Pop quiz: which of the following issues are clear warning signs a forklift’s brakes need to be repaired:
- A grinding noise
- Soft or spongy brakes
- Grabby brakes
- Brake squeal
Bad forklift brakes put your workers and your company in jeopardy. That’s why OSHA requires daily forklift brake inspections.
Read on for the answer to our pop quiz above, learn the top three signs your forklift brakes need to be replaced, and how to make your forklift brakes last longer.
A quick note, this article focuses on drum and shoe brakes (the most common type of forklift brakes). Oil-cooled disc brakes, also known as “wet brakes” require less maintenance and rarely need to be repaired or replaced. Learn more about the different types of forklift brakes.
Pop Quiz Answer:
If your forklift makes a grinding sound when braking (issue #1) or if the brakes are soft or spongy (issue #2), call a forklift technician right away.
Grabby brakes or squealing brakes aren’t necessarily cause for concern, especially if these issues go away once the forklift has warmed up or when driven with a load. Be sure to mention the problem to your forklift technician during their next service call.
Top 3 Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Forklift Brakes
#1 Grinding Noise When Braking – A grinding sound indicates a worn-out brake shoe. Don’t delay, call a professional who can inspect the brakes and replace the shoe.
Over time, dust and debris can enter the forklift’s brake system and create ridges on the shoes. An easy and inexpensive way to ensure your forklift brakes last as long as possible is to have the brake dust blown out every 250 hours.
#2 Soft or Spongy Brakes – When you press down on the brake pedal, there should be firm resistance. It should feel somewhat stiff, not springy or spongy and require a bit of physical effort to push the pedal all the way to the floor. If the brakes feel weak, soft or spongy, have the brakes, brake fluid and brake lines inspected right away.
#3 The Forklift Takes a Long Time To Stop – What’s a long time?
- A forklift traveling 4 mph should be able to come to a complete stop in about 25-30 feet
- A forklift traveling 8 mph should be able to stop in 45-55 feet
- A heavier load may increase the stopping distances above by several feet
If your forklift operators report any of the issues above, don’t wait. Schedule forklift service right away. The last thing you want is an out-of-control forklift barreling through your workplace.
How Long Do Forklift Brakes Last?
Drum and shoe forklift brakes should last 5,000 - 7,000 hours if properly maintained. Replacing brakes more often? There are a few reasons this can happen.
- Dusty or dirty environments can cause the brake shoes to wear down more rapidly
- Consistently heavy loads cause the brakes to work harder and wear faster
- Certain operator behaviors such as aggressive braking, driving with the parking brakes engaged or driving two-footed can cause premature wear.
Prevent Expensive Incidents and Extend Forklift Brake Life
Forklift brake repairs can be relatively inexpensive if you catch problems early. Here are a few simple ways to extend the life of your forklift brakes and avoid expensive repairs.
- Blow out dust and debris every 250 hours
- Inspect brake shoes through the wheel hubs regularly
- Schedule in-depth brake inspections every 2,000 hours
The Lilly Company’s typical Planned Maintenance includes an operational brake check at 500 hours/90 days. An experienced forklift technician will confirm the brake pedal pad is in place and not worn, check the brake fluid level, verify the brake pedal height adjustment and ensure the parking brake is working properly. If the truck does not pass the operational checks and inspections, the technician will request approval to perform additional service.
Brake shoe inspections may be requested at any time and are included as part of the 12-month/2,000-hour upper-level Planned Maintenance service. During this service, the technician removes the wheels and inspects the brake shoes for wear.
Forklift Brake Repair in the Mid-South
Whether your forklift’s brakes are spongy, making a funny noise or something just isn't right, you can trust the experienced forklift repair professionals at The Lilly Company. Our factory-certified technicians can service any make or model of forklift, and we offer maintenance plans designed to keep your equipment running at peak efficiency (while keeping costs low).
We service all forklift makes and models and take pride in serving customers throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and eastern Arkansas. Request forklift service online or by phone 844-LILLYCO (1-844-545-5926). We’re also happy to answer any questions you may have. Give us a call, or come say hello at one of our 13 locations across the Mid-South.
Arkansas - Jonesboro
Alabama - Birmingham, Dothan, Irondale, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery
Mississippi - Belden and Richland
Tennessee - Jackson, Kingsport, Knoxville, and Memphis
How Often Do Forklifts Really Need Service?
Different Types of Forklift Brakes
When to Repair vs. Replace An Old Forklift