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Forklifts - What do I need to know?

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  • Forklifts - What do I need to know?

    Suppose I wanted to buy a used forklift with enough oomph to move some of my machines... what do I need to watch out for? I've run diesel forklifts before but never electric or LP. The used ones I'm looking at range from electric to gas to LP to diesel. Are any of these better than the others when it comes to maintenance and longevity? I read 15,000 hours is a typical "service free" life (i.e. no major part failures/repairs) for electric forklifts and about 10,000 hours for IC forklifts.

    Because it will be used other places, I'm looking for something with a three or four stage mast, ~8000 lbs. capacity, tilt and side shift. Need to be able to adjust the forks but manual is fine, don't need a fancy positioner. Free lift also not necessary. Anything else?

    What do I need to check when looking at used machines?
    Last edited by Fasttrack; 12-15-2017, 04:34 PM.

  • #2
    Unless its always going to be used on pavement you want pneumatic tires. Maybe even tractor tires depending on the uses.

    I bought a used International diesel tractor frame with a 10K capacity at an auction over 30 years ago for 5500 and thought I got a good deal. My dad used it for 20 years for his stores. Its still in operation as far as I know. He sold it about ten years ago.
    *** I always wanted a welding stinger that looked like the north end of a south bound chicken. Often my welds look like somebody pointed the wrong end of a chicken at the joint and squeezed until something came out. Might as well look the part.

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    • #3
      Just be aware that:

      1) Any full size forklift that is electric and available at a low price has a bad battery.

      2) Batteries are crazy expensive for full sized units, AND they are the counterweight, you can't really leave them off.

      3) A bad battery MIGHT be all you need if you do not rely on the forklift for much. But it may leave you out in the driveway in the rain with something that should not get wet up on the forks (or the like).
      1601

      Keep eye on ball.
      Hashim Khan

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      • #4
        I would look for a propane powered one because of mentioned above about batteries. Also mentioned above Pneumatic tires a must if you plan to go anywhere other than concrete. I would also look for one with side shift, you can manage without but it makes things much easier at times.

        8000 pound cap is getting to a decent size, how are you planning to move it to other places?

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        • #5
          Originally posted by J Tiers View Post
          Just be aware that:

          1) Any full size forklift that is electric and available at a low price has a bad battery.

          2) Batteries are crazy expensive for full sized units, AND they are the counterweight, you can't really leave them off.

          3) A bad battery MIGHT be all you need if you do not rely on the forklift for much. But it may leave you out in the driveway in the rain with something that should not get wet up on the forks (or the like).
          Those big batteries are CRAZY expensive, BUT!!! they're pretty much designed to run around a warehouse for an 8 hour shift... If
          you need it for 15 minutes twice a month, run a few car batteries or RV batteries(qty depending on voltage or the forklift)... Leave the big
          dead counterweight sitting right were it is.

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          • #6
            In my opinion and personal driving style on them, I have a lot more finesse with a propane powered forklift vs an electric one. You can usually program some different settings into the electric ones for speeds but they always seem to be more "jumpy" on the controls. It's mostly due to the electric ones having full power available right away vs the propane ones having to throttle up some to get full speed out of the hydros.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by bobw53 View Post
              Those big batteries are CRAZY expensive, BUT!!! they're pretty much designed to run around a warehouse for an 8 hour shift... If
              you need it for 15 minutes twice a month, run a few car batteries or RV batteries(qty depending on voltage or the forklift)... Leave the big
              dead counterweight sitting right were it is.
              True, that.
              1601

              Keep eye on ball.
              Hashim Khan

              Comment


              • #8
                Make sure the brakes work well- some lift trucks have the brakes buried in the front axle and will cost major bucks to replace. A 7000 pound fork truck with bad brakes has an accident in its immediate future.
                Look for fluid leaks- lift cylinders and hydraulic pumps can be major bucks.
                Make sure the steering is tight- loose tie rods and ball joints are major bucks.
                The gas train should have zero leaks.
                Side shift is overrated- one of our trucks has it and no one uses it.
                Get pneumatic tires and then have them foam filled. Your checkbook will thank you.
                We have a 1973 Clark that is our go-to truck- it will lift anything you can the forks under and it's as reliable as sin.
                We also have a late model Toyota that is super maneuverable and has self-stabilizing, which is great for high lifts. It's also very reliable.
                Service parts are surprisingly inexpensive, but the labor won't be (or if you DIY it, the downtime can be an issue). One of our techs is a former lift truck guy so we can handle service in-house.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by CarlByrns View Post
                  Make sure the brakes work well- some lift trucks have the brakes buried in the front axle and will cost major bucks to replace. A 7000 pound fork truck with bad brakes has an accident in its immediate future.
                  Look for fluid leaks- lift cylinders and hydraulic pumps can be major bucks.
                  Make sure the steering is tight- loose tie rods and ball joints are major bucks.
                  The gas train should have zero leaks.
                  Side shift is overrated- one of our trucks has it and no one uses it.
                  Get pneumatic tires and then have them foam filled. Your checkbook will thank you.
                  We have a 1973 Clark that is our go-to truck- it will lift anything you can the forks under and it's as reliable as sin.
                  We also have a late model Toyota that is super maneuverable and has self-stabilizing, which is great for high lifts. It's also very reliable.
                  Service parts are surprisingly inexpensive, but the labor won't be (or if you DIY it, the downtime can be an issue). One of our techs is a former lift truck guy so we can handle service in-house.
                  Almost every shop I've worked in always seemed to have an old forklift with no brakes. I didn't think they even came with them. Can't wait to get an old forklift here. I made forks for the 3 point of my tractor, and alternatively lift stuff with the loader. It's just not the same, and gets pretty shady at times.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Dan Dubeau View Post
                    Almost every shop I've worked in always seemed to have an old forklift with no brakes. I didn't think they even came with them. Can't wait to get an old forklift here. I made forks for the 3 point of my tractor, and alternatively lift stuff with the loader. It's just not the same, and gets pretty shady at times.
                    You can get away with iffy brakes on a level floor, but outdoors is a whole nother smoke. I lost brakes on a big electric and hit a dumpster hard enough push it off the parking lot and into the weeds. Made a pretty big bang and stove in the dumpster.

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                    • #11
                      I have a nice Cat 5500# LP which is about perfect. Came from a papermill so it as well maintained & had the drivers name stencilled on it, Karen Sue. Buy one that was PMed on a regular basis. Has 2 extra hyd valves & hoses capped off. Paid $800 sold the steel tank for $100 bought 6 alum for $10. If you get a leaker or anytime you buy a used tank rebuild the valve $10-$20.
                      I have a good electric 6500# cap with a good 4000# 36v battery, 3 stage mast, was going to do solar but payback is too long. Paid $800+ $300 to get it home. Just sold a great '50 model 3000# Clark for $800 ran great no ROPS, no leaks ran on gas but I got where I couldn't use a clutch anymore. I bought it just to load the 32 machine buy as it had good air tires & I could haul it on my truck.
                      Had a 9000# cap Nisson from a boat yard 12' forks 25' lift, nice outside but the Cat beats them all. It's not that old style with the hose reel on the side of the mast & it has the twin cyl see thru mast & was well maintained. Selling the Electric for $1800 with new tires, 3 stage, great battery that been replaced not long ago & the charger, 6500# cap. As in lathes & mills don't buy one with a paint job overhaul. That should give you some ideas.

                      Don't buy one that needs work as they suck to work on. When I was young I was a lift truck mechanic & hated it. Find a closing business where a nice LP 5000# cap is a liability & buy fork extensions & 2 alum tanks.
                      I wouldn't own one without brakes but was taught just like in a taildragger if you use brakes you failed the landing LOL!
                      Last edited by flylo; 12-15-2017, 10:32 PM.

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                      • #12
                        Have you explored renting a Forklift? If only needed occasionally it might be cheaper and not end up as "Lawn Art".

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                        • #13
                          If you ever own one you'll never be without one & I've always had good ones but at a price & could scrap & recover my cost. But I don't rent anything & only hire labor for things I can't do anymore.

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                          • #14
                            I've been looking for a low budget 5000 lb LP pneumatic tire forklift for about a year now and these are the things I look for.

                            1. The first thing I do is look the thing over checking for leaks, cracked welds, broken handles, switches, missing lights, condition of tires, condition of hydraulic hoses etc
                            2. Then check the oil, hydraulic fluid and coolant.
                            3. Then I see how it runs. If it's duel fuel I check how it runs on both fuel sources and I also check the operating hours.
                            4. Then I check the hydraulics with a load if possible. I run through all the hydraulic functions paying attention to the mast guides and rollers and how smooth the hydraulics are.
                            5. Finally I check how it drives, how the steering feels (loose, tight etc). Is it smooth starting in the forward direction and reverse direction how fast does it go? How are the brakes, does the parking brake work? Do all the lights work and does the backup horn work?

                            These are some of the main things I have been looking at while shopping.

                            The last forklift I looked at was a 2001 JJCC China import duel fuel LP & gas 4800 lb lift capacity with 2300 hrs. that had the following problems.
                            Broken weld at the base of the cage, badly worn steering tires, shift lever broken, light switch lever broken so the lights didn't work, very hard starting, ran on gas but not on LP, seat was so tore up it needed to be replaced. Now the good..........smooth transmission, no leaks, very smooth hydraulics. Once the engine warmed up it ran quite well. Asking price $3000, didn't buy it.

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                            • #15
                              Our 8000lbs forklift without which it would be very difficult to operate our museum!

                              Ford I-6 (188 cid?) engine and hydro trans..



                              The age of the engine indicates it may have been made in the 1970's and the Lees company ceased manufacturing in 1987.
                              Last edited by The Artful Bodger; 12-16-2017, 02:27 AM.

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