Spring Forklift Maintenance Tips
As temperatures begin to rise and the winter snow recedes, businesses throughout North America are removing their forklifts from storage in anticipation of the busy months ahead. Hopefully, you followed our advice on how to prepare your forklift for winter storage. If so, you’re already in great shape as you’ve likely prevented any damage from taking place over the winter months due to inactivity, bad weather and pests. That doesn’t mean, however, that your forklift is capable of going straight from storage to full-time operation. To get your forklift back up and running without any issues down the road, you’ll need to perform spring maintenance tasks such as:
- Visual Inspection – the first step thing you’ll need to do is conduct a visual inspection. Here, you’ll want to look for damage that may have resulted from storage such as rust formation, chewed/frayed wires or nests from pests, or vandalism in the form of broken windows.
- Remove Protective Measures – if you prepared your forklift for long-term storage, you’ll need to remove all of the protective measures you put in place such as covers on the air intake/breather and exhaust, reconnect the battery and put fuel into the forklift.
- Ensure Proper Lubrication – be sure to adequately lubricate all wearable components – basically all of the parts regularly exposed to heat and friction (such as bushings and bearings). Without proper lubrication, these components are susceptible to excessive wear, ultimately leading to premature failure and replacement.
- Inspect Fluid Levels – similar to lubrication, fluids such as engine oil and transmission fluid help to disperse heat resulting from friction, thereby prolonging the longevity of essential parts and components. Forklifts without adequate fluid levels are far more likely to experience the premature wear and replacement of parts, components and seals.
- Check for Loose Connections and Fittings – depending on the location, a loose connection of fitting may result in fluid loss, excessive vibration, and short circuits. To avoid these issues – and the damage they cause – regularly inspect and tighten all hardware and connections on the forklift or lift truck.
- Test Brakes – after a long period of inactivity in storage, it’s important to inspect your brakes for wear and remove any built-up rust or dust. After a visual inspection, you’ll want to conduct a test to ensure the brakes are responsive and effective.
- Inspect Belts and Fans – to keep your engine within its operational temperature range, it relies on a number of essential belts and fans, so it’s important to inspect these before resuming operations. In particular, you should check your engine fan (circulates air in the engine bay to remove surface heat) and your engine belt (used to circulates engine coolant through the engine). As these plastic and rubber parts age, the material tends to stretch, dry out and become brittle, making them prone to cracks or damage. So, for each component, conduct a visual inspection to check for signs of excessive wear, cracks or heat damage.
- Make Chains and Castor Adjustments – lift chains stretch during normal use and castor assemblies are critical to ride stability. Proper lift chain adjustment may prevent fork replacements and mast repairs as poorly adjusted castors can cause premature load wheel wear. If you continued to operate your outdoor forklift throughout the winter months, be sure to inspect the mast chain for excessive rust or corrosion, as these prone to rusting when exposed to wet conditions.
- Inspect Wheels and Tires – begin by inspecting each tire for excessive wear. Determining what qualifies as excessive wear depends on the type of tire on your forklift. Pneumatic tires should be replaced once the outside diameter of the tire is worn more than 2-3”. Cushion tires, on the other hand, should be replaced once the outside diameter is worn 1 ½” or when 30-40% of the tire’s rubber is gone. At the same time, you should also look for signs of damage such as undercutting, chunking or chipping. Finally, if you’re running pneumatic air tires, be sure to check your tire pressure and adjust (fill or deflate) where necessary according the manufacturer’s recommended specifications.
As you can see, there are a number of steps that must be taken before a forklift should be operated after several months of winter storage. Whether these are done in-house or at a forklift service provider, it’s important to make sure each is done to reduce downtime and repair costs during the busiest time of the year. For help with your forklift service needs, contact one of Stärke’s independent dealerships, where you’re sure to find a solution fit for your needs and application.