How to Know if You Should Replace or Repair a Forklift

A forklift in need of repairs does not operate as efficiently as one that does not. The decision of whether to fix a broken lift truck or replace it is a complex one. Do not choose based on the flip of a coin. You need data about the current condition of your forklift and its repair history to make the best choice. 

Forklift management technology will help this part of your decision-making process. Use the technology to your advantage to save money and get more out of every truck in your forklift fleet. 

What to Consider When Choosing to Repair or Replace Your Forklift 

Whether you replace or repair a forklift relies on multiple factors. Data will become the key to making the best decision. Gather as much information about the lift trucks in your fleet as possible. Fleet management software and forklift monitoring systems will help collect and analyze the information. The reports generated by your forklift fleet management system will help you to compare repair versus replacement costs for each lift truck in your fleet. 

1. Work Hours of the Forklift and Workload

The age of a forklift in months or years matters less than the number of work hours it has. Like mileage for road vehicles, higher numbers of work hours relate to greater wear and aging of the forklift. Lift trucks that exceed 10,000 work hours, which equals five to seven years of daily use, have passed the average lifespan and have a higher likelihood of needing replacement. 

Continuing to repair lift trucks with high work hours may become too costly, as they will require more frequent repairs. Forklifts with fewer work hours may need repairs to restore their operation and reach a full lifespan. 

Workloads also contribute to wear on forklifts. Daily moving heavier will produce greater wear on the engine, lifting mechanism and tires. Accelerated wear will also occur when using the forklift for multiple shifts each day. 

2. Engine, Make and Model of Forklift 

The type of forklift will make a significant difference in how long it lasts and whether you should repair or replace it. For example, an electric forklift lasts longer than a model with an internal combustion engine. A manual forklift, or pallet jack, lacks an engine and complex construction, allowing it to have an even greater lifespan. 

Forklift fleet management companies recognize the importance of make and model on the reliability of their trucks. Quality brands may cost more initially but have more robust construction to last longer than budget lift trucks. Choosing used forklifts instead of new models may allow you to replace a worn lift truck with a quality brand at a better price. 

The age of the make and model makes a difference, too. Older or discontinued models will have parts that you may have difficulty locating. Repairs for these forklifts can take longer or be more expensive. Additionally, older models may have expired warranties or outdated components that do not last as long as newer models. Newer forklifts tend to have innovative designs to optimize efficiency and longevity. 

3. Environmental Conditions 

Environmental Conditions

When considering equipment longevity, the conditions where your forklift drivers use the trucks matter. Both extreme heat and extreme cold will shorten the life expectancy of a lift truck. Electric forklifts operated in cold storage warehouses may not work well as lithium-ion batteries have minimum operating temperatures of freezing. At or below this level, the batteries do not send enough electricity to operate the forklift. 

Extreme heat will also wear down engines and batteries on all types of lift trucks. Handling caustic materials puts lift trucks at risk of corrosion from spills and shortened usage lives. Factor these conditions into whether your lift truck is at the end of its life or only needs repairs to get more life from it. 

4. Safety 

Lift trucks must always be safe to operate. If it has problems that compromise its safe usage, such as outdated safety features, replacing the truck will be the better option. Continuing to operate an unsafe lift truck puts workers at risk of injury. 

Another aspect of safety to consider is the truck’s ergonomics. Older lift trucks may have uncomfortable controls or seats, leading to muscle aches and strains. Replacing these with ergonomically designed trucks can prevent a serious cause of injury, musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs). 

These injuries, such as back pain and tendonitis, occur in 1.8 million workers annually, among whom 600,000 must request time off from work. MSDs can occur from awkward or static postures that can compress nerves and cause strain. More comfortable seating and controls of new lift trucks can help protect workers from MSDs and reduce absenteeism. 

5. Costs 

What are the costs to operate the lift truck? With fleet management software, you can quickly see the costs to operate a truck based on per hour, week or year. Over time, operating costs will rise as maintenance needs increase. 

Without fleet management software, you may look at the work orders placed to repair lift truck components. If the truck requires repairs several times a year beyond expected tire replacements and oil changes, replacing it might make more financial sense as new lift trucks will not typically incur repair costs for the first year of operation. 

6. Business Needs 

How much does a forklift in need of repairs affect your business? Can your business handle the downtime of repairs? If you have an entire fleet to ensure full forklift access for all drivers, one lift truck out of commission may not impact your operations. 

However, if you need every forklift in your fleet to work daily in your facility, you need reliable trucks that minimize downtime. Adding a new forklift to your fleet or replacing a worn one with a new truck could help keep your operations moving by reducing how often you need to send out fleet vehicles for major repairs. 

When to Repair Your Forklift 

When to Repair Your Forklift

Using monitoring systems and fleet management software, you can let forklift telematics alert you when a lift truck needs repairs. These solutions reduce the excessive strain caused by continuing to use a lift truck in need of repairs and can even schedule preventative maintenance to reduce overall maintenance costs. 

Once you get alerts to a lift truck needing repairs, examine its maintenance history, work hours and cost to operate on the forklift fleet management software. You will then have the information needed to determine if you should repair or replace the forklift to get the safest operation and best value. 

1. Lift Truck Needs Minor Repairs 

How much the repairs cost you will help you decide if you should follow through with them. If your maintenance only requires minor repairs that don’t take long to make, such as changing a belt or replacing a battery, go ahead and fix the lift truck. These repairs tend to cost little compared to the total cost of the lift truck or the monthly cost you would pay to buy one. By making minor repairs and keeping up with regular maintenance, your lift truck may reach or exceed its life expectancy of 10,000 work hours or more. 

2. You Do Not Immediately Need the Equipment 

Some repairs require time to execute. The downtime should not significantly impact your facility. For example, you may need to call in a repair team or send your forklift for service, resulting in not having the lift truck for a few days. If your operations can continue without interruption without the equipment, making the repairs will suffice. 

Keeping track of downtime is also important. One or two repairs a year with the subsequent time out does not necessarily mean that you need to replace the lift truck. However, if you start to notice multiple repairs or downtime that exceeds operating hours from one lift truck, you may need to replace it instead of repair it. 

3. Forklift Remains Safe to Use 

Your drivers should never use unsafe forklifts. Safety should be a high priority when deciding to repair or replace a vehicle. For example, if your lift truck forks become bent, the vehicle currently is not safe to use. Replacing the forks can restore safe operation to the vehicle but only if doing so makes financial sense. 

4. The Forklift Does Not Have Too Many Work Hours on It 

How many work hours has the lift truck accumulated? If it has not reached its average life of 10,000 hours for internal combustion models, repairing it will help you to get more work hours from the forklift. Electric forklifts tend to last longer due to the simpler engines and fewer moving parts, though you will have to replace the batteries at least once during these lift trucks’ lives. 

If your forklift has an accident that requires repairs early in its life, repairing it makes more sense than repairing an aged, worn-out model with more than 10,000 work hours on it. 

Always consider other factors that can impact total life. For example, you may not get 10,000 work hours from a poorly maintained lift truck or one that operates in extreme heat or cold. Frequent use or regular use near capacity will also shorten the lifespan. If you have a lift truck that has factors that age it faster, reduce your threshold for repairing or replacing the unit. Lift trucks that age faster will also have other factors, such as more expensive repairs or safety problems, that will let you know when they have reached their maximum life. 

When to Buy a New Forklift 

When to Buy a New Forklift

While you may want to maximize the work hours from every lift truck in your fleet, there are instances when doing so could be too expensive or dangerous. When you notice any of the following signs, you should replace your worn forklift with a new or gently used model to restore cost-efficient, safe operation:

1. Forklift Requires Costly or Extensive Repairs 

Look at the type of repairs required by a damaged forklift. Do not forget to factor in the cost of labor and parts when evaluating repair bills. Depending on the types of repairs required, labor can contribute to a significant percentage of the work. 

If the repairs require major component replacements, such as the transmission or engine, these part replacements could drive the monthly repair costs beyond the price of monthly payments for a new lift truck. When repairs become this expensive, replacing the truck makes more sense than fixing it. 

2. Operating the Lift Truck Puts Drivers or Workers in Danger

Older forklifts may lack modern lift truck safety technology to protect drivers and pedestrians from incidents. For example, forklift monitoring systems include impact sensors to alert of collisions. Older lift trucks that lack these and other safety features can become so outdated that continuing to use them is less safe than repairing them, especially if the repairs are costly. 

Outdated safety equipment is not the only reason that lift trucks may be unsafe. Red flag incidents to get a lift truck off the floor include leaking fluids, loss of power or freezing, dropped loads or jerky operation. When a forklift shows these problems, drivers should not use it until a replacement or extensive repairs occur. However, when major safety issues arise, the equipment may have worn out too much for repairs to make financial sense.  

3. Downtime Costs Too Much 

You need forklifts to be available more often than they are out for repairs. If downtime for any of your fleet’s lift trucks exceeds the time that it is available, you need to stop pouring money into repairs and replace the unit. 

Similarly, if your business cannot afford to function well with a lift truck in repairs for a few days, you need to replace the truck for better reliability. 

4. You Need a Lift Truck to Operate Multiple Shifts 

A lift truck that you use for multiple shifts will accumulate many more work hours annually than the average. If a hard-working lift truck requires repairs, replacing may be a better option. Replacing an aging, heavy-use lift truck with a new one will cut the repairs you need for the truck. Additionally, the new truck will get more work hours than you would get after repairing the other truck. 

A better option may be getting two new or gently used forklifts to replace one heavy-use unit and alternating the trucks to reduce overall wear and extend the lives of the new lift trucks. 

Repair or Replace? We’ve Got Your Back Either Way

Whether you decide to repair or replace your forklift, trust Fairchild Equipment to help. We offer parts for more than 40 equipment lines and services with more than 90% first-time fixed rate. If you need a new forklift, you will find brands such as Bendi, Combilift, Donkey, Drexel, Landoll, Mariotti, Hyster and Yale. 

Stop by one of our Midwest locations for parts, service or replacement forklifts. Or send us a message if you have questions.

Repair or Replace? We’ve Got Your Back Either Way

2140 Hutson Rd.
Green Bay, Wisconsin 54303
(920) 494-8726