How to inspect a used telescopic aerial lift

Greg Whitaker’s top tips on netting a reliable used access platform

There are a plethora of second-hand truck heads in the GCC, and not only from Europe.
There are a plethora of second-hand truck heads in the GCC, and not only from Europe.


For reasons that no economist has ever been able to adequately explain, the state of the market for used telescopic aerial lifts seems to be the most seriously affected by the state of the economy.

At the first hint of recession, sales drop right off. However, if you’ll pardon the pun, at the moment sales are ‘booming’. As you’d expect, therefore, used values are also higher at present, but if you choose wisely, it’s still perfectly possible to get yourself a good deal.

Aerial lifts are very often sold as ex-rental units from hire firms. This is something of a double-edged sword for prospective buyers as rental fleets are usually serviced to schedule, but the machines can be damaged by inexperienced operators who use the equipment beyond its design capability. If you know which rental firm the machine has come from, it might be worth making some discreet enquires to find out how well they look after their fleet?

Your first port of call should be to inspect the boom. We’d recommend that you reject any machine that has been re-welded – after all, the load capacity of the basket is a fraction of what a telescopic crane might carry, so there really shouldn’t be any damage of this nature. We also recommend that you use a powerful flashlight to check the unit for cracks and other damage. One tip is to look for broken paint as this is a tell-tale sign that a boom is cracking up. However, as we are fond of saying at PMV, new paint doesn’t cost much and can be used to hide a multitude of sins.

While still looking at the boom, put one hand on the basket and bounce it up and down. This will reveal how worn the wear pads are on each telescoping section. Don’t forget to look for warning signs such as leaking hydraulic fluid on the boom.

Next, check the condition of the bucket itself. You are going to put people in it, so make sure that the guard rail is in one piece and that the floor doesn’t sag. Air can become trapped in the hydraulic system; you can feel this by giving the basket rotator a swift tug. This is not a huge problem, however, as bleeding the unit is fairly simple.

Assuming that you are looking at a model built on a turntable, check the teeth for condition and also check that the machine rotates as freely as you’d expect it to. Unsurprisingly, sand and grit can cause problems if left unchecked for months, so it pays to run it up to temperature. In common with a lot of ‘static’ machines where there is little airflow over the radiator, some lifts are prone to overheating and blowing their head gaskets. Generally, the inside of the engine cover will be splashed with stains left by coolant if this has happened. A layer of ‘mayonnaise’ under the oil filler cap is also a telltale sign.

Start the machine up, then operate all of the hydraulics and check for leaks and other maladies. Be sure to pay particular attention to the valve bank located on the bottom of the machine.

If all goes well here, we wish you the best of luck in striking a deal on a ‘boom with a view’.

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PMV Middle East - August 2018

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