Common Forklift Problem Troubleshooting: All You Need to Know

Common Forklift Problem Troubleshooting: All You Need to Know


Running into problems with your forklift? From issues like a forklift that won't start to a forklift that won't lift, there are a number of forklift failures that may occur while on the job.

To help you navigate the common forklift problems and find the right solutions to your forklift problems and issues, our forklift hydraulic cylinder repair company is breaking down the tips for forklift troubleshooting so you can identify a problem and handle the common forklift repairs for a smooth-running system. Let's get into it.

Cylinders Used in the Electric Forklift Hydraulic System

Electric Forklift Hydraulic System

There are three commonly used cylinders in a forklift system - lift cylinder, tilt cylinder, and power steering cylinder. To better understand modern forklifts and the common forklift issues, here's more on the cylinder that helps them lift loads.

Lift Cylinder

The lift cylinder is a cylinder that can take the largest volume of fluid flow or gallons per minute (GPM). This single-acting hydraulic cylinder pushes in one direction only, with a control valve that directs the fluid to the cylinder and rod when it's in the lift position.

When in the lowering position, the control valve forces the fluid back through the return lines to the tank. With this, a flow control valve in the main line to the lift cylinders helps regulate the backflow so that the lowering process is smooth.

Tilt Cylinder

A tilt cylinder is a double-acting hydraulic cylinder that pushes and pulls a load. Typically, there are two tilt cylinders on the forklift that connect the left and right stationary rails of the frame to the upright assembly. With this design, a tilt cylinder provides uniform control when tilting forward or reverse, preventing it from flexing from side to side when it's in operation.

Steering Cylinder

Steering Cylinder of Forklift

A power steering cylinder is another double-acting cylinder that helps exert equal force in opposite directions. This cylinder is essential to push wheels in two directions for both left and right turns. With an electric forklift, these steering hydraulic components operate off a separate pump. For internal combustion forklifts, the power steering components operate on the same pump as other hydraulic components.

Troubleshooting Common Forklift Issues

To better anticipate and understand the common electric forklift problems, here are a few of the most common problems we run into with forklifts.

Forklift Starting Issues

Troubleshooting Common Forklift Issues

One of the most common problems you will encounter is forklift starting issues. In order to troubleshoot this issue, it's best to check that the battery is charged properly, or if there is a circuit problem in the electrical system.

Since forklifts may experience temperature fluctuations, as well as come in context with chemicals that can harm the cooling system, there is some damage that can occur and cause the system to shut down unrelated to the battery. Elements like corrosion, cracking, or chemical deterioration can impact the cooling system, causing the forklift to overheat and shut down.

If your forklift won't start, check the cooling system components to make sure they are working properly, and to avoid having a full shutdown, add inspecting the cooling system to your regular maintenance tasks.

In addition, troubleshooting issues with starting should include checking the battery.

If the problem occurs on an internal combustion forklift, follow these steps:

  • If the fluid has been in the forklift's tank for a long time, flush it out and replace it with fresh fuel;
  • If you can smell gasoline, there may be a fuel leak;
  • Check the oil levels.

No matter what you have on your daily tasks lists, it's also important to clean the radiator as needed to prevent starting problems. A radiator blockage can cause issues, and if you spot corrosion, it will need to be replaced.

Mast Problems

Forklift Mast Problems

Another common issue that will require troubleshooting is forklift mast problems. The mast is the lift mechanism and frame of a forklift, and issues with this system can cause a forklift to improperly lift and lower items.

Issues with the mast can be due to a fluid leak that affects the load lift capacity of forklifts. Low levels of hydraulic fluid won't provide enough power for the mast to lift heavy items or may impact the overall movements, causing jerky lifting or other issues that impact the smoothness of a forklift's operation.

In addition to fuel leaks and low hydraulic fluid levels, there may also be debris in the hydraulic system that has caused a clog.

To troubleshoot and properly perform a forklift mast cylinder repair, check to see if the forklift has enough oil to function. An oil leak or low oil levels can wear out the hydraulic system, limiting the mobility of a forklift. If it goes unrepaired, it can cause even larger problems. Keep in mind that an oil leak of just one drop per second will add up to 420 gallons of oil per year - causing expensive repairs. It is imperative that this issue is addressed early to isolate the problem and fix it before it leads to a very costly repair.

If you find a leak, the issue will be the cylinder of the hydraulic lift, and it will be important to replace this system. To do so, replace the defective part to ensure you improve the performance of the forklift, as well as promote the safe operation of the machine in the future.

If you do not find a leak, replace the hydraulic fluid with fresh fluid. This will help restore the proper levels of fuel to help the machine run smoothly.

Steering Issues

Steering Mechanism

Forklifts can be hard to move at times, especially in smaller places, making it all the more important to keep the steering mechanism intact to avoid steering issues that hamper your success.

It isn't easy to notice when there are issues with the steering mechanism. One of the warning signs that you are having steering issues is if strange noises occur when turning the forklift. These noises can indicate that there is an issue with the hydraulics that monitor the steering pressure, or that there is rust in the steering mechanism.

Other steering issues include:

  • Worn gears;
  • Loose or worn-out pressure valves;
  • Misaligned tires;
  • Low steering fluid levels.

To handle an issue of low steering fluid, all you have to do is add more. That being said, if the liquid looks thick or gunky, you will need to completely change the fluid. Unlike steering fluid issues, worn gears, and hydraulics require an expert forklift mechanic to fix. Considering the heavy loads and ability for forklifts to injure operators, taking this kind of repair seriously and turning to a professional is a must.


With such large machinery, handling proper forklift repair with regular maintenance to avoid serious issues is essential to maintaining a safe, secure work environment. Whether you're dealing with battery issues, broken wires, misaligned tires, worn-out gears, or steering problems, understanding these common forklift problems and addressing them with regular maintenance will help you ensure a well-running machine for years to come.

Whether you're encountering minor issues or larger complications for heavy usage, our forklift cylinder repair company is here to help. Contact us today to learn more about your forklift maintenance and repair needs.

Cylinders inc. team



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