Inspecting your forklift's Fork and Chains
A major topic in any general discussion about forklifts should involve two of its major parts: the forks and chains.
For starters, we must begin by saying that forks are the solid hunks of metal installed in the forklift whose sole function would be to lift all pallets and transport their load. It’s another important thing to learn from such a discussion the specific methods and tips to maintain these forks and lengthen their operational shelf life.
In the event that these forks are no longer functional, it’s important to not force yourself to use the forklift. Otherwise, you risk snapping the forks or dropping the load while it’s being carried. The last thing you want is to fling sharp debris all over your warehouse because of a malfunctioning forklift.
The Cause of Fork Wear and Damage
A stakeholder of any forklift-related business would also need to know some of the common causes of work and tear or damage to the forks. It’s most convenient to start with normal wear and tear from daily use as the main reason. The next in the list would be improper chain adjustments and the tire wear/damage that disrupts the stability of the forklift and may cause the forks to scrape or tilt. The next most common reason would be accidents, such as the forklift tipping over as well as running into walls and racks. Lastly, loading the forklift beyond their estimated limit can cause problems to the forks, too.
The next important topic to mention here is fork safety. The simplest way to make sure that the forks run at their safest state would always be to include the forks in your forklift maintenance checklist or plan. This means that you can’t forget to ensure that your forks are checked, probably every 12 months, especially if they are a standard single-shift kind.
It can add to the fork safety and even overall productivity levels of business when the damage or defect is addressed with utmost urgency. Whenever a defect is spotted, such as when the operator reports that a fork is scratched, immediate attention must be given.
You should also not forget to inspect the fork for surface cracks or for bent or un-straightened blade and shank. Check, too, if there’s an improper angle on the heel, making sure that it doesn’t go beyond 90 degrees. Also ask yourself: are the fork tips at the same level? Is there any sign of wear and tear on the fork surface, hook or tips? Or is the thickness of the fork at a normal level? The most important thing to remember here is to remove the fork from service immediately if you see any material defects in the areas of the fork mentioned above.
Another fork part you should check during your checklist should be the thickness of the fork, especially if you have fork calipers. Over time, the fork wears down from repeated use and load weight. You may not see at first glance the effect of an overload or constant use of the fork, but these small changes add up and end up lowering the lifespan of the forks.
Next, you should remember what the Industrial Truck Standards Development Foundation has laid down in terms of the safety regulations that these forks must have. One of them would be the fact that if the fork has lost 10% of its original thickness, whether it’s the blade or the heel, then it’s mandatory to get the forklift out of operation.
The fork calipers you have are the best way to check for your fork’s thickness, as the calipers’ function would be to measure the fork blade, heel and hook thickness. It’s a simple, convenient quick-use tool that can show you right away when you need your forks replaced or if they’re thick enough to be still operational.
Another element installed in a forklift that has to be always checked is the chains. Just as the forks can be subjected to wearing and tearing, the chains are just as prone to damage from continued use. It helps to know that your forklift chains can in average last for about 6,000 hours or about 3 years of daily use if they’re properly lubricated.
Environmental factors are the prime reason why these chains are susceptible to wear and tear. These factors include moisture, high/low temperatures, corrosive atmosphere, abrasives (sand/gravel) and the continued exposure to overloading. All these factors can delimit the expected lifespan of a chain.
That said, you should inspect at least every 6 months the following issues in your chain: the wear on the link plate edges, protruding pins, elongation of the chain, cracks, tight joints and corrosion. When you can observe tight joints, you can easily re-lubricate them to bring them back to full shape. If no other issue is found in the chain, you can resume the forklift to full operation. Otherwise, find a replacement chain immediately.
1. You probably don’t want to waste your retired forks, and so you find it wise to recycle them. The best way to make the most out of these damaged forks, chains, and other forklift parts would be to send them to salvage and earn a little money.
2. It’s important to get an expert or professional to do the repairs first. You may be tempted to fix them yourself, but you may be wasting money if you do that. Repairing it yourself could cause to weaken the forks further, and could even get you to spend more on unnecessary expenses. Sending it to the manufacturer instead could be less costly.
3. Always remember that if the fork or chain shows any sign of damage during a shift, immediately halt operations.
4. Keep up to date with your weekly schedule of forklift maintenance and tune-up to extend your forklift parts’ life to as long as you want them to be.
5. Find a contractor or specialist that has the complete inventory of parts that you need for your forklift or can provide a track record of offering reliable maintenance service.