What’s Causing Your Forklift Steering Problem?

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Forklift steering is probably the thing operators take for granted the most. Everything’s moving along until you try to navigate a sharp turn and the forklift steering locks up or it doesn’t respond to the hard left turn you tried to make.

Join us as our Indiana forklift experts take a look at the most common forklift steering problems, how to troubleshoot them, and best practices for fixing and avoiding steering issues.

Warning Signs for Forklift Steering Problems

Unfortunately, there aren’t a whole lot of warning signs for steering issues before they become too serious. One of the ones to be on the lookout for is any type of strange noise while turning the wheels, especially when the lift truck is loaded. That could be an early warning sign of rust in the steering mechanism, old pressure relief valves, or even an issue in the hydraulics which may operate the steering pressure in some models.

Often it’s too late to diagnose problems in your forklift steering before it takes your entire truck out of commission. Locked steering, almost no steering pressure from turning the wheel, or irregular shifts in direction can all be dangerous for your workplace, so be sure to keep any forklift with steering issues off the work floor until the problem can be fixed.

The Most Common Causes of Forklift Steering Issues

Like with a car, an issue with forklift steering can be caused by anything from the tires to the electronics. Of all the steering issues we’ve diagnosed, these tend to be the most common culprits.

Steering Pressure Valves

Some forklifts (especially older ones) have a distinct steering pump that regulates steering all on its own. However, most forklifts nowadays have steering pressure that operates from the hydraulic system, which uses a secondary valve to regulate steering pressure. These valves can often be the cause of steering issues if they’re loose, out of position, or just worn over time. Replacing these valves will usually require the aid of a certified forklift mechanic or maintenance team.

Worn Gears

If you’re not getting much response from turning the steering wheel, and having to turn the wheel almost entirely to get even a fraction of a turn from the tires, the cause might be worn gears. Especially in older forklifts or ones that have put in thousands of hours of work, worn gears can easily ruin your forklift steering. If you're using a used forklift in Indiana, this can be a common culprit.

Low Steering Fluid Levels

Sometimes the most obvious answer is the right one. A lack of steering fluid in your forklift can cause excess friction, resulting in heat that wears down parts of the steering mechanism. Be sure to regularly monitor and replenish all fluid levels in your lift truck.

Misaligned Tires

Depending on your forklift’s make and model, as well as the kind of work you’re doing, the tires on your forklift can become misaligned. This is usually caused by a malfunctioning steering cylinder, which may need to be repacked or replaced entirely. Occasionally, worn linkage as well as a leaking diverter valve inside the steering assembly can cause a single wheel to drift over time, leading to misalignment.

Getting Your Forklift Steering Fixed

Unless you have an in-house forklift technician to service your fleet, your best bet for fixing any issues with your forklift steering is to get factory-certified technicians to diagnose and fix your issues. Tynan Equipment Co. helps hundreds of Indiana warehouses, supply chains, and construction businesses maintain their lift truck fleets. Call us at 317-597-4003 to get help on fixing any forklift issues you encounter.

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