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Lift Truck Tip: Maintain while parked

By Tom Andel, Contributing editor
June 02, 2010

   Over the past year’s dismal economy, lift truck OEMs and their dealers have acted more as consultants than salespeople. On the customer side, some plants and DCs have acted more as parking lots than workplaces for lift trucks. One aspect of lift truck care and feeding that’s rarely learned during busy times is critical now: the maintenance of underutilized equipment.
Kenneth M. MacDonald, president of M&G Materials Handling Co., a Yale dealer in East Providence, R.I., told me that he’s expecting that many young managers will have learned some expensive lessons by the time their business comes back.

   By taking the following precautions, gleaned from Ken and a few other experts from both the dealer and the OEM sides, you’ll save yourself the pain of that learning curve and realize that some easy savings will go straight to your bottom line.

   First, Ken suggests rotating your use of each vehicle to keep all the seals lubricated. This will prevent future leaks. He also suggests that users of internal combustion engine lift trucks run up the engine temperature to burn off condensation in the oil reservoirs. This will also give the transmission, braking and hydraulic functions much needed exercise and prevent premature wear.

   Of course, most managers have always relied on their dealers to replace parts on which time has taken its toll; but during this recession, Joe LaFergola says he’s seen a certain phenomenon slowly evolve: cannibalism. As manager of business and information solutions for The Raymond Corporation, LaFergola warns customers that if they’ve resorted to using parked trucks as parts resources for other trucks, that they conduct a thorough review of the scavenged trucks’ health before returning them to service.

   A review includes examining wheels and tires for flat spots to determine whether seals may have dried up as well as ensuring chains are as taut as they should be. A thorough evaluation is also necessary, and that means observation over time. For that, Bill Rowan, president of Sunbelt Industrial Trucks, a Dallas-based Komatsu dealer, offers this simple trick for parked IC trucks: park them over cardboard. That way you can see any leaks that might develop.

   If you have gasoline trucks, he suggests you drain the fuel periodically and put fresh fuel in the tanks since gas deteriorates quickly. For LP trucks, check the regulator for propylene build up that can gum up the system.

   And on parked electric units, for the sake of the batteries, start them off with an equalizing charge and consider sending the battery out to be desulfated.

   Finally, as a good rule of thumb, think in terms of hours. Troy Kaiser, national technical and warranty operations manager for Toyota Material Handling USA, says that hydraulic fluid should be replaced every 1,000 hours of operation—or every six months, whatever comes first. 

   Keeping an eye on time reduces the effects of moisture and contaminants to components and fluids. “As long as the recommended scheduled maintenance has been performed on a lift truck it should be ready for return to service,” Kaiser concludes.

About the Author

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Tom Andel
Contributing editor

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