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What Is Load Chain For Hoists? (Types & Tips)

Short Answer

Load chain is a specific type of chain that is used in electric chain hoists, pneumatic hoists, and manual chain hoists, aka come-alongs. It is specifically designed to lift loads vertically and move through the lifting mechanism without kinking or tangling.

what is load chain for hoists?

Initial Thoughts

Load chain is made to withstand extreme conditions and is manufactured with extreme safety in mind. It is designed to work with bottom rigging devices such as latch hooks, or bullard hooks attached to the bottom of this chain to secure heavy lift loads for overhead lifting. While it may be hard to spot the differences in chain load chain differs greatly from transportation chain.

Can I Use Regular Chain on My Hoist?

Unlike your run-of-the-mill chain from the hardware store, load chain is precision-made with specific safety factors in mind for lifting heavy loads. A big differentiator between “regular chain” and load chain is that load chain must always remain in a straight line (true vertical or in-line) when tension is present.

When too much tension from an excessive lift load is applied, regular chain stretches and bends, and should not feed through your lifting mechanism. Load chain is specifically meant to break when being used beyond its rated load.

You should also know that load chain is not the same as hand chain, which is the chain type used in geared trolley applications. Hand chain should never be used for lifting.

How Is Load Chain Made?

As mentioned before, load chain is specifically meant to lift straight vertically. The chain needs to be able to move through the hoist in the way it was designed. Its dimensional stability is extremely important so the chain fits in the chain lift wheel properly and runs smoothly.

Typical load chain can only stretch 5-7% max if overloaded, compared to rigging chains which must stretch a minimum of 20%. Load chain features specially designed links that are case-hardened with a 5:1 design factor as compared to rigging chain, which is commonly 4:1. In simple terms, load chain links are like an m&m®, with a hard, thin outer shell, and a “soft” core.

By design, load chain can absorb dynamic loading from the speed of hoist movement when lifting. Because of the hardness achieved by heat treatment, its max temperature range should only be 200 degrees or less. The chain is made this way to resist wear from moving over lift wheels and hook chain blocks. Consult the chain or hoist manufacturer for the maximum allowable temperature range at which your hoist can operate.

Are There Different Types of Load Chain?

While all load chain is made similarly, there are several other factors to consider when selecting the correct load chain for your environment and overhead lifting requirements. Different lifting environments will require different features, ranging from spark-resistant, marine-grade, or food-grade safe coatings. Chain grade, pitch diameter, max lift, and special finishes or coatings. Another important factor is the chain’s break strength – the tensile strength in N/mm – which is typically 10x greater than the chain’s advertised rating.

What are the Types of Chain Grades?

  • Grade 30 Chain is typically a cheaper multi-purpose chain used in securing loads and light pulling, construction, and in some marine applications. These chains should never be used for overhead lifting.
  • Grade 43 Chain is commonly referred to as tow chain, typically used in logging industries and towing industries. This grade of chain is not safe for overhead lifting applications.
  • Grade 70 Chain is used for load securement in over-the-road hauling and as tie-down chains. This heat-treated carbon chain has no alloy elements included in the steel allowing it to stretch prior to breaking and should not be used in overhead lifting.
  • Grade 80 Chain is an alloy chain type specially heat-treated, giving it a hardened exterior and rigidity, making it safe for overhead lifting.
  • Grade 100 Chain is made of premium high-strength alloy steel and provides a workload limit 25% greater than grade 80 chains. These are suitable chains for overhead lifting applications.
  • Grade 120 chain is an ultra-premium quality, high-strength alloy steel chain that is 50% stronger than Grade 80 chain and 20% stronger than Grade 100 chain. This chain is more abrasion-resistant and is a smart choice for more extreme overhead lifting.

Coatings and Finishes

  • Bare & Oiled Chain is simply load chain with a thin layer of oil for lubrication and is typically best for indoor applications with less exposure to corrosive elements
  • Zinc Plated Chain is a chrome-like finish applied to chain to provide some protection against corrosion.
  • Nickel Plated Chain gives chain a superior layer of protection against corrosion, increases durability, and gives chain a more lustrous look.
  • Black Zinc Oxide Chain has an extra coating that is zinc plated, then black or grey passivated, giving it a dark matte finish to avoid glare. This is commonly used in theater and staging environments.
  • Gold Chromate Chain offers better corrosion protection, and is sometimes chosen for its aesthetics
  • Powder Coated Chain is typically an aesthetic plating but does offer a small degree of corrosion resistance.
  • Galvanized Chain offers higher resistance to oxidization compared to chain which is simply zinc-plated by forming heavier zinc coating.

How Do I Prevent Damaging My Load Chain?

The more important (expensive) question is, ‘how do I prevent ruining my hoist?’ Using damaged or incorrect load chain can destroy your lifting equipment and jeopardize its load and the safety of the operator.

Simple routine maintenance can extend the service life of your hoist and load chain, ensuring safer use. Load chain requires regular lubrication with an EP (extreme pressure) additive. It is important that the inner links or link-to-link contact surfaces be lubricated to resist wear.

Once wear gets through the case depth, the wear will accelerate and can further damage the hoist’s lift wheel, chain guides, and further damage to the chain. Because of the case hardness and the need to keep the link geometry stable, the load chain should never contact anything in your lifting environment. This means don’t rig with it, and don’t let it rub against objects while in use.

Can I Rechain My Hoist Myself?

With the many safety factors involved in overhead lifting, we recommend having your hoist serviced and rechained by a trained professional. If you have been professionally trained in repairing your hoist, please follow all best practices when rechaining a overhead lifting equipment.

A common misconception with load chain repairs is that they can be replaced at the point of a damaged link. You should never replace a damaged load chain by segment due to its highly specific design.

This creates a major safety hazard that can result in injury and can cause other issues that will damage or destroy the entire hoist. Always have your lifting operators trained in how to use and inspect hoists and rigging equipment. It’s important to use proper rigging equipment when connecting to the hoist.

If you are feeling confident or if you have done this repair before, please check our our bulk load chain for sale. Don’t see what you’re looking for? Just contact us and we’ll gladly help you out.

Final Considerations for Choosing or Replacing Load Chain.

Now that you know more about the types of load chain used in overhead lifting applications, here are a few final considerations before you buy chain for your hoist.

  • Always refer to your hoist’s owner’s manual for the proper size chain used in your hoist.
  • Speak with a parts and repairs specialist to ensure proper installation of the replacement chain.
  • Consider your lifting environment and if your chain will require specific features.
  • Account for enough chain to supply the correct lift height by understanding the chain that will remain in the hoist at its max lift height. If you need a 10’ of single-reeved lift, you’ll need to order 12’ of chain so there is enough to feed through the unit. Understand your hoist’s reeving. If you have a double-reeved unit, you will need to order double the amount of chain plus the threading length
  • Take care of your hoist by taking care of your chain. Make sure to inspect it regularly, lubricate it properly, and do not use a hoist with damaged chain.

If you have any questions about choosing the right chain for your hoist, or any additional information on parts, please feel free to live chat with us, give us a call. In the meantime, here are some beautiful visuals of chain being made, compliments of Insider.