Pallet jacks are simple yet incredibly effective tools for lifting and transporting heavy loads with minimal effort. Warehouses, construction sites, and other industrial facilities have many pallet jacks, as they provide great assistance and work output while being very easy and intuitive to use.
The simplicity of a pallet truck makes it a universal and indispensable machine for any environment that depends on the constant movement of big structures and sizable materials. A quick demonstration of its use can teach anyone to use the pump handle and prepare the load for transportation. However, despite the intuitive use, pallet jack components are under constant stress. An operator has to understand the telltale signs of equipment damage, or there will be unpleasant surprises.
In this guide, we explain the importance of pallet jack maintenance procedures with the help of experts at Frontu. Here you can find tips for regular servicing of pallet trucks, strategies to reduce wear of its parts, and guidelines for minimising repairs while maintaining productivity and protecting the health of operators.
How long do pallet jacks last?
Because a pallet jack is a powerful but rather primitive machine, a well-maintained truck can last up to 10 years if equipment managers follow a proper maintenance plan. Because manual pallet trucks depend on human power, their design is simpler than an electric pallet jack. This makes a manual pallet jack less vulnerable to downtime, where smaller damages can be fixed and parts replaced without intervention from a skilled technician. Still, without long life grease in most important lubrication points, the wear and tear of main components can also damage other parts, leading to total equipment failure and a much shorter lifespan.
Electric pallet jacks are sturdier and last longer, but their longevity is harder to achieve, as they require more complex maintenance work. Alongside the usual procedures, daily inspection tasks check on the battery, control panel, and other electrical components. Still, with a good maintenance plan, an electric pallet jack should outlast a manual one.
Proper storage conditions are another key factor that affects the longevity of your pallet truck. Once the equipment is no longer in use, designated workers control the operating lever to lower the forks into the lowest position. For both manual and electric pallet jacks, it is the correct position, as it reduces the wear and tear on the hydraulic system and its components. Also, a compactly stored machine makes the workplace a lot safer. When pallet truck forks are set in a lower position, they take up less space, which makes collisions with workers and other machines a lot less likely.
Does my pallet jack need maintenance?
While a pallet truck is not as big and complex as other equipment, the handling of heavy materials takes its toll on any tool. The most common, and frequently ignored problems are the damaged wheels that not only require the operator to use more physical force but also affect the lift capabilities of the hydraulic unit.
In most cases, a pallet truck needs a lot less attention than a motor grader or a skid steer loader. Still, if the loaded pallets carry construction materials, the dirt, dust, debris, and other contaminants will get stuck in wheels, hydraulic system components, and other parts that dictate the state of your machine.
Pallet jack maintenance tips
With a good maintenance strategy, a pallet jack can outlast the expected operating hours without the need to replace it, while executing related tasks with smoothness and efficiency like a new machine would. To achieve this level of longevity, follow the tips below:
Prepare an optimal maintenance schedule
For both manual and electric pallet trucks, there is no need to reinvent the wheel. Instead, follow an organised maintenance schedule that will keep your machines in top condition. Most industrial facilities have many pallet jacks operating at the same time, and a clear servicing time helps us reduce equipment downtime.
By structuring a servicing plan for your pallet trucks, equipment managers have more control over the health of the machine. With a clear overview, they can schedule inspections, cleaning tasks, and other procedures to eliminate dirt and debris.
Unlike complex heavy equipment, a pallet truck is a lot less vulnerable to total equipment failure. However, the wear and tear will still affect its ability to move heavy pallets, forcing the operator to use a lot more force to achieve a simple task. Regular servicing tasks cover the maintenance of the hydraulic oil level and lubrication of grease fittings, wheels, bearings, and other components that cause friction.
Employ a preventive maintenance strategy
Alongside regular servicing checks, a preventive maintenance strategy focuses on documenting the state of a pallet truck with extra focus on its main parts: a hydraulic cylinder, wheels, forks, hydraulic seals and other elements of the hydraulic unit. For an electric pallet jack, this list also includes the motor, control panel, and other electronic components.
The goal of a preventive maintenance plan is to follow the changes in equipment health to determine the priority order for buying new parts. This way, equipment managers avoid complete equipment breakdown, and replace the worn-out parts a lot faster.
Avoid lifting loads that exceed recommendations
Constant overloading of a pallet truck can significantly lower its operating hours. To avoid excess strain on your lift forks, bearings, wheels, and other parts, check the manufacturer’s manual and try to stay below the limit as much as possible. For example, an overloaded pallet jack can cause a flat spot on your wheels, ruining the manoeuvrability of the machine. An estimated maximum load is provided to help workers maximise the lifespan of all parts.
Follow HSE guidelines for pallet jack use
The Health Service Executive (HSE) provides workplace safety guidelines for workers in the United Kingdom. They cover employee training, equipment inspections, and safety protocols for all use cases, where the health of a worker may be in danger. Follow their guidelines on manual handling of heavy materials to avoid any liabilities associated with the operation of a pallet truck.
The pallet jack servicing schedule
If you wonder how often you grease a pallet jack, and how much attention this machine requires, there is no better place to start than the manufacturer’s manual. There you will see recommendations on repair intervals, how to regularly lubricate its components and other tips. Combine that knowledge with the workload in your work setting to find an optimal solution:
Before starting work with a pallet truck, each operator cleans the machine to get rid of potential contaminants. Then, the machine’s forks are set into different positions to test the hydraulic pump and the lowering valve, before switching into a drive position to inspect manoeuvrability. For an electric pallet jack, an operator tests the functionality of a control panel.
Optional. If a modern pallet jack uses integrated heavy equipment software, an operator tracks the warnings and errors within the system and takes appropriate action based on the displayed data.
Weekly servicing procedures focus on visual inspection of forks and wheels, plus the documentation of damages to visible components.
Monthly maintenance covers a complete overview of a pallet truck and lubrication of bearings, wheels, and other key components. For electric pallet trucks, a skilled technician comes to inspect the wiring, battery, and electronic parts, and calibrate the movement of works.
Pallet trucks are the muscle of most material handling environments, but they often do not receive appropriate maintenance. However, with great servicing tips and an adjustable maintenance schedule, a pallet jack will last many years, effectively aiding you in material handling and transportation.