31 July 2018
Whether you’re giving your forklifts a break this summer or leaving them unused for a period of time during the year, Cat ® Lift Trucks advises on a few steps you can take to keep your lift trucks in good condition and unaffected by the downtime.
The right environment
Where possible, you should store your forklift truck indoors – in a cool but dry place. If you leave it under the hot sun to bake outdoors for long periods of time, it may suffer in various ways. For example, the hydraulic oil may become overheated, leading to loss of its lubricant qualities. At the same time, disintegration of rubber and plastic components can be accelerated by excess heat. However, a moist atmosphere is also bad for forklifts too. Rusting is an obvious consequence, but you should also consider the effect of atmospheric moisture on the truck’s hydraulic oil. Contamination of that oil with water can cause oxidation and corrosion of internal metal components.
Careful long-term parking
Wherever you store it, choose a level area and park the lift truck properly. This means the mast should be in its vertical position, with forks lowered to the ground, the directional and other controls in neutral and the parking brake applied. Moving the lift and tilt levers backward and forward a few times will release any remaining pressure in the hydraulic pipes. In the case of a diesel forklift truck, try to use up as much of its fuel as possible before the summer shutdown. This fuel can deteriorate very quickly, especially when hot, so it’s best to fill up with a fresh supply when work restarts. If your truck is an LPG powered forklift, close the cylinder’s outlet valve and then run the engine until it uses up the fuel already in the system and stops. Keep the valve closed during storage. Disconnect the battery and put it in a cool, dark place. For electric forklifts, this will be your purpose-built battery room. Make sure the battery fluid is topped up to its correct level.
Checking and protecting
There are also various checks that you should do before putting your forklift truck away for a while that will not only help to extend its life but make it easier to restart the lift truck again after the downtime.
- Always check coolant levels and top up as necessary before the downtime. Deterioration of these liquids, especially in the summer’s heat, releases chemicals which can damage the coolant system. Replacing the coolant before storing your truck is a wise precaution.
- Check for any problems or damage that the forklift may have incurred during its use. In particular, look at the condition of the radiator, its cap and its hoses, as well as the fan and its belt, the thermostat and the water pump. Defects may worsen while in storage, leaving a risk of a breakdown when you start using the truck again.
- A check of the engine oil and filter is also worthwhile and if your forklift truck has pneumatic tyres, they should be inflated to the normal pressure. All lubrication points should be lubricated. Components which are susceptible to rust, such as the forklift chains, will also benefit from a covering of suitable protective grease.
- To keep out moisture, condensation and dust, breathers and other openings in the forklift truck’s structure should be covered. If possible, it’s a good idea to cover the whole truck with a sheet.
- Lastly, remove and safely store the keys – not only does this ensure that you will easily find them again when the time comes to use your forklift but it avoids them being stolen or lost.
By taking the time to put these safety measures in place whenever your forklifts are left unused, you will help to extend the life of your forklift truck, reduce its long-term maintenance costs and avoid trouble when it goes back to work.
Enjoy your summer!