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    "Forklift Preventive Maintenance:"

    December 11, 2007 by Mike Strawbridge

    Preventative Maintenance for Forklifts
    By Lori Steffen

    You have a lot of money invested in your forklift. In order to protect that investment, perform preventative maintenance on your forklift regularly. Whether you or someone in your shop is performing your forklift maintenance or if you are having an outside company perform the maintenance on your forklift, it is good to know the procedure to be sure that your forklift is properly maintained.

    Jeff Wark is a forklift mechanic with 35 years of mechanical experience. Read on to learn Jeff’s how-to on forklift maintenance.

    Start the forklift and let it run briefly while you listen to the engine performance. Listen for any knocks or misses. Listen for any squealing caused by the belts. Then listen for any exhaust leaks. Drive the forklift forwards and backwards to check for any slips and to observe any possible wheel issues. Shut the engine off.

    When performing preventative maintenance on your forklift, first check the horn, gauges, safety warning devices, cab lights, outside lights, back-up lights, and overhead guard for proper operation. Check for any burnt out bulbs and if any device still does not work, check the wiring and make repairs.

    Next in your forklift preventative maintenance procedure is to check the battery compartment. Clean the battery terminal, battery cables and battery connectors. Open every cell cap and check the cells for proper fill levels and fill with water as needed. Apply protectant on the connectors to prevent corrosion. Leave the battery cables disconnected.

    Drain the oil from your forklift. Change the oil filter, change the hydraulic filter, transmission filter, fuel filters, and the air filter. Prior to installing the new filters, use a permanent marker to write the date on the new filter. Check all fluid levels and fill as necessary. Check the anti-freeze in the cooling system.

    Visually inspect the drive axle when you are underneath the machine. If there is a grease fitting, make sure to grease the drive axle.

    Check the belts on the forklift engine. Check for cracks and frays on the belts.

    Perform a visual check of the forklift’s exhaust system. Look for any cracks or holes in the exhaust system.

    Look at the tires on the forklift for any cracks or signs of excessive wear. On an air filled tire, check the tread. Check the differential fluid.

    Check the clutch pedal on your forklift. Check the steering cylinder and the drag links. Check for any leaks or for any bends in the system.

    Proceed to the hoist and look at the hydraulic lines for any leaks. If there are any leaks on the hydraulic system of your forklift, tighten the lines. If this does not correct the leaks, the fittings may need to be changed or an o-ring may need to be replaced.

    While inspecting the hoist, look at the forks and mast to see if there are any visible cracks or chips. Look for any bowing or bends in the forks. Any of these should be noted on your checklist and flagged to the owner and operator as a potentially dangerous issue which needs to be further addressed.

    Lubricate all the fittings on your forklift. This would include the hoist mechanism and tie-rod ends.

    Checking the wheel bearings is listed on preventative maintenance checklists. However, this is normally done when replacing the brakes on the forklift. Unless there is some indication during the initial driving check out of the forklift that there may be an issue with the wheel bearings, it is not recommended to check the wheel bearings. More harm than good may be done when checking the wheel bearings.

    Reconnect the battery cables and start the forklift again. Listen again for any unusual noises.

    Lastly, a good preventative maintenance on your forklift will include some cleaning. Wipe down the forklift and use a spray cleaner to clean the forklift. Jeff recommends an oil based spray cleaner for the most effective cleaning of your forklift.

    Always follow proper safety procedures when performing any maintenance on your forklift.

    Use a good checklist when performing preventative maintenance on your forklift. Use the checklist to make sure all the work items are performed and to make notes of any issues that should be checked into further. A free checklist is available from when you subscribe to the newsletter.

    Lori Steffen has over 10 years experience in the construction industry. Visit for a resource directory of information on forklifts. The audio version of this interview is available at This article may be reproduced and distributed as long as all URL's and author information remain intact.

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