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What Is Involved in Forklift Maintenance?

By Lori Kilchermann
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are many areas to focus on when performing forklift maintenance. The gas engine or electric motor, the hydraulic system and the tires are frequently involved in specialized forklift maintenance programs. In many locations, it is required that all forklift maintenance and repair be completed by a trained and certified mechanic, such as those certified with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration or OSHA in the United States. These regulated groups inspect all repair facilities to ensure that competent workers are performing acceptable repairs and not further endangering forklift operators or workers in the vicinity of a forklift. While most forklift operators do a pre-shift check of their equipment, complete maintenance schedules are completed at a predetermined hourly interval or as problems arise.

One of the primary areas requiring focused forklift maintenance is the drive motor in battery-powered forklifts and the engine in gas-powered machines. Due to the long work periods that a forklift operates on, the drive system is highly taxed. In electric models, the forklift maintenance centers around the batteries and cables, with the electric motor receiving periodic care. Maintaining the correct liquid level in the battery pack is a key element of forklift maintenance. The cooling system of gas-powered models is the benefactor of the majority of the forklift maintenance, which is done to ensure that the radiator is clean and air is easily drawn through it.

Both types of forklifts require specialized hydraulic service. Maintaining the hydraulic fluid levels and changing filters allow the units to work without incident and issue pertaining to the hydraulic system of the machine. Examination of the fork lift's lift carriage and the forks is critical to ensure no cracks go unnoticed, which could lead to catastrophic failure when a load is hoisted high into the air. Any cracks should be repaired immediately by welding or replacement of the entire structure. Any welding must be done by a certified welder and inspected before the forklift can return to duty.

An area sometimes neglected during forklift maintenance is the tires. Battered, torn and ripped tires are often the cause of a forklift overturning when it raises a heavy load into the air. The hard rubber tires are a key component in stabilizing the forklift and providing a steady base for it to operate on. Any tires deemed inoperable for any reason must be changed during forklift maintenance. This involves removing the wheel and pressing the tire off and a new tire on. Smooth tires are used on indoor forklifts while treaded tires are used on both indoor and outdoor operating forklifts.

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