How to inspect a used forklift truck
Greg Whitaker offers top tips on how to pick up a reliable used lifter
If you want a forklift, then you’re going to be spoilt for choice. You can buy electric machines with tiny wheels designed for gliding down warehouse isles, side-loading machines for wide or unbalanced loads, and even machines that pivot in the middle like a wheel loader.
For the purpose of this article, however, we will assume that you want a rough-terrain forklift suitable for duties on a construction site.
These are powered either by a diesel engine or with CNG gas, but be warned: people don’t usually let go of these powerful machines unless there is something wrong with them, so make sure you check any potential purchase carefully.
A man who knows more than most about buying used equipment is Abdul Gaffar from Sharjah-based Al Mawrid Forklifts. He assures us that buying a high-quality, used forklift truck is not difficult, provided certain basic checks are carried out.
It goes without saying that the hydraulic system is vital to the operation of a forklift truck. Fortunately, this is simple to check, according to Gaffar.
“When the engine is idling, operate the hydraulic control. It should work at idle speed and if it doesn’t, there’s a problem,” he said, adding that if possible you should run the truck on a clean surface, such as a warehouse floor. This way, any tell-tale leaks will quickly become apparent.
Steering on a forklift should be light and precise. Gaffar suggests that you gently turn the wheel with just one finger. That way you can feel for any problems very easily.
When you actually try the machine out, again, leave the engine running at idle speed. The forklift should propel itself forward slowly. To make sure the machine still has a bit of torque left, Gaffar suggests this simple test: “Put it into reverse and it should start moving. Put a wooden block in front and then select forward gear. The truck should have the power to jump over the block. If possible, try the same test on a ramp.”
Needless to say, the truck won’t be much use if the axles have been bent following an accident, so check these as carefully as you can. Uneven tyre wear can be a good indicator of problems. Equally, the condition of the fork is very important. Our expert suggests that it should be straight, should not have any cracks, and certainly shouldn’t have been re-welded.
Mast operation is particularly important on a forklift truck. Franz Link, a product manager for Mitsubishi Forklift Trucks, advises that you check for smooth mast operation with and without a load. The mast should not ‘bind’ (stick) and there should be no play in its channels or between the fork carriage and the mast. Masts and chains must always be checked by a competent person.
As a final note, watch out for the CE mark. While not required in Arabia, machines built to the – very high – European standard should have this. Be warned though: a few machines from the Far East have been found to display ‘rouge’ marks, so “let the buyer beware”, as they say.