One critical area of forklift maintenance that is commonly missed is the lift chains. Regardless of the condition of every other component, unsafe liftchains equals an unsafe lifttruck. However, they are often overlooked or neglected. So, let’s take a quick look at the maintenance, inspection, and replacement of liftchains. This may seem basic to an experienced tech, but hopefully will help someone.
If you are not sure what type of chain you have, there is a good ID chart for leafchain at HKK Chain.
Visual inspection is the first step. Look at the chains for signs of rusting or cracking. ANY cracks mean immediate replacement is required. Also look for anywhere the chain binds or stays “kinked” when under tension. Also check the chain anchors for wear, excessive rust, or damage.
Next, lift the forks off the floor so there is some tension on the chains. Using a good quality chain gauge like the one from FB Chains, inspect for stretch and wear. Be aware that lift chains do not wear evenly, but tend to stretch more where they run over the pulleys. Check multiple areas. Different styles of gauge work differently, so follow the instructions on the gauge. Pull on the chains and feel that the tension is equal on both sides. If not, adjustment is in order.
To adjust lift chains, tension should be equal on both sides, and forks should be approximataly 1/2 inch off the floor (measured at the fork heels). Tighten or loosen the chain anchors as required, and make sure jam nuts are locked again when adjustment is complete.
The biggest area of concern is LUBRICATION. Not all lubricants will work properly. A good quality chain lube is recommended (like Lucas 10393 ChainLube, available from Amazon), although some manufacturers (such as Toyota) recommend straight engine oil. Be aware of some lubricant sprays that are “sticky” and will actually hold dust and other abrasive debris. Remember that oil cannot penetrate to lubricate inside the leaves and pins while under tension. I recommend taking the tension off during or immediately after lubrication, by lowering the forks and tilting forward. This allows the oil to seep into the actual wear areas.
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