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How to Prevent the Most Expensive Forklift Repairs

Forklifts are powerful machines with many working systems and moving parts. When a forklift and its various systems are not properly cared for, the resulting repairs can cost you thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. And not only are repairs themselves expensive, but performing forklift repairs can also mean time off the floor, resulting in decreased productivity for your operation.

Luckily, there are ways you can prevent large repair expenses from incurring and keep your forklift operational. The following are tips for preventing the most expensive forklift repairs.

Perform the proper checks

Before every shift, forklift operators should perform preliminary checks on the lift. By performing these checks, forklift operators can identify potential repairs early and avoid causing further damage to the lift during operation.

The operator should perform both a visual and operational check. During a visual check, the driver should look out for fluid leaks, make sure the battery is charged, check for any missing or loose nuts and bolts, and check for general damage and conditions.

During an operational check, the driver should test that the forklift’s mechanisms are operating properly, from the brakes and steering to lift mechanisms and so on. If the operator encounters an issue during either the visual or operational check, they should not operate the forklift and immediately notify a manager or supervisor.

Keep the warehouse clean

Inspection of the warehouse facilities and floor is also important to a forklift’s operation. A forklift and its parts, especially the tires, can be severely damaged by debris on the warehouse floor. Operators should also look out for potential obstructions that could cause an accident, either on the floor or overhead.

Repair costs incurred from a disorganized or untidy warehouse are perhaps the most easily preventable costs, so make sure that your facilities are optimized for proper forklift operation.

Pay attention to fluid levels

A very important aspect of a driver’s daily preliminary checks is to check and fill the lift’s fuel levels, including the fuel level, transmission and hydraulic fluids, coolants, and more. These fluids are essential to proper, safe forklift operation.

Fluid checks are especially important for making sure the battery operates efficiently. Ensuring that fluid levels are correct is another easy way to prevent expensive forklift damages.

Practice regular maintenance

The best way to prevent expensive forklift repairs is to catch problems early on. And while daily inspections can help, you should also have regular, comprehensive maintenance checks performed on your machine. A forklift technician can catch early signs of trouble that will prevent larger expenses in the future. Small repairs can often be serviced on site without much down time, saving you money without affecting productivity.

Tips for Properly Cleaning a Forklift

Forklifts make life in the warehouse easier in so many ways. In order for forklifts to keep doing their job, it’s important to keep these machines well-maintained, which includes keeping them clean. Proper maintenance and cleaning will also help prolong a forklift’s lifespan. Here are a few tips for properly cleaning a forklift.

Use a pressure washer

Soap and water just won’t cut it; a pressure washer is the only way to completely clean a forklift. Using a pressure washer is also safer than soap and water, as you can keep a safe distance from the machine. And in environments where forklifts come into contact with potentially hazardous chemicals, mixing these chemicals with soap could be dangerous.

Get rid of loose dirt and debris first

Before putting the pressure washer to use, get rid of any loose dirt, debris, and rust that can be removed with a broom or duster. Doing so will help get the forklift as clean as possible before you pressure wash the vehicle. Additionally, dirt, dust, and rust can hurt the performance of a forklift if left to build up over time.

Start at the top

When you begin cleaning, start at the top of the forklift. Since grime and dirt will flow downward, starting at the top and working your way towards the bottom of the forklift will prevent you from dirtying an already clean area. That way, you create a much more efficient cleaning process

Make sure it’s dry

While forklifts are durable, not every part and component is waterproof. Once you have finished cleaning a forklift, leave time for it to dry completely. Make sure that before its next use, every component is dry and there is no excess water hiding in hard to see or reach areas.

Wear protective equipment

Last but not least, practice safety first, even when simply cleaning your forklift. A pressure washer keeps distance between you and the forklift while cleaning, but that does not mean injuries cannot happen. At the very least, wear protective goggles, boots, and gloves to protect some of the most vulnerable areas.

Letting your forklift build up dirt and grime will not only harm its performance, but the performance of your warehouse operation as a whole. Save time, energy, and money by properly cleaning and maintaining one of your most essential warehouse assets.

Forklift Maintenance Checklist

Unsafe forklift operations are one of the biggest safety hazards in warehouses. Whether due to improper training or lack of maintenance, forklifts can cause damage, injury, or even death when used improperly. That’s why regular maintenance and operational checks of forklifts are extremely important. OSHA requires that forklifts be inspected daily. In order to create a safe warehouse, make sure you look for these issues when conducting a pre-operational inspection:

Firstly, perform visual checks

  • Tire condition and pressure
  • Visible spills or leaks, including underneath the forklift and near hoses
  • Obvious signs of damage, such as cracks or other visible defects
  • Condition of gauges
  • Safety decals and nameplates are visible and legible
  • Examine the forks for signs of damage and appropriate height and thickness
  • For electric forklifts, there are no exposed or fraying wires

Next, conduct physical checks

  • Brakes and steering controls are operating properly
  • Safety devices like seat belt and horn are functional
  • Other operations and controls are working

And lastly, check liquid levels

  • Fuel
  • Brake fluid
  • Hydraulic fluid
  • Engine oil coolant

In addition to pre-operational checks, forklifts should undergo further inspection and maintenance based on days, months, or hours of operation. The following are the best practices for conducting more comprehensive maintenance checks:

Conduct forklift maintenance or service in safe conditions

  • Area of service is clean and free of clutter
  • Forklift engine is off and battery disconnected
  • Emergency brakes are set and wheels are blocked

After making sure the area is clean, begin servicing the vehicle

  • Change engine oil based on manufacturer’s specifications
  • Replace air filters
  • Examine brakes and replace brake fluid
  • Examine the cooling system, checking radiator hoses and clamps
  • Replace tires if damaged
  • Inspect chains and other parts for rust, damage, or misalignment

Protect your warehouse and employees by following these simple steps for forklift maintenance. This checklist is just a starting point for conducting appropriate forklift maintenance inspections. Read the manufacturer’s manual, look at OSHA’s guidelines, and contact professionals when servicing your forklift in order to prevent damage and injuries. In doing so, your warehouse can enjoy a safe and productive year in 2017.

Caring for Your Forklift Battery

In order to get the best possible use out of a forklift, it is necessary to practice proper maintenance so that it lives a long, productive life. One of the keys to helping your forklift live a long life is to care for its battery. A well-maintained battery should last a number of years, meaning you should get good use out of the forklift for that long. Here are a few steps for caring for the battery to help keep your forklift running for years to come.

Charge properly

Correctly charging a forklift battery is one of the most important factors when it comes to ensuring its longevity. You do not charge the battery when it is convenient for you or the opportunity happens to present itself. Charging a forklift battery drains its life cycle, and charging when you feel like it can reduce a battery’s lifespan significantly. The battery should only be charged at certain times and to a certain extent. It is recommended that you only charge a forklift battery at the end of an 8-hour work day or once the charge goes below 30%. Do not allow the battery to totally die before charging, as it could take up to three days for the battery to reach full charge. If you follow correct charging practices, your forklift’s lifespan should reach 5 years. OSHA recommends that users find and designate a battery-charging area. The area should be well-ventilated and neither too hot nor too cold.

Consistently check fluid levels

In order to work properly, batteries need to have the right amount of water. Most experts recommend you should check fluid levels every five to ten uses. If fluid levels need to be topped off, fill until the water covers the plastic element protector. Be careful not to overfill, as this can cause damage during the next run. Only cover the element protector by about ¼ of an inch. If fluid is running low, only fill with water after the battery has been charged, not before.

Practice safe storing and handling

As in all aspects of the warehouse, safety is extremely important when it comes to caring for and handling a forklift battery. While batteries can handle extreme environments, using and storing the forklift in harsh temperatures, especially extreme heat, can diminish battery life. The battery needs to have plenty of air circulating around it to ensure it cools properly and does not overheat. Batteries are designed to be safe, but as battery acid can be very dangerous, it is important to practice safety and caution when working with or handling a forklift battery. Be sure to wear protective gear, and take the recommended safety precautions.

Even the most effective and recommended batteries require proper care and maintenance in order to function to the best of their abilities. By following these steps, you can ensure that you are getting the most out of your forklift’s battery, helping make operations in your warehouse as productive and efficient as possible. Read our Forklift Maintenance Checklist for even more tips to improve your operation.

When to Retire Your Forklift

Forklifts are invaluable pieces of machinery necessary for the efficiency of any warehouse. A good forklift can last up up to around 10,000-20,000 hours without needing major repairs, but unfortunately these machines do not last forever. When a forklift has exceeded its economic life, meaning the cost of operation exceeds the value it provides, or the forklift has become unsafe to operate, the forklift is ready to be replaced. Waiting too long to retire a forklift can cost organizations considerable money. Here are a few signs that indicate it’s time for your forklift to retire.

Increased Maintenance Costs

As mentioned above, if the cost of maintaining a forklift has become higher than the value of its performance, it’s time to trade the lift in. Think about a forklift like you would a car- if making repairs or maintenance costs more than the value of the car, you know its time is over. Small repairs will be necessary after the first few thousand miles and several years, and major repairs are typical once the lift reaches about 10,000 hours.

Hours

Keep track of the number of hours your forklift is in operation. When the lift has exceeded 10,000 hours, you may want to pay attention to how it’s performing and keep an eye out for any issues. It would also be a good time to look into options for your next lift. Once a lift reaches 20,000 hours, retirement and replacement should be a priority. However, these numbers will vary based on the intensity of the lift’s usage.

Decreased Productivity

If a forklift is down for repairs more often than it is out on the floor lifting loads, it’s probably time to retire it. You can lose a considerable amount of money due to the lost hours of work as well as the costs for repairs.

High Number of Work Orders

A high number of work orders indicates that a forklift has been down more than its being used. If a lift has needed many repairs in recent months, even small repairs, it indicates there is a problem and the lift is nearing the end of its working days.

Out of Date Features

An out of date forklift is an unsafe forklift. A telling sign that your lift is too old is if its features are not up to date with the most recent changes and improvements. Especially when it comes to safety features, having an out of date machine can be very dangerous and leave warehouses liable for any issues that may result.