Forklift Chain Replacement: 6 Signs Your Mast Chain May Fail

6 Signs Your Mast Chain May Fail

There are accidents, and then there are incidents. Accidents are often the results of carelessness: a forklift operator gets too close to a rack and scrapes the paint, a nail in the yard creates a flat tire, someone forgets to charge a forklift’s battery overnight, etc. 

Incidents, on the other hand, are severe (usually preventable) problems that make your stomach sink into your shoes. A forklift mast chain failure falls squarely into the incident category.

A mast chain failure will send the forks, carriage and load crashing to the ground. The sudden weight shift can also cause the forklift to tip over and injure the operator. That’s why operators must inspect the forklift’s mast chains before every shift.

This article will cover:

  • Daily mast chain inspections
  • How long do forklift chains last?
  • Annual inspections
  • 3 ways to maximize the life of your chains

Forklift Chain Replacement: What You Need to Know

Here’s a quick refresher on mast chains: when an operator pulls the lever to lift a load, hydraulic pressure raises the lift cylinders, which raise the inner mast rails. But the chains are what actually lift the carriage, the forks and the load.

After thousands of lift/lower cycles, chain links will elongate, crack or show other signs of wear. As mentioned above, a weakened chain is a serious safety risk.

Daily Forklift Chain Inspections: 6 Things To Look For

Here are the basic things operators should look for during their pre-shift inspections:

  • Cracked or broken links — small cracks are a sign of future failure. Replace cracked or broken links immediately.
  • Turned pins — twisted or turned pins should be replaced right away (they’re also an indication the chain isn’t being maintained properly).
  • Rust — a forklift mast chain with visible rust or corrosion should be replaced right away. Rust and corrosion restrict free movement of the chain, which leads to further damage and increased risk of failure.
  • Signs of misalignment — look for enlarged holes on the outside plates and asymmetrical wear patterns on the pinheads.

Other signs the forklift chain may need to be replaced include:

  • A slapping sound when the mast is moving
  • Forks dragging on the ground

Annual Forklift Mast Chain Inspections
Have your forklift chain professionally inspected every year or 1,000 hours (in addition to daily inspections). A professional forklift technician can ensure the tension is balanced on both sides and use a forklift chain wear gauge to check for elongation.

A forklift chain with elongation of 2% or more should be replaced. It may not sound like much, but consider this: a forklift chain with 3% elongation has lost 15% of its strength.

How long do forklift chains last?

In a single-shift operation that’s relatively clean, a forklift’s leaf chains should last three to five years. Dust, chemicals and outdoor operation can shorten this life span.

3 Ways to Maximize the Life of Your Forklift Chains

  1. Clean the chains using only steam or mild degreaser, avoid harsh detergents
  2. Use compressed air to dry the chain
  3. Keep the chain lubricated, use special lubricants for cold storage if applicable (follow manufacturer recommendations)

Forklift Chain Replacement and Repair in The Mid-South

Repairing and servicing your own mast chains can be messy and dangerous. Our friendly and experienced forklift technicians can inspect, repair or replace your forklift mast chains. We service all makes and models of forklifts and serve local businesses throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and eastern Arkansas.

Contact a forklift expert at The Lilly Company online or by phone 844-LILLYCO (1-844-545-5926) with any questions you have. We also invite you to come say hello at one of our 13 locations across the Mid-South.

Arkansas - Jonesboro
Alabama - Birmingham, Dothan, Irondale, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery
Mississippi - Tupelo and Richland
Tennessee - Jackson, Kingsport, Knoxville, and Memphis

Further Reading:
How To Avoid Overspending on Forklift Service
5 Signs Your Forklift Forks Should Be Replaced
How Often Should a Forklift Be Serviced?

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