Getting your forklift serviced might seem like a drag – you’ll need to schedule in downtime during which the truck can’t be used for work, and you’ll need to cover the cost of a technician to carry out the service – but it’s an essential part of keeping your forklift in good working order. Regular servicing reduces the risk of your forklift breaking down, and the risk of costly emergency repairs. So what exactly does a forklift service entail? Here’s your guide to everything you need to know about servicing.
Why is it important to service your forklift?
Services are carried out as a routine part of forklift maintenance. A good service should fine-tune your forklift truck’s mechanisms, to keep it running as smoothly and efficiently as possible. It should also anticipate any problems in advance, and take action to prevent your forklift truck from breaking down – for example, by replacing any worn-down parts. These two steps are important for both safety and cost reasons. Firstly, you want to avoid the possibility of any industrial accidents, which could cause damage and put your workers’ health at risk. Secondly, the cost of unscheduled downtime, and potentially expensive repairs, is almost always greater than the cost of regular routine servicing.
What needs to be checked during servicing?
Forklift truck maintenance might be complex, but the theory of it is fairly simple. When on site, a service technician will check the various parts of your forklift, to ensure that it is running at an optimum level of efficiency. These will include the following:
The forklift’s running and braking system
The forklift’s control system Its mast, lift chains, forks, and hydraulics
The forklift’s engine, or electric motor
The forklift’s body
Any safety components
You should be able to see your technician check all of these in a visible manner. Don’t be tempted to employ an ultra-budget service. Even if everything is shipshape, and nothing needs repair, forklift truck services should thoroughly check your vehicle’s parts and running. This should take at least a minimum of one hour for regular and heavy-duty forklifts, and 30 minutes for a walkie forklift truck. If your service takes less time than this, it’s likely that not everything is being checked as rigorously as it should be.
If you’re not sure whether all your forklift’s parts have been checked, ask to see the inspection form. All technicians will fill out a form as they carry out your service, which will detail what they have checked, how well it operates, and whether maintenance work is required.
What is repaired during a service?
In many cases, it’s not enough to simply check how well your forklift is running. Often, the technician will detect an issue which requires basic forklift repair to be carried out. This is completely normal and serves to prevent a costly breakdown further along the line. Here’s your guide to parts that commonly require repair during servicing.
If your tyres are worn or damaged, they will have increased resistance and correspondingly will lead to higher fuel costs. Keeping your tyres in good condition will, therefore, save you money on running costs.
It’s important to keep key points on your machine well-lubricated at all times. Without lubrication, moving parts create friction, which creates wear and tear. Lubrication, therefore, plays an important role in your forklift truck maintenance routine, as by reducing wear, it improves your forklift’s performance, increases the life of mechanical parts, and reduces the risk of a breakdown – which can severely impact productivity. You should expect to see your technician liberally applying grease to the necessary parts.
One of the major things which a technician will check during servicing is whether the machine has any worn-down parts that should be replaced. Taking pre-emptive action on worn-down parts saves you money in two major ways. Firstly, it often leads to smoother operation, saving on fuel costs due to your forklift’s increased efficiency. Secondly, when parts fail on the job, it often causes damage to nearby parts – which could have been prevented by replacing the faulty part before it failed. Replacing worn-down parts can also save you money, as it reduces the likelihood of unplanned downtime.
Lines and filters
Often, forklift trucks operate in conditions full of dust, dirt, or debris. Inside your forklift truck, there are filters to keep the air, oil, and hydraulic fluid cleaned. Sediment can easily build up on these filters (and in other places inside the body of your forklift) and have a catastrophic effect on the mechanisms of your vehicle. In some cases, the build-up can lead to faults and to premature failure of parts, both of which are costly to repair. Your service technician should, therefore, check for build-up on lines and filters within your forklift, and clean them if necessary.
What safety procedures need to be followed during servicing?
First things first – make sure that only fully qualified technicians are allowed to service and maintain your forklift truck. If something goes wrong as a result of faulty servicing, it’s likely to be costly to repair, will necessitate unplanned (and unproductive) downtime whilst the machine is being fixed, and could put your workers’ health at risk. Your technician should be up-to-date with all relevant safety procedures – but just in case, here are the safety procedures which need to be followed during a forklift service.
Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn when necessary
Adequate footwear should be worn at all times. More comprehensive protection should be worn when doing certain tasks, such as when grinding (requires goggles), when working around battery-charging equipment, or when handling lead-acid batteries (requires safety goggles, face shields, aprons, gloves and rubber boots) or when changing LPG fuel tanks (requires leather gloves).
Records should be checked
Before embarking on any repairs, technicians should consult the operator’s daily checklist. Technicians should also check whether the forklift has any problems before starting the engine, or driving it.
Before any work is carried out, make sure all batteries are disconnected.
Keep a clean workspace
Any spills (such as oil or fuel) should be cleaned up immediately. The work area where servicing is carried out should be free from obstructions or trip hazards, and well lit. Any tools used should also be clean, and checked for defects before use.
Know the correct steps for servicing LPG forklifts
Before you can service an LPG forklift, the tank fuel valve needs to be closed off. Run the engine until it stops, at which point you can disconnect the tank from the hose and begin the service.
Block and support
When removing your forklift’s wheels, or carrying out work of a similar nature, the forklift should always be securely blocked before work begins. If you are carrying out work which requires the forklift hood to be lifted, make sure that the hood is either firmly supported, or removed entirely.
Avoid battery terminals Battery terminals
should not come into contact with metal objects, including tools, chains, and hoists. It’s safest to cover the battery tops with an insulating material if possible.
Double check for mistakes
Before starting your forklift’s engine, always double check to make sure that all surplus parts and tools have been removed. Check forks for any distorted or bent sections, and test any area where there are defects.
How to keep your forklift well-maintained between services?
Although it’s tempting to leave your forklift maintenance to the professionals, taking care of your vehicle’s condition even between services can save you money in running costs – and avoid any nasty surprises when you get your next service bill. Here’s how to keep your forklift in tip-top condition.
Set up checklists
Create an easy maintenance checklist which your employees can run through each day. Train them to become aware of issues with the machine, and to take steps to fix it – this could be something as simple as topping up the fuel when needed, noticing when lights or warning signs are on, or alerting you of damage to parts. Having a checklist in place means that maintenance tasks are less likely to be forgotten. Make sure to train your staff so that they are aware of maintenance procedures, and so that they know how to interpret the checklists. Keep language short and simple, and include diagrams where necessary.
Check your tyres
Make sure to check the air pressure of your tyres on a daily basis. Badly maintained tyres can cause accidents, or damage to your forklift, both of which are avoidable. Also check the surface of your tyres for any noticeable cuts, dents, or flaws.
Make sure that any moving parts on your forklift are well-lubricated, in order to reduce friction-related wear and tear.
How often should you service your forklift?
How often you should service your forklift depends on a number of factors, including the conditions they work under (outdoors? Indoors? Working in a hot environment?), how often they are used, and how intensely they are used. As a general rule of thumb, a forklift which undergoes heavy use will require servicing as regularly as once every three months. For vehicles which are only lightly used, a service once every six months may suffice. Some technicians recommend that a forklift is serviced after every 200 hours of use, but your forklift may require more frequent servicing for a variety of reasons, including if it is an older model, or if it is regularly used on rugged terrain. You’re best to ask your technician, who should have the experience required to advise you on how often your forklift should be serviced. Make sure that they listen to what you say, and ask questions to give you the best advice possible.