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If you want your forklift to continue to operate efficiently with the least amount of downtime, it is essential that you perform the proper maintenance. And one of the most important maintenance tasks is making sure the chain that operates the mast is always properly lubricated.
Forklifts are often used to perform in harsh and even corrosive conditions, so the chain and other essential parts are constantly placed under extreme circumstances. If they are allowed to break down, not only will the vehicle be out of service, but the repair or replacement costs could be devastating.
Proper Maintenance Is Not Optional
All that can be avoided simply by following the appropriate lubrication maintenance according to a regular schedule, as recommended by your vehicle’s manufacturer.
A forklift chain that is not properly lubricated eventually will malfunction. But a chain that receives regular service and lube maintenance can last up to 60 times longer than one that has been improperly maintained, according to Peter Church, managing director of FB Chain, a forklift chain maker based in the UK.
“Forklift and container handler operators often assume that they have correctly lubricated their leaf chain, but friction corrosion, turned pins, metallic friction, stiff joints, noisy operation and pitting still occur, all of this will — eventually — lead to chain breakdown,” Church said in a company news release. “Problems often arise because the applied lubricant has remained on the exterior of the leaf chain and not penetrated into the leaf chain joints.”
Only Lube a Slack Chain
To prevent this from happening, the chain should be left slack during the lubrication process so that the lube can flow between the chain link plates and pins properly.
Whenever a forklift is fitted with an attachment, the chain will always be under some pressure. This is especially true when vehicles are fitted with spreader attachments because the load is always constant. In this instance, the spreader or any other attachment should be removed before applying the lubricant.
Not all industrial lubricants are appropriate for forklift chains, so make sure you are using the proper lube that is approved for use for your vehicle before applying it to your chain. Forklifts that operate outdoors or in low temperature environments such as warehouse freezers may require more frequent lubrication, as well as a regular cleaning and maintenance schedule to ensure the chain’s optimum life.
Clean Chain Before Lubrication
If the chain has become encased with dirt, this can prevent the oil from flowing to the vital load bearing sections of the chain that are located between the articulating link plates and the pins. Dirt and debris must be removed first so that the the lubricant can reach the areas where it is needed most.
If you aren’t sure how often your chain needs to be lubricated, you can consult the vehicle’s owners manual or, if that is not readily available, search for a PDF version online.
Typically, this can be downloaded from the manufacturer’s website or by conducting a Google search that lists the vehicles manufacturer, model number and year, along with the phrase “owners manual pdf”.