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Top 3 Forklift Repairs: What You Need to Know

Posted by: admin on January 24, 2017

As workhorses of many industries, forklifts perform a variety of tasks. The most important of these is moving products and materials where they need to go in a timely and efficient manner. Today’s forklifts are well built, sturdy and durable. However, they have a lot of moving parts that get heavy use day in and day out. As with any piece of equipment in such an environment, they need to be serviced and repaired from time to time. 

Repair Forklifts Sooner Rather than Later 

When it comes to forklift troubleshooting, the first rule is to repair forklifts as soon as you spot a problem. At a busy warehouse or job site, it can be easy to defer fixing small problems. Perhaps you don’t want the downtime while the forklift is worked on. Maybe you don’t have a needed replacement part. Sometimes you just aren’t sure how to repair a forklift.

No matter the reason, it’s always better to repair forklift problems as soon as possible. Delaying repairs can make the problem worse. This can cause more downtime for the truck and lead to costly repairs. When one part doesn’t function right it can cause problems in other areas of the forklift. Most important, delaying repairs can cause permanent damage. If you wait too long to repair a forklift, the damage can become so severe that you will need to replace the lift altogether.

How Often Do You Need to Perform Forklift Repair?

A regular forklift repair schedule is paramount. Typically, it helps to perform forklift troubleshooting and repairs approximately every 90 days. If you use your lift regularly, you may require more frequent troubleshooting and repairs.

How to Repair a Forklift 

Knowing how to repair forklifts starts with understanding the problem. The three most common consist of mast, steering and starting problems.

  1. Mast Problems 

The mast is the frame that controls the lifting, lowering, and tilting of the forklift. The carriage and the forks that carry loads attach to the mast. The carriage is powered by a hydraulic piston in the middle of the mast. Masts lift their loads using hydraulic power from the piston. They use gravity to lower loads. Many forklifts lift their loads in multiple stages, which can lead to a lot of things going wrong.

Common mast problems include:

  • Not lifting or lowering properly
  • Not lifting quick enough
  • Jerky (rather than smooth) lifting and lowering

Any time you have a mast problem, first check the hydraulic fluid to make sure it isn’t low. If the oil is okay, inspect the forklift chains to see if any sections need to be replaced. Over time, mast sections can become stretched, rusted, cracked, bent, twisted or misaligned. When inspecting trucks for forklift repairs, keep an eye out for small problems that can easily become big ones.

  1. Steering Problems

Forklifts aren’t the easiest pieces of equipment to steer, especially in tight spaces. Steering problems can lead to forklift accidents that injure drivers or nearby workers. So it’s important to keep the steering functioning smoothly at all times.   

Steering problems can be hard to detect. One warning sign is strange noises while that occur when turning the wheels, especially when the truck is loaded. This could indicate rust in the steering mechanism. It could also be a problem with the hydraulics that regulate steering pressure. Other steering problems include pressure valves that are loose or worn out, worn gears, low steering fluid levels, and misaligned tires.

If the steering fluid transmission is low, add more. If it’s thick and gunky, it’s time for a complete change of fluid. Problems with worn out gears or hydraulics will require an experienced forklift mechanic to repair.

  1. Starting Problems

A forklift that won’t start can be annoying and costly. Jobs are delayed.  Items sit around waiting to be moved. Driver time is spent trying to fix the problem rather than getting work done. Fortunately, this can be a fairly easy type of forklift troubleshooting.

If you have an electric forklift, check the battery charging level. When was the last time the batter got charged? Was the procedure performed correctly? Test the lights, brakes and other auxiliary functions to see if they work. If not, you may need to fully recharge the battery. A quicker option would be to replace it with a freshly charged one if you have one available. If you have an internal combustion forklift, starting problems can be more complex. Try these forklift troubleshooting tips:

  • Has fuel sat in the forklift’s tank for a long time? Old fuel may not start easily.
  • Have you checked for a fuel leak? If you smell gas stronger than usual, you may have a leak.
  • Have you checked the oil levels? Some forklifts won’t let the fuel valve open without enough oil in the engine.

If none of these solve the problem, check the battery. If it still has plenty of charges, check the coolant level. Overheating due to lack of coolant or radiator blockage can often prevent starting. Add coolant and/or clean the radiator if needed. If the radiator has a lot of corrosion, you may need to replace it.

Forklift Troubleshooting Tips

If you believe your forklift is not performing as well as expect, you should troubleshoot the problem. That way, you can identify any lift issues and address them immediately.

To troubleshoot a forklift, you should:

  • Take the lift out of service. Do not allow an operator to use a lift that may be malfunctioning. Instead, take the lift out of service, so it can be evaluated by a qualified technician.
  • Find the source of the issue. Assess the lift to determine the root cause of the issue. Once you know why the issue is occurring, you can take steps to mitigate it.
  • Ensure the repairs are performed properly. Verify that any repairs are performed by a qualified technician. Upon completion, evaluate the lift and ensure it works properly. If you notice any issues, report them to the technician and do not use the lift until they are addressed.

Forklift troubleshooting lets you detect and resolve issues in their early stages. It can be used in conjunction with forklift maintenance to ensure you can optimize the performance of your lift now and in the future.

Use Forklift Troubleshooting with Regular Maintenance

Basic maintenance is one of the best ways to prevent forklift troubleshooting problems. It should always be a proactive, planned event, not a reactive one. Waiting until a forklift breaks down costs time and money. Today’s warehouse management software systems make it easy to set up maintenance schedules and adhere to them. They also provide a complete maintenance and repair history of every forklift.

To keep on top of forklift repair issues, inspect your trucks every day. There are two reasons for doing this: safety and cost savings. Forklifts are bulky machines that lift and move heavy weights. When parts aren’t working properly, it increases the risk of accident and injury. Daily inspections allow you to catch problems in the early stages, making the repairs smaller and less expensive.

When you see a problem, immediately shift into repair forklift mode. Some problems are obvious. For example, you notice an oil leak. Or the mast gets stuck and won’t go up or down. Since these problems have already occurred, the next step is to fix them. You also need to spot problems that aren’t yet affecting the forklift’s performance but could. The next step is to determine what could happen if the problem is ignored and take action to prevent it.

Preventive maintenance should include:

  • Check tire pressure. Underinflated tires are unsafe and reduce fuel economy. Overinflated tires can lead to blowouts and unwanted downtime. Checking tire pressure on a regular basis will save money and prevent accidents.
  • Change the oil every three months. This simple maintenance task will increase fuel economy, improve forklift performance, and prevent combustion problems. It will also extend the life of the engine.
  • Check antifreeze levels. A forklift without antifreeze can overheat or freeze, which can lead to major repairs. Check fluid levels and top off when needed. Inspect the reservoir for leaks.
  • Don’t put off brake repairs. Replacing brake pads and calipers is a fairly easy maintenance task. These parts should be replaced at the first signs of “softness” in the brakes.

There’s another aspect of forklift use that is important to maintain – the training and certification of your workers. provides online forklift training that ensures your workers meet OSHA standards. Fast and affordable, our online training class can certify your workers to operate up to seven classes of powered industrial trucks. To save time and money while improving safety, check out our online forklift training today.

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