When you step on the forklift brakes of your Toyota or Hyster truck, you expect it to stop, on a dime. Otherwise, you could smash a load onto a wall or, worse, drive into a co-worker. Like those on any other motorized vehicle, forklift brakes are what stop the truck when it is in motion. There are two types of systems used in most forklifts today: the drum brake and the wet disc brake. Many of the major brands like Nissan, Yale, Mitsubishi and Komatsu offer models with drums and discs.
With the drum system, you step on the brake pedal and the force is transferred through the brake fluid to brake cylinders which push the brake shoes outwards. The shoes, in turn, press against the drums attached to the wheels causing the wheels to stop rotating. Drum brakes are simple, reliable and easy to maintain. They are less expensive to produce than disc brakes and are still preferred for smaller vehicles like motorbikes. They are also standard equipment in most forklifts with lower load-bearing capacities.
In the disc brake system, discs made of cast iron are connected to the axles or the wheels. In a Hyundai forklift, they are attached to the output shaft of the drive motor. Brake pads mounted on brake calipers are hydraulically forced against both sides of the discs. Friction causes the discs and the wheels, to which they are attached, to stop rotating. Forklift manufacturers usually install disc brakes on their heavy-duty models, often as standard equipment on trucks rated over 10,000 lbs. Trucks with disc brakes can stop in a shorter distance than those with drum brakes. They take longer to suffer brake fade and stay dry longer in wet weather.
Because friction is part of the process, forklift brakes are subjected to constant stress. It is, therefore, important to inspect them often and subject them to a regular maintenance program. When the drum brake does not offer any resistance or makes squeaking noises, it’s time to take a closer look at it. For drum systems, good maintenance means making sure that the fluid is topped up at all times and that there are no leaks in the lines. Worn out shoes and pads should be replaced. Drum brakes usually require servicing after every 1,500 hours of use.
With disc brakes, maintenance requirements are significantly less resulting in lower downtime. Disc brakes are sealed to protect them from rust and contamination, and are immersed in oil so that the parts last longer. However, brake pads and discs will wear out and have to be replaced. Brake discs should last twice as long as the brake pads. Brake discs should always be replaced in pairs for balanced braking action.
So, whether your truck uses drum brakes or disc brakes, regular check ups and periodic maintenance of forklift brakes will make sure that the truck stops and your business keeps on going.