Forklifts use hydraulic pressure to raise the mast up using lift cylinders. These cylinders lift the inner mast rail, but the mast chains are what actually lift the carriage and forks. Like any part, mast chains wear out.

They should be regularly inspected and part of your planned maintenance program. Barclay Brand Ferdon in South Plainfield, New Jersey, can help with planned and full maintenance programs, parts and service for all forklift brands.

Mast Chain Wear

Chains are what hold your load in the air. Carrying the bulk of the load weight can take its toll and eventually causes wear. When the majority of your lifting is done on even surfaces and in single-shift operations, forklift mast chains may last three to five years. However, outside forces can cause chains to wear out sooner.

Chain Inspection

Inspecting chains is a part of OSHA’s forklift pre-operation inspection, but some damage is easily missed. Forklift chains should be addressed daily in detail. When inspecting chains, look for signs of obvious damage and other warning signs your chains could fail like:

  • Rust or corrosion.
  • Broken links caused by dropping loads or working on uneven surfaces.
  • Turned or protruding pins caused by lack of lubrication.
  • Elongation over three percent, as measured with a chain gauge.
  • Plate cracking or enlarged holes in the plates caused by corrosion, stress, environmental conditions, too heavy a load or various other reasons.
  • Misalignment, which may manifest in enlarged holes on the outside plates or the heads of the pins holding the chain plates together being worn down.

Chain Replacements

  • If you notice a slack or broken chain while performing an inspection or operating the forklift, tag the forklift out of service until the chain is replaced.
  • NEVER attempt to repair forklift chains, they should always be replaced!
  • NEVER cut out worn sections of chain and splice in new pieces!
  • ALWAYS have trained forklift mechanics work on your forklift, instead of harming yourself or your equipment by attempting repairs yourself.
  • Both chains must be replaced if it's a matched set.

Inspecting chains should always be part of your daily inspection, but we also recommend a professional assessment annually. If you’re ever in doubt about your chains or any part of your forklift, call our trained service technicians for assistance. Contact us at 908-223-8580 to learn more about inspecting and replacing your forklift chains or request your free chain gauge.


Barclay Brand Ferdon
2401 S Clinton Avenue
South Plainfield, NJ 07080
(908) 561-2100