Forklifts run on various fuels, but the typical internal combustion forklift uses an engine similar to more traditional vehicles. In other words, your forklift's engine still requires four things to operate: fuel, a spark, oxygen, and compression. If your forklift doesn't start, the problem will ultimately trace back to one of these four components.
While numerous individual component failures can stop your forklift from starting, this article will discuss four of the most common reasons for a no-start condition on industrial forklifts.
1. Faulty Batteries
Forklifts that run on diesel, propane, or gas require a starting battery, just like a car. This battery provides the initial jolt to get the starter running, turning over the engine and allowing it to begin operating under its own power. A faulty battery will prevent the forklift from starting, even if there aren't any other issues.
A good clue that your forklift's battery may be at fault is if you can't hear the engine turning over or if it only turns over weakly. If the engine attempts to turn over, fails, and then won't try again, that's a good indication that your battery is wholly discharged and requires replacement.
2. Failed Spark
Spark plugs ignite the fuel and oxygen mixture in your forklift's combustion chambers. The spark plugs operate on precise timing, igniting the mixture at exactly the right moment in the combustion cycle. Issues with spark timing or the spark plugs can prevent the engine from turning over, stopping the forklift from starting.
Diagnosing a spark issue will usually require a qualified technician, but hearing the engine turning over while smelling fuel is a good indication. These two symptoms indicate that the fuel system is working and the battery is most likely charged.
3. Fuel System Issues
All internal combustion engines require an adequate fuel supply regardless of their fuel source. Forklifts will use different fuel systems depending on their underlying fuel types, and the components will vary slightly. For example, propane fuel systems tend to be relatively simple since they primarily depressurize fuel from a pre-pressurized propane tank.
As with spark plugs, you will likely hear the engine turn over. It may also attempt to start, stumble, and then fail.
4. Compression Problems
Compression problems are arguably the most severe issue for any internal combustion engine. If one or more cylinders on your forklift have insufficient compression, the engine may struggle to start or not start at all. Compression problems typically arise from internal damage to the engine, such as leaking valves or worn piston rings.
You'll typically need a mechanic to perform a leak-down test to check for and rule out potential compression issues. In many cases, the only way to repair these problems is to perform a teardown and rebuild the engine.
Contact a company like RDS Equipment, Inc to learn more.