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Forklift chains are the powerhouse of your forklift. As part of the mast assembly, they are what transmit power to the forks on the vehicle that give it the strength to lift heavy loads safely and efficiently.
But like any mechanical part, chains are prone to damage and wear — especially if the forklift is used frequently. The more you use your forklift, the more stress is placed on its chain assembly.
Unless chains are regularly checked, they could fail. And when the chain fails on your forklift, it can cause the forklift to collapse, leading to lots of damage potential.
Common Chain Problems
Chains break down in predictable ways. The most common types of wear and damage to look for include:
Elongation — Even though they are usually made of steel, even the strongest chains can stretch out over time. This is especially true if you are using your forklift beyond its rated capacity. A chain that is stretched out more than 3 percent of its original length results in a 15 percent reduction in its strength. Elongated chains should be replaced immediately.
Rust — If you see rust or corrosion on the chain within your forklift mast, it’s a good idea to replace it. Chains need to be fully lubricated to work at their optimal performance levels. Rust and corrosion restrict the free movement of the chain within the mast.
Cracked Links — During routine chain inspections, look for cracks within the links themselves. Even the smallest crack can be an early warning sign of future failure. Replace the link or the entire chain before putting the forklift back into service.
Twisted or Bent Pins — The pins between the plates can become damaged due to friction during normal operation, especially if the chain is not properly lubricated. If pins are twisted or turned out of place, they need to be replaced.
Misalignment — If the chain varies from its normal path, it can be an early warning sign of potential chain failure. Indications of misalignment include wear patterns on the pinheads or the outside plates.
Chain Anchors and Sheaves — Chain anchors are another area to check for misalignment or wear. Any anchors that are worn or have broken fingers should be immediately replaced.
Frequency of Inspections
Chains and other critical parts on your forklift should be inspected before every shift for obvious problems. But a more thorough inspection of your forklift chain should be conducted at least once per year.
Identifying and addressing forklift chain problems before they can get worse can help save you time and money while increasing workplace safety.