Why Won’t My Forklift Start

If your forklift won’t start there might be an easy solution to get it going again. Here are some troubleshooting tips for either getting your forklift started or getting closer to figuring out why it won’t start

Internal Combustion Engine Forklifts Troubleshooting

Issues With the Starter Battery

Signs your battery has gone bad:

  • No power when you turn the key
  • Machine tries to start but doesn’t
  • Starting power dissipates after a few tries

You can confirm if your battery’s power is too low by testing it with a multimeter.  Set your multimeter to DC volts and place the positive and negative probes on the positive and negative terminals on the battery. If you have a 12 volt battery the resting voltage should be around 14 volts.  If the result is 12 volts or less the battery probably needs to be replaced.

You can temporarily start the forklift without replacing the battery by jumping it with a battery and jumper cables, or with a jump box.

Troubleshooting issues with the LP tank

  • Is the LP tank connected?
  • Is the LP hose connection fully tightened on the tank?
  • Is the tank open?
  • Does the tank have fuel in it?

Once you are sure the forklift can accept fuel but it still won't start here are some other possibilities.

  • Check the LP regulator to see if it is frosted over - if it is that means LP fuel is getting stuck inside and not making it to the engine
  • Also listen, look, and smell for LP leaks.  There may be a hose or fitting where the LP is leaking

Other Common Issues

  • Starter has gone bad
  • Alternator has gone bad
  • A fuse has blown
  • Key switch is disconnected
Electric Forklift Troubleshooting
  • Is the battery connected?
  • Does the battery have sufficient charge
    • Use a multimeter on the main positive and negative terminals to check the voltage.  You want the voltage to be at least what the forklift is supposed to run on.
  • Is the emergency shutoff engaged?
    • Look for a red button within reach of your right hand - if it's pressed down it's probably engaged and the forklift won't start. Pull it out to disengage.
Safety and Start Sequence Issues

Some forklifts are equipped with special safety features and start sequences to prevent unsafe operation and operation by unauthorized users.  

  • Does the seatbelt need to be connected?
  • Does the seat require the operator to be sitting in it? 
    • Is the operator presence detection sensor connected and working?
  • Is the park brake engaged?
  • Requires password, special start sequence, or a key fob
    • Some forklifts will have a special start sequence such as:
      • the horn must be sounded before the forklift will turn on
      • there is a button that must be pressed while the key is turned
      • the brake must be depressed and then the key can be turned
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