How Your Indiana Business Should Test Your Forklift Brakes

Featured Forklift Operator Safety

There are three main functions of a forklift: driving, lifting and braking.  Of course, the driving and lifting function should be a part of your daily safety checklist and training schedules. But don’t discount your brakes. Many braking problems are highly detectable ahead of time and can be easily addressed through forklift service and maintenance. Waiting too long can be hazardous to everyone in your Indiana operation.

So, how should your Indiana business test your forklift brakes?

The Anatomy of a Forklift Brake

The majority of forklifts use drum brakes.  When you press on the brake pedal, you start a process where metal plates -- called shoes – expand outward into the brake drum, creating friction and slowing the forklift down.  Release the pedal, the shoes contract, and the forklift dives normally.

While the process is fairly simple, there are a number of parts within the braking system:

  • Backing Plate: The attachment point for the rest of the braking system
  • Brake Drum: The iron housing that connects the brakes to the tires and stops the forklift
  • Brake Shoes: The shoes rub against the drum creating forklift-stopping friction   
  • Wheel Cylinder: The cylinder forces the shoes outward onto the drum
  • Return Springs: Ensure the shoes contract back to their original position

Forklift brakes have multiple pins, springs, and cables that help with the parking brake and the auto-adjust system.  That’s because drum brakes are self-adjusting. When the shoes start to wear down, they will adjust themselves out to be closer to the drum.

Reasons Why Forklift Brakes Need Repair

The average forklift brake can last between 5,000-7,000 hours. The discrepancy is usually determined by loads and driving style.  If your forklift carries awkward loads or your Indiana workplace has uneven terrain, then your forklift brakes may wear down faster.

Each part of the braking system has a chance of breaking down.  Friction causes a forklift to stop and the repeated use subjects the parts of the system to extreme heat, and eventual wear and tear.  Eventually, this repeated action will take a toll, and your brakes will have to be replaced. If you hear any metal-on-metal grinding, that’s a tell-tale sign that your brakes need immediate attention.

If your brakes are wearing out before 5,000 hours, then it's usually because of operator error.  Driving with the parking brake on, abrupt stopping, or “riding” the brakes can cause unnecessary friction to the brake shoes.  If you notice any of these tendencies with your drivers, then it might be time to invest in some forklift training.

How to Test Your Forklift Brakes

Before each shift, you should gently press down on the brake pedal while the forklift is on.  If the brake pedal falls to the floorboard or if the pedal doesn’t move at all, then check the brake fluid or the drum condition. If you have to repeatedly add fluid, there is a leak somewhere in the system, and they require attention.

As you drive, you should take note of how the brakes feel, and be listening to make sure you don't hear a grinding sound.  When you hear that metal-on-metal sound, then your shoes are worn down or the brake lining has torn away. Also, note how long it takes to slow down.  If something doesn’t feel right, then you should stop driving immediately. If the pedal becomes soft, and/or the braking distance increases, your brakes may be overheating, and you should stop and let them cool down. 

Brake problems are not something that you should ignore, or put off until later.  If your warehouse has tight quarters are other forklifts zipping about, a hard to stop or jerky forklift becomes a major liability. The last thing you want is a damaged load, damaged forklift, -- or worse -- personal injury to you or a co-worker. 

Tynan Is the Indiana Expert in Forklift Brakes

When your forklift brakes don’t seem to be working as they should, turn to Tynan for expert analysis and repair.  Their certified technicians are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and can even come to your site. Just call (317) 597-4003 to schedule an appointment today.

Making sure your forklift's brakes work properly is important to your driver's safety.

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