Pallet Jack Not Lifting? Here’s Why

Do you have a pallet jack that’s not lifting? Pallet jacks are material handling devices that, as the name suggests, are designed to “jack up” pallets. They feature a pair of forks and a hydraulic lifting cylinder. After sliding the forks under a pallet, you can pump the handle. Pumping the handle up and down will lift the forks. You can then roll the pallet jack and the attached pallet. If your pallet jack isn’t lifting, the problem may be attributed to the following.

Fluid Leak

A fluid leak can interfere with a pallet jack’s functionality. Manually operated pallet jacks contain hydraulic fluid. Also known as hydraulic oil, it’s the medium in which they operate. Pumping the handle will convert mechanical energy into hydraulic energy. The hydraulic fluid will become pressurized, at which point the forks will begin to lift.

A fluid leak, of course, will result in a loss of hydraulic fluid. You may be able to continue using the pallet jack for a short period. Once the hydraulic fluid levels have dropped low enough, though, you won’t be able to lift it.

Air Pocket

Even if your pallet jack doesn’t have a fluid leak, it may not lift if there’s an air pocket trapped inside of it. An air pocket is exactly what it sounds like: A bubble of air that’s stuck inside of an otherwise closed system.

Pallet jacks are closed hydraulic systems. The hydraulic lifting cylinder should only contain hydraulic fluid. Nonetheless, there are still instances in which air may find its way inside of the hydraulic lifting cylinder. Once the air enters the hydraulic cylinder, it may form an air pocket that blocks the hydraulic fluid.

If you believe there’s an air pocket in your pallet jack, try pumping the handle a few dozen times without any weight on the forks. Pumping the handle will essentially bleed the hydraulic cylinder. It will expel any trapped air so that all that remains is the hydraulic fluid.

When to Replace

The two most common reasons why pallet jackets won’t lift are fluid leaks and air pockets. You can try to fix a hydraulic fluid leak, and you can try to bleed the hydraulic cylinder. If the pallet jack still fails to lift, however, you may want to replace it. Buying a new pallet jacket is a smart investment. It will allow you to easily move pallets by leveraging pressurized fluid within a cylinder.