1. Sufficiently train staff on proper operational procedures. Boe says everyone who operates liftgates must understand and strictly adhere to the manufacturer’s suggested usage for liftgates. “Most major products on the market have undergone stringent testing and are generally capable of completing thousands of cycles without fail. Following suggested usage maximizes the longevity and efficiency of any liftgate. The majority of problems occur when operators are not using the machinery in the way that it is intended.”
2. Get acquainted with the product’s parts. Reputable liftgate manufacturers offer easy access, often through websites and/or downloadable PDFs, to complete parts posters and lists of all available products. Although it isn’t necessary to memorize the placement of every nut and bolt, he says a general understanding of how a fleet’s equipment is constructed makes it possible to identify wear and assess potential problems through simple, routine inspections.
Examples of wear items are chains, cables, bearings, sliding pads, etc.
3. Maintain oil levels in hydraulic pumps. The most important part of any hydraulic system is the hydraulic pump, and by extension, the hydraulic fluid which is transferred through that pump, explains Boe. “Hydraulic fluid in a hydraulic system is responsible for transference of power, arguably the most critical aspect of a hydraulic liftgate.”
By maintaining the proper fluid level in the hydraulic reservoir, consistent function of the machine is ensured, he says. Consult the owner’s manual of the particular liftgate for the recommended hydraulic fluid type and grade, and the recommended inspection cycles. When appropriate, check the fluid level of each liftgate in the fleet.
4. Lubricate designated points as directed. Much like a bicycle chain, any hydraulic liftgate consists of parts which require cleaning and lubrication on a recommended schedule. Proper lubrication minimizes minor issues with liftgate operations, as well as ensures safety for the operator.
“Be sure to clean the designated piece, as well as surrounding areas, before applying the approved lubricants,” says Boe. “Although recommended schedules should be adhered to, for liftgates which are exposed to severe weather on a continual basis, it would be wise to inspect them more often.”
5. Minimize rust. Rust is an unavoidable reality with hydraulic liftgates. Not only does rust on a liftgate have the potential to degrade the overall appearance of a liftgate, it could, over time, create problems in its function.
Regional differences will result in varying severity of rust issues, but rust damage should be taken seriously, Boe says. “The easiest way to fight rust is to keep the liftgate clean. Be sure to wash off road salt and grime, and rinse any chemical spillage off immediately.
“An owner’s manual for the specific product being used is an invaluable reference. If one isn’t on file, contact the manufacturer and request one.”
Jeff Peterson of SAF-Holland, Muskegon, MI, a company that specializes in coupling, lifting and suspension systems for trucks, buses, tractors and trailers, offers the following recommendations on liftgate maintenance:
1. The loading platform should be lowered to the ground, or must be properly supported when in the raised position. “While working on a liftgate, it is always best to have the lifting platform in its full open position and resting on the ground,” he says. “This practice will prevent the possibility of any unintentional lowering of the platform which could put the service personnel in a dangerous situation.”
When it is not possible to have the liftgate platform on the ground, the liftgate platform and mechanism should be adequately secured in the stored position using chains, overhead lifting devices or some other means to assure the safety of the service personnel, he advises. “Never rely exclusively on the storage latches or hydraulic systems to secure the lifting mechanism during repair or routine maintenance. In addition, never work under the liftgate platform while it is in the raised position.”
2. Service technicians need to be aware of platform and lift-arm pinch points. Many liftgate designs have multiple arms that are in motion during the liftgate platform’s raising/lowering/opening/closing operations, notes Peterson. “Service technicians should familiarize themselves with the operation of the liftgate prior to maintenance and repair to avoid injury from potential pinch points on and around the liftgate.”