its capacity is generally lower than a hand hoist's capacity, but it can still move a load up to 10,000 kg (See Pull Lift C85). 

    How to Use a Lever Hoist?

    Instead of pulling a chain, this mechanical device has a lever that can be cranked up and down to move an object. By switching the pawl rod lever, you can easily change the operation direction, i.e. to raise/lower the object (See details below).

    Unlike hand hoists, lever hoists, especially small devices, can be operated using just one hand. Speed is not a characteristic of the mechanical device. 

    • To raise the load: Turn pawl rod lever to the lifting position (⬆) and operate the lever with a pumping action.
    • To lower the loadTurn pawl rod lever to the lowering position (⬇) and operate the lever with a pumping action.
    • To adjust the chain length: Turn pawl rod lever to the neutral position (central). The chain can now be pulled in both directions and the bottom hook will be quickly brought to the required position.

    To suspend a lever chain hoist, the top hook of the hoist can be attached to a shackle, beam clamp, push trolley or other secure supports. To secure a load, the bottom hook can be attached to an object directly if the load has an appropriate fitting or via lifting slings with a shackle. If it is for pulling or tensioning, the top and bottom hooks are usually secured to the objects via lifting slings.

    Lever Chain Hoist

    Fig.4 Yale Ergo 360 used for lifting and pulling.


    Lever hoists are ideal for machinery alignment, maintenance, repair and installation in many industrial areas thanks to their capability of vertical and horizontal movements. They are heavily used on construction sites, railroads; in the wind energy industry, utilities, lumber yards and mining environments. The compact size is critical while working in the extremely cramped engine compartment in a tight space, or in confined places underneath a car. Some typical applications would be for:

    • Aligning pipes, plates, and beams for welding or bolting operations
    • Used in conjunction with slings to level loads when lifting material
    • Pulling conveyor belt and/or rails together to make connections during install, maintenance, and repair
    • Opening railroad car doors
    • Moving parts, such as yaw motors, into place during maintenance of a wind turbine
    • Tensioning utility lines (used together with wire grips)
    • Straightening poles 
    • Pulling tree stumps from the ground
    • Installing fences
    • Pulling pipe
    • Stretching wires

      Manual Hoists: From Industrial to Personal Use 

      Manual hoists are also broadly used in non-industrial areas. 50% of our manual hoist enquires are from general consumers who intend to use them at home or on the farm. They also comprise a large number of the lever-operated hoists sold. Here are the applications we have come across the most:

      Hand Hoist:

      • To lift motorcycle engines and frames on their own
      • To lift things up to a storage area in the garage
      • To lift the motorcycle off the ground for an easier oil change
      • To lift a garden tractor front end about 3-4 feet to clean the mowing deck and change the mowing blades

      Lever Hoist:

      • To lift sailboat out of the trailer
      • To pull a 10,000-pound dozer/backhoe up onto a trailer
      • To pull a generator out of a boat.
      • To be used to help with tree removal.
      • To lift, reposition and align marine engine (big block) without actually removing it from the boat.
      • To lift the front of a zero-turn mower to change blades.
      • To be attached to a small work crane to lift around 100 lbs of steel cover


        Manual Hoists Recommended by MTN Experts

        Lever Hoist vs Chain Hoist is well covered. Next, let's take a look at the manual hoists our MTN rigging experts handpicked for us!

        #1  Yale VSIII Hand Chain Hoist 

        This Hand Chain Hoist has been designed to prevent canting, or jamming, of the hand chain, ensuring the smooth running of the hand chain, load chain, and drive pinion. You can purchase this hoist knowing your production won’t be halted by malfunctioning of the hand chain. Also, this medium-duty manual chain hoist is perfect for outdoor use as it has the fully enclosed stamped steel housing. If your business operates outdoors, this hoist will meet your needs.

        PS: We understand the importance of lifting safety for every business so we provide chain hoist bag (chain container) option to house the slack chain, reducing lifting hazards. You don't need to worry about the chain hoist bag size because we will select the properly fitted one for your order.
        PPS: The heavy-duty range from 10,000kg to 50,000kg has lately been added.

        Yale VSIII Hand Chain Hoist (Medium-Duty) 250-5000 KG

        #2  Yalelift 360 Hand Chain Hoist 

        It has a revolutionary design that contains a 360-degree rotating hand chain guide which allows the user to flexibly and safely operate the hoist from all directions or in confined spaces. With this device, operators are no longer within the danger zone as before. It is also very suitable for heavy industrial applications. 

        Combined with a manual trolley, it provides the horizontal motion of the hoist along a beam/bridge rail, creating even more flexibility in the application of the Yalelift 360.

        Yalelift 360 Hand Chain Hoist

        #3 Coffing Lever Hoist

        When it comes to lever hoist, CM's Coffing Lever Hoist with the capacity of 750 kg is the prime example of an economical, user-friendly lever chain hoist. It is manufactured and processed by skilled engineers under strict quality control. All have been tested at 125% of rated capacity and inspected per ASME B30.21. You can ensure a prolonged service life with proper lubrication to this lever hoist.

        Coffing Lever Hoist [US market only]


        #4 Yale Pull Lift C85 / D85

        The D85 Pull Lift is the original ratchet lever hoist, the unit on which Yale was founded. The C/D85 is the ONLY ratchet lever hoist that can be called a Pull Lift.

        The C/D85 ratchet lever hoist with roller chain or link chain was designed to lift, lower and pull loads up to 10,000kg. It is designed for heavy-duty work and is suitable for almost any application in maintenance, mining, construction, steel fabrication, shipbuilding, utility work. Based on the feedback we received, if you need to operate a lever hoist in tough conditions, the heavy-duty C85 Pul-Lift is the right one that has also been known to have a working life up to 40+ years if well maintained. 

        The D85 with link chain is ideal for spotting and securing heavy loads, simplifying the setting of pipes etc. in manholes and trenches.

        The C85 with roller chain is ideal for use in the electricity supply industry and overhead line work. 

        Pull Lift C85 / D85

        Yale Pull Lift/Ratchet Lever Hoist C85 or D85

        You can find all of our manual chain hoists at MTN SHOP.


        Reasons for Not Choosing Manual Hoists

        While manual chain hoists are effective for lifting and lowering materials across industries, electric hoists in a number of instances should be considered depending on your applications. Here are some situations where you may consider switching to an electric hoist:

        • Speed is the criteria for your work and you need to keep things running efficiently.
        • Loads to be lifted/lowered can't enable you to physically stand close to the chain for operation.
        • A long lift, e.g. lifting a load over 18 meters
        • A heavy load to be handled
        • Transport the hoist with heavy loads along the long runway beam

        MTN Productions LTD
        MTN Productions LTD