Elevator Hot Wiring

Today was another day in my life that I was thankful for having an engineering mind. 

To give those of you that don’t have any idea the layout of my apt and accompanying elevator, I’ll now go into that.  Aaron and I have a private elevator that goes from the garage to our floor (the fourth), with an intermediate stop at the second floor, where the building patio is at.  The elevator is key controlled, so no one can just come up and visit us.  Now, for some reason, it never dawned on me why people couldn’t do this from the patio.  This is the story about how the “dawning” occurred.

This morning, Erin and I went down to the patio via the elevator to enjoy the nice day with a cup of tea.  While we were outside, enjoying the beautiful weather, Aaron and Jen left to some party, via the elevator.  After enjoying the outdoors for an hour or so, unplugging the fish pond pump, and playing with a neighbors new puppy, we decided to head back up. 

Clink Clink


That’s the sound of the elevator door not opening.  At the time, we didn’t know that Aaron and Jen had left.  No big deal, we’ll just push the button and wait for the elevator.  Pushing the button didn’t do anything.  There wasn’t a key in this panel, and it was set to off.  Well, we couldn’t call the elevator, and neither of us had keys, phone, or shoes.  Great, just great. 

So, we go sit back on the porch, realizing that we were locked out, and without shoes, we couldn’t even go for a walk anywhere.  We had the windows open last night, so both of us started thinking of way we could get to the open windows.  Granted, we were currently on the second floor, and the windows were on the fourth.  Once that idea fizzled, we moved on to something more serious.  We asked to use the neighbor’s phone who had the puppy.  In fact, she even had the Landlords cell and home phone numbers.  Not like it mattered, both numbers went unanswered, and I have no idea what Aaron’s number was.

Then we thought we could pry open the doors if someone had forgotten to throw the deadbolt.  However, all we have for tools are garden tools.  Well, it was the best we had, so we went into the building and up to my door.  Because the door swung in, it meant that the seam was on the outside, plus it looked as if the deadbolt was thrown.  Maybe we could push the doors in, since they’re just French doors?  I remembered that the unused door was actually nailed shut, and as much fun as repairing that sounds, along with possibly breaking the stained glass windows from the force, we decided against that.  However, we still had the other door down at the garage.  Erin manned the front door of the building so I could get back in, and I ran around to the alley and attempted to pry the door open.  This door was the same as our other, it swung in, so it wasn’t possible.  I ran back around and Erin let me in.

Dejected, we headed back to the patio.  I started fumbling around with the door while Erin sat in the shade for a bit.  Both of us were thinking, “WWMD (What would McGuyver do)?”

We looked at the faceplate to the elevator controls, but the screws holding it in weren’t phillips or flathead.  Instead, they were some strange contraption with two holes, definitely used to deter people from tampering with it.  Well, we really didn’t have any other options, so we started looking for tools to try to unscrew the faceplate.

There was this old, rusted, what looked like scissors, but weren’t, things that we were going to use to jimmy the doors open.  It had the two points from the shears, and low and behold it worked like a charm getting the faceplate off.  Once we had the plate off we were faced with 3 live wires running to the plate, one to the key lock and two to the button, and one wire running from the key lock to the button.  As soon as I saw that I figured that the key lock shorts between the one wire and the one running between the lock and the button, and then we’d just have to push the button. 

So, Erin holds the faceplate, I short the connection with a spade with a wooden handle, and she pushes the button.


Erin drops the faceplate, and I drop the spade.  Hmmm, that didn’t seem to work.  It was as if the whole device became electrified when I shorted it.  Hopefully a breaker wasn’t thrown, so we aren’t SOL and can try again once we look it over some more.  I look it over for awhile, and for the life of me can’t see how else this thing can possibly work, other than the way we just did it.

So, we try again like silly monkeys.  This time, we wedge the faceplate into it’s holder so that we have an extra hand free, and we aren’t actually touching it.  Erin uses another spade’s handle to actually push the button this time, instead of doing it with her hand.  We both use frisbees to keep the faceplate from sliding around, instead of using our hands.  And, instead of shorting the connection with the spade, I just take the wire off from one end of the key lock, and touch it to the other end. 

SUCCESS!  The elevator started coming up to us.  I kept the circuit shorted until the elevator arrived, since we didn’t want to do that again.  As we were putting everything back together, of course, my hand slips and decides to short out the connection, again. 


That one was definitely a lot worse that the first time, but it’s good to see I have enough salts in my to properly ground a wire.

Thankfully, that time didn’t throw a breaker either.  To have worked all that much only to screw up when putting it all back together.

So, I’m tempted to call my landlord and inform him that the elevator isn’t really all that secure.  I mean, if someone could get on the second floor, and spend the 10-15 minutes it took us to hot wire it, they’re up in our apt no time.  Granted, I don’t’ really have that much faith in humanity that someone of that caliber would take the time, or have the knowhow to pull that off.  But, I’m glad that Erin and I were able to get off the porch.

Categorized as life


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