The Secret to Long Operating Life

July 1, 2009
The owner of the oldest Mitsubishi lift truck in the U.S. says a strict preventive maintenance regimen kept his lift truck operating for 27 years.

The 1982 FGC25 Mitsubishi lift truck owned by Prescher Willette Seeds moves pallets just as well as it did when it was a spring chicken. Mike Hughes, plant manager for the seed production company in Delavan, Minn., says he still operates the truck regularly.

And Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America (MCFA) took notice. Prescher Willette Seeds was recently crowned winner of the lift truck manufacturer's “Keeps on Running” contest. From August to November 2008, owners and operators of Mitsubishi IC lift trucks with capacities from 2,000 to 6,500 pounds were encouraged to nominate the oldest, fully operational, lift truck in their fleets. A panel of judges from MCFA selected the winner based on age, hours in operation and overall condition.

As the grand-prize winner, Prescher Willette Seeds received a brand-new FGC25N lift truck to add to its material handling fleet.

For Hughes, the secret to long operating life is pretty simple: Take good care of the lift truck. More specifically, Hughes says adhering to a preventive maintenance (PM) regimen and monitoring operator use were two main reasons for the FGC25's long and productive life.

“The truck was serviced every 200 hours,” he says. Regular PM included an oil and filter change, lubrication and fluid-level check. Because the processes at the facility create a lot of dust, Hughes also uses compressed air to clean the air filter and prevent overheating. “We monitored the air filter more often than every 200 hours because of the dusty environment,” he says.

Hughes also swears by synthetic oil. “Our facility is in a cold climate, so our trucks are often forced to operate in below-zero temperature conditions,” he explains. “Synthetic oil makes cold starts easier and also extends the life of the lift truck.”

For Hughes' operation, 200 hours equates to about a year of use. Though the trucks don't operate as heavily as they would in a multi-shift application, they take some abuse while handling the product. “We produce seed from raw grain produced during the summer,” Hughes explains. “We clean, package and distribute it to agricultural businesses. Each pallet holds 60 paper bags of seed and weighs 3,000 pounds.”

The plant manager says it's critically important to keep to a schedule and document each maintenance procedure for every truck in the fleet. “Each of our lift trucks has its own file containing maintenance records,” he notes. “That way, we don't have to rely on memory. Also, we do our own maintenance in house. Since 1986, we've only had one service call from an outside vendor.”

Hughes also carefully monitors the way operators drive the trucks. “We tell operators to watch their speed and make sure they do not position loads too far back or travel with elevated loads. If we see someone beating on a truck, we tell that employee to slow down and take it easy,” he says.

After all, it's cheaper to maintain a lift truck than it is to replace one. “There are two ways to use a machine,” Hughes says. “You can choose to maintain it and keep it operating for a very long time, or you can abuse and neglect it. If you choose the second way, you're looking at a replacement schedule instead of a maintenance schedule.”

PM Cheat Sheet

Here are 10 preventive maintenance (PM) tasks that can extend lift truck operating life.

  1. Check service history and inspect all sealed areas of engine for oil leaks.

  2. Inspect air intake system for proper sealing.

  3. Inspect the battery, cables, electrical wires and spark plugs for wear and corrosion.

  4. Check radiator hoses, clamps and cap.

  5. Check transmission fluid for appropriate level, color and odor.

  6. Test brake pedal height and free play operation for proper adjustment.

  7. Check pump, cylinders, hoses and valves for leaks, wear and/or proper settings.

  8. Inspect forks for cracks, height and appropriate thickness.

  9. Inspect condition of valves, rubber parts and hoses.

  10. Check front and rear tire pressure. Note any cuts, chunking or shredding.

Source: Mitsubishi Caterpillar Forklift America,

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