Your warehouse’s forklifts are one of its most valuable pieces of equipment. Without forklifts, loading, unloading, and moving inventory is much more difficult, if not impossible. That’s why performing maintenance on forklifts and their different parts is absolutely vital. If a forklift battery dies, it can be replaced without too much difficulty, but if the forklift’s engine blows, the repairs are going to be very expensive. In fact, it may be cheaper to simply buy a new forklift.
With that in mind, you need to make certain that your forklifts’ engines are always maintained. If they are not and someone is hurt, your company will be open to a lawsuit, plus the business may face closure or steep fines for allowing employees to work in an unsafe environment.
When Should you Service your Forklift?
You may see that your maintenance contract says that you need to have preventative maintenance done every 90 days. However, that’s not always true. In some cases, you’re better off having maintenance done based on usage rather than time intervals. Usage hours are measured either in key hours or in pedal hours. Key hours increase every time the forklift’s key is turned on, while pedal hours increase every time the deadman pedal on the forklift is depressed.
There are a number of different forklift parts that need to be checked over during maintenance. Some of these parks include the tires, the fuel system, and the operational controls in addition to the engine. You will need to do a visual inspection of the entire vehicle, then check that all parts are operational. Air cleaning the forklift battery and other parts is also recommended.
OSHA Rules and Standards for Forklift Maintenance
OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, is the organization that sits down the various regulations regarding workplace safety. As part of their charge, they have created a series of regulations regarding the maintenance of forklifts and other vehicles used on the job site. The rules for forklifts can be found in Section 1910.178(q): Maintenance of Industrial Trucks.
Forklifts that do not meet the requirements of this section must immediately be repaired or replaced—they cannot be used in their current state. If repaired, the repairs must be conducted by authorized, certified personnel.
When it comes to maintenance, OSHA instructs forklift owners to create a maintenance program that follows the recommendations outlined in the manufacturer’s instructions. These guidelines are considered the base recommendation; many companies have much stricter maintenance programs.
Maintenance on Internal Combustion Forklift Engines
Forklifts with internal combustion engines should have different parts services after specific usage intervals:
- After 50 hours of use, the grease zerks should be greased.
- After 200 hours of use, the vehicle needs to be fully serviced. This includes changing the fuel, oil, and air filter; changing the oil; and greasing all of the lube points.
- After 500 hours, you should service the hydraulic system, putting in new filters and changing the hydraulic oil.
You should also perform an overall review of the forklift every 100 hours of use or 90 days, whichever comes first.
Of course, these maintenance guidelines are only for preventative maintenance. Anything wrong with the forklift that occurs in between these service points should be handled right away. That includes any leaks, low tire pressure, squeaking belts, or other issue. If a forklift begins making a strange noise, it should immediately be pulled from service and inspected.
When doing a full maintenance check on your internal combustion engine, you’ll need to do the following:
- Check the oil by draining it, changing the filter, and refilling it with new oil.
- Check over the induction system
- Clean all valves, including the PVC valve
- Check all belts
- Check the cooling system
- Check all of the fluids: transmission, hydraulic, and brake
- Adjust the linkages on the clutch and inching pedal and the park brake
- Lube up all of the linkage on the U joint, the battery bracket pivot, the side panel, the hood hinges, the lift and tilt levers, and the accelerator Check the master cylinder
Maintenance on Electric Powered Forklift Engines
Electric powered forklifts don’t need as much maintenance as those powered by internal combustion engines. That’s because there are fewer parts to maintain. The mechanics of an electric forklift are much simpler, but, of course, they still need to be inspected to make certain that everything is in good working condition. You will need to check the battery to make certain that it has the proper water/electrolyte level and that it is charged properly.
As with internal combustion engines, if your electric forklift begins to show signs of breaking down, it should be serviced immediately. The forklift battery should be thoroughly inspected for issues, especially if it drains too quickly or begins to emit an odd smell. The engine should be checked if it makes any strange noises.
Proper Maintenance Protects Everyone
By keeping your forklifts properly maintained, you will protect your employees from harm and your business from legal actions. This is also a good way of saving money. While preventative maintenance costs may seem prohibitive, they are much cheaper than dealing with some of the bigger issues that can develop without this maintenance.