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Forklifts are essential for managing big warehouses and shipping facilities where entire pallets of materials or merchandise need transport. Even if you're sticking to a strict maintenance and repair schedule to keep your vehicles working for as long as possible, all forklifts need eventual replacement to prevent accidents and lost productivity. Learn when to make the investment in a brand new unit instead of wasting more money and time on endless repairs.
Hitting the Hours Limit
Each forklift has its own expected lifespan which the manufacturer can tell you. It's most accurate to measure the use of a vehicle like this in the number of hours the deadman pedal is engaged, or pedal hours. Most forklifts are only designed to last between 10,000 and 13,000 pedal hours.
While a vehicle may not stop working as soon as the 10,000 hour rolls over, you can expect to see decreased efficiency and increased repairs costs after that point. It's smarter to get a replacement for a lift truck past its lifespan and turn the older vehicle into a backup or occasional use unit so the inevitable breakdowns don't interrupt your workflow.
Distortion and Warping
Designed to lift thousands of pounds onto high shelving units, forklifts are built to handle tough conditions but can still take a beating from all the hard work. Keep an eye out for signs of serious damage to the vehicle like:
While you can repair all of these problems, they indicate stress and aging. Once your forklift is beginning to crumple or bend under regular use, it's becoming unsafe for your workers to operate.
Aside from tracking pedal hours and keeping an eye on the condition, you can also do some math to figure out if you're better off buying a new or used forklift instead of relying on your current vehicle. Tally up all the maintenance and repair costs for your unit from the last year of use and get a quote on the model you'd buy to replace it. If your repair costs add up to 8-10% of the new forklift's price, you're going to spend the same or less for the replacement.
Heavy duty hydraulics handle the lifting work. It's common to see a little leaking on the mast that lifts the forks, indicating a need to replace the seals as part of a routine repair process. However, extensive or numerous leaks indicate the vehicle is at the end of its usefulness and ready for retirement. This is especially true for combustion units because they can catch on fire due to leaking fluids and fuel.
How ergonomic are the seats on your current lift truck? Does the model feature helpful safety features and a smart layout for the controls? If you're still using a lift manufactured a decade ago, it's likely that your warehouse team is missing out on some new design developments.
In most cases, the improved speed and safety of a cutting edge design well outweighs the costs of a new forklift. Consider how much your team could benefit from getting more done in each day due to a faster lift speed or more reliable braking.
You might not want to spend tens of thousands of dollars on new equipment, but can your work schedule and warehouse handle a big accident that knocks over half a dozen shelves? Keep your forklift fleet reliable and safe by scheduling regular replacements for each unit instead of trying to run them into the ground. Talk to local material handling equipment suppliers for more tips and information.