written by
Ryan Penn

Wheelchair Lift Drive Systems: Hydraulic Drive vs. ACME Screw Drive

Lifts Wheelchair Lifts VPL 7 min read , June 21, 2023

1. Introduction:

Mobility devices such as wheelchairs significantly enhance independence and quality of life for people with disabilities. A critical component of wheelchair accessibility is the wheelchair lift, which enables access between different elevations. The drive system that powers the lifting and lowering function is a key factor influencing lift performance. This article compares the two most common drive systems, ACME Screw and Hydraulic, analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Understanding these systems not only enables you to make an informed decision when purchasing a wheelchair lift but also optimizes its maintenance and operation. This blog will discuss these drive systems to clear up any confusion and misunderstandings.

2. ACME Screw Drive System:

The ACME Screw Drive System is a popular type of drive system used in wheelchair lifts. It works by turning a threaded screw, which moves a follower nut along the threads when the screw rotates. The movement of the nut provides the lift and lowering action of the system.

One of the main advantages of ACME Screw Drive systems is their simplicity and reliability. They have fewer parts which can result in less mechanical failure and reduced maintenance requirements.

However, there are some drawbacks to this system. First, these systems tend to operate more slowly than hydraulic systems. Second, they can require more frequent maintenance for lubrication to ensure the screw threads do not wear out prematurely.

Here are the pros and cons of the ACME Screw Drive system:


  • Reliability: The simplicity of the ACME Screw Drive system means there are fewer parts that could fail, resulting in a reliable operation.
  • Ease of maintenance: Due to fewer components, these systems often require less complex maintenance tasks.
  • Affordability: Generally, ACME Screw Drive systems tend to be less expensive than their hydraulic counterparts.


  • Speed: ACME Screw Drive systems operate relatively slowly, which can be a downside for users requiring swift lift operation.
  • Noise: These systems can be somewhat noisy during operation, which might be disruptive for some users.
  • Frequent lubrication: To avoid premature wear and tear of the screw threads, ACME Screw Drive systems often need regular lubrication, which can increase maintenance frequency.

3. Hydraulic Drive System:

A Hydraulic Drive System, on the other hand, utilizes fluid power to raise and lower the platform. It operates by using hydraulic fluid forced through cylinders by a pump. This action converts the energy in the fluid into motion, lifting, or lowering the wheelchair lift platform.

Hydraulic Drive Systems boast several advantages. They are notably fast and smooth, making them a preferable choice for those seeking efficiency. They're also extremely durable and reliable. The powerful hydraulic cylinders can withstand heavy loads and prolonged use without significant wear.

Like the ACME system, the Hydraulic Drive System also has some limitations. It may require periodic checking of the hydraulic fluid levels and potential leak repairs. However, these maintenance tasks are typically semiannual and often outweighed by the system's superior performance.

Let's examine the pros and cons of the Hydraulic Drive System:


  • Speed: Hydraulic Drive Systems are renowned for their speed, providing efficient lift operation.
  • Smooth operation: The use of hydraulic fluid ensures a smooth, jerk-free ride, enhancing user comfort.
  • Durability: These systems are robust, with their hydraulic cylinders capable of enduring heavy loads and extended use.


  • Maintenance: While infrequent, maintaining hydraulic drive systems may require checking the hydraulic fluid levels and repairing potential leaks.
  • Initial cost: Hydraulic systems can be more expensive initially, although their durability and performance often justify the investment.
  • Energy consumption: They may require more power to operate than ACME systems, potentially resulting in higher energy costs.

4. Comparison of ACME Screw and Hydraulic Drive Systems:

When comparing these two drive systems, the Hydraulic Drive System holds a clear edge. It outperforms the ACME Screw Drive System in terms of speed and operational smoothness. Also, while both systems require some form of maintenance, the ACME Screw system's maintenance tasks are generally less frequent and simpler, contributing to it’s lower cost.

Speed: One of the defining features that distinguishes these two systems is the operational speed. Hydraulic Drive Systems are known for their speed, making them more efficient when performing lifting and lowering operations. They are often 40-50% faster than ACME Screw systems under similar conditions.

Smoothness: The hydraulic system also offers a smoother ride due to the use of an incompressible fluid, providing a comfortable experience for users. In contrast, the ACME Screw Drive system may not be as smooth due to the mechanical nature of its operation.

Maintenance: Though both systems require some level of maintenance, the tasks for an ACME Drive System tend to be less frequent and less complicated. ACME Drive Systems require regular lubrication to prevent premature wear on the screw threads, adding to the maintenance tasks.

Cost: In terms of initial cost, Hydraulic Drive Systems can be more expensive than ACME systems, but this is often offset by their durability, speed, and smooth operation.

Noise: The hydraulic system offers a quieter operation, while the ACME system might produce more noise, which could be a concern for some users.

Energy Consumption: Hydraulic systems may use more power to operate than ACME systems, which could slightly increase energy costs.

5. Conclusion:

In this article, we've looked into the world of wheelchair lift drive systems, focusing on the ACME Screw and Hydraulic Drive Systems. Each has its pros and cons. However, when it comes to speed and efficiency, the Hydraulic Drive System clearly takes the lead.

Therefore, we can confidently reiterate that Hydraulic Drive Systems are faster and superior. If you're looking for a reliable, efficient, and high-performance wheelchair lift, consider investing in a hydraulic drive system.

At Mobility123.com, we offer a range of top-quality wheelchair lifts featuring the Savaria V-1504 Hydraulic Drive System VPL. Our team of experts is always available to guide you in choosing a lift system that best meets your unique needs and preferences. Don't let mobility challenges hold you back. Choose efficiency, choose speed, choose hydraulic drive systems from Mobility123.com today!


1. What is an ACME Screw Drive System?

An ACME Screw Drive System is a drive system used in wheelchair lifts. It operates by turning a threaded screw, causing a follower nut to move along the threads, resulting in the lift or lowering action of the system.

2. What is a Hydraulic Drive System?

A Hydraulic Drive System uses fluid power to do work. It operates by using an incompressible liquid, often oil, forced through cylinders by a pump. This action converts the fluid energy into motion, lifting or lowering the wheelchair lift platform.

3. Why is the Hydraulic Drive System faster than the ACME Screw Drive System?

The Hydraulic Drive System is faster due to its operational mechanism. The fluid power used in the hydraulic system allows for quicker and smoother movement compared to the mechanical operation of the ACME Screw Drive System.

4. What maintenance does the ACME Screw Drive System require?

The ACME Screw Drive System often needs regular lubrication to avoid premature wear and tear of the screw threads. The system's simplicity usually requires less complex maintenance tasks compared to other systems.

5. How often do I need to check the hydraulic fluid in a Hydraulic Drive System?

While it largely depends on usage, typically, hydraulic fluid levels should be checked every six months. However, always refer to the manufacturer's guidelines for your specific model.

6. Which drive system is more reliable: ACME Screw or Hydraulic?

Both systems are reliable in their own right. However, Hydraulic Drive Systems tend to be more durable and capable of withstanding heavy loads and extended use, making them generally more reliable.

7. Is the ACME Screw Drive System noisier than the Hydraulic Drive System?

Yes, the ACME Screw Drive System may produce more noise during operation compared to the Hydraulic Drive System, which operates more quietly due to the fluid movement mechanism.

8. Are Hydraulic Drive Systems more expensive than ACME Screw Drive Systems?

Initially, Hydraulic Drive Systems may be more costly. However, their superior speed, smooth operation, and durability often justify this investment over time.

9. Does a Hydraulic Drive System consume more energy than an ACME Screw Drive System?

Yes, Hydraulic Drive Systems may require more power to operate than ACME systems, potentially resulting in slightly higher energy costs.

10. Where can I purchase a wheelchair lift with a Hydraulic Drive System?

You can purchase high-quality wheelchair lifts with Hydraulic Drive Systems from Mobility123. Our team of experts can guide you in choosing the most suitable system for your needs.

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