4 Most Expensive Forklift Repairs and How to Prevent Them

by Phil Hanford, on December 18, 2020 at 8:49 AM

Blog Image - 4 Most Expensive Forklift Repairs and How to Prevent Them

Forklifts have become a backbone for every industrial and manufacturing business. A well-functioning forklift fleet can help you recoup equipment costs, reduce employees' workloads and streamline productivity. Like any vehicle, a forklift has many benefits, but it also has its limitations. Without the ability to spot these damage signs early, you may end up with expensive forklift repairs and hinder efficiency. The good news is you can monitor your forklift fleet and avoid breakage with proactive maintenance. 

In this post, we've outlined the most common and expensive forklift repairs, their cause, and prevention techniques to keep your forklifts up and running.

#1: Forklift Leaks

Forklifts leaks are among the most costly repairs. Forklifts operate with several fluid systems, including hydraulic, steering, and cooling systems. Leaks occur when part of these systems start to wear out. Because fluids on the floor put your staff and equipment in danger, leaks and safety don't do together. Oil leaks can catch on fire, cause downtime, and create exposure to harmful chemicals.

The Most Common Causes of Forklift Leaks

One of the most common causes of leaks is blown hoses. Fluids in a forklift's hydraulic system cope with high pressure. Hoses are made out of metal and thick rubber. When the rubber wears out due to constant movement, the metal underneath becomes exposed. Then, your risk of blowing increases.

Leaks also occur due to a cracked cylinder. Forklift's hydraulic system has several different types of cylinders, like tilt cylinders and lift cylinders. Like hoses, the high pressure wears the cylinders out. 

The common causes of forklift leaks are loose fitting and leaking o-ring. Tightening the nut may correct the problem, but be careful. Over-tightening may also cause a leak. 

Less Common Causes of Forklift Leaks 

While not as common, you may notice that forklift seals are leaking. You may be able to fix it by using a leak stop product. If your seal is torn, have a professional take a look.

If your control valve is leaking, it will affect your hydraulic pressure, decrease your forklift's lift capacity, and damage your seals.

Finally, you may notice leaks because the forklift's oil filter is loose.

How to Prevent Forklift Leaks

Proactive forklift maintenance keeps leaks at bay. Check hoses for wear regularly to identify where the leak is most likely to occur. Then, keep an eye on loose fittings and clamps before they become a problem. 

#2: Forklift Isn't Starting

It's not uncommon for a forklift run normally, then one day it won't start. A forklift that won't start increases downtime and drives the costs up. Products sit around instead of being moved while your staff tries to get to the root of the problem.

The Most Common Causes of Forklift Starting Problems 

Like with personal vehicles, a battery malfunction is the main reason for the dead forklift. If you have an electric forklift, the battery charging level may be the cause. You can test the lights and brakes to see if they work. If you have an internal combustion (IC) forklift, starting problems can be caused by old fuel in the tank. Also, an IC forklift may not let the fuel valve open without enough oil in the engine.

Your fuel regulator may be failing. Liquid LP turns into a gas in the regulator. If regulators get filled with junk, they will inevitably fail. The LP that flows in may carry outside debris, clogging the regulator over time. More clogging equals less fuel that gets to the engine. The engine starts to malfunction, or it won't run at all.

Broken wires may prevent your forklift from starting. They occur due to repetitive bending or chafing against other forklift parts.

How to Prevent Forklift Starting Issues

You can know when the battery is about to become dead with a battery disconnect switch. Batteries lose power gradually over time, and the switch can give you a timely warning.

You can also prevent fuel system issues with regular cleaning. Wires usually don't give much of a warning before breaking, but be sure to check on them during your daily maintenance. 

#3: Forklift Has Travel and Lifting Problems

If your forklift is spitting, backfiring, and losing power, it's experiencing travel issues. Also, forklift mast sections can become stretched, rusted, cracked, bent, twisted, or misaligned. A mast that won't go up causes problems for both operators and management. Malfunctioning mast leads to lost productivity and extra repairing cost.

The Most Common Causes of Forklift Travel and Lift Problems

Like in previous repairs, broken wires also cause travel and lift problems. With heat, age, and movement, they become brittle and can snap easily.

The battery may be getting weaker, preventing the forklift from functioning at full capacity.

Fuel system issues that involve a regulator may be another reason for forklift malfunction. Keep in mind that a leaking regulator can cause higher levels of emissions, endangering your employees.

Finally, malfunctioning switches or contactors may interfere with lifting.

How to Prevent Forklift Travel and Lift Problems

Fuel systems tend to accumulate a lot of gunk. Keeping the system clean can save you from trouble down the road. Particularly, make sure that the motor pump brushes, steering, and drive are checked regularly. Cleaning dirty brushes, if possible, or replacing worn motor brushes can save you a lot of trouble down the road.

Your maintenance should include a proper adjustment of the fuel system. Replacing the fuel filter and cleaning the regulator will help prevent rough running. As a preventative measure, start draining the regulator periodically to get rid of the built-up gunk.

Keep your batteries regularly watered and fully charged. Until the battery is completely charged, refrain from using it.

While broken wires and faulty switches cause some travel and lift problems with internal combustion forklifts, they are mostly found in electric forklifts. Malfunctioning contractors are exclusive to electric trucks. If any wires are exposed, wrap them with electrical tape or proper insulating material. Then, keep movement and heat to the minimum.

#4: Forklift Battery Malfunction

Forklifts use batteries differently depending on their type. Internal combustion lifts rely on batteries to power the starter motor. Electric trucks use batteries as their main power source. Keeping the battery in proper shape is crucial. Since batteries are filled with acid, any leaks pose a danger to your team and should be cleaned up immediately. 

The Most Common Causes of Forklift Battery Problems

Sulfation is the common cause of early failure batteries. It occurs when lead sulfate crystals build up. A sulfated battery can lead to longer charging times or loss of cranking power. You can avoid sulfation if you fully recharge the battery recharged immediately after a discharge cycle.

A short circuit occurs when the positive and negative terminals are connected with a wire or a low-resistance conductor. A high current delivery of a large amount of energy in a short time.

How to Prevent Forklift Battery Problems

There's not much you can do for starter batteries used in internal combustion forklifts to prevent a dead battery issue.

Batteries used in internal combustion forklifts are designed to discharge completely. Thus, there's not much you can do to prevent a dead battery. Usually, when it doesn't start is when you notice the trouble first.

With electric trucks, you can prevent expensive repairs with proper maintenance. To extend the life of your batteries, keep them full of water and wait until they're fully charged before use.

Less Expensive Forklift Repairs

Knowing the signs of the most expensive forklift repairs can save you from downtime and extra costs. While other common forklift repairs are less expensive, they are troublesome and can hold your productivity back. Here's a quick rundown of such forklift repairs.

Cooling systems are crucial to the proper functioning of your forklift. Generally, the cooler you can keep the lift, the longer it will last. Overheating is a common sign of a worn radiator, so let your forklift cool down if it regularly overheats. Blowing out the radiator with air can help to keep it cool. Also, secure the radiator cap before each use. Inspect all the lines and the radiator itself for leaking coolant.

It is common to experience problems with electrical components like buttons, controls, and switches. The most significant factors that cause electrical systems to go bad are excessive dryness, overheating, debris, and damage. Such environments are hard on forklifts. While electrical issues are, by nature, difficult to predict, there are a few things you can do to prevent accidents. Keep the debris away since it can compromise sensitive equipment. Frequently blowing out the unit can help. Make sure that electrical components are clean, dry, and stationary. 

Regular Maintenance Prevents Forklift Troubleshooting

Forklifts can become a liability rather than an asset unless you take proper care of them. Proactive preventative maintenance is the key to keeping costly and exhaustive repairs at bay. It's always best to repair forklifts as soon as you spot a problem. While it may be easy to defer small fixes, delaying repairs may cost you an entire forklift. 

You may be avoiding the downtime while the forklift operates. You may not have a replacement part, or you're not sure how to repair a forklift. The first step is to call an experienced professional. 

The forklift repair experts at Mid Columbia Forklift and MidCo Material Handling can help you safely determine what's wrong with your forklift and decide whether it's best to repair or replace it.

Mid Columbia Forklift and MidCo Material Handling have been helping customers in the greater Seattle area, Tri-Cities, Wenatchee, and Yakima since 1978. We're happy to provide preventative forklift maintenance, recondition, or service your fleet.

Contact us online or by phone:

Auburn 253-854-5438
Pasco 509-547-7413
Wenatchee 509-663-9009
Yakima 509-457-5137

Further Reading
When to Repair Vs. Replace Your Forklift Battery
What We Need to Know When You Call for Forklift Service  
What is Opportunity Charging?

Forklift Parts and Service


About This Blog

Material handling articles to help answer the questions you have about forklifts, aerial equipment, utility vehicles, warehouse optimization, and safety.

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