Bad forklift tires can be a serious safety issue that creates stability issues for the forklift and its load, but forklift tire replacement is often overlooked.
Forklifts do not utilize suspension systems with springs or air-ride similar to over-the-road trucks. They use a suspension system much like a farm tractor. The front axle is solid mounted in the frame of the forklift. The rear axle is mounted on a pin in the center of the axle. This design allows the solid front axle to stay in contact with uneven surfaces as the rear axle pivots in the center. The only cushion or yield your operator has between the ground and the forklift is the rubber or air of the forklift tire.
Operators who endure the operation of a forklift with chunked, worn or flat spotted tires have increased fatigue and job stress, possibly making them angry, disagreeable and unproductive employees. If an operator is not focused on operation, there can be serious ramifications to everyone’s safety.
Loads can be compromised by the constant jarring and rocking, leading to damaged product and safety issues such as an upset forklift load falling on an employee.
Stability of a forklift can be affected by the condition of the tires and air pressure. When solid rubber tires wear excessively on one axle, it changes the tilt angle of the mast. The severe change in maximum tilt angle can create tip-over or loss of the load. Air filled forklift tires with damaged sidewalls or tread are also at risk for tip-over and damaged product if a tire suddenly blows or low air pressure creates an unstable forklift that leans when loaded.
Forklifts subjected to deficient tires increase exponentially in maintenance costs. A lack of tread initiates spinning of the tire and more turns to cover the given distance, causing increased heat, wear on the transmission and increased fuel costs. Decreased ground clearances subject the forklift to more damage to assemblies underneath. Having little to no cushion from worn forklift tires loosens hardware on the unit which can cause engines and transmissions to leak. Fork heel wear is accelerated as it becomes easier for an operator to drag the forks. Battery cycle time can be affected on electric forklifts.
Your facility can experience damage due to bad forklift tires. A lack of tread can cause operators to lose control of the forklift, hitting production machines, door frames, racks and walls. Accidents can damage dock and bridge plates, blacktop or concrete.
To ensure your company’s forklift tires are not worn, regularly inspect them for loss of tread, signs of separation from its band or damage. Cushion forklift tires should be measured to determine the height of the tire. An industry standard is replacing the forklift tire when it reaches just above the imprinted area with the brand name and size of the tire. For pneumatic forklifts, inspect the tires for cracks, splits or little tread.
If you have a question on this or any topic related to safety with your forklift, give our resident expert, Dave Bennet, a call or fill out the request form.