Logistics & Materials Handling Blog

Common Signs Your Forklift Needs a Service

by Paul Hinz
Filed under: Forklifts

Forklifts operate across a wide variety of industries and applications such as construction, warehousing and logistics.

Due to the often harsh nature of applications and how many heavy lifts a forklifts undertakes and long hours they operate for it is imperative fleet managers and operators continually look for signs that a forklift needs to be serviced to ensure the unit is functioning optimally and safely.

This week’s blog looks at why forklift maintenance is vitally important and briefly discusses some of the common signs that should be looked for to indicate a unit may need to be serviced.

What is forklift maintenance?

Forklift maintenance is a combination of inspections, preventative repairs and regular schedule of servicing of a forklift as set out by unit’s manufacturer.

Forklift maintenance is often included in a company’s safety management plan to ensure the unit is safe to be operated and doesn’t pose undue risk to operators, other staff, product, plant or equipment.

Forklift pre start checklist inspection

Why is regular forklift maintenance vitally important?

Regular forklift maintenance is vital for two main reasons.

First of all it ensures the unit is able to function at optimal levels resulting in a reduction in unnecessary downtime that may result in lost productivity, whilst also extending the overall service lift of the forklift.

Secondly a properly maintained forklift is a safe forklift, operators and staff who work in and around forklifts can have the confidence in the machine that the unit is fit for purpose and the risk of accident or injury has been minimised.

How often should a forklift be serviced?

Similar to servicing your car the frequency a forklift should be serviced is determined by a number of ‘common sense’ factors that are discussed below.

In addition to the factors mentioned below Adaptalift Group always recommends that a forklift is immediately tagged out until it can be assessed, serviced or repaired by a qualified technician if a major fault is detected that could cause injury or damage.

Forklift breakdown maintenance

Manufacturer recommendations

All forklift manufacturers provide recommended servicing and maintenance guidelines for their units.

Service intervals for particular forklifts can be found in the service manual or logbook supplied upon purchase of the unit.

Regularly maintaining and servicing a forklift to the manufacturer recommendations ensures that the unit’s essential components including engine, steering, brakes and hydraulic lifting system are properly maintained.

Essential components such as oils and lubricants are also checked, refreshed and kept at their required levels.

Number of operating hours

The more operational hours a forklifts complete the greater the stress, strain, wear and tear on the unit will be.

If a forklift is operated as part of a 24/7 warehousing or logistics operation the likelihood is it will need to be serviced more often to ensure it is safe and functioning optimally due to the added wear and tear on its systems and components.

If a forklift is operated once or twice a week to unload a truck then it will likely require less maintenance due to its lighter workload.

Age, condition and value

The age and condition of a forklift play a large role in how often it should be serviced.

The older a unit gets the more it will need to be looked after through routine service and maintenance.

Forklifts are a business asset, the more valuable an asset is the higher the likelihood you are to look after it.

A well maintained forklift holds greater value to a business not only in performance but also holding its residual value for sale or trade-in in the future.

A poorly maintained forklift will be significantly less valuable than a unit that has been well maintained with a full service history.

Used Yale forklift

Operational application and environment

A harsher environment or application will make the operational demands on a forklift higher, this means service frequency may need to be increased to ensure the unit is functioning optimally at maximum safety.

Outdoor environments are an example of harsher applications and environments.

As the unit must operate over uneven terrain components such as tyres, brakes and steering systems are likely to wear more rapidly.

Common Signs your forklift needs a service

Leaking Fluid

Forklifts have a number of oils and fluids such as brake fluid and hydraulic oil that lubricate systems or keep components optimally functionally.

As part regular inspections and maintenance if there are any fluid leaks, they need to be repaired immediately.

If oil completely leaks out of hydraulic systems gears may grind together or if it leaks out of the engine it may cause the engine to seize up rendering the forklift unusable.

Forklift mast chains are damaged

Corrosion, rust and kinking are all physical signs that a forklifts mast lift chains need to be immediately repaired or replaced.

Failure to replace the chain in time will actually cause damage to the forklifts internal mechanisms and cause it to seize up in the middle of operations.

In the worst case scenario damaged lift chains can fail during operations immediately dropping the load being carried and risking serious injury or even fatality to the operator or employees working in the surrounding area.

Forklift chain replacement

Tynes are warped or distorted

A forklifts tynes are the most worked component of the whole unit, they support and lift heavy loads for the duration of operations.

Depending on their workload tynes can easily warp or become distorted, which can lead them to becoming a liability for a business because they will eventually break potentially damaging product, operators or employees.

Immediately when a forklifts tynes are detected to be warped or distorted the unit needs to be removed from service and the tynes repaired or replaced.

Mast begins to stick

A forklifts mast is integral to its operation, it supports loads and facilitates the lifting of the weight to prevent falling or good damage.

Masts are directly connected to the unit’s hydraulic system, it is important for the mast to be well oiled for smooth operation or else it can jerk during lifting operations which may cause damage to the load or injury if the load were to fall of the mast and tynes.

Battery goes flat faster than normal

A forklift battery that is not holding its charge and draining faster than normal is a common sign that it needs to be serviced.

It is important that a batteries water level is maintained to ensure proper performance.

Forklift battery cleaning

Adaptalift Group Service Capabilities

We have industry leading standards in forklift service and repairs, with highly accredited technicians working to keep your forklifts running.

With more than 30 year’s experience in the forklift industry on all makes and models, customers can be confident that Adaptalift is an expert on your forklift.

With over 200 fully equipped service vans, over 19 service centres and 10 state branches Australia wide, in all metropolitan & major regional areas.

Adaptalift guarantee industry leading response and efficient service.

To book your next forklift service or for more information on our servicing capabilities contact our service team on 13 22 54 or fill out a contact form and we will reply as soon as possible.

Reference List

  1. 2017. Forklift safety for employers: maintenance. [ebook] State of Queensland: Workplace Health and Safety Queensland, pp.1-2. Available at: [Accessed 18 March 2021].