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Forklift Maintenance and Repair - When to Call a Professional

by Michael Holt on June 15, 2017
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forklift maintenance and repair when to call a professional

As a Product Support Rep (PSR) I hear a lot of horror stories from customers who try to maintain their own forklifts. Even worse: some customers just wait for something to break.

On average, the cost to repair a forklift is four times higher than the cost to properly maintain the equipment. Depending on the repair, the cost can be up to 15 times more expensive than what the customer would have spent on a service plan  once you factor in downtime.

I recently had a customer spend $35,000 on a five-year-old forklift, all because they didn’t maintain it correctly. They only called us for repairs and major failures. This truck moved heavy loads all day and never got more than an oil change.

Toyota Forklifts are built like a tank, but with lack of maintenance any forklift becomes a ticking time bomb. Every machine has its limits. In this post, we’ll talk about:

- what maintenance is okay to do yourself,
- when to call a professional
...and the real way to save money on maintenance and repairs.

What forklift repairs are okay to do yourself?

Ideally, all forklift repairs should be done by a trained professional. The mechanics of the forklift are very specialized, and new forklifts increasingly require programming with a computer. It’s not just screws and bolts anymore. TMHNC service technicians go through hundreds of hours of initial training and continuing education as technology changes. An in-house mechanic doesn’t get that.

That said, there are a few things that are okay to do yourself, things you might do on your personal vehicle like topping off fluids and changing filters. But be careful about going too far into technician territory. I had a customer who replaced his own gaskets, but he didn’t know another part needed to be replaced at the same time. The resulting damage was several times more expensive than if he’d had a professional take care of it.

The #1 Mistake Fleet Managers Make

Fleet managers think they’re saving money by doing repairs in-house. This is the #1 mistake people make. The best way to save money on repairs is by having operators catch problems when they’re small. Use those daily inspection checklists!

Let’s be honest: at many companies, operators just jump on the truck and start working. They skip the inspection, and before long there’s a big problem. There goes all the money you thought you were saving.

In less than ten minutes, the operator can check the hoses, the forklift tires, inspect the chains, check the seatbelt and back up alarm. This ten minute inspection can save you thousands on repairs.

How to Save $312,000 on Forklift Batteries

Similarly, a lot of companies go months without checking their electric forklift battery. It should be checked/watered every week (after it’s fully charged). If you neglect things like this, it takes years off the battery life.

I have a customer that buys new forklift batteries every year for their 12 trucks - at $6500 per battery! If once a week, someone took 30 minutes to water those twelve truck batteries, they would last five years instead of just one. How much does that 30 minutes of employee time cost versus replacing twelve batteries? $312,000 to be exact. 

Make an Informed Decision

A forklift is an essential piece of equipment and repairs shouldn't be undertaken lightly.  If there’s an issue with your lift truck, contact your TMHNC Product Support Rep (PSR). There’s no cost to you for a PSR to come out and take a look at the problem. If the issue requires a technician, the typical cost is $200 - $300 to do the repair at your location (based on a one to two hour repair time).

If you have a service agreement,  a qualified technician will do 95 point inspection every 90 days. For those with a full maintenance plan, all repairs are covered. Any repairs done by TMHNC include a one-year warranty on parts and labor.

The Bottom Line...

If your goal is to save money on repairs and maintenance, make sure your operators are doing their inspections. When a problem is detected, have a reputable professional take care of it. Fixing small problems will cost only a few hundred dollars compared to thousands for a major repair (or re-repair if done incorrectly in-house).

Don’t cross your fingers and hope for the best. Planned maintenance ensures you’re getting the maximum return on investment with the lowest cost of ownership. As the name suggests, planned maintenance happens when it’s convenient for your operation - to minimize downtime.

Please contact us online with any questions, or by phone:
East Bay - Livermore  (510) 675-0500
Fresno (559) 834-9500
Sacramento (916) 376-0500
Salinas (831) 757-1091 

Further Reading:
Maintenance plans for forklifts, pallet jacks and aerial lifts
5 Reasons a maintenance plan makes financial sense 
Does your forklift service provider make your life easier - or more complicated?

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Topics: Service, Fleet Management, Forklift Maintenance

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