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Once again, the winter season is upon us.

For forklift operators, it is the time for efficiency and lifespan of their vehicles in this frosty season.

As temperatures drop and chilly winds grip across the nation, it is important to ensure that your forklifts are ready to face the unique challenges caused by cold weather conditions. Freezing temperature makes tires and seals brittle, thickens oil and other fluids, and impacts battery life. On top of that, sleet, snow, rain, and wind can hinder visibility. Ice and snow make the surfaces wet and slippery.

Not being equipped with the right gear and knowledge can take a toll on your forklift operations in harsh conditions such as sleet, wind, snow, and ice.

Whether your forklift is used in a super busy warehouse, a construction site, or any other industry using forklifts, winterizing forklifts is essential for safety, performance, and efficiency.

This cold-weather forklift maintenance guide will help you assess and maintain your forklifts in winter.

Let’s get started.

Looking After the Batteries:

Keep in mind that cold weather can impact the responsiveness of forklift batteries, even if they are stored in warehouses.

Here are some tips to keep your forklift batteries in top shape in winter:

  • Make sure to store your batteries indoors to prevent them from freezing and from damage.
  • Stick to a regular maintenance schedule and test your batteries frequently.
  • Always check the water level in the batteries as water is likely to evaporate quicker in winter. However, avoid overfilling and use only pure, deionized distilled water.
  • Assess the health of your batteries with a load tester and multi-meter.
  • Keep your battery terminals and cables sealed tight and clean.
  • Store the forklift in a dry and safe area when not in use.
  • If forklifts are not frequently used in winter, store the forklift and battery in a warm place to minimize moisture buildup on the equipment.
  • Keep the battery charged, even if it is unused. This is because the electrolytes inside can freeze, leading to battery damage. Keep your battery charged as soon as it hits the low point.

Know How to Manage Fuel:

If you have internal combustion forklifts, make sure to manage fuel in cold weather. The fuel tanks should be kept full to reduce condensation and the threat of fuel freezing. You can use fuel additives to keep a check on waxing and fuel gelling.

Checking the Work Environment for Potential Threats:

Winter season comes with rough conditions like sleet, ice, snow, and frost. Take some time to get familiar with the environment around you before you drive a forklift through it. Check the operating route for any potential hazards, and make sure to remove them beforehand.

For example, some salt can be sprinkled on an icy path.

Slowing Down:

Drive slowly and increase your following distance behind pedestrians and other drivers across your workplace. This becomes downright essential when it comes to turning corners, navigating bends, and driving around other things.

Maintaining a responsible speed and distance can minimize the risk of slips, skids, and tip-overs that can lead to expensive damages and injuries.

Wearing Warm and Safe Outfits:

While it may sound like common advice to wear warm clothes in winter, it may be tricky to recognize just how essential the right apparel is. For example, your big warm caps, bulky fur jackets, and cozy mittens might not be compatible with the required gear for forklift safety. Prefer the outfits that keep you warm and safer while operating the forklift. Some ideal clothing options for forklift operations include insulated gloves, winter goggles, insulated safety booths, and hard hat liners. Make sure to choose bright colors to maintain maximum visibility in foggy conditions.

Ensuring that Lights are Working Properly:

Forklift lights improve visibility in warehouses and other industrial spaces. These lights make pedestrians, vehicles, and other hazards visible to the forklift operators.

The light must work year-round, especially in winter. It gets darker earlier in the day and visibility becomes low in snowy conditions.

Upgrading your halogen lights to LED bulbs is a good idea. This is because LED lights are brighter and last longer. Best thing? Their performance is not impacted by freezing conditions.

Make sure that your forklift’s lights work properly before you start the forklift. If it gets dim or is not working properly, take no time to replace them as soon as possible.

Avoid using forklift in dark sites, no matter the lifting on a lift.

Warming Up Hydraulic Fluid:

Warm up your hydraulics when starting to operate your forklift. Hydraulic fluid doesn’t get warm if the forklift stays inactive for longer. So it must be warmed up slowly before driving the forklift around. This can make your hydraulic system ready when it comes to lifting heavy loads. Otherwise, skipping the warming up can make your vehicle prone to wear and tear and fuel consumption as well.


The winter season occurs so quickly, meaning that you may lack time to prepare for it. It may sound counterintuitive to start planning for cold weather when the environment is still warm and the sun is in full swing, but in doing so, you make sure that everything goes around smoothly and efficiently during the cold weather.

Make sure to stay updated with cold weather driving procedures and general forklift safety tips. Also, keep a winter plan ready so that you or your team can be aware of it.

Check Your Tire Pressure:

A change in weather can also impact your tire pressure. This is because any fluctuations in temperature lead to changes in air volume. When the air gets cooler, it occupies less volume. It means that the pressure in your tires will decrease.

With every 10-degree drop in temperature, your tire pressure loses 1 pound per square inch (1 PSI). 30 to 35 PSI is an ideal tire pressure for winter temperatures. However, the ideal pressure varies based on the type of vehicle and the level of temperature. Ultimately, make sure to refer to your owner’s manual for the recommended tire pressure.

Exceeding the recommended pressure limit can hinder your equipment’s performance and impact the tires.

Covering Your Forklifts:

You can consider adding a windscreen, protective canopy, or cover. However, steer clear from thin vinyl wraps as they are likely to get damaged or create hassles. Instead, you can go for hard plastic covers featuring ribs and gutters to drain away the build-up of precipitation from the operator cabin.

So these are some key tips to prepare your forklift for winter, improving the efficiency and safety of your vehicle. By following this winter forklift checklist, you can reduce downtime, repair bills, and above all employee injuries.

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