How to Hack an Electric Hoist (AC Motor)

Introduction: How to Hack an Electric Hoist (AC Motor)

For this project we were hired to do a small hacking for a trade show. I worked on this with Molmol Kuo. Special thanks to Eric Rosenthal for the consultancy with the electronics and Zach for the support with the code.

The Electric Hoist that we’re giving has a built-in motor controller, a capacitor, and a pendent switch, that allows manually adjusting the directions.

The goal of the project was to move raise and lower a couple of pallets with other stuffs attached to the hook of this winch, not uniformly on time. So we hacked the motor to be able to control the direction from an Arduino UNO, but still allow any manual control from the pendent switch (when arduino is not running).

Step 1: Materials and Tools


1 Electric Hoist
4 Solid State Relays
1 Arduino
1 bread board
200K ohm resistor

Electric AC wire
5V wire
Heat Shrink Tubing or Electric Tape
plastic box

soldering equipment
stripper wire

Step 2: Hacking

our idea was to replicate what the pendent switch does but with an arduino. For that, we figured out how the switch was working and with a multimeter we realized that when you press DOWN, the switch joins two pair of wires (red with white and black/green with black). Similar to when you press UP (white with red and black with pink). [photo #1]

So the switch to go UP and DOWN is like a pair of switches to light up a lamp each one, that is why we need 4 relays, and we will control with an arduino to switch every pair to move the motor in every direction.

You can see the diagram bellow [photo #2], also how it looks like in our motor. We had problems managing the direction, but Eric Rosenthal gave us an explanation and a solution for the problem. When we control AC motors with the solid state relays, the relays don't discharge the capacitor but the switch does it someway. So when the capacitor is not being discharged, the motor will go on the same direction as the charge. The solution is the inclusion of a resistor (200KΩ) between both terminals of the capacitor which will discharge the capacitor when the motor is not operating (we didn't have 200KΩ resistor, so we used two 100KΩ connected in series).

After having done this we hacked also another motor, but this one had two capacitors connected in parallel so I connected 200KΩ in every capacitor (I am not completely sure about this, but it works at least) [photo #8].

To finish it, we packed everything in a plastic box and we made a hole to put the pendent switch and be able to control it from the outside of the box without touch any electronic piece, because we are working with AC power and we wanted to be safe.

Step 3: Coding

And this is the code we used to control the winch. You can also find it here:

the code included a delay according to the duty cycle of the motor that is 25%. This means that if you use it for 30 seconds you will have to wait around 2 minutes to use it again to avoid damaging the motor.


// We are using two solid state relays to control the AC motor with an Arduino Uno
// Attach 200k resistor between both terminals on the motor's capacitor
// Allow the motor to have a 10 seconds of operation time each time
// the code is based on an AC motor with 25% duty cycle
// The relay pins connect to arduino's digital PWM Pin 10 and 11, ground to ground
// SSR circuit developed with Eric Rosenthal
//yesyesno LLC Jan, 17, 2013 mailto:

int PinDown = 6; // choose the pin for the relay
int PinUp = 5; // choose the pin for the relay

int nSecondsMoving = 10; // unit in seconds; DO NOT go less than 10 seconds
int nSecondsMovingUp = nSecondsMoving*1.2; // the motor goes up 1.2 times longer than it goes down

int nSecondsPausedMin = nSecondsMoving * 4;
// this is nSecondsMoving * 4 -- we need to wait 2 minutes if we've moved for 30 seconds

int nSecondsPausedMax = nSecondsMoving * 4 + 10;
// this is nSecondMovind * 4 + something to add for randomness, ie 10 seconds..

boolean firstTime;

void setup() {
pinMode(PinUp, OUTPUT); // declare relayPin as output
// motor will go down first
pinMode(PinDown, OUTPUT); // declare relayPin as output

firstTime = true;


void loop(){

digitalWrite(PinUp, LOW); // turn relay OFF
digitalWrite(PinDown, LOW); // turn relay OFF

if (firstTime == true){
delay(1 * 1000); // 1 second of delay on first start
} else {
delay(random(nSecondsPausedMin, nSecondsPausedMax) * 1000); // random delay between each operation

digitalWrite(PinUp, HIGH); // turn relay ON


digitalWrite(PinUp, LOW); // turn relay OFF

delay(random(nSecondsPausedMin, nSecondsPausedMax) * 1000);

digitalWrite(PinDown, HIGH); // turn relay ON

delay(nSecondsMoving * 1000);

digitalWrite(PinDown, LOW); // turn relay OFF

firstTime = false;
//end down

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    Question 11 months ago on Introduction

    Hey hey there! Thanks for sharing what you did there in detail! I was looking for something to help me understand hacking a hoist. Do you think your method and code could be applied to a scenario where the hoist lowers/lifts triggered by data from an ultrasonic sensor connected to the Arduino? You enter a room and approach it and it starts lowering an object (to a certain point) and as the person goes away it will lift it back up to a certain point. I had an odd idea for an art installation (and am happy to share credit OF COURSE). Frankly I might be involved in art for a long time, but electronics is fairly new to me hands on and I'm a bit stuck here - or at least have a lot of respect to work with those voltages.


    5 years ago

    Great hack, however I'm wondering if it is possible to make a drop function, to lift and drop an object every 10 min. with the hoist. Trying to find some help for this maybe you know some answers :)
    Thanks in advance,


    7 years ago on Introduction

    This was a great tutorial and I have began building this. I do have a question for you that I was hoping that you could help with.

    My winch is slightly different than yours and does not have a capicitor in it. I do however have a bridge rectifier.

    The circuit itself works fine, however if the motor is plugged in and the relays are turned off, nothing happens when I turn it on, The relays light but the winch does not turn. If I unplug the winch from the AC power and plug it back in while the relays are still activated the winch moves. If I do this same thing after flipping from the first two relays to the other two, the winch moves in the oppisite direction. Any idea whay might cause this?

    Thanks in advace,



    8 years ago on Introduction

    Very neat. I always like seeing ways people hack things to take greater control, especially using something like the Arduino. Do you have any video or pictures of the finished project and how it was used?


    Reply 8 years ago on Introduction

    Sorry espdp2,
    We worked on this for an exhibition that at the end
    couldn't be installed. It supposed that the motor was holding a pallet
    with clothes and moving them up and down, but the people
    from the building didn't want us to instal the motor :(


    This is almost exactly what I need! I purchased the Harbor Freight 1300 lb lift hoist today, and will be building an elevator out of it for our cabin in the mountains, mostly to haul supplies up and down between floors. My knees aren't what they used to be, and the altitude makes if tough, too. I had taken apart the hoist controls today and made a wiring diagram and schematic of what I found, and was trying to figure out how to interface it with an Arduino, so I can install call switches, lights, interlocks, etc. on it. I am new to building with the Arduino, but have one and have read a lot about the types of thing they can do. This will be a multi-year project, as I only get up there once a year. But at least now, I can begin prototyping and testing all of the controls, and work on the lift platform design. Thanks for the great write up and photos.