Or how to make sure you don’t end up with something you regret buying
When purchasing a used forklift, many buyers worry about getting stuck with a lemon. It’s unfamiliar territory, nearly everyone knows what to look for in a car, but what about a forklift? It’s an expensive purchase that you need to be reliable for years to come. The following is a basic checklist you should look for when shopping for a used forklift.
Please note: This article covers physical inspection of a forklift. For advice on choosing a forklift size and type, please see this article.
It used to be a chore, having to drive from one factory to another (often widely spaced in different suburbs). Now of course we have the internet to help. Most forklift sellers now have a site (just like this one!), and being able to see in advance what sort of units are available is a massive time saver. When checking websites, it’s still a good idea to ring the retailer and check that there are no unlisted forklifts, often we sell forklifts even before they can be listed on the site.
When checking forklifts on a website it can be difficult to see details but you want to be looking for the following:
- Clean paintwork
- No obvious impact damage (scrapes and scratches are ok)
- Minimal or no rust
- Tyres that aren’t worn out
On site inspection
Now that you have selected a few retailers or units to look at, make and appointment and go have a look. This is where you can really get a good look at the used forklift in question. If you are shopping with a low budget in mind, you will have to make allowances for a unit that will not meet all these criteria, but look for any problems and ask the salesman specifically if they can be fixed prior to purchase, especially things that might become a safety hazard or stop the unit from working.
Please keep in mind that this is a guide only, and depending on the age and cost of the unit, you may have to compromise. What is important is to A:Get good value for money and B:Get a reliable forklift
Look for new paint or paint in good condition, preferably with decals (better resale value) and warning stickers (for operator safety). Scratching and scrapes are ok, extensive rust, overspray from bad repainting and large dints are not. Check plastics (if any) for cracks or splits.
Open the bonnet and start the engine. It should start easily and idle smoothly (it will be more noisy than a car). Look above and below for engine (black) oil leaks. Check starter motor fires rapidly. Rev engine hard in neutral and check tailpipe once warm for blue or black smoke. Exhaust should be minimal if LPG, and free from excessive odour.
- Lifting Gear
Raise Carriage to full height (move forklift outdoors if necessary). Check lifting speed is steady and constant. Rev engine to increase lift speed then run in idle to ensure it continues to raise. Tilt back and forward at full extension, engine should not stall. Shims in tilt mechanism should not move too much, carriage should not be sloppy. Drop down, movement should be smooth and steady, all stages should move in turn with no jamming.
Check all visible hoses for leaks. Look under the forklift for greenish or golden hydraulic oil. Move mast to full tilt and check for leaks again while under pressure. Levers should move easily and operation should be smooth for all controls. For hydraulic drive forklifts (Linde), drive back and forward, operation should be quick and smooth.
Drive the used forklift around in a tight circle, backwards and forwards. Use brake, inch and accelerator to full extension, check seating position and controls are accessible.
- Seat and Lights
Seat should be free of large rips and tears. Seatbelt (if part of original equipment), should be functional. Flashing light on roof should be working, other lights if fitted should be working but are not essential unless road use is required. Engaging reverse should trigger beeper or buzzer
All four tyres should be evenly worn, with enough usage left on them. Solid and cushion tyres should be free from major tears and damage, Solid tyres should have tread. Pneumatic tyres should have adequate air pressure
- Fuel system
Diesel/Petrol: Check under tank for cracks. Examine fuel cap area for damage. Check fuel lines.
LPG: Examine tank connector for damage. Check that seals work, no smell our sound should come from pipe. Check pipe for abrasions or marks. Check tank clips for damage, insert and remove tank to ensure it is held firmly.
Tynes should be able to slide on carriage, but be held securely in place when clipped in, and not flop about. Check tynes on the used forklift for bending or excessive wear, especially on the ‘heel’ (bend) of the tynes
- Battery (Electric only)
Inspect battery for missing caps or damaged leads. Any visible acid should be very small, no long term buildup. Check water system (if installed) for leaks. Turn on charger and ensure it works, check outlet plug for damage.
Notes on buying over the internet with no inspection
If you live interstate from the used forklift in question or are in a rural area, you may be forced to purchase over the internet. There is nothing wrong with this approach, you just need to be more careful. When emailing a supplier, ask for extensive details and heaps of photos, especially close ups of the motor and mast/carriage. If possible show them to a friend or relative with mechanical knowledge. Check against other suppliers for price and condition of units the same price. Ask about warranty availability, it is usually restricted for interstate purchasing but make sure the salesman knows that you expect reliability and good condition and are prepared to return the forklift if it doesn’t meet your expectations.
Once you have selected the used forklift that you are happy with, you need to negotiate a price and if necessary, trade in your old used forklift. But that’s an article for another day….