Engine Overheating Causes in Forklifts

forklift overheating

The last thing a warehouse manager wants to deal with, particularly during a peak hours of operation, is unexpected and lengthy forklift downtime. While every piece of equipment requires regular maintenance and upkeep to continue running over the long-term, maintenance which can be scheduled and accounted for, unexpected downtime due to breakdowns or equipment malfunctions are incredibly disruptive. One of the chief causes of unexpected downtime – a cause that can be easily avoided by planning ahead and trained observation of your equipment – is an overheating forklift engine. While this is a problem that usually sorts itself out after the unit is shutdown, it can still cause a degree of frustration and disruption to any operation. To help you avoid these issues at your operation, let’s look at a few reasons for an overheated engine:

Wear and Tear:

Worn out, damaged and/or improperly maintained parts easily cause a forklift to become overworked, leading to overheating and malfunctions. For example, a worn radiator, damaged hoses or congested filters can all lead to an increase in the operating temperature of an engine, which can quickly lead to an overheated forklift. By following through with regular upkeep and planned maintenance, paying particular attention to the recommended service intervals of the manufacturer, you should be able to avoid overheating caused by wear and tear. Another tip would be to keep your equipment clean and perform regular inspections to prevent issues arising in between service intervals.

Low Fluid Levels:

Obviously, low fluid levels – especially low coolant levels – are a likely candidate if your forklift is overheating. And, again, poor maintenance and upkeep are the chief causes behind their occurrence. Beyond the role of fluid checks and replacements during planned maintenance programs, these levels should also be checked on a daily basis by as part of your operator’s pre-shift inspection. To address this issue, ensure your operators are checking their fluid levels before each shift and that low fluid levels are topped up before operation as part of your pre-operation inspection. For a full list of what to include during your circle checks, see How to Get Value from Your Circle Checks for a full overview.

Excessive Operation:

All forklifts have a maximum rated load capacity associated with them. And, while the forklift can safely lift and transport loads at this maximum capacity, attempting to lift above and beyond this maximum capacity will place added strain on the forklift’s engine. The consistent stress of this added strain can quickly cause a forklift to overheat. The same can also be said for a forklift that is regularly operating at high speeds over long periods of time. For more information on forklift capacities, see The Truth About Forklift Capacities for more information.

Dusty Work Environments:

Think about your workplace – is it kept clean, tidy and dust free? Do your forklifts regularly travel over loose gravel/soil or uneven terrain? If so, this may be causing your units to overheat. Excessive exposure to dirt, dust and debris can quickly inhibit the regular operation of your equipment, clog filters and result in excessive temperatures. To avoid these issues, make a concerted effort to keep your operation clean by sweeping away debris, dust and particulates. If your workplace is inherently dusty, you could also look at installing a pre-cleaner or a bottom-plate to reduce the impact of the dust on your engine.

The Temperature of the Application:

It goes without saying that higher ambient temperatures will cause the cooling system of a forklift to work harder than it otherwise would under more temperate conditions. As such, operating a forklift for prolonged periods of time, in elevated temperatures, will ultimately result in an overheated engine. The best way to handle these issues is to provide your forklift with a regular break to cooldown, keeping its fluids topped up and allowing them to cool off in the shade whenever possible.

As you may well have gathered, most of the issues that can cause your forklift to overheat start with improper maintenance. So, while it’s good to know how to tackle issues when they do arise, the best way to solve the problem is through prevention. These preventative measures should include performing daily pre-operation inspections, keep your site tidy and clear of debris and operate your vehicles within the recommended limitations. This way, you’ll keep your forklifts ticking over between services.

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