How To Evaluate The Condition Of Any Used Forklift

by Scott McLeod

The Top (5) Used Lift Truck Pitfalls

Buying a used forklift, aka a used lift truck, can be overwhelming to the average business owner or manager.

Although there are many items to investigate and watch out for, here is a list of the top (5) that everyone should be aware of.

01) Inaccurate Lift Truck Hour Meter Readings

Virtually all forklifts are equipped with an hour meter to help the end user and servicing dealer keep track of daily usage. Some have (5) digits while the vast majority seem to have (4). A (4) digit hour meter will read 9999 hours and then after operating the forklift for ( 2,000 ) more hours it will read 1,999 hours because at the 10,000 hour mark, the meter will actually read 0000. At this point in time, if the forklift is traded in to the dealer and the dealer then tries to retail the forklift to one of their clients, the customer could be mislead into believing that the lift truck has only 1,999 hour in total when in fact it actually has 11,999 hours. I’m not implying that all dealers will do this intentionally, however, there is always the chance that it could happen given the nature of how hour meters operate and the fact that not everyone involved in the remarketing of a used forklift will have access to past records to be able to confirm how many hours are actually on the forklift.

In addition, some forklifts have hour meters that record different elements of lift truck usage, ie drive hours, hydraulic pump hours etc and so it is important that you understand what the reading means.

As well, if an hour meter has been unhooked or it has stopped working for some reason, the forklift could actually have far more hours than what the hour meter might suggest. This is because when the hour meter is replaced, the new meter will start off with a reading of 0000 and if there are no records to record the date and time of the meter replacement, the history will be lost forever and now it’s anyone’s guess how many hours are real. It’s very important to try and figure out the correct hours and what these hours represent before you commit to any used forklift purchase.
02) Incorrect Year-of-Manufacture

The year of manufacture should be verified before committing to a used forklift purchase. With the model number and serial numbers in hand, have the manufacturer confirm the year of manufacture. Don’t blindly accept the year of manufacture as shown on a dealer invoice or by looking at other miscellaneous records.

03) Incomplete Forklift Capacity Data Plate

Over the life of any forklift, attachments and accessories can be added or removed with or without manufacturer approval. If this happen, the capacity data plate will no longer be accurate and therefore the operator will be at risk for an accident because he or she will be under a false impression of what the forklift can safely handle. It’s very important to make sure this data plate is accurate for obvious safety and liability reasons. There are many inaccurate data plates on forklifts today so you will need to watch out for this.

04) Unauthorized Forklift Chassis Modifications

If there has been any welding, heating or drilling of the chassis that has not been authorized by the original manufacturer, you should avoid these trucks because the manufacturer will not likely stand behind them in the event there is an accident that causes injury. These activities may weaken the structural components of the forklift and cause them to fail prematurely. In addition, I have sometimes found that additional counterweight has been added, without manufacturer approval, which can contribute to an unstable forklift and unnecessary wear and tear on the forklift chassis.

05) Harsh Lift Truck Applications

Forklifts that have previously worked in fish processing, foundry or stevedoring ( to name a few ) have endured a tough life and the hour meter reading will not reflect the wear and tear on the chassis the same way that it would if the used forklift came from a lighter stockroom application, for example. Try to determine the history of the used forklift before you commit to a purchase and make sure you have a thorough mechanical assessment and safety inspection conducted by a reputable forklift servicing dealer, one that is independent of the selling dealer.

An experienced and independent forklift consultant, with extensive forklift knowledge, can help you investigate these important elements when buying a used forklift and they can help you negotiate the purchase in such a way that your risk will be minimal.

Fleetman Consulting Inc. offers this service to all of their clients.

Posted in: Used Forklifts