How To Inspect Your Forklift Forks

Your forklift forks are some of the most important components of your forklift. If they’re not in good working order, you won’t be able to do much with your truck. Here are a few things you should know about inspecting your forks and repairing or replacing them as needed.

Forklift Fork Vocabulary

Before learning how to inspect the forks on your forklift, it’s a good idea to know basic equipment vocabulary. Here are the different parts of your truck’s fork:

  • Heel: The portion of the fork that connects the blade to the shank
  • Shank: The vertical portion of the fork that houses the supporting hooks
  • Blade: The horizontal portion of the fork that supports any load you place on it
  • Hooks: The lugs on the shank that hold the fork to the carriage (may also be called hangers or clips)
  • Tube: The part of the forklift used to mount the forks onto carriages
  • Tip: The free end of the blade (the part that you insert underneath or into a load)
  • Positioning Lock: A device that is usually located on the hook at the top of the shank (may also be called a locking pin or pin assembly)

The more you understand about these parts of your forklift forks, the easier it is to inspect them for problems.

What Different Styles of Forklift Forks Exist

A forklift fork is designed to be simple and straightforward. However, there are different lift truck styles available. To help you choose the right type of fork for your business, here is an overview of the different styles available:

  • ITA Style Forks: These come in different classes based on their carriage height (ranging from 16”-29”) and weight capacity (ranging from 1500 lbs.-18,000 lbs. and up).
  • Pin Mount of Shaft Mount Style Forks: These forks mount on a pole that is the width of the carriage. These are typically mounted on larger or older forklifts. They usually need to be custom-built to fit the particular machine to which they will be attached.
  • Specialty Forklift Forks: These include bolt-on, offset, block handling, tire handling, drum handling, coil handling and corrugated handling forks. They are custom-designed to best meet very specific needs.

Some employers may also wish to use fork extensions, which can temporarily add length to your current forks.

Fork Taper Styles

In addition to the main fork styles, there are also different taper styles:

  • Standard: This is the most popular type of fork taper and works well for picking up most skids and pallets. It has a 2/8” tip and the taper is 16” to 24” from tip to end.
  • Full Taper: In this style, the taper begins at the fork’s heel and extends all the way to a 3/8” tip.
  • Fully Tapered With Top Level: This is the same as above but beveled on the top.
  • Fully Tapered With Bottom Bevel: This is the same as the full taper but with a bottom bevel at the tip.

Become familiar with these tip taper styles to choose the right one for your needs.

Why You Need To Keep Your Forks in Good Working Order

If there is anything wrong with your forks and you continue using your forklift anyway, you put yourself at an increased risk of injury. Additionally, if you do not meet the requirements for inspecting and repairing forks as needed, you could run into trouble with OSHA. Employers have a responsibility to make sure forklift forks are regularly and properly inspected. In some instances, failure to do so could qualify as a recognized OSHA hazard and may be subject to enforcement and fines.

How To Inspect Your Forklift Forks

Follow these steps to inspect your forklift forks properly:

  1. Check the entire length of the fork for surface cracks (welds and the heel area are most commonly affected by cracks).
  2. Check the angle of the shank and blade. If they exceed 93 degrees, it’s time to replace the fork.
  3. Inspect the positioning lock to make sure it works properly.
  4. Check the height of the fork tip. The two blades should be roughly the same height. If there is a difference of 1.4 inches or more, the forks must be replaced.
  5. Use calipers to check for wear on the fork hooks. You should also check for straightness at this time.
  6. Inspect the blade and shank to ensure they are not bent.

If you have any questions about whether your forklift forks are safe for operation, hire a professional inspector to check them out. It is better to spend the money to hire a professional to inspect your forks regularly than it is to end up injuring employees or damaging your forklift or inventory because you didn’t recognize signs that your forks needed replacement.

When To Replace Forklift Forks

In addition to the above, one of the best indicators of when to replace your forklift forks is how worn out they are. When you inspect your forks, check to make sure they are not too thin. With a fork arm wear caliper you can make sure your forks still are in a condition to carry the load for which they’re rated.

Once the thickness of the forks reaches 90% of the original width, it’s time to replace them. If you can’t remember how thick your fork was originally, simply use the fork arm wear caliper to check the thickness of the shank portion of the fork. The shank portion is rarely worn down, so it’s most likely to remain at its original thickness. Compare the thickness of the fork’s blade heel to the shank to see how much wear your fork has sustained.

Get a Machine With Forklift Forks That Are in Good Condition

When you invest in a new or used forklift, you have every right to expect it to be in good working condition and to have forklift forks that work well. If you’re ready to invest in a new or used lift truck for your business needs, buy from Forklift Inventory. For help deciding what type of forklift is the best fit for your situation, check out our forklift buying guide.

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