At Hiremech, we know how important your forklifts are to you – they’re the lifeblood that keeps your operation running all year round. As with any machine, particularly one that you rely on, proper ongoing maintenance is an essential consideration.
You should already have a general maintenance program that applies all year round – but what are the specific seasonal maintenance considerations you should be making to keep your forklift/fleet running reliably?
Summer is basically upon us – so here’s your handy Hiremech summer forklift maintenance guide to make sure you’re properly prepared.
Checking the batteries
Without the battery operating at peak efficiency, your forklift is largely useless – so battery checks should be a part of your daily ongoing maintenance routine. But what about during the summer? What should you be particularly vigilant for?
In summer, the rising heat levels can cause an increase in a forklift battery’s likelihood for corrosion, especially if the battery is already mid-way or further through its service life. Low fluid levels are also a concern, due to the heat causing the battery fluid to begin to evaporate.
During summer, a part of your everyday battery checks should be to keep a note of the water levels in the battery cells. If the levels are low, top them up with water – first checking it is the correct pH. If fluid loss is consistent, you might want to consider replacing the battery for peace of mind.
Checking the oil
Checking your forklift’s oil is, again, an everyday maintenance check that is especially important during the summer. In summer, oil is at risk of overheating in through the pipework of your forklift, which can make your forklift be unreliable and unresponsive.
Heat is also a consideration for oil lines, which can crack and split under the pressure of the increased heat levels from the summer sun. This can lead to oil leaks, which make for a very unsafe working environment, as well as a forklift that you can’t rely on.
Make sure to check oil levels every day – ideally before the forklift is used and after it has been put away for the day. If your forklift is in constant use, the oil should be checked with every shift change.
Cooling is king
As with all vehicles, forklifts can be prone to overheating in the warm weather. The lack of relative breeze makes it difficult to get the necessary airflow through the engine. When the engine is starved of airflow, it can begin to operate sluggishly and might become prone to stalling.
There’s not much you can do to make the weather more breezy, but you should make sure your forklift’s radiator is in the best condition possible. Check every day for any cracks or damage that might hamper its efficiency, and be sure to check regularly for any debris blocking it – which should be removed immediately.
Cooling fans are also essential to prevent the forklift’s engine from overheating, so be sure to regularly check any belts and fans for signs of wear or damage. Any cracks, holes, fraying, or splitting should be reported immediately and repaired as soon as possible, to prevent failure which can lead to engine damage.
The damage of dust
During warm weather, dust becomes a serious consideration – particularly around logistics centres, warehouses, and factories, where forklifts are used most. Pallets being moved, dust being kicked up off the ground, and general air pollution become a concern during the warmer months.
When it rains, it serves to purify the air of this dust and other particulates. When it’s dry, they have free reign to clog up your forklift’s vents, pipes, and controls. Check regularly for signs of dust ingress, which might take the form of a choking engine or suddenly unreliable electrics.
Dust and grime are also much more likely to stick when it’s dry, so make sure your forklifts have the benefit of a regular washing to keep them as clean as possible. This isn’t just to make them look better, but to help aid visibility as much as possible.
Checking the tyres
Tyres are an essential maintenance checklist item all year round – and they should be checked as regularly as possible. Summer, however, presents some specific challenges for a forklift’s tyres. The excess heat can cause the rubber to become relatively brittle, especially if it’s cooling down overnight.
In time this can lead to fraying, splitting, and general tyre degradation – tyre damage is a serious concern as it can affect the handling of the forklift and potentially cause further damage. Tyres have a degree of allowance engineered into them to handle wear, however, you should be mindful to check them.
You may find that tyres wear much faster during the summer months. It might be worth considering changing the type of tyre you use on your forklift, to one that is better designed to cope with the temperature changes that summer can provide.
Checking the brakes
As with all things during summer, brakes can be prone to overheating when the temperature is excessive. Check your brakes as regularly as possible for any signs of excess wear, fade, or damage. Brakes that don’t operate efficiently are, naturally, a considerable safety hazard.
Brakes can also be prone to collecting an excessive amount of dust and grime in the warmer weather. The solution to this is to regularly check your forklift’s brake fluid, and keep it topped up as necessary. Also, regularly washing the forklift will help remove any accumulated grime which may harm braking efficiency.
What about electric forklifts?
Electric forklifts are rising in popularity, but what are the considerations you need to make during the summer?
Compared to traditional forklifts, electric forklifts are much simpler so you’re not going to have to worry about complicated engine management and mechanical parts failing to the same degree. So, what are your priorities?
The primary consideration you’ll need to make with an electric forklift is to make sure that the battery is operating at the correct temperature. Batteries usually operate more efficiently in warmer weather, however hard work during an especially sunny day can put the battery under excess strain.
When a battery gets too hot, the first sign is it becoming less efficient. You will likely notice your battery providing you less range than you’re used to. As a battery continues to overheat, it becomes prone to become irreparably damaged – at which point the only option is replacement.
If you leave a battery to consistently overheat, there are even more risks that you’re running. The first is that the battery might begin to leak, which can cause damage to the rest of your forklift and the battery compartment. A battery that overheats to a high enough degree can also become volatile – so check it consistently.
To keep the battery as protected as possible, ensure it’s not exposed to the direct heat of the sun and that dust and particulates can’t easily find their way to it. Your forklift should have a closable battery compartment, if it doesn’t, it’s worth investing in a way to protect it, such as a cover.
Tyres and brakes
While an electric forklift doesn’t share the mechanical complexity of a traditional forklift, it does still have the same tyres and the same brakes to consider. Heat can cause both of these to become less efficient and prone to damage over time, so it’s highly important to check them on a regular basis.
Operators should be performing visual tyre checks at the start of every shift and the end of every shift, at a minimum, with a more involved tyre check at the workshop advisable bi-weekly at least. Brakes should be consistently monitored, and any fade, juddering or pulling reported and rectified immediately.
Checking for rust
Rust can be an issue for forklifts during the summer months – as Britain isn’t a totally dry climate, forklifts are still prone to getting wet, either from summer showers or morning dew if they’re left outside.
The issue is that when a still-wet forklift is exposed to the summer sun, it can hasten the corrosion process. It might be worth thinking about having your forklift rust-proofed – if not just for summer then as a general precaution to lengthen the useful service life.
Check for any bubbling corrosion around wheel arches, body panels, and anywhere that metal meets such as on the fork mechanism. Catching the signs of rust early can make it much easier to treat – if corrosion is left it will consume the whole forklift in time.
The human element
Remember your forklift operators in the summer months – whether you have a fleet of operators, or you’re an owner-operator yourself.
Remember to take regular breaks if you’re working in the direct sunshine, always have water available and drink throughout the course of the shift. Be mindful of glare and carry appropriate eye protection – forklifts are usually exposed, so protect any skin with sun cream to prevent burns.
Sudden summer showers can make the ground exceptionally slippery very quickly, so always be mindful to slow right down and pay extra attention when manoeuvring.
Contact Hiremech for help
If you need any more help, advice, or guidance about how to best keep your forklift or forklift fleet operational through the summer or any other season for that matter, then don’t hesitate to contact us.
At Hiremech we have unparalleled experience in all things forklifts – we can help you keep on the right track and ensure your forklift is as reliable as possible. Our friendly, helpful, and knowledgeable team is always on hand to help you with any advice or direction required.