Forklift Maintenance: The Complete Guide for Operators

A blurred image of a forklift in a factory space

Like any other machinery, forklifts also need a little TLC from time to time. And as a professional and certified operator, this task is a part of your daily responsibilities. A forklift is an essential part of various business processes that involve heavy lifting and material handling across various industries. Like any machinery subject to lifting heavy loads for an extended period, forklifts are also prone to occasional wear and tear.

Maintenance is one of the most crucial factors that play an integral role in forklift efficiency and service life. Operators may identify minor issues during operations that require maintenance and repairs. However, neglecting these issues just because they are minor can lead dot extensive maintenance and repair costs in the future. These issues will develop into bigger problems that adversely impact productivity, safety and operator efficiency.

Keeping operational vehicles in optimal condition is even more crucial when worker safety is at risk. By conducting regular and effective forklift maintenance, operators can also minimize the risks of accidents that may lead to injuries and fatalities. An estimated 1300 employees in the UK are hospitalized every year following a forklift accident, and the number is steadily gaining momentum. This means five employees suffer from life-changing and incapacitating injuries such as fractures, dislocation, and amputation every day.

One of the foremost reasons for increasing forklift accidents is the lack of proper maintenance training. This is why the Health and Safety Executive has deemed it the employer’s responsibility to provide adequate training opportunities to forklift operators regarding various aspects of forklift operations, especially maintenance.

Even though forklifts are used to speed up the production process and make tasks easier, maintaining it can be challenging. This is why this post will cover all the important aspects of forklift maintenance for operators. Keep reading to learn more.

An employee is filling a maintenance log while a mechanic refuels the engine with quality fuel

Benefits of Forklift Maintenance

Prolonged Service Life

Forklift maintenance is synonymous with longer service life. The more regularly and efficiently you work to maintain the forklift, the longer its useful life will be. This will result in increased return on investment (ROI) and a more productive and longer economic life for the machine.

Enhanced Productivity

Regular maintenance equals more runtime. Because your forklift will operate for longer hours more efficiently, workplace productivity will witness a significant boost. Plus, you can minimize downtime by scheduling maintenance inspections around operational shifts.

Cost Savings

If motors and engines are regularly maintained, there’s a lower chance of bigger problems emerging in the future. As mentioned above, daily maintenance helps identify all minor issues such as low fluid levels and debris-filled components that can develop into bigger and more expensive repairs. Solving these minor problems early saves you from spending a fortune on repairs in the future.

Better Safety

Every operator and organization has the legal and ethical duty to maintain optimal and safe working conditions. This ensures that operators and other team members working in the operational workplace get home uninjured.

This is another benefit of regular maintenance. It helps you identify potential safety hazards and eliminate them before they cause harm or damage to the employees and the property.

Handsome Resale Value

If you plan on reselling the forklift truck in the future, you should keep your forklift in tip-top shape. This requires regular maintenance and upkeep.

Two female mechanics working hard while repairing a forklift

What Does the Law Say About Forklift Maintenance?

Various legislations compel organizations and employers to ensure relevant processes are in place for maintenance to eliminate potential risks and safety hazards.

Health and Safety at Work Act – 1974

This legislation states that employers have to maintain the plants and systems of work in a reasonably practical way to stay safe and work without risks.

The Lifting Operations and Lifting Equipment Regulations (LOLER) – 1998

According to LOLER, all lifting equipment is subject to statutory periodic examination. Plus, this thorough examination must be conducted by a competent person.

The Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations (PUWER) – 1998

PUWER establishes the general requirements to ensure all working machinery such as forklifts is kept in optimal condition.

It focuses on three terms:

  • An efficient state
  • In efficient working order
  • In good repair

Moreover, it also requires employers to keep forklifts in a condition that does not threaten employee safety. Employers must also maintain maintenance logs.

Approved Code of Practice

The Health and Safety Executive’s ACOP highlights the right way to approach maintenance. This means all parts must be examined thoroughly, not just the critical ones. It also suggests that routine maintenance and inspection are key to achieving this.

Even though ACOP L22 is not law, it does enjoy a special status under the Health and Safety at Work Act.

A competent mechanic repairing a forklift tire

How often Do Forklifts Need Maintenance?

According to the Road Transport Industry and Training Board (RTITB), operators must service their forklifts every 200 hours or eight days to ensure the vehicle is running smoothly. Moreover, various other factors affect the frequency of service:

Hours of Operation

If the truck will run for extensive hours, it will need more maintenance. This is especially prevalent where work is carried out in multiple shifts.

Beware of the ending economic life of a forklift truck. There will come a time when repairs will become too expensive. This indicates that it makes more sense to buy a new one instead of investing in the old one.

Past service record

If the same issues keep popping up in the service history of the forklift, it will need frequent maintenance. You’ll need to identify the root of the problem to eliminate it for good.

Nature of Operative Environment

Forklifts that operate in a harsh and corrosive environment need more frequent servicing and much more maintenance.

Manufacturer Recommendations

Service intervals are best determined by the vehicle manufacturer. They can vary according to the type of forklift. However, it’s always mentioned in the operator manual, so be sure to read it.

Fuel Type

Internal combustion (IC) forklifts have different components compared to electrical forklifts. This is why the service intervals are different for both. Internal combustion trucks will require more frequent maintenance and servicing.

A loader truck transporting a forklift on the road

Forklift Maintenance Costs

As the forklift ages, the maintenance costs are bound to rise. So keep in mind that maintenance won’t always cost the same. Maintaining a new truck vs. an old truck is completely different. As mentioned above, certain factors affect the maintenance costs:

  • The forklifts annual operational costs
  • Service and maintenance frequency
  • Time spent on service
  • Costs of part replacements and repairs
  • Cost of labour

If you notice your maintenance costs going through the roof, there are simple ways you can cut down on these costs.

Perform Routine Maintenance

This may sound counterintuitive, but regular maintenance will minimize your repair bills. This is because it will help you catch a minor issue before they snowball.

Wash Forklifts Regularly

If the forklift truck operates in harsh environments, it’s a great idea to wash them down with soap and water. Accumulation of dirt and debris can lead to various issues like the binding of tires, faulty electrical components, and mast damage. Pay special attention to the regulators, as clogged regulators can cause the forklift to overheat.

Retire Old Forklifts

As mentioned above, once the forklift truck reaches its economic life, it’s best to get rid of them for good. This will save you from falling into a never-ending pit of costly repairs.

 A mechanic working hard to fix a yellow forklift truck

Steps to Maintain Forklifts

Inspect Tire Pressure

Forklift maintenance begins at the ground. Deflated tires can lead to accidents and mishaps, so it’s best to address this issue first. The recommended tire pressure can be easily found in the operator’s manual, and most of the time, it’s also mentioned on the tire itself.

It’s best to maintain your forklift tire pressure equal to or slightly lower than the recommended pounds per square inch (PSI) requirement. During the winter season, ensure that the tires are always fully inflated. On the other hand, in warmer temperatures, you can keep it lower than recommended as the air pressure will likely expand.

Put Safety First

Carefully examine your forklift’s safety components such as the turn and backup signals, horns, and seatbelts. If any of these components are not working correctly, fix them immediately and refrain from using the forklift until then.

Conduct Regular Maintenance and Inspection

As mentioned above, a regular maintenance routine will save you a lot of costs and keep your forklift in optimal conditions. Staying on top of the little things will help you take care of the bigger picture.

No matter what the recommended maintenance intervals are, you must conduct regular and random inspections to stay on top of maintenance issues.

Look for Leaky Hoses

Small leaks can get worse over time. So, it’s best to address them as soon as you spot such an issue.

Examine the Forks

Forks are the start of the vehicle, so don’t forget to check them. They handle all the heavy loads and movements, which is why even a small bend can spell disaster. Ensure the forks are in optimal condition and have them replaced or repaired if there are any issues.

A few workers in a factory working with a forklift truck

Important Maintenance Tips

  • Regular washing makes detecting wear and tear easier
  • Only a qualified and competent person must perform maintenanceand service
  • Establish policies and procedures to handle maintenance
  • Ensure moving parts are well lubricated
  • Keep forklifts fuelled and charged
  • Ensure gauges are operating correctly at all times
  • Be proactive, not reactive
  • Maintain a checklist
  • Train forklift operators

 A forklift mechanic standing while wearing a dark blue uniform and holding a wrench in his hand

Top-Rated Forklift Truck Training Programs in Birmingham and Surrounding Areas

A forklift might be easy to operate, but is it easy to maintain as well? Now that you have learned about forklift maintenance in detail, you must be well aware of its importance to become a better operator and exercise safety.

At RS Forklift Training in Birmingham, we strongly trust in the power of an educated and knowledgeable mind that can result in flourishing prospects, minimize losses, and produce a safe working environment.

At the RS forklift training centre, you can find the finest forklift training programs that can help you gain remarkable forklift training experience. Our courses include forklift refresher course, counterbalance lift truck training, forklift novice course, pedestrian pallet truck course, bendi lift truck training course, scissors lift training course, reach truck refresher course, and more.

To register for our forklift training courses, follow the steps mentioned below:

Contact: Our training process commences when aspiring trainees connect with us and provide us with information about the course they want to join. They can also catch a tour of the training centre. We ensure that trainees understand each aspect of the course, so they are confident whether the course is right for them or not.

Training: Forklift training begins with our highly trained forklift instructors, who divulge all kinds of technical knowledge regarding forklifts. They give equal importance to the theoretical and practical features of forklift training so that trainees can become professionals in no time. We ensure that our training will help boost workplace productivity and cut losses and accidents.

Certificate: Once you’ve concluded the course and become well-versed with all the aspects of forklift training, we will award you with a nationally recognized and RTITB accredited certificate. This certificate will serve as evidence in front of your employers for confirming your skills.

Employment: Our job doesn’t stop at training. We also help our trainees acquire employment opportunities. After you’ve proved yourself to be a valuable asset, we will help you get work through recommendations and references.

We have forklift training centres spread across the West Midlands and towns and counties like Walsall, Sandwell, Dudley, Oldbury, West Bromwich, Stourbridge, Coventry, Telford, Wolverhampton, Shrewsbury, Staffordshire, Warwickshire, Cannock, Lichfield, and Tamworth.

So what are you waiting for? Get in touch or visit our website to learn more about our forklift training programs.

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