Winter is coming – is your lift truck ready? While most warehouse managers understand the importance of regular forklift maintenance, not all of them remember to take extra care of their fleet when the colder months come rolling in. Regardless of whether you choose to let a forklift service company take care of your heavy machinery or prefer to do it in-house, there are some essential pre-season maintenance tasks that you should perform. These tasks are extremely vital, as they can protect your business from unexpected downtime, repair bills, and employee injuries.
Winter Prep Checklist
With the joys of the Winter holidays comes the reality of harsher outdoor conditions. Outlined below are several key areas that you should keep an eye on this season to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.
When it comes to taking care of your forklift’s battery, you should start by using a load tester to check that the battery is close to its maximum strength. You should also clean the cables and check them for any damage. If your battery is near the end of its life, it might even be cheaper to proactively replace it to avoid unnecessary downtime instead of having the battery give out unexpectedly mid-shift. It is also important to be aware of the fact that batteries tend to discharge more quickly in extremely cold temperatures.
Cooling System & Antifreeze
Because your forklifts will be exposed to extreme conditions, be sure to check your antifreeze and coolant levels with a hydrometer to ensure that there is enough fluid. It’s also a good idea to inspect hoses and other key components for leaks or damage.
Wintertime is synonymous with low tire pressure, so be sure to check your fleet’s tires for proper air pressure (for pneumatic tires). You should also make sure that the treads on your tires are deep enough to maintain adequate traction on outdoor surfaces.
Ensuring that your lights are working properly is essential year-round, but it is even more important during the Winter months. This is because it gets darker earlier in the day and visibility can become compromised in certain weather conditions (such as snow). If your vehicle uses halogen lights, it might be a good time to upgrade to LED bulbs. LED lights shine brighter, last longer, and their performance is not impacted by freezing temperatures.
When it’s cold outside, joints tend to stiffen. Ensuring that your forklift’s moving parts are all well-lubricated is vital in keeping your lift truck running smoothly.
For vehicles that have an enclosed cab and windshield, be sure the heater and windshield wipers are functioning like they should be and that all latches are properly lubricated for safety purposes.
While operators are not an actual piece of your equipment, there are some guidelines that you should relay to them in preparation for Winter. You always want to make sure that your operators are equipped with the right tools for the job, especially under more challenging conditions. For instance, you want your lift truck operators to wear warm clothes such as gloves (to prevent numb fingers) and dress in layers if they have duties both indoors and outside.
Forklift Maintenance Tips & Tricks
While giving your forklifts a little extra TLC this Winter is a great way to keep them running through the holidays, there are some additional steps you can take to ensure a safe workplace for your employees and equipment, including:
Keeping Heavily Trafficked Areas Clear
Be sure to remove any ice, snow, or other hazards from you work area. For heavily travelled outdoor spaces, it might even be necessary to spread some grit (a salt and sand mixture) to improve traction.
Taking More Breaks
You should encourage your operators to stay aware of their energy and focus levels, as winter work can cause employees to expend more energy as their bodies try to combat the cold. If an operator notices their energy fading, they should take a break and refuel themselves with a quick snack.
Warming Up Your Machines
For the sake of your engine and hydraulic systems, allow your forklift to properly warm up before using it. It is recommended that you let your lift truck idle for a few minutes without a load. Next, you should test each hydraulic function to let the oil circulate.
While it may seem obvious that operators should lower their speeds in extreme outdoor conditions, some drivers forget to. Be sure to train your operators about appropriate speeds in icy or wet environments to prevent any nasty accidents.
Need help with forklift maintenance this season? At Darr Equipment, we understand that Winter brings a whole flurry of activities that can distract you from proper maintenance planning. Instead of cutting corners and running the risk of a costly mistake, let us help you manage your fleet and prepare your vehicles for your best Winter season yet. Contact us today to learn more about our fleet management services.