Can You Straighten a Bent Forklift Fork

February 07, 2023 - Last modified: January 17, 2023 @ 10:27 am

The front tines on a forklift are where the rubber meets the road in any warehouse or loading dock. These steel forks carry impressively heavy loads. They must be straight, structurally sound, and reliable. If you have a bent forklift fork, you can no longer depend on it to lift its rated weight.

Can You Fix a Bent Forklift Fork Yourself?

The short answer is no. Repairing or straightening a bent tine on your forklift will not restore it to safe working order, even if it looks as good as new when you're done. Welding a damaged fork is dangerous too. Welds on a cracked fork are unreliable.

You may have heard that you can heat the steel and straighten it out. Doing this will straighten the fork, but it will not be as strong. There are countless online videos showing how to "fix" a bent or cracked fork, some of which have fine-looking results. But appearances can be deceiving. How a fork looks and how it functions are two different things.

Heat Compromises the Strength of Steel

Once you've bent and tried to straighten steel with heat, the metal has lost some of its strength. It will never be as strong as it was before, and you will never again know just what kind of lifting capacity it still has. You should replace bent forks, not repair them.

OSHA Does Not Allow You To Repair a Bent Forklift Fork

Bear in mind that repairing a cracked or bent fork yourself is also a violation of OSHA's forklift safety regulations. If you want to have damaged forks repaired, you must send them back to the manufacturer for the work in order to be safe to use on the job site.

Generally, it is much faster and costs the same to simply replace damaged forks. If they are severely bent or broken, you might need to consider replacing the forklift itself. It can be expensive to restore a damaged lift truck to a safe working condition if it has suffered major damage.

How Much Damage Can Forks Have Before They Need Replacing?

Forklifts are workhorses, and they often have little or no paint left on the forks after a few years of use. Small scratches and even tiny nicks are common, too, but regular wear-and-tear becomes dangerous when a cracked or bent forklift fork can no longer reliably perform the lifting they are rated for.

Your forks should form a 90-degree angle. If that angle widens to 93 degrees or more, meaning that the front tip of either fork is lower than the heel by more than a couple of degrees, your forks are bent and need replacing.

Remember too that forks can be twisted, pulled sideways, or bent anywhere along the tine in any direction. It may be hard to see a bent fork with a casual inspection. If the forks look a little off, check the angle. You don't want a load to come off the tines unexpectedly.

If you have had an accident with the lift truck or if you are considering purchasing a used forklift, examine the tines carefully and from every angle. Damage to the tines can be dangerous on its own, but it may also mean that there is potential impairment of the forklift that you can't see.

When you detect a bent forklift fork, address the problem. Don't ever lift a load with forks that are questionable or damaged.

How Can You Prevent a Bent Forklift Fork?

First, never lift loads heavier than the rating of the vehicle. Even if the lift truck can pick up the load, it doesn't mean that it can move the weight without damage to the vehicle.

Be alert whenever operating a forklift. Pay attention to the limits of space around you, including tight areas for backing up or turning the vehicle. Know where your forks are, how high they are off the floor and how far apart they are set.

Slow down when using your forklift. Most accidents occur when the operator is in a hurry. Haste and distraction can wreak havoc in the warehouse.

Never use just one tine for lifting. The forks should work together. It's easy to end up with a bent forklift fork if you use them independently, even with a smaller or lighter load. Never use forks for anything other than lifting, such as pushing items aside.

Take care of your forklift. Examine it regularly for wear and damage, and keep up with repairs and regular maintenance.

What Should You Do If You Have a Bent Fork?

You have three options if you bend a fork:

  • Send the forks back to the manufacturer for repair
  • Purchase new forks
  • Replace the forklift

Waiting for a repair can slow down your business. If you have a fleet of forklifts, you may be able to take one out of service while the manufacturer fixes the fork. Often, it's faster to replace the bent forks.

When Should You Replace a Vehicle With a Bent Forklift Fork?

If the forklift has been in an accident or is getting near the end of its service life, the most cost-effective approach may be to replace the vehicle. There is little point in putting new forks on a lift truck that has major damage or is near retirement.

If you're considering replacing your forklift, check out these useful guides. They can help you determine whether new or used is the better option for your situation and give you comparisons between brands and features. Learn the pros and cons of various fuel types and wheel configurations, as well as how to weigh the cost against service life.

No one wants to experience a bent forklift fork, but it can happen in an accident or through time and heavy use. If your forks do get damaged, you may find yourself considering a replacement forklift. Forklift Inventory makes finding new and used forklifts simple. Find the right vehicle at the right price.

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