What Causes Forklift Problems - Feature Image

Forklift Steering Problems: The Causes

Forklift steering problems are one of the most problematic issues forklift owners have faced to date. It’s one of the things that many forklift operators and drivers take for granted. They never know how important the steering wheel is until the problem or accident happens. 

Unfortunately, when it comes to steering wheel problems, there aren’t a lot of warning signs before they become a serious issue. For a lot of forklift operators and drivers, they didn’t know there was already an existing steering wheel problem until an accident happened. It can be a huge problem here for obvious reasons since many steering wheel problems often go undetected before the accident happens. 

However, there are some tell-tale signs that you can look out for before your forklift’s steering wheel goes bust. 

Common Causes of Forklift Steering Problems 

Common Causes of Forklift Steering Problems
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Similar to cars, problems with the forklift steering wheel can be caused by anything from the tires to the electronics. Of all the steering wheel issues there are, here are some of the most common culprits. 

Steering Pressure Valves 

Older forklifts usually have this problem. They have a distinct steering pump that regulates steering entirely on its own. However, most forklifts present day have steering pressure that operates from the hydraulic system. The same system uses a secondary valve to regulate steering pressure. 

These kinds of valves can often be the cause of steering issues if they are loose, out of position, or just worn over time. Replacing these valves will usually require the aid of a certified mechanic or qualified maintenance team. 

Worn Gears

If you are not getting a lot of response with turning the steering wheel and having to turn it almost entirely to get a small fraction of a turn from the tires, then it’s definitely time to get it repaired. The cause may be worn gears that have contributed to the forklift steering wheel problem. In older forklifts or the ones that have put in a lot of hours of work, worn gears are common problems. It can ruin the forklift steering wheels. 

Low Steering Fluid Levels 

At times, the most obvious answer is the right one. Lack of steering fluid in your forklift can cause excess friction. That can result in heat that wears down parts of the steering mechanism. Make sure that you regularly monitor and replenish all fluid levels in your forklift vehicles. 

Misaligned Tires 

Depending on your forklift’s make and model as well as the work you are doing, the tires on your forklift may have become misaligned. Misaligned tires are usually caused by malfunctioning steering cylinders that may need to be repacked or replaced entirely. At times, worn linkage, as well as a leaking diverter valve inside the steering assembly, can cause a single wheel to drift over time. This is how and where it leads to misalignment. 

Troubleshooting Forklift Steering Problems 

Troubleshooting Forklift Steering Problems
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Having said all of that, we have come up with a shortlist of forklift steering wheel problems as indicators. See if you have any of those issues with your forklift steering wheels. 

Too much force is needed to turn the steering wheel 

  • Priority valve release pressure oil and a low setting
  • The pump pressure is low, which indicates a worn pump
  • The steering column is not properly aligned with the steering gear
  • The priority valve spool is held in one position
  • The steering gear requires lubricant 

Steering wheel does not return to its center position 

  • The steering column is not properly aligned
  • The valve spool in the steering gear has had a restriction 

Pump makes noise and the steering cylinder rod does not move smoothly 

  • There is air in the steering hydraulic circuit
  • The pump has too much wear (old or overused pump)
  • Wobbly connection of the oil line on the inlet side of the pump
  • The viscosity of the hydraulic oil is not right
  • The oil level in its supply tank is low 

The forklift does not turn when the steering wheel is slowly turned 

  • The oil level in its supply tank is low
  • The steering system has air in it
  • The pump is not operating properly
  • There could be dirt in the steering system
  • The steering gear is not operating properly
  • The steering cylinder components are worn 


The bottom line is that the forklift steering wheel problems can be caused by quite a number of issues. There are indicators that tell you what the contributing factor is. As long as you manage to find out what the problem is when troubleshooting is, then that’ll be great.


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