I thought it was time to supply a new photo for these articles. Yes, I have become a little older and maybe a little wiser but you can make your own decision about that. According to my wife I’m just older. So anyway the updated photo was way past due.
This month I am going to focus on a machine that most of you have. It is something that when you need it, you need it. It simply must work and perform its job as intended. What I found in doing research for this article is that many of these machines are highly neglected. Yes, you take advantage of the “out of sight, out of mind” concept when it comes to this machine. You only use it a couple of times a day, and for the most part it works…sometimes just enough to get the job done, and then it’s put away until needed again. What is?
It is your forklift.
Forklifts are mobile lifting machines. They are designed for indoor and outdoor use. Some run on propane, some on electricity and some have regular internal combustion gas engines.
The electric forklift is primarily designed for indoor use, where there is a concern of noise and fuel emissions. Most gas, or propane forklifts are primarily used outdoors where noise and emissions are less of a concern.
Forklifts are probably the most neglected machines in the shop, but they have a much needed maintenance schedule that must be adhered to so they are ready to go when you need them.
Most of the forklifts I see in shops are in the 4,000 pound capacity. They can generally lift items to around 20 feet. Some have hard (no air) solid tires and some come with pneumatic tires for use inside as well as use outside. Forklifts can be very dangerous and only a trained, certified and highly qualified operator should be allowed to drive one.
There are several certification classes that can be taken to ensure your operator has the necessary skills to operate a forklift safely. You can do an Internet search for “forklift training course” and find a variety of courses offered in your region. I would first survey the crew to see who wants to have this training, and if everyone wants to train then make it a contest of skills to see who will go to the training classes first. Then rotate all of your employees through the training program. You may even receive a discount on your insurance double check with your agent to confirm.
You know me, I am constantly telling you to have an instruction and parts manual for every machine you have in the shop. The forklift is no different. If you can no longer track down the original documents, contact the manufacturer and get your manual today. Let me recap the basic maintenance check list for both electric and gas or LP powered forklifts.
Gasoline and Propane Forklift Maintenance Checklist:
- Wash and wax your forklift just like the delivery truck.
- Flush the radiator and add clean fresh coolant annually.
- Grease all fittings on a monthly basis.
- Change out the engine oil and filter approximately every 200 hours.
- Check the transmission and differential oil levels and add as necessary.
- Check hydraulic fluid level and fill as necessary.
- Clean and/or replace the air cleaner.
- Inspect all coolant hoses and fan belts for wear and replace as needed.
- Check the battery water level and clean the terminals.
- Check all fuel, water, and hydraulic lines and hoses for leaks, cracks or fatigue. Replace as necessary.
- Check radiator and radiator cap as well as thermostat.
- Inspect brake pedal and adjust. Also double check the emergency brake to be sure it works.
- Check distributor, adjust points (do you remember how to set points?) and all ignition wires and sparkplugs.
- Check the power steering reservoir and add fluid as needed.
- Check tilt and lift of mast assembly. Look for slop in the guide ways and rod ends and repair or replace.
- Check carburetor and fuel system and adjust or replace as needed. Don’t forget a new fuel filter.
- Check the exhaust system for cracks or leaks and replace gasket or component as needed.
- Finally check the tires, wheels on a weekly basis.
Electric forklift maintenance checklist:
- Wash and wax.
- Clean grease fittings and add grease as required.
- Inspect all hydraulic lines and capacities.
- Inspect the batteries and add water as well as clean terminals.
- Check power cord, and repair or replace as needed.
- Check Test Point voltages, and check maximum current limitations adjust as necessary.
Then review the list for Gasoline and Propane Forklifts for the rest of your maintenance check since most of the other items fall into both categories.
Thinking about buying a forklift? New is always great but at times the cost can be out of reach. So if a used forklift is in your budget (and there are a lot of them out there) follow the above maintenance checks to ensure the used forklift is worth your hard-earned dollars.
Finding a forklift: Look at rental yards. An average age for a used forklift is around 8 to 10 years, but these forklifts are generally well-maintained and are offered for sale after several years of renting.
Also when shopping for a previously owned forklift asks to review the maintenance schedule, if there isn’t one to see, then be extra thorough when inspecting the forklift.
Be sure you test all functions by actually running, driving and lifting before you write that check. Remember when you need a lift you don’t want your forklift to let you down! See ya in the shop!
Dave Monyhan is national sales manager with Goodson Shop Supplies, located in Winona, MN.