Why is Frequent Forklift Maintenance Important?

September 12, 2018

Forklifts are the workhorses of modern warehouse and distribution center operations. Every day, forklifts are used to quickly move pallets of materials and products around that would be too heavy for manual labor to handle safely.

However, what some people forget is that, as rugged and reliable as a well-made forklift is, it will still require frequent preventative maintenance to keep it working in top condition. Why is frequent forklift maintenance important, and how can you optimize your forklift maintenance schedule to minimize costs and maximize each forklift’s useful life and performance?

Reasons Why Keeping a Forklift Maintenance Schedule is Important

There are many reasons to perform frequent forklift maintenance set to a specific schedule with monthly, quarterly, and yearly maintenance tasks, including:

  • Preventing Sudden Failures of Forklift Equipment. Forklifts are often used to carry extremely heavy loads across a warehouse. This can put heavy wear and tear on the forklift’s mast—the failure of which could cause a load to fall. Tires can also wear out, making the forklift more difficult to control. Electrical systems can short out, resulting in catastrophic failures. Regular preventative maintenance helps to keep these failures from happening.
  • Helping Identify When a Forklift Should Be Cycled Out. If there’s an issue with a forklift that cannot be addressed with routine maintenance in a cost-effective manner (e.g. bringing the forklift into peak condition would essentially cost as much as buying another one in better condition), the frequent inspections that come part and parcel with a forklift maintenance schedule would likely help you identify it early on. This way, you can modify your forklift fleet management strategy to account for the need to replace the forklift before it becomes unusable.
  • Preventing Employee Injuries. When forklifts break down unexpectedly, it can lead to employee injuries. For example, if a forklift mast suddenly fails, nearby employees may be struck by falling objects from the pallet (or the pallet itself) if they’re too close. Control system failures could cause the forklift to move uncontrollably—potentially causing harm to the forklift operator and others. Routine maintenance helps to prevent catastrophic failures and the employee injuries they can cause.
  • Keeping Forklifts Operating Efficiently. On any given shift, there is only so much time to get things done, and only so much that a forklift can accomplish before running out of charged batteries. Poorly-maintained forklifts are harder to operate, making basic tasks slower and more time-consuming. Additionally, a lack of maintenance can kill forklift battery efficiency as corroded connections interfere with the flow of electricity from the battery to the forklift. By applying routine forklift maintenance services, you can keep your forklifts operating at peak efficiency for longer.
  • Reducing Total Cost of Ownership for Your Motive Power Fleet. Preventative maintenance is often less expensive than waiting for a forklift to break down and trying to fix the long list of problems that can arise from that breakdown. For example, fixing a leaky hydraulic pump seal for the hydraulic lift cylinder is usually an easier and less costly repair than replacing a ruptured one and restoring any other parts of the forklift that may break during a catastrophic hydraulic failure.

These are just a few of the benefits of frequently maintaining your forklifts. However, as important as having a planned maintenance strategy is, it’s also important to have a comprehensive forklift maintenance checklist that you can refer to during your scheduled maintenance. Documenting your process helps to ensure that whichever forklift mechanic does the inspection doesn’t miss an important check.

The Forklift Maintenance Checklist

Here’s a sample forklift maintenance checklist for you to reference. It’s important to note that some parts of this checklist may need to change depending on the make and model of forklift you use:

  • Daily Forklift Maintenance Items:
      • Does the forklift’s hydraulics system have any leaks?
      • Do all safety lights work?
      • Is the battery fully charged?
        • If not, what is the current charge level?
        • How many more charge cycles is the battery rated for?
      • Does the mast rise or lower smoothly?
      • Is the horn functional?
      • Are the brakes working?
      • Are any of the tires ruptured?
      • Is the counterweight secure?
      • Is the amp hour rating of the battery matched to its charger?
  • Monthly Forklift Maintenance Items:
      • Are moving components properly lubricated?
      • Are battery connections clean and free of sulfate?
      • Is there enough water in the battery?
      • Is the overhead guard damaged or dented?
      • Are overhead guard screens free of ruptures?
      • Are battery care placards in place?
  • Quarterly Forklift Maintenance Items:
    • Is the action on the forklift’s pedals smooth and unencumbered?
    • Is the hydraulic fluid filter in good condition?
    • What is the condition of the forklift’s brake fluid and brake lines?
    • Are the forklift’s electrical components in good condition (free of burn marks, lacking damaged soldering, all controls and indicator lights functional, etc.)?
    • Are forklift and battery safety signs posted in the appropriate places per OSHA regulations?

That last item may not directly relate to forklift maintenance, but it does play a role in making sure your employees are aware of safe forklift operating practices—which can have an indirect impact on maintenance by reminding employees to follow safety regulations.

Need help setting up a planned maintenance program for your motive power fleet needs? Contact the experts at Southern States Motive Power to learn more about our forklift maintenance services today!

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