A broken down forklift can destroy a business’s productivity. We have identified ten common problem areas that can occur with any brand of forklift. Educating yourself on these issues will allow you to be able to prevent downtime and keep your forklift running properly.

Toyota IC Core Forklift


Forklifts use a lot of components like clamps, hoses, and o-rings in the hydraulic, drivetrain, and cooling systems.

These components experience a lot of stress that can cause leaks over time.

Prevention: Check hoses for signs of wear. A regular maintenance plan can help spot wear before leaks start.

Travel & Lift Problems

A forklift mast can fail, causing the forks to not be able to raise or lower. 

A mast can fail due to broken wires, faulty switches, battery issues, debris in fuel system, and hydraulic pump failure.

Prevention: Find and replace/fix exposed wires, properly maintain the battery, and clean the fuel system.

Failure of Accessories

Safety accessories like horns, alarms, and lights can be found on any forklift. These components are often damaged while the forklift is being operated for failure over time.

Accessories will stop working because of broken wires, dirty contacts/pins, blown light bulbs, malfunctioning assemblies, or blown fuses.

Prevention: Clean electrical contacts for the accessories and grease with dielectric grease to help reduce wear. Replace light bulbs as soon as possible.

Not Starting

It’s not uncommon for a forklift to show no signs of issues, then one day it just won’t start. In this sense, forklifts can act much like a personal vehicle.

Dead battery, compromised connection to battery, fuel system leaks/blocks, bad starter, and broken wires are the most common reasons why a forklift won’t start.

Prevention: Clean the fuel system and battery terminals.

Battery Problems

All forklifts will have a battery. Internal combustion forklifts use a battery to start the machine and an electric forklift uses a battery as their source of power.

Battery issues are likely caused by a dead or dying battery, a damaged connector, or a bad alternator.

Prevention: The first sign of a bad IC battery is that the forklift won’t start. Electric forklift batteries require regular watering and to follow a regular charging schedule. 


Running Rough

A rough-running forklift is a forklift that is sputtering, backfiring, or losing power.

The main reasons that cause a forklift to run rough are leaks from the regulator, a dirty throttle body, blocked fuel filter, weak/dead battery, broken wires, and leaking vacuum hoses.

Prevention: You should clean the throttle body, clean regulator, and replace the fuel filter.

Check Engine Light

Just like personal vehicles, forklifts will notify the operator of potential issues with an illuminated warning icon.

The issue triggering the light will vary case by case, but the most common reasons include bad sensors, bad contacts, bad switches, bad wires, and incorrect fuel/air mixture.

Prevention: These issues are hard to prevent and usually happen unexpectedly. Best practices to prevent failures are to limit excessive heat, clean debris, properly water batteries, and keep the fuel system clean.

Electrical Problems

We see that most electrical-related issues are caused by buttons and switches.

The most common causes of electrical problems are malfunctioning switches, broken wiring, loose hardware, blown fuses, and corrosion.

Prevention: Keep electrical components clean and dry. Tape exposed wires or low hanging wires.

Seats and Seat Belts

After years of use, seat belts and seats can become worn and eventually need replacement.

Prolonged use is the main cause of damage to seats and seat belts. Damage can also occur from loose hardware on belt mounts and seat rails.

Prevention: To prevent these issues operators should not carry sharp objects. Tools in pockets or secured on belts can puncture seats or fray seatbelts. Also, avoid resting objects on the seat.

Cooling Problems

Excessive heat can be very damaging to many parts of the forklift’s drivetrain. A properly functioning cooling system will help a forklift last a long time and avoid costly repairs.

The most common cooling systems problems are bad radiators, broken water pumps, bad thermostats, broken hoses, and loose hose clamps.

Prevention: The best thing that can be done is regularly clean debris and dust off the radiator and other cooling system components. Our service techs will clean out these components during planned maintenance visits.

Sign up for a Planned Maintenance package and let us handle the preventative work that has been mentioned in this post.