Keeping Your Lift Truck Healthy

Planning routine lift truck maintenance and sticking to it is key.


Technicians must also be sure to use the proper oil for a truck's application. According to Lou Micheletto, warehouse products manager for Yale Materials Handling Corp., Greenville, NC, there are at least half-a-dozen different oils for freezer use alone.

"There are different oils for trucks that are left in minus 20 freezers as well as for trucks that operate in and out of freezers-each one requires a different oil technology." Under changing temperature conditions, using the wrong oil can lead to frothing, which leeches compressibility from the oil and promotes engine wear. "How do you extend the life of your lift truck? Use approved oils."

Tire Watch

"One of the biggest maintenance items on lift trucks is the tires. They take a beating," says Matt Ranly, senior marketing product manager for Crown Equipment Corp., New Bremen, OH. "They've got 8,000 pounds right on top of them and they're going across concrete floors, over screws and pieces of wood. They get beat up. One of the best ways that companies can save money is by paying close attention to their tires."

Joe LaFergola, manager of fleet operations for The Raymond Corp. in Greene, NY, notes that lift truck tires with flat spots on them lend themselves to the creation of vibrations. This is because the load wheel diameters on lift trucks are narrow, making for high RPMs. Lift trucks have no shock absorbers on them. The resulting vibrations caused by the damaged tire shake the body of the lift truck and cause cracking around the battery box or on the linkages of the pallet jacks. "Changing a $30 dollar wheel to avoid a $1,000 welding bill makes good business sense," he says.

Technician Training

The experts stress that the single most important factor in extending the life of a company's lift truck is the person doing the planned maintenance. If the PMs are being done by in-house technicians, it behooves a company to spend money on technical training. A qualified maintenance staff is the key to decreasing truck downtime as well as extending the life of a lift truck.

"We can assess the need and set-up a tailor-made training program to ensure that the in-house technician is well-qualified," notes Raymond's LaFergola. He suggests that a 'train the trainer" type of program be undertaken, so that after the company's chief technician receives dealer training, he will be able to train technicians under him.

"If a non-qualified technician were to attempt to diagnose problems with an advanced control system, it could lead to hours of guess work," explains Jeff Bowles, product manager for Jungheinrich Lift Truck Corp., Richmond, VA. "It can also lead to the unnecessary replacement of high dollar components-I find a lot of lift truck controllers in my warranty bin that were swapped out in the course of guesswork and there was nothing wrong with them."

Everyone in the industry knows that OSHA legally requires forklift truck operators to do a pre-shift safety inspection of their vehicles and most manufacturers offer training classes for operators in how to properly inspect their lift trucks, in order to confirm a truck is free of wear on tires, chains and forks.

"We don't expect them to be experts," notes Bruce Marti, national manager, parts and service field operations for Toyota Material Handling USA Inc., Irvine, CA. "They just need to know the basics-how to check for leaks, how to determine that fluids are at their proper levels. The daily inspection will identify a situation that could become extremely unsafe for the operator."

Companies need to make sure that their operators aren't just paying lip service to these daily inspections. Catching a problem while it's in the beginning stage can be an easy fix-such as fixing a leaky fitting by tightening it.

However, ignoring the problem could result in having to replace a bad valve or hose-a repair that could cost a company hundreds of dollars.

"There are four main objectives when performing PMs," explains Fisher of J&P Fisher. "To reduce maintenance costs, to reduce down time, to improve productivity and, most importantly, to improve safety. If you can do all four of those things, then you've performed a quality PM."

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