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Inspection and Maintenance of Forklift Brakes

Forklift operators must have a good understanding of how the components of a forklift work so that they can immediately recognize problems before they lead to larger equipment issues or an accident.  The brakes are one of the most important forklift parts to inspect and maintain because a malfunction can lead to a serious accident, risking injury or death to your employees.  Forklift brakes typically have a lifetime of 5,000 to 7,000 driving hours, and they accumulate dust and debris buildup on the brake shoes that must be blown out every 250 hours.  This is why it is so important for your forklift operators to know how the braking system works and to routinely inspect the system to make sure the brakes are in working order.

This guide explains the components of the forklift braking system, as well as how to properly inspect and maintain forklift brakes to ensure safe operation.

Forklift Brake System

Inspection and Maintenance of Forklift BrakesForklift braking systems consist of many component parts, including the drums, shoes, lining, and fluid.  The brake drums and shoes are the main components of this system; the shoe is the part of the brake that is pushed against the drum to stop the wheels from moving.  Brake shoes consist of two pieces of steel, including the brake lining which is the part that makes contact with the drum and creates the friction needed to stop the forklift.  The brake lining is heat and wear resistant to withstand the friction caused by braking and it is powered by the brake fluid.  The brake lining will slowly wear down over time and need to be replaced.  If worn out brake lining is not replaced, it can cause damage to the brake drum and shoe, requiring both to be replaced

Causes of Forklift Brake Failure

While all forklift braking systems can and will naturally wear down over time, there are several behaviors that can accelerate wear and tear and quickly lead to damage.  Make sure your forklift operators avoid the following behaviors:

  • Operating the forklift with the parking brake on: The parking brake must always be disengaged before operation.
  • Driving fast and braking hard: This will put extra stress on the braking system and cause the brake lining to wear out faster.
  • “Two-footed” driving: Driving with one foot on the brake will quickly wear out the lining and cause damage to other parts from the excessive friction.
  • Failure to inspect braking system: Excessive wear of the brake lining and debris buildup on the brake shoes can cause significant damage if these issues are not caught and addressed during inspections.

Inspecting Forklift Braking System

The most effective way to avoid issues with the forklift braking system is to check them routinely before each shift.  Pre-shift inspections are not only important for the upkeep of your equipment and the safety of your operators; they are required by the Operational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS).  During the inspection, you must check all the component parts of the braking system including the shoes, drums, brake pedal, parking brake, fluid level, and wheel  hubs.  Check the resistance of the brake pedal to ensure that it can stop the forklift in a safe distance, and make sure the parking brake can hold a 15 percent grade.  Every 250 driving hours, blow the dust and debris from the brake shoes.  A certified technician should do a more thorough inspection of your brakes every 2,000 driving hours.

By knowing how the braking system works and routinely inspecting it for issues, you can prevent accidents or malfunctions that lead to further damage or injury.  Create a procedure for checking the brakes and make sure your forklift operators follow it on a daily basis.  If you do notice a problem with the braking system of a forklift that you cannot fix, you can call the forklift repair and maintenance experts of RHI Lifts.  Our technicians have the expertise to repair malfunctions in the braking system, as well as any other problems you may encounter with your equipment.