When materials handling equipment such as forklifts or telehandlers are operating in especially arduous or aggressive environments, any leaf chain and its component parts can be subject to a significant amount of contamination from sand, grit or harsh industrial atmospheres.
So what is the most effective method for cleaning leaf chain without detrimentally affecting safety, operational efficiency or chain life?
If cleaning is unavoidable as part of your leaf chain and forklift chain maintenance, then there are four essential points to keep in mind:
1. Clean with water only
When considering options for cleaning leaf chain, it's important to steer clear of any aggressive or caustic cleaning agents - and in particular those containing chlorine - as these will adversely affect the surface of the chain.
To minimise the possibility of any damage to the forklift chain, only pure water or steam jet equipment should be used.
The use of water however does bring with it a new set of potential challenges, as any residual moisture can make the leaf chain vulnerable to rapid and extreme deterioration.
2. Dry with compressed air
Water tends to remain longest in the leaf chain joint - the point between the contact faces of the link-plate bore and the pin surface - and its presence can lead to severe corrosion, stiffness and pitting.
Immediately after cleaning the leaf chain, any residual water will need to be removed, both from the chain surface and from inside the chain joints, using high-pressure compressed air.
The articulating links of the chain should also be moved several times during this process.
3. Re-lubricate frequently
Another after-effect of using steam jet equipment is that a forklift chain will not only have been thoroughly cleaned, it will also have been completely degreased.
Any forklift truck chain that needs to be frequently cleaned will also need to be regularly lubricated with oil to ensure the leaf chain’s optimum life.
Running a leaf chain dry, even for a relatively short amount of time, will substantially reduce its life and is considered to be the primary cause of premature leaf chain failure in forklift trucks.
When re-lubricating, firstly make sure that the chain is slack and then spray with a preservative and lubricant.
You'll need to articulate the chain several times so that the lubricant adequately penetrates the chain joint.
4. Select the right lubricant
The life of a forklift truck chain that has been adequately lubricated can be extended up to 60 times longer than that of a dry leaf chain.
Selecting the appropriate lubricant for forklift truck leaf chain can also make a significant difference.
The majority of chain lubricants have been produced for transmission or motorcycle applications. However, the loading and operations of leaf chain demand a lubricant that possesses completely different properties.
The following characteristics are vital for any form of forklift truck leaf chain lubrication:
- That it provides satisfactory corrosion protection and lubrication
- That it can penetrate through and under water
- That it remains continuously viscous after application
- That it has good adhesion properties
- That there is sufficient layer thickness and protective film able to withstand any further environmental aggression (exposure to rain/hail etc.)
If you're unsure about your options with regards to lubrication then speak to your chain manufacturer who will be able to advise on the use of special lubricants or surface finishes that will address any abnormal lubrication issues.
Soiling of leaf chains is often an unavoidable by-product of operating materials handling equipment in challenging environmental conditions.
However by following recommended practice for cleaning you can ensure that your chains remain safe, and that they operate for longer, in even the most arduous, harsh or aggressive of environments.