Identifying and Overcoming Forklift Problems

The more familiar you get with a friend or spouse, the better you know them. You know how they think, how they react in certain situations, what answers they give to common questions.

A forklift driver of many years can also develop the same type of relationship with his forklift. After driving one for many years a person can become very familiar with it. You know when it isn’t moving quite right; you notice that the noise of the engine just doesn’t have the same tone or tenor. In short, you know when it is experiencing a problem.

Familiarity can help drivers troubleshoot forklift problems. (Courtesy: U.S. Air Force at flickr.com)

Familiarity can help drivers troubleshoot forklift problems.
(Courtesy: U.S. Air Force at flickr.com)

Once you have sensed that the forklift has a problem, how do you fix it?

A forklift can suffer a whole lot of problems. A good forklift driver can figure out what the problem is and then knows how to fix it. However, at times a driver may sense that his forklift has a problem, but he’s not quite sure exactly what the ailment is. At this point, the driver must have troubleshooting skills to be able to diagnose the problem.

So, lets say that a forklift driver is guiding his machine up and down the aisles of a warehouse picking products for shipping. All of a sudden, he realizes that the engine of the lift is overheating. Knowing his lift, the driver understands that there can be literally dozens of reasons why the problem is occurring. However, in order to fix it properly, he has to identify the specific cause. He can do this through a process of elimination. That is, he can check the various causes for an overheating engine until he finds the one that is causing this particular event.

One of the most common reasons for an overheating engine is that the radiator is blocked. Over time, it is possible that dirt or debris could be blocking a port in the radiator. A driver can start his troubleshooting by checking if such a blockage is occurring. Checking for a blockage requires the driver to look for caked on mud or dirt that could be clogging a port. If this is the issue, then a simple cleaning of the radiator with fresh water will solve the problem. Corrosion can also cause problems with a radiator. Under this circumstance, the radiator needs to be replaced.

If the engine-overheating problem persists after dealing with the radiator, then the next thing a driver can check is the thermostat. The engine could overheat if the thermostat doesn’t open properly when the heat from the engine reaches a particular temperature. The thermostat may not be performing properly because the sensor is broken. If this is the case, then the thermostat must be replaced.

Now suppose you are operating your forklift and you attempt to lift a heavy load, but the machine does not respond properly. A driver who is familiar with his machine would probably guess that a hydraulic issue is causing the problem. Hydraulics can become a problem if they leak, if they are cracked, or if there is damage to the hoses. A good forklift driver would run a clean cloth down the hoses and lines to see if there is a leak. If hydraulic fluid ends up on the cloth, then there is obviously a leak. If everything appears okay, then the driver would wipe the rods with a clean cloth to check and see if there is more than a thin coat of oil there. If there is a lot of oil build-up, then there could be a leak of the seals. In this case, the damaged seal or seals need to be replaced.

Another common issue that can frustrate forklift drivers is when the forklift doesn’t start. If this occurs, an experienced driver would first check the battery. He would assure himself that the battery is properly connected in the forklift and that there is no corrosion present on the battery terminals. If things look right, then the driver would test the battery’s capacity. If the battery is functioning at less than 80 percent of its total capacity, then it may have to be replaced. If the battery overheats during an attempt to charge it, then there could be low electrolyte levels in the cells and the battery may need water.

These are just a few problems that a forklift operator may encounter as he drives a lift. A good forklift driver would be aware of every possibility, know how to identify the problem and then perform the proper action to fix it.

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