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Forklift Maintenance 101: Benefits, Frequency and Cost

Forklift Maintenance 101: Benefits, Frequency and Cost

Forklifts require full maintenance and servicing every 200-250 hours of operation or every six weeks. Before using a forklift on any job site, it should undergo a daily inspection. Not only does forklift maintenance keep your machine in top condition, but it also helps you avoid safety hazards. Because regular upkeep is so important, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines companies that fail to perform sufficient maintenance on their forklifts.

Forklift maintenance is a purposefully broad term. Depending on the type of power your forklift uses, the frequency and type of servicing it needs may change. Maintenance encompasses everything from regular cleaning to testing safety features and replacing damaged parts. By staying on top of upkeep, companies ensure the maximum return on investment and the lowest chance of facing a safety hazard.

Forklift Service and Repair Benefits

Benefits of Forklift Maintenance

While most teams are happy to dodge an OSHA fine, there are many other benefits to forklift maintenance. Whether you’re concerned with safety or performance, inspections and repairs can only benefit your team. The most efficient companies manage to incorporate service into their daily operations. Following this example sets any team up for success with:

Improved Safety

Because forklift and industrial truck accidents cause around 35,000 injuries a year, maximizing employee safety is vital. Whether your device carries pallets, tools or raw materials, one malfunction can endanger the operator and anyone around the forklift. With proper maintenance, teams avoid unnecessary hazards.

Greater Productivity

When machinery constantly breaks down, a team’s overall productivity drops. By contrast, a forklift in good condition will continue to carry loads and ensure a return on investment. Even a short inspection will ensure your forklift can handle the loads it needs to carry. When the success of a project depends on functional machinery, regular maintenance is crucial.

Maximum Service Life

Regular maintenance helps teams catch problems before they arise. This saves money that would go to more expensive repairs down the line. Additionally, it ensures that you get the most use out of a forklift throughout its service life. Frequent repairs incur a small cost compared to the money spent rebuilding a device from the ground up.

Higher Resale Value

Not all companies keep a forklift throughout its whole service life. Many teams opt to sell their machines after a few years of use. A well-maintained device will go for a lot more on resale than a poorly serviced forklift. With this in mind, regular maintenance leads to a bigger payout when it’s time to replace job equipment.

How Often Do Forklifts Need To Be Checked for Maintenance?

Depending on the parts checked and the quality of your device, every forklift component requires servicing between 200 and 2,000 hours.

While safety features like the alarm need a daily inspection, some internal parts only require quarterly maintenance. To determine how often forklifts need repairs, there are several factors to consider. Some of them include:

  • Age: A 5-year-old machine requires more frequent inspections than a year-old forklift.
  • History of service: If one part of your forklift has repeatedly broken down, you should pay attention to it during regular upkeep.
  • Line of work: Some projects pose greater risks to your forklift than others. A forklift carrying pallets through a warehouse faces less damage than a machine hauling raw materials across unstable terrain.
  • Your maintenance standard: OSHA sets a baseline for the amount of service a forklift requires. However, many teams choose to go above and beyond this minimum for additional safety.

Daily Forklift Maintenance Checklist

More advanced upkeep may require an expert, but most operators can perform their basic daily inspection. By moving through this forklift maintenance schedule, you can rest assured that your forklift is ready to haul loads. When a potential risk does arise, the daily inspection will catch it before a forklift moves through the work site. The daily forklift maintenance checklist encompasses two sections: what to examine before and after turning your forklift on.

Before Turning on Your Forklift

The non-driving checklist includes a list of parts to inspect before turning on your forklift. The operator or forklift technician should examine these components as soon as they roll a forklift out. Some parts of the list check for basic operations, while others involve safety features. To begin their inspection, operators must:

  • Ensure all the forklift’s hoses are properly connected.
  • Check the tires for signs of deflation or damage.
  • Make sure the seat belts and other safety devices function.
  • Ensure all fluid levels are in a safe range.
  • Examine the forklift’s tines and overhead guard.
  • Clean the operator compartment before using the device.
  • Always check for signs of visible damage on the machine.
  • Make sure your inspection stickers and decals are legible.

After Turning on Your Forklift

The driving checklist involves the parts operators must examine after turning the forklift on. Forklift operators and technicians should only move through this list after completing the non-driving checklist. Like with the previous inspection, teams should conduct it as soon as possible. Operators must:

  • Make sure the steering, brakes and accelerator work properly.
  • Test the forward and reverse gears.
  • Inspect the pedals, handbrake and clutch release.
  • Raise and lower the tines to make sure they are fully operational.
  • Check the safety features including horn, lights and backup alarm.

Long-term Preventative Maintenance

Long-term Forklift Maintenance Checklist
Monthly Checklist Quarterly Checklist Semiannual Checklist
Check ignition time Inspect PCV valve Test brake booster operation
Inspect spark plugs, distributor point, cap, rotor and other electronic components Test lift chain tension Inspect engine bolt
Examine drive belt Check carriage rollers Check manifold nuts
Change oil and air filter Replace fuel filter and hydraulic pump Replace brake fluid
Adjust idle speed Drain water separator Monitor engine coolant levels
Lubricate chassis and mast Clean radiator Apply wheel-bearing grease

Daily upkeep may work as your first line of defense against safety hazards, but long-term maintenance is just as important. By dividing service priorities into monthly, quarterly and semi-annual goals, you cover all aspects of forklift preventative maintenance in a safe time frame. While some of these inspections require an expert, it’s a small price to pay to stay on top of repairs.

General Forklift Maintenance Tips

The above checklists ensure that you always optimize your forklift’s condition. But for teams that want to go above and beyond, small additions can do more to help stay on top of upkeep. By keeping a few general tips in mind, you will go the extra mile in extending a forklift’s service life. Some examples include:

  • Regular cleaning: At the end of every workweek, operators should ensure their device is clean.
  • Collision inspection: After every collision or accident, even minor ones, check the forklift for signs of damage.
  • Remember maintenance qualifications: Keep in mind that only licensed operators and technicians should handle upkeep and inspections.
  • Invest in a computerized maintenance management system (CMMS): Many companies use a CMMS to track maintenance costs, process orders, review a device’s maintenance history and schedule upkeep.
  • Act fast: Whenever an issue arises, teams should deal with it as soon as possible. Any service delays could result in damage or injury.

Forklift Service by Type

Forklift maintenance by type

While some guides generalize forklifts, it’s important to remember that different models pose unique maintenance requirements. Depending on the forklift’s power source, extra precautions can prevent malfunctions and work site accidents. By learning each device’s needs, operators make the most of their equipment and avoid hazards unique to their machine.

Electric Forklifts

Battery-powered forklifts, sometimes called electric forklifts, are typically used indoors at warehouses or manufacturing plants. Before hauling loads, operators should check the cables and battery restraints for signs of disrepair. After ensuring that the hood latch is secure, they only have to keep an eye on electrolyte levels while lifting materials.

Liquid Propane Forklifts

These forklifts receive power from a propane tank mounted on the device. Compared to other models, they offer the best lifting power at the cost of more expensive fuel. Operators need to ensure the propane tank is securely mounted and has no sign of leaks or damage. Once they make sure the hoses and belts are secure, operators must regularly check the relief valve to confirm that it’s pointing up.

Internal Combustion Forklifts

Internal combustion forklifts reach higher speeds and operate longer than other models. To achieve this, technicians have to make sure engine oil, coolant and brake fluids are at the proper levels. They should also check the air filter and radiator before hauling loads.

Forklift Repair Qualifications

Because of how important forklift repairs are, not everyone on your team can properly service a machine. Certified forklift operators have the skills needed to conduct a simple inspection. Many experienced drivers can also diagnose technical problems. While this experience is valuable, it’s not enough to perform significant repairs.

Certified forklift technicians (CFTs) can replace parts and repair damaged machines. Some teams keep CFTs on-site if a project requires the use of multiple forklifts at a single time. But more often than not, businesses choose to sign up for a maintenance plan where technicians come in when needed. Companies that rent forklifts often select plans where technicians remain on standby.

How Much Does Forklift Servicing Cost?

The cost of forklift maintenance varies based on several factors. In general, it’s estimated that servicing costs range from $1,500 to $6,000 a year. Even this general estimate can change based on the quality of your equipment and the person responsible for repairs. When broken machinery sets a company back by hundreds or thousands of dollars, plenty of managers value fast service above all else.

An in-house repair specialist may cost less by the hour, but you’ll also have to fund any replacement parts they need. A hired technician’s hourly rate may also change depending on the type of repairs they need to perform. Finally, fixing exterior damage generally costs less than performing extensive repairs on a device’s interior.

Avoid Maintenance Costs by Renting Forklifts

Renting is the best way to get around steep forklift maintenance prices. Many renters include a repair plan in their basic package. This way, if damage occurs on the job, the renting company will send a technician to perform repairs as soon as possible. Because the equipment needs of a company change depending on their current project, renting new forklifts with a repair policy for every new job is the most cost-effective solution.

Forklift maintenance benefits a team’s productivity and safety, while also preventing OSHA fines. To help stay on top of upkeep, BigRentz offers reliable, top-of-the-line forklift rentals. Whether your team needs a fair repair policy or new equipment for an upcoming project, BigRentz can provide the tools and expertise you need.

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