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Performing Basic Maintenance on a Forklift | How-to Guide

Forklifts are some of the most reliable and rugged machines used in many different industries; and a crucial factor in their performance and longevity is the level of maintenance received. Performing basic maintenance on a forklift regularly will detect minor issues before they become big problems that will affect productivity, and maintain optimum performance prolonging its longevity.



Types of Maintenance

  • Preventative
  • Predictive
  • Proactive
  • Reactive
  • Lubrication



Frequency of Inspection

The first step in setting inspection frequency, is making an engineering analysis of the forklift, consider the following points:

  • Age
  • Condition and value
  • Number of operation hours
  • Extent of service level
  • Susceptibility to wear, getting out of adjustment and any previous damage(s)
  • Existing service record
  • Past maintenance types performed
  • Safety requirements

Conducting interviews with operating supervisors and maintenance personnel may also be helpful.



Maintenance Schedule

A maintenance schedule should list specific details of what is to be performed daily, monthly, quarterly, semi-annually and yearly. A strict adherence program will aid in keeping a forklift in good working order, prolong its lifecycle and minimize its downtime and major repair costs.



Daily Maintenance

There is daily maintenance that should be performed by a forklift operator at the beginning of each shift. Visual inspection to check for obvious damage, leaks and tire condition, safety lights are in good operating order, and the parking brakes, steering and horn work should be on the checklist. The operator should also raise and lower the forks – with and without a load – and check fuel, engine oil, hydraulic fluid and radiator water levels.



Monthly Maintenance

At 200 – 250-operation hours – a good point for conducting monthly maintenance and the following tasks to perform include:

  • Inspect any cracks that appear
  • Chassis and mast components lubrication
  • Engine oil replacement
  • Air filter cleaned
  • Engine idle speed adjusted
  • Adjustment of ignition timing for engine powered lift trucks
  • Inspection – lift, tilt cylinder operation, drive belt tension (for engine powered lift trucks inspection of the spark plugs, cap and rotator, and distributor point)
  • Battery check – electric forklifts



Quarterly Maintenance

At 250 – 600-operation hours – a good point for conducting quarterly maintenance and the following tasks should be include:

  • Inspection of:
    • Any cracks that appear
    • Hand brake
    • Pedal free play
    • Lift chain tension
    • Carriage rollers
    • Mast operation
    • Lift and tilt cylinder operation
    • Differential and transmission oil
    • Hydraulic oil pump
    • Fuel filter
    • PCV (positive crankcase ventilation)
    • Hoses on engine powered lift trucks
  • Radiator exterior cleaned
  • Fuel filter replaced
  • Water separator drained – diesel lift trucks
  • Adjustments of:
    • clutch release bearing adjustment – standard shift trucks
    • Tilt cylinder pins
    • Mast support bushing
    • Chassis links
  • Battery check – electric forklifts
  • Electrical system check



Semi-annual Maintenance

Every 1,000 – 1,200-operation hours – a good point for conducting semi-annual maintenance and the following tasks can include:

  • Inspect any cracks that appear
  • Brake booster operation inspection
  • Manifold nuts and engine head bolts torqueing
  • Replacement of:
    • Brake fluid
    • Engine coolant
    • Fuel filter
    • Lube in drive hubs (example: wheel bearing grease)
    • Fuel strainer element
    • Water separator – diesel lift trucks
  • Battery check – electric forklifts
  • Electrical system check



Annual Maintenance

Every 2,000 – 2,400-operation hours – a good point for conducting annual maintenance and the following tasks can include:

  • Inspect any cracks that appear
  • Brake booster operation inspection
  • Manifold nuts and engine head bolts torqueing
  • Replacement of:
    • Brake fluid
    • Engine coolant
    • Fuel filter
    • Lube in drive hubs (example: wheel bearing grease)
    • Fuel strainer element
    • Water separator – diesel lift trucks
  • Magnetic particle test forks and main mast welds
  • Battery check – electric forklifts
  • Electrical system check



Maintenance Tips

  • Detecting wear and tear or defective parts is easier on a clean forklift. Use water to clean and never flammable liquids.
  • Use only a qualified, trained person to inspect, repair or maintain forklifts.
  • Only use a licensed gas fitter to replace and/or repair LPG forklift parts.
  • Establish procedures for handling damaged or unsafe forklifts, this includes tagging a lift truck and reporting any problems to the appropriate person.
  • Only use qualified tire filters to remove and fit tires.
  • Keep all moving parts well lubricated.
  • Keep forklifts fueled and charged.
  • Make sure gauges are operating properly at all times.

Note: Electric forklifts have slightly different service intervals because of less moving parts.

If your facility uses forklifts regularly, it is a smart idea to have a qualified licensed technician inspecting and servicing them at every 250-operation hours. Knowing how to perform basic maintenance on a forklift is as important as keeping a copy of all maintenance records so you are prepared should OSHA ask for them. OSHA’s compliance section 1910.178(q) lists specific rules for industrial trucks maintenance and it would be beneficial for a company to become very familiar with them, so they are adhering to their strict rules.

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