Forklifts play many roles in a variety of industries, the most important of which is transporting materials and products quickly and efficiently. While modern forklifts are sturdy and durable, their many moving components and frequent use mean they will eventually need to be repaired. In this guide, we’ll talk about the most common forklift problems and how to go about fixing them.
What Are the Most Common Forklift Failures?
If you own a forklift, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with the issues you’re most likely to encounter. The most common problems are the following:
- Mast issues: The mast, which controls the forklift’s lifting, lowering and tilting, is a common source of problems. Attached to the mast are the forks, which carry loads, and the carriage, which is powered using a hydraulic piston located in the middle of the mast. The mast lifts loads using this piston’s hydraulic power and lowers loads using gravity. Forklifts often lift loads in several stages, which can cause various issues. Common mast-related issues include failure to lift or lower correctly, lifting too slowly and jerky lifting and lowering.
- Steering issues: Forklifts can be a challenge to steer, especially if space is limited. Steering issues can lead to accidents that injure operators or others nearby, so it’s crucial to make sure your steering is functioning smoothly.
- Starting issues: When your forklift won’t start, it can be irritating. It can also be costly, as it may delay jobs and force drivers to spend time trying to solve the problem instead of working.
How to Diagnose a Forklift Issue
When experiencing any of the above failures, you may need to complete a bit of troubleshooting to pinpoint the source of the problem. For each problem, we’ll share some tips on how to figure out what the issue is and how it can be fixed.
1. Mast Issues
If you’re experiencing an issue with your mast, you should first check your hydraulic fluid levels. If levels are normal, examine the chains on the forklift to see if any components need replacing. With lots of use, sections of the mast can become rusted, stretched, bent, cracked, misaligned or twisted. If a component needs to be replaced, contact a forklift repair technician.
2. Steering Issues
Sometimes it’s difficult to detect a steering issue. One indication is hearing odd sounds when you turn the wheel, especially if it happens when the lift is loaded. This may be a sign of a rusting steering mechanism or an issue with the hydraulics that control steering pressure. Other problems related to the steering include:
- Worn out or loose pressure valves
- Worn out gears
- Misaligned tires
- Low levels of steering fluid
If your steering fluid is low, try adding more to see if the problem is resolved. If the fluid is gunky and thick, you should change it completely. Issues with hydraulics or worn out gears should be left to an experienced forklift repair technician.
3. Starting Issues
A forklift starting problem is often easy to resolve. The steps you take will depend on how your forklift is powered. If your forklift is electric, follow these troubleshooting steps:
- Check the charging level of your battery: When was the battery last charged? Was it charged properly?
- Test all auxiliary functions: Test your brakes, lights and other functions to find out whether they work. If they don’t, you might have to recharge your battery fully. A faster solution would be to swap it with a freshly recharged battery if you have one.
If your forklift is powered by internal combustion, starting issues may be more complicated. Go through these troubleshooting steps:
- Determine the age of the fuel: Has the fuel been in your tank for a long time? If it’s old, this may explain why your lift won’t easily start.
- Check for fuel leaks: If the smell of gas is unusually strong, this could indicate a leak.
- Check your oil levels: Some forklift models won’t allow the fuel valve to open unless it has a certain amount of oil.
- Check the battery: If none of the above steps solves your problem, see if your battery is sufficiently charged.
- Check the coolant: If your battery has enough charge, check your coolant level. Sometimes forklifts won’t start due to overheating, which results from radiator blockage or a lack of coolant. If needed, clean the radiator or add more coolant. If you notice a lot of corrosion on your radiator, you might have to get it replaced, which should be performed by a professional.
When to Call an Expert
When you’re familiar with the most common forklift problems and solutions, you can be better prepared to deal with an issue. However, keep in mind that most fixes, including technical repairs and part replacements, should still be left to professional technicians. While you may be tempted to DIY these repairs to save money, you run the risk of damaging your equipment. In fact, some of the most expensive forklift repairs are because a nonprofessional attempted to fix an issue but ended up causing even more damage.
Keep in mind the common forklift repairs and maintenance tasks you can easily and safely perform. These include:
- Filter replacements: Replacing filters can be performed in-house without professional help. This simple task can greatly prolong your forklift’s longevity and enhance its performance over time.
- Fluid top-offs: If you notice one of your fluids is low, you can top it off yourself.
- Quick inspections: If you want to know how to prevent forklift repairs, the answer is simple — every week, take a quick look around your forklift and make sure all the components are in working order. This way, you may be able to catch an issue before it becomes a more serious, costly problem.
- Battery checks: Another task you can comfortably complete is checking your battery, making sure it’s charged fully and refilling your battery water. These simple tasks can significantly increase your battery’s life span.
If you feel uncomfortable with or are unable to perform any of the above tasks, you’ll want to seek the help of a professional technician.
Work With an Expert Repair Shop
Gregory Poole Lift Systems has a vast network of experienced, highly trained repair professionals throughout the Carolinas and Virginia. Thanks to our in-house training department, our technicians have extensive experience working on all kinds of forklifts and can provide high-quality customer service.