Complete Forklift Maintenance Guide

These forklift checklists for proper maintenance can lengthen the life of your forklift and minimize repair bills.

 

A forklift in good working order is crucial to a productive worksite. The last thing a forklift operator wants on a job is a malfunction. Regular preventive maintenance helps prevent breakdowns and offers other benefits as well.

In general, follow the manufacturer's planned maintenance schedule recommendations, found in the user's manual. Many manufacturers set their service intervals at months or hours of use, whichever comes first. Internal combustion engine forklifts typically need more frequent maintenance than electric forklifts, so a gas forklift checklist will differ somewhat from an electric forklift checklist. It will look similar to a diesel forklift maintenance checklist.

The benefits of regular forklift maintenance

A well-maintained forklift will have a longer service life and perform more efficiently. It will be safer to use and require fewer expensive repairs. When it comes time to sell, a regularly serviced forklift will command a higher price than one that hasn't been as carefully maintained.

Forklift maintenance matters for renters as well as owners. Most equipment rental companies require the customer to perform regular maintenance and will charge for any damage caused by neglect.

Forklift upkeep is mandated by federal rules. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires daily forklift inspections to look for "any condition adversely affecting the safety of the vehicle."

OSHA forklift maintenance guidance is limited to general advice that applies to all industrial trucks. That's why detailed a forklift maintenance checklist is so helpful.

How often should operators inspect their forklift?

To catch problems that may pose safety issues or cause the machine to break down, the operator should perform a visual inspection of the forklift before every shift. If an inspection reveals a problem or potential problem, the operator should alert their manager.

If an issue poses a safety hazard, the machine should be taken out of service. Operating a machine that’s not in safe operating condition may lead to an OSHA fine.

Daily forklift maintenance checklist

First, park the forklift on level ground with the mast in an upright position and the forks on the ground. Block the wheels and apply the parking brake.

Before starting the machine

  • Check the engine oil and water levels.
  • Make sure the fuel tank is connected properly and has enough fuel.
  • Check the levels of coolant, brake and hydraulic fluids.
  • Check for cylinder and hose fluid leaks.
  • Make sure the air filter is clean.
  • Operate the brake. It should work smoothly without slowness or blocking.
  • Make sure the battery is fully charged, clean and in good condition, with no exposed wires or clogged vent caps. Look for any signs of battery acid leaks or discoloration. Check the battery’s water level.
  • Look for damaged or missing components such as hoses, forks, bolts, nuts and chains.
  • Check the tires for damage or wear. Tire damage can cause bouncing, which impacts load stability.
  • Check the tire pressure. Forklift tires require relatively high inflation pressure to help stabilize heavy loads. Underinflated tires can cause poor traction and skids.
  • Make sure seatbelts and all other operator safety equipment, including safety guards, are in good shape.
  • Inspect the safety cage for any cracks or broken welds.
  • Check the lift mast and other moving parts for fluid leaks, cracks or unusual wear.

After starting the machine but before using it

  • Listen for any odd noises.
  • Make sure the lights, horn, warning buzzers and backup alarms function properly.
  • Check all gauges.
  • Check the operation of the lifting, tilting and attachment levers and listen for any unusual sounds that may indicate wear on the mast and idler wheel.
  • Make sure the operator’s compartment is free of debris. It should have a copy of the user’s manual and, for many machines, a charged fire extinguisher.
  • Consult the user’s manual for additional daily inspection items.

Weekly forklift maintenance checklist

Weekly maintenance tasks to be performed by a trained technician will vary based on the forklift's age, condition, service record and past maintenance, as well as the conditions in which it’s been operating. Harsh conditions usually mean more frequent maintenance. Items for your weekly forklift inspection sheet may include these.

  • Perform a forklift oil change and change the air and oil filters.
  • Grease the lift chain.
  • Check the steering and cooling systems.
  • Change the clutch and brake oil.
  • Check the hydraulic system and brake system.
  • Clean the forklift. Maintaining cleanliness isn't just for appearance. It’s a safety precaution. Weekly cleanings prevent the buildup of combustible materials, such as lint, in the machine.
  • Change any filters that are dirty.
  • Blow out the radiator.

Monthly forklift maintenance checklist

These tasks should be done monthly, or every 200 to 250 operating hours. General monthly and weekly maintenancetask lists may overlap, so follow the manufacturer’s recommendations. Monthly tasks to be performed by a trained technician may include these.

  • Clean the top of the forklift battery with battery cleaner or warm water. Forklift battery maintenance is critical.
  • Check the battery pH, which should be between 5 and 7. Use a hydrometer to make sure the battery has the ideal specific gravity listed in the manual.
  • Check the lift chain tension.
  • Check the hydraulic oil pump.
  • Adjust the clutch release bearing (on standard shift machines).
  • Adjust the chassis links, mast support bushing and tilt cylinder pins.

Annual forklift maintenance checklist

Another common maintenance interval for forklifts is every year or 2,000 hours. Annual maintenance may include these tasks, depending on the machine’s recommended service intervals.

  • Replace the brake fluid, engine coolant, fuel filter and fuel strainer element.
  • Test the main mast welds and forks using magnetic particle testing. (Also do this whenever a crack appears.
  • Test all hoses, couplings, fittings and connections to the cylinders in the main mast assembly and the tilt control system using magnetic particle testing.
  • Do a lifting capacity inspection to make sure the machine can lift the maximum load specified by the manufacturer.

Forklifts are indispensable machines. Save yourself money and downtime by practicing regular forklift maintenance and identifying small issues before they become big ones.

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