Whether you operate a warehouse, supermarket, manufacturing facility, or an airfield, you just can’t get work done without forklifts (also known as lift trucks). But to prevent unexpected breakdowns and lower downtime, knowing effective forklift preventive maintenance is a must.
Forklifts are vital for material handling. If they stop working out of the blue, they can threaten the operational efficiency of a facility, skyrocket maintenance costs, and even result in accidents.
As a maintenance manager, that’s the last thing you want.
If you want to avoid that, but don’t know where to begin, keep reading. In this post, we’ll break down the forklift preventive maintenance process into multiple checklists, which you can use as templates for your organization.
Let’s get started.
Forklift Preventive Maintenance Checklist at a Glance
At first, a forklift may seem like a complex machine.
However, it only consists of the following main components:
The engine (the main power source)
Counterweight (prevents the forklift from flipping/lifting when weight is added)
The carriage (the base of the lift)
The mast (this is the “lift” part of the vehicle that includes interlocking rails, forks, and rollers)
By knowing these different components, you can move on to perform the maintenance checks on your forklift.
Keep in mind that the exact set of maintenance checklists will vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
But at the end of the day, all forklifts require the same level of care (not considering the source of power) – keeping the OSHA requirements as a universal yardstick.
Before we jump into the main checklists, let’s look at the basics:
Check Fluids – regardless of what type of forklift you’re using, always check fluid levels before operating the machine.
Look for Visible Damage – instruct operators to ensure that their forklifts are in good condition before they start using them. They should check all the components for any visible damage and don’t hesitate to report this to their supervisors.
Inspect Tires Regularly – this also includes breaks. A forklift crashing into a stack of pallets can cause injuries, result in monetary damages, and just royally ruin your day.
Keep the Vehicle Spotless – remove debris from the compartment and make sure that it’s comfortable and safe for the operator.
Check the inspection Decals/Stickers – one of OSHA’s requirements for forklift safety is to make sure that the inspection stickers and decals are placed on the right spots (and that they are easily readable).
The aforementioned points broadly cover almost everything.
However, we need to get a little more specific. To help out, we’ve broken down the checklist into two phases.
Let’s jump right in.
Phase-1: The Stationery Checklist
In the first phase of forklift preventive maintenance service, you’ll kick things off by inspecting and servicing the vehicles when they’re not moving.
To be more specific, this involves looking under the hood (at the engine and other critical components of the forklift) and ensuring that everything is in optimal condition.
However, there’s no one-size-fits-all checklist for every forklift, as they can be of the following three types:
Internal combusting engine forklifts
Each type entails a different set of tasks. Let’s take a look at them – one at a time:
For Internal Combustion Engine Forklifts
These forklifts are powered by conventional internal combustion engines. Typically, they require gasoline or diesel as the fuel.
Internal combustion engine forklifts generate more power than electric ones and are therefore suitable for outdoor use.
To prevent yours from breaking down, follow these forklift preventive maintenance tasks:
Check Engine Oil Levels – before anything else, make sure that your engine oil levels aren’t below acceptable levels. If the engine is deprived of oil, friction between the intricate parts will eventually result in a seizure.
Inspect Fluid and Coolant Levels – in addition to the engine oil, also check the hydraulic brake fluids to prevent breaks from failing (and clutches from breaking down). Furthermore, check the levels of engine coolant/anti-freeze.
Check Radiator and Air-Filter – make sure that the radiator is clean. And make sure that the air filter doesn’t need changing (a rule of thumb is to change them after every 500 hours).
Inspect Hoses and Belts – finally, make sure that there aren’t any cracks in the hoses and that the belts haven’t worn out.
In addition to the above, make sure that the hood latch is properly secured (this applies to all forklifts).
If you regularly check all of the above, your internal combustion engine forklifts will stay up and running.
For Battery Powered Forklifts
Like electric cars/trucks, forklifts can also be powered with batteries (both lead-acid and lithium).
Compared to internal combustion engine forklifts, electric forklifts can’t lift a lot of weight. For that reason, they are most suitable for indoors.
To increase the lifespan of your battery-powered forklift, do the following:
Check Water Levels – if your forklifts are powered by lead-acid batteries, make sure that they are adequately watered on a daily basis.
Check for Sulfur Deposits – again, this applies to only lead-acid batteries. Over time, needle-like deposits can form on the lead plates, which can hinder the performance of the battery. It can even cause a short-circuit in the battery.
Inspect Wiring – finally, ensure that the cables aren’t loose and/or frayed. Exposed wires are a recipe for disaster.
Lithium batteries usually don’t require much maintenance. Just make sure that you don’t operate your forklift in unusually hot environments.
For Liquid Propane Forklifts
As the name suggests, these forklifts are powered by liquid propane – a type of liquid petroleum gas (LPG).
They use propane tanks that are usually mounted at the back. Extreme care is warranted since liquid propane is highly flammable.
To create a safe environment for your staff and ensure the longevity of your forklifts, take the following steps:
Inspect the Tank – first and foremost, ensure that the propane tank is mounted properly. Furthermore, keep an eye out for any visible damage (usually, you’ll hear a hissing sound which can indicate gas leakage.
Check the Position of the Relief Valve – the relief valve of the propane tank should always point upwards.
Finally, check the belts and hoses for any visible damage, and replace them from time to time. And as mentioned above, make sure that the hood latch is working properly.
Phase-2: The Mobile Checklist (For Every Type of Forklift)
After catering to the critical components, it’s time to move on to phase-2 of forklift preventive maintenance.
For this purpose, you may need to operate the different forklift parts in question to ensure they are in optimal conditions.
Keep in mind that this checklist applies to every type of forklift.
Check the Basic Components of the Vehicle
Start off by checking the basic components found in almost every vehicle.
Tires – as mentioned earlier, worn-out tires (and brakes) can result in serious accidents. Checking the tire condition should be your first priority (after the main engine/power source).
Steering – if the operators feel that the steering isn’t working smoothly, they should immediately report to their supervisors.
Accelerator – make sure that the forklift is moving at a normal speed.
Clutch – if your forklift has the option to shift to a higher gear for increased speed, check the clutch to see if it’s working properly. Furthermore, check that all gears work properly.
Lights – like other vehicles, forklifts have headlights and brake lights. Additionally, they can also have strobe lights (however, they aren’t required by OSHA).
Safety Devices – this includes the seatbelt, horn, and the backup alarm. All of these things are important for the safety of the operators and other personnel in the facility.
After checking and tending to the main vehicle, the only thing left to do is to look at the actual forklift part of your forklift.
If the lift unexpectedly breaks down, the entire forklift will become pretty much useless.
To make sure that doesn’t happen, you should:
Check the Carriage – make sure that no nuts/bolts are loose.
Check the Mast – this is the main part of the lift. Check if it’s working properly, and if not, take appropriate measures to fix the problem.
The key to keeping the lift in an optimal condition is to always keep it well-lubed.
Increase the Lifespan of Your Forklifts
Forklifts are expensive. And if they break down frequently, their unplanned maintenance costs can substantially add up.
For that reason, you should have a separate preventative maintenance program for your forklifts.
Here’s what it entails:
Create a Forklift Maintenance Schedule
Start off by marking a calendar with maintenance tasks for your forklift.
If the manufacturer has provided any recommendations for how often you should perform maintenance, stick with those.
In case there aren’t any clear recommendations, follow OSHA’s requirements:
Perform a short-term inspection every 200 hours.
Perform an in-depth inspection once every year or after every 2000 hours (whichever comes first).
Conduct a special lifting inspection when the forklift is used for the first time or handed over to a new owner. In any case, the lifting mechanism should be inspected once every year.
Automate the work orders and share the schedule with everyone.
Create an Effective Training Program
In addition to having experienced forklift operators, you also need licensed technicians who know what they’re doing.
For that reason, you need to create and implement a comprehensive training program – just for forklift preventive maintenance.