Forklift Maintenance Essentials

Did you know that some corporate managers value forklift downtime cost at thousands of dollars per minute? That’s right, not per hour – per minute! Proper forklift maintenance can help prevent such costly downtime.

Are you in charge of maintaining forklifts or handling downtime in your workplace? Then we’ve put together some info we think you’ll like: an easy to use guide on creating a forklift maintenance plan.

Getting Started: Safety Is A Maintenance Priority

First, we have to consider workplace safety as a cornerstone of maintenance.  Safety tasks are often closely related to best maintenance practices.

Guidelines and regulations regarding occupational health and safety are set by an arm of the U.S. Department of Labor – Occupational Health And Safety Administration (OSHA, imagine that!) and they have set quite a few forklift maintenance regulations.

In fact, studies performed by OSHA have shown a 20-40% reduction in costs after implementing safety plans. Other authorities, like H.W. Heinrich, have shown a 4:1 return on investment when safety is made a priority in the workplace.

There are too many rules for us to dive into in one blog post (and you kind of need a law degree to interpret much of the OSHA website) so we decided to map out OSHA’s most important requirements below in a brief but insightful overview.

General Forklift Safety: Daily Checklists

Forklifts should be inspected each day before use and operators can perform these simple, daily checks.

We’re aware that these checks may seem silly to operators, but in reality, the checks take about 3 minutes (if that) to perform and result in a safer operating environment and lower maintenance costs.

Non-driving Checklists

Do this while the forklift is off.

  1. Check your fluid levels (i.e., fuel, water, hydraulic)Low fluid levels can cause machine malfunctions, like forks not raising properly or brakes not working, which can cause some pretty nasty accidents.
  2. Look for visible damage. See something? Tell your managerReporting visible damage can end up saving you from larger repairs in the future.
  3. Check tire condition and pressureDamaged tires with low pressure will cause your forklift to not function as safely or as effectively as it could.
  4. Forks must be in good conditionOperating poorly maintained forks can cause serious damage to the machine and can cause loads to slip or worse, injuries to employees.
  5. Inspection stickers and decals must be in the right place and legibleThis is an OSHA requirement and ensures you can quickly identify a forklift.
  6. Ensure the operator’s compartment is clean and free of debrisA dirty compartment can cause accidents (i.e. slipping on an old water bottle).
  7. Safety devices (i.e., seat belt, finger guards) must be workingPeople first. Safety equipment is there for a reason, keep it in good condition!

Additional daily checks are required depending on the type of forklift(s). Perform these tests while the truck is off.

Type 1 – Electric Forklifts (batteries power electric forklifts)
  1. Make sure no cables are frayed
  2. Check the battery restraints
  3. Electrolytes must be at proper levels (wear personal protective equipment like rubber gloves, apron, and face shield when checking electrolytes)Electrolytes allow energy to flow between the truck and battery. If they aren’t at proper levels, your lifts performance will suffer (or it just won’t run).
  4. The hood latch should be secureYou don’t want a hood flying open and causing accidents. You also want to keep the hood secured to prevent debris/damage to the engine and all the other parts under there.
Type 2 – Internal Combustion Forklifts
  1. Check engine oil and engine coolantThe engine is one of the most expensive parts on a forklift and keeping fluid at the right levels keeps the engine healthy.
  2. Check the brake fluid
  3. Belts and hoses must be in good shape
  4. The radiator and air filter should also be in good shape
  5. The hood latch should be secure
Type 3 – Liquid Propane Forklifts
  1. Make sure the propane tank is properly mounted and secured
  2. Check for any tank damage/leaksLook for white frost or a funky smell! You might also hear a hissing noise if there’s a leak.
  3. The pressure relief valve should be pointing upThis ensures the tank is aligned properly with the truck; it prevents spraying accidents and also makes sure most of the LP gets used up
  4. Hoses and belts should be in good shape
Driving Checklists

All forklift types require the same driving checklist. Do this while the forklift is on.

  1. Make sure your steering, accelerator, and brakes work
  2. Check that your gears work (forward and reverse)
  3. Make sure the lift works (tilt and hoist)
  4. Check that the horn, lights, and backup alarm work.