How to Lubricate a Forklift Leaf Chain

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The leaf chains on a forklift are the chains located on the mast of the lift. For all-terrain forklifts, it will be the chain following the boom that allows it to extend and retract; for smaller warehouse style forklifts, the chain is located at the mast where the platform of the forks raises and lowers. Keeping leaf chains lubricated is essential to your forklift working well and safely. Even in outdoor environments, it is better to have your chain covered in dirt and oil then dry and grinding together. The process is easy, you just need to know the key points to lubricate.

Things You'll Need

  • Forklift lubrication oil
  • Oil applicator can
  • Rags
  • Lumber crayon (if needed)
  • Make sure that the engine of the forklift is off and the key out of the ignition. You do not want anyone to inadvertently start the lift while you may be out of the line of sight and working on the chain.

  • Look at the links of the chain and identify the "live surface" of each link connection; this is the most important area to be lubricated, as this is where the most movement and stress between links occur. The "live surface" is not the flatter and fuller part of the link; it is located where the two links connect and you can see the pin connecting them (that allows them to move together). Most chains also look as if they are forming a "step" to allow the pin to pass over the plates that form the link. This is your "live surface."

  • Use an oil applicator can to apply several squirts of oil to each "live surface" on each link. Work systematically (from front top to front bottom or some such order) so you do not miss a link. When you get to the links that pass over or through the lift guide: stop, turn on the forklift and move the boom or mast just enough to bring that part of the chain out of the guide (moving an already oiled part into the guide). Use a rag to clean up any oil that spills on the ground or body of the forklift.

Tips & Warnings

  • If you need to stop and move the chain so you can access links, use a lumber crayon to mark several links back from the last one oiled so you do not risk missing a link and can see where you need to stop the chain when moving the mast or boom.
  • Not enough emphasis can be placed on making sure that there is no possibility that the forklift will be started while you are lubricating the leaf chain. Forklifts are very dangerous; if your company or site provides for lock out/tag out (a method of locking equipment so no one uses it) take advantage of it when performing this maintenance on a forklift.

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