Guide to Forklift Maintenance

Guide to Forklift Maintenance

Guide to Forklift Maintenance
September 24, 2021 | By: holtlift

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Like all vehicles and equipment, forklifts need to be diligently cared for to ensure they operate at maximum capacity. Machinery that undergoes heavy daily use has unique maintenance needs, particularly when it comes to workplace safety. Sticking to a rigorous forklift maintenance plan protects your assets, your employees and your bottom line.

This guide to forklift maintenance tips will highlight the most important benefits of forklift maintenance and the best practices for extending your forklift service life. Finally, we’ll also explain why it’s essential to stay OSHA-compliant by ensuring you hire a professional technician to perform all of your planned maintenance requirements.

Importance of Forklift Maintenance

All equipment requires routine maintenance to remain in peak performance. Properly functioning material-handling equipment allows you to achieve production milestones, keep efficiency levels high and ensure a safety culture. With the amount of use forklifts undergo, a proactive and planned maintenance strategy is crucial for minimizing expensive and time-consuming emergency repairs.

Like any other industrial equipment, lift trucks have parts that are susceptible to wear and tear. Keeping up with servicing schedules prevents these parts from wearing prematurely and impacting your operation. The financial, safety and time-saving benefits of forklift maintenance make it well worth the investment. 

Below are five reasons to maintain your forklifts:

Plan for downtime. Planned forklift maintenance is a way to ensure equipment servicing needs incur the least amount of impact and interference with your business operations.

1. Plan for Downtime

The best form of forklift maintenance is the planned kind. Getting ahead of parts repairs and replacements ensures you can plan for downtime due to scheduled maintenance.

Completing planned maintenance for your forklift occurs on a pre-set schedule based on the manufacturer’s service intervals. Adhering to these intervals allows you to schedule a servicing appointment during the most convenient time for your operation, like after hours or over a weekend. Otherwise, it allows you to secure a replacement lift truck in the meantime. 

Either way, planned forklift maintenance is a way to ensure equipment servicing needs incur the least amount of impact and interference with your business operations.

2. Extend Service Life

Because forklifts are a business asset, they need to earn you more money than they cost you for as long as possible. The service life of a forklift is directly dependent on the quality and frequency of the servicing it’s undergone for its usage amount.

Sticking to forklift maintenance requirements ensures a long economic life and retains its value longer. That’s beneficial for business valuation purposes and resale value. When it’s time to upgrade your forklift needs, a well-maintained lift truck will sell or trade for a higher amount, saving you on your next investment.

3. Avoid Sudden Breakdowns

If your forklift is exhibiting signs of excessive wear or you’re finding it’s incurring a significant amount of downtime, it could be an indicator of an inadequate maintenance schedule. While it’s impossible to eliminate all breakdowns, you can drastically minimize emergency interruption by adhering to forklift truck maintenance requirements.

Ultimately, unplanned maintenance is much costlier than planned maintenance. It costs more to get a technician to service a forklift at the last minute and causes a ripple effect of unplanned expenses. In many cases, a sudden breakdown requires replacing parts or entire systems, and the interruption in business increases labor costs.

planned forklift maintenance is a way to ensure equipment servicing needs incur the least amount of impact and interference with your business operations.

4. Prevent Accidents

To put it simply, poorly maintained equipment isn’t safe and can either directly cause accidents or increase the risk of workplace incidents. Practicing forklift maintenance helps you identify safety risks before they materialize.

The correlation between forklift maintenance and safety is the reason why there are OSHA regulations for forklift maintenance. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 614 workers lost their lives due to forklift incidents between 2011 and 2017. Therefore, there’s a legal and ethical obligation for companies to maintain their lift trucks responsibly.

By staying on top of maintenance requirements, you can ensure your forklift is as safe as possible for daily use.

5. Improve Productivity

There are various metrics to determine business success, and uptime is one of the most critical measurements. High levels of uptime allow warehouses to process orders quickly and boost efficiency through continuous improvement. A well-maintained fleet of vehicles helps meet uptime goals and performs more efficiently than equipment that’s wearing out.

Sticking to a scheduled maintenance plan protects your productivity. In many cases, companies can partner with maintenance teams that provide in-the-field services. Having technicians come to your site to perform maintenance and repairs is the best way to stay productive while servicing occurs.

Forklift Maintenance Requirements

Essentially, proper forklift maintenance requires a plan. Planned maintenance should also fit the particular forklift based on its usage, size, power type and other factors. While any given business has different maintenance needs, all companies should adhere to specific forklift maintenance requirements. As a result, the forklift will operate at its peak performance and prevent workplace incidents. 

Whether it’s planned maintenance for electric forklifts or diesel forklifts, here are the top five requirements for all forklift maintenance:

Both forklift operators and warehouse management should work together with technicians to implement a robust maintenance plan.

1. Allow Only Qualified Personnel to Perform Maintenance

When it comes to how to maintain a forklift properly, it’s not enough to tick off a few servicing needs on a routine basis. Hiring qualified personnel who understand the needs of each forklift is essential, as servicing and maintaining lift trucks is a specialized skill that takes training, knowledge and experience to conduct correctly. Both forklift operators and warehouse management should work together with technicians to implement a robust maintenance plan. 

The right technicians can advise operators and management on best practices for inspections and reporting issues. As a result, they’ll know exactly when to alert trained personnel to perform repairs and replacements. Allowing only technicians to perform these tasks ensures you maintain due diligence and can protect your business from liability issues in the event of a workplace incident.

2. Adhere to the Recommended Forklift Maintenance Schedule 

How often do forklifts need to be checked for maintenance? The answer depends on the recommended forklift maintenance schedule from the manufacturer. Each manufacturer prescribes a maintenance schedule that involves servicing intervals 一 maintenance and repair tasks that a technician must perform at a set time. This timeframe is based on the number of operating hours. 

These servicing intervals are what the manufacturer determines to be the standard level and frequency of maintenance needed to ensure your machine performs throughout its expected service life. By completing these service items on time, you’ll avoid costly repairs and replacements down the road.

3. Follow Safety Rules

Another critical forklift maintenance requirement is taking the necessary safety precautions during routine inspections. Because forklifts are workplace equipment, all forklift operating activity is subject to OSHA safety practices and other state or local safety regulations.  

When conducting inspections or preparing a forklift for maintenance, follow these crucial safety tips:

  • Wear the required personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Remove loads before the inspection.
  • Lock out the equipment before doing any work.
  • Disconnect the batteries.
  • Shut off the fuel or power source.
  • Block the forklift to prevent it from moving.
  • Handle products with care when topping off fluids.

It’s essential to conduct forklift inspections in designated areas away from warehouse traffic. 

4. Keep a Clean Work Area

Keeping a clean work area is essential to adhering to forklift safety requirements during maintenance and inspections.

Here are some tips for ensuring a safe work area during forklift maintenance and inspections:

  • Ensure the area is well lit.
  • Remove any nearby obstructions or debris.
  • Provide enough space to perform work safely.
  • Clean up spilled fluids immediately when topping off.
  • Put away any tools or products after use.
  • Properly dispose of fluid containers or other trash.

When developing your forklift inspection and maintenance checklist, be sure to add the above items to ensure you always keep a clean work area.

OSHA requires the employer to be responsible for training forklift operators on the ongoing maintenance and inspection items they're required to perform.  

5. Use OSHA Forklift Planned Maintenance Checklists

All workplaces with forklifts are subject to OSHA forklift planned maintenance requirements. OSHA requires the employer to be responsible for training forklift operators on the ongoing maintenance and inspection items they’re required to perform. To assist in the training and job duties, employers can use OSHA’s daily inspection checklists.

There are different planned maintenance checklists depending on the type of forklift you operate. OSHA has two main types of checklists — an internal combustion engine or diesel forklift maintenance checklist and an electric forklift planned maintenance checklist. These checklists help you identify key issues that require immediate maintenance to ensure workplace safety.

Forklift Maintenance Tips and Best Practices

Remember that forklift maintenance is particular to the type of lift truck in question. Whether you’ve got an electric or internal combustion engine forklift determines the type of forklift maintenance best practices you need to follow. While it’s essential to understand the unique servicing needs of your forklifts, businesses can benefit from several general maintenance tips.

Follow these forklift truck maintenance tips and best practices for greater uptime and reduced repair costs:

The best way to stick to your maintenance plan is to use a forklift maintenance checklist that covers every repair and servicing item.

1. Develop a Maintenance Plan

Forklift planned maintenance is essential to ensuring that you’re adhering to your forklift’s servicing needs on an ongoing basis. The best way to stick to your maintenance plan is to use a forklift maintenance checklist that covers every repair and servicing item.

Start by dividing your forklift planned maintenance checklist into daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual maintenance needs. Below are some examples of OSHA forklift planned maintenance items to do regularly.


  • Change the oil as needed.
  • Clean or change air filters.
  • Inspect the lift and tilt cylinder.


  • Clean the radiator.
  • Change the fuel and hydraulic filters.
  • Inspect the hydraulic oil pump.

Annual and semi-annual:

  • Replace the brake fluid.
  • Replace the wheel bearing grease.
  • Replace the engine coolant.

Consult OSHA’s section on powered industrial trucks for a comprehensive list of maintenance activities and safety, training and operation standards.

2. Perform Daily Inspections

Conducting daily inspections is a key forklift maintenance best practice all teams should follow. These daily inspections are an OSHA requirement and an important way to catch safety and repair issues as they arise. Performing daily checks can save your business significant time and money. With so many premade forklift planned maintenance checklists available online, implementing your own daily inspection process is easy and cost-effective.

Here are some items to include in your daily inspection process:

  • Take note of any leaks, such as hydraulic fluid, oil or coolant.
  • Check tire pressure and note tire condition.
  • Examine the forks.
  • Notice any new safety warnings.
  • Test the brakes.
  • Ensure the seatbelt functions properly.

Be sure to follow a comprehensive daily inspection checklist. Always record your daily activity, making notes about any issues and planning for how to resolve them. 

3. Replace and Service Tires Regularly

Having properly functioning tires is an essential safety precaution to take. With pneumatic tires, proper air pressure also helps improve fuel efficiency and productivity. Because low tire pressure doesn’t provide enough traction, operators can encounter increased skidding and reduced stability, leading to accidents.

When servicing forklift tires, make sure not to over-inflate them to prevent blowouts and subsequent downtime. Always keep a tire gauge on hand for your daily inspections should you notice issues with your forklift tires.

As part of your scheduled maintenance, be sure to replace tires on time to maximize performance. If you notice your forklift tires tend to wear out ahead of their expected service life, it could be due to incorrect operational practices. Emphasize operator best practices to maximize the service life of the forklift and its tires.

Keep Forklifts Clean - Having a weekly cleaning schedule can help ensure your forklifts are kept in great condition and even contribute to a longer service life.

4. Keep Forklifts Clean

Having a weekly cleaning schedule can help ensure your forklifts are kept in great condition and even contribute to a longer service life. According to OSHA, forklift cleaning is also a safety issue. Therefore, you must routinely clean them to prevent excess buildup of grease and grime. This debris can bind up the wheels and other components and cause premature wear on the mast and electrical system.

OSHA also suggests using safe, non-combustible cleaning products. If you need to use a solvent to remove stubborn grease, choose products with a high flash point of over 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

5. Address Mechanical Issues Right Away

The point of daily inspections is to identify new issues and make a plan to resolve them. During daily inspections and throughout the day, operators are in a position to identify new issues. Whether it’s a new rattling sound, a sticking brake or faulty signals, operators must pay attention to these details, as they can indicate a future problem.

It’s usually the case that these small issues eventually turn into big ones — and the bigger the issue, the costlier the repair. Fortunately, you can minimize these larger situations by noticing small issues and acting on them immediately.

6. Have a Battery Charging Schedule

Part of maintaining electric forklifts is paying attention to battery health. All vehicle batteries have a certain lifespan based on the number of charge cycles they go through. Keeping track of battery health can help you anticipate when a battery might eventually fail.

By keeping a battery charging schedule, you’ll have a good idea of your forklift’s battery health and can help extend its lifespan. While each battery’s best practices can differ, a general guideline is to charge your batteries on a daily schedule. One of the most critical forklift battery maintenance tips is to always recharge after the battery has been discharged over 30%. Run it again after the battery’s charge is at full capacity.

It’s also an OSHA-recommended best practice to designate a battery-charging area in your warehouse.

It's critical for operators to learn proper operation techniques and undergo continuous training and receive feedback.

7. Invest in Operator Training

How someone operates a forklift can contribute to its performance. This equipment has operational guidelines that ensure it works for its intended use and capacity. It’s critical for operators to learn proper operation techniques and undergo continuous training and receive feedback.

Some operating tips that can help extend forklift service life include:

  • Use extreme caution while on ramps.
  • Only raise or lower forks while stopped.
  • Don’t operate at unsafe speeds.
  • Don’t overload the equipment.

Improperly operating forklifts can also result in accidents and damage to the forklift. Minimize excessive and premature wear on parts by safely operating your equipment.

8. Keep Thorough Maintenance Records

Keeping thorough maintenance records ensures that every forklift receives service as needed. These records also allow you to identify patterns of wear to mitigate over time, or even indicate manufacturing defects.

With maintenance records, you can stay organized and plan for upcoming servicing and stay compliant. There are OSHA requirements for forklift records for maintenance that all businesses need to follow. Should OSHA request them, you need to be able to produce your service records, including daily inspection checklists and other service histories. All documents should include the date of servicing and the technician who performed the repairs, among other pertinent details.

Benefits of Professional Forklift Maintenance Services

Since forklift maintenance needs to happen on an ongoing basis, it’s important to have a technician to rely on for your routine needs. Many modern forklifts are computer-based, meaning you need someone who can do more than just replace bolts and bearings.

Depending on the size of your company, it may be a more financially savvy move to outsource your maintenance needs and hire a third-party contractor to keep your forklifts in great working condition. This strategy allows you to build a good working relationship with the hired technician, which streamlines routine maintenance appointments.

Benefits of Professional Forklift Maintenance Services - Since forklift maintenance needs to happen on an ongoing basis, it's important to have a technician to rely on for your routine needs.

Here are some of the benefits of hiring a professional technician for your lift truck maintenance needs:

1. Ensure Quality Service

Hiring a forklift maintenance service ensures technicians will repair your equipment to high-quality standards. Experienced forklift technicians can identify issues and prescribe repairs that will address underlying problems you and your operators missed. When sudden issues arise, technicians can help you troubleshoot and discover the cause of new mechanical problems.

Reputable technicians and service providers guarantee their work to ensure you get the performance you need to stay productive. Additionally, technicians can help put your forklift fleet on a maintenance plan. Their expertise helps ensure you stay up-to-date with service intervals and get records for compliance.

2. Get the Right Parts

Replacing forklift parts should occur on an ongoing basis, based on the rate of wear and tear. When you need to replace forklift parts, it’s important to use the correct high-quality products for your lift truck model. In many cases, you may need to source parts that are manufacturer-certified.

When you partner with a reputable forklift service provider, they’ll conduct parts replacement using genuine, high-quality parts to ensure long-term performance.

3. Preserve Your Warranty

Many manufacturer warranties require certified professions to conduct forklift servicing, repairs and replacements using genuine parts. If you ever need to make a claim against your warranty, you need to be able to demonstrate you’ve followed the terms of the warranty to ensure its validity.

By using a third-party forklift maintenance service for all your repair needs, you’ll protect your warranty so you can rely on it when you need it most.

4. Save Time With Scheduled Maintenance

Having a professional technician to rely on can save you time. By scheduling your maintenance, you maintain high productivity and reduce costly downtime. Professional technicians and maintenance plan providers offer many convenient and flexible services. Many technicians can come to service your forklift in the field. They can also help you plan your planned maintenance and provide complete PM plans so you can have peace of mind.

Many forklift services can provide 24/7 emergency service, meaning you’ll always have access to a technician when you need one.

Choose Holt of California for Your Forklift Maintenance Needs

Choose Holt of California for Your Forklift Maintenance Needs

Being diligent with forklift maintenance is important for safety, compliance, productivity and profitability. Knowing how to properly maintain a forklift can prevent expensive and sudden repairs that cause unplanned downtime. To ensure your lift truck is always well maintained, it’s important to trust qualified technicians to do the job.

Holt of California is a full-service forklift maintenance and repair company. Our qualified technicians have the expertise, equipment and techniques to perform top-grade lift truck maintenance as you need. Performing around 90% of repairs in the field, Holt of California forklift services provide convenience to get you back up and running quickly. Learn more about our forklift services and contact us today for more information.

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