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Forklift Brake Shoes: A Comprehensive Guide to Understanding and Maintaining Them

When it comes to the safety and efficiency of forklifts, one crucial component that often goes overlooked is the brake shoes. These small yet vital parts play a significant role in ensuring the smooth operation of forklifts and preventing accidents in the workplace. In this comprehensive guide, we will delve into the world of forklift brake shoes, exploring their function, types, maintenance, and more.

Understanding Forklift Brake Shoes

Function of Forklift Brake Shoes

Forklift brake shoes are an integral part of the braking system, responsible for bringing the forklift to a halt safely and efficiently. When the brake pedal is pressed, the brake shoes apply pressure to the brake drums, creating friction that slows down and stops the forklift. It is essential to understand that the brake shoes work in conjunction with other components, such as the brake drums, to ensure optimal braking performance.

Types of Forklift Brake Shoes

There are two primary types of forklift brake shoes: drum brake shoes and disc brake shoes. Drum brake shoes are the most commonly used type and are found in traditional forklifts. They consist of a curved metal shoe with a friction material lining attached to it. On the other hand, disc brake shoes are used in modern forklifts and feature a flat metal shoe with a friction material lining. Understanding the different types of brake shoes will help you identify which type your forklift uses and how to maintain them properly.

Maintenance of Forklift Brake Shoes

Proper maintenance of forklift brake shoes is crucial for ensuring their longevity and optimal performance. Regular inspection and cleaning of the brake shoes can help identify any signs of wear or damage early on and prevent potential accidents. It is also essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines regarding lubrication, adjustment, and replacement of brake shoes. By adhering to these maintenance practices, you can ensure the safety of your forklift operators and the smooth operation of your forklift fleet.

Signs of Brake Shoe Wear and Tear

Squealing or Grinding Noises

One of the most common signs of worn-out brake shoes is the presence of squealing or grinding noises when the brakes are applied. These noises indicate that the friction material on the brake shoes has worn down, exposing the metal shoe and causing it to make contact with the brake drum or disc. If left unaddressed, this can result in further damage to the braking system and compromised braking performance.

Reduced Braking Power

Another indicator of worn-out brake shoes is a noticeable decrease in braking power. If you notice that your forklift takes longer to come to a complete stop or requires more force on the brake pedal, it may be a sign that the brake shoes are worn and need replacement. Reduced braking power can pose a significant safety risk, especially in situations where quick and precise braking is necessary.

Uneven Brake Pad Wear

Inspecting the brake shoes for uneven wear patterns can provide valuable insights into their condition. If you notice that one side of the brake shoe has worn down more than the other, it may indicate an alignment or adjustment issue. Uneven pad wear can affect the overall braking performance and should be addressed promptly to prevent further damage to the brake shoes and other components of the braking system.

Visible Damage or Excessive Wear

Physically inspecting the brake shoes for any visible damage or excessive wear is an essential part of routine maintenance. Look for signs of cracking, chipping, or thinning of the friction material lining. If you notice any of these issues, it is crucial to replace the brake shoes immediately to prevent further deterioration and potential brake failure.

Routine Maintenance and Inspection

Inspecting Brake Shoes

Regularly inspecting the brake shoes is vital for identifying any signs of wear or damage. Start by visually examining the brake shoes for any visible issues, such as cracks or excessive wear. Check the thickness of the brake shoe lining using a caliper or a specialized brake shoe gauge. If the lining thickness is below the manufacturer’s recommended minimum, it is time to replace the brake shoes.

Cleaning Brake Shoes

Cleaning the brake shoes is an essential maintenance task that helps remove dirt, debris, and brake dust that can accumulate on the friction material surface. Start by removing the brake drum or disc to gain access to the brake shoes. Use a brake cleaner spray and a wire brush to clean the surface of the brake shoes thoroughly. Make sure to remove all the built-up residue to prevent it from affecting the braking performance.

Lubricating Brake Shoes

Proper lubrication of the brake shoes is crucial for ensuring smooth operation and preventing unnecessary wear. Apply a thin layer of high-temperature brake grease or lubricant to the contact points between the brake shoes and the brake backing plate. Be careful not to over-lubricate, as excessive grease can lead to contamination of the friction material and reduce braking efficiency.

Adjusting Brake Shoes

The proper adjustment of brake shoes is essential for maintaining optimal braking performance. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines to adjust the brake shoes to the correct clearance between the friction material and the brake drum or disc. Incorrectly adjusted brake shoes can result in uneven wear, reduced braking power, and potential damage to the braking system.

Replacing Forklift Brake Shoes

Identifying the Need for Replacement

Knowing when to replace the forklift brake shoes is crucial to ensure the safety and efficiency of the braking system. As a general rule of thumb, brake shoes should be replaced when the friction material lining is worn down to the manufacturer’s recommended minimum thickness. Additionally, if you notice any signs of visible damage, such as cracks or chipping, it is essential to replace the brake shoes promptly.

Removing Old Brake Shoes

To replace the brake shoes, start by removing the brake drum or disc to gain access to the brake shoes. Depending on the type of brake shoe, there may be retaining clips or bolts that need to be removed. Carefully detach the brake shoes from the brake backing plate, taking note of their orientation for proper installation of the new brake shoes.

Installing New Brake Shoes

Before installing the new brake shoes, thoroughly clean the brake backing plate to ensure a clean and secure fit. Attach the new brake shoes to the backing plate, making sure they are properly aligned and oriented. Secure the brake shoes in place using the appropriate retaining clips or bolts. Finally, reinstall the brake drum or disc and adjust the brake shoes to the correct clearance as per the manufacturer’s guidelines.

Tips for Extending Brake Shoe Lifespan

Proper Braking Techniques

Encourage forklift operators to use proper braking techniques to minimize wear and tear on the brake shoes. Emphasize the importance of gradually applying the brakes instead of harshly slamming them, as this can cause excessive heat and wear on the brake shoes. Additionally, instruct operators to avoid riding the brakes or using them unnecessarily, as this can lead to premature wear.

Regular Cleaning and Inspection

Regularly cleaning and inspecting the brake shoes can help identify any issues before they escalate into major problems. Encourage routine maintenance tasks such as cleaning off dirt and debris from the brake shoes and inspecting for any signs of wear or damage. By addressing these issues promptly, you can extend the lifespan of the brake shoes and prevent costly repairs.

Avoid Overloading Forklifts

Overloading a forklift puts excessive strain on the braking system, including the brake shoes. Make sure that operators are aware of the maximum load capacity of the forklift and adhere to it strictly. Overloading can lead to increased wear on the brake shoes, resulting in reduced braking performance and potential brake failure.

Regular Maintenance Schedule

Implementing a regular maintenance schedule for your forklift fleet is essential for extending the lifespan of the brake shoes. Create a maintenance checklist that includes tasks such as cleaning, inspection, lubrication, and adjustment of the brake shoes. Adhering to this schedule will ensure that the brake shoes are properly maintained and that any issues are addressed promptly.

Safety Considerations

Protective Gear

When inspecting or replacing brake shoes, it is crucial to wear the appropriate protective gear. This includes safety glasses or goggles to protect your eyes from debris, gloves to protect your hands, and possibly a dust mask if there is excessive brake dust present. Following these safety precautions will help prevent injuries and ensure a safe working environment.

Secure the Forklift

Prior to performing any maintenance tasks on the brake shoes, make sure to secure the forklift to prevent any accidental movement. Engage the parking brake, lower the forks to the ground, and turn off the engine. This will prevent the forklift from rolling or unexpectedly moving during the maintenance process, reducing the risk of accidents.

Follow Recommended Proceduresfor Inspections and Replacements

Always follow the recommended procedures provided by the forklift manufacturer when inspecting or replacing brake shoes. These procedures are designed to ensure safety and proper functionality. Familiarize yourself with the specific steps outlined in the manufacturer’s manual and follow them diligently. If you are unsure or have any questions, seek guidance from a qualified professional.

Work in a Well-Ventilated Area

When working with brake shoes, it is important to do so in a well-ventilated area. Brake dust and debris can contain hazardous particles, and inhalation of these particles can be harmful to your health. If possible, perform brake shoe maintenance in a designated area with proper ventilation or use personal protective equipment, such as a dust mask, to minimize exposure.

Common Brake Shoe Problems and Solutions

Uneven Wear

If you notice that the brake shoes are wearing unevenly, it may indicate an alignment or adjustment issue. To address this problem, start by inspecting the brake shoe springs and hardware to ensure they are in good condition. Adjust the brake shoes to the correct clearance, and if the problem persists, consult a professional for further assistance.


Brake shoe glazing occurs when the friction material becomes hardened and shiny due to excessive heat. This can lead to reduced braking power and increased brake fade. To resolve this issue, remove the brake shoes and use sandpaper or a brake shoe grinder to roughen the surface of the friction material. This will restore the gripping ability of the brake shoes.


If the brake shoes become contaminated with oil, grease, or other substances, their frictional properties can be compromised. In this case, it is important to clean the brake shoes thoroughly using a brake cleaner spray and a wire brush. Ensure that all traces of contamination are removed before reinstalling the brake shoes to restore their proper functionality.

Warped Brake Drum or Disc

A warped brake drum or disc can cause uneven wear on the brake shoes and result in reduced braking performance. If you suspect that the brake drum or disc is warped, it is recommended to have it resurfaced or replaced. Additionally, inspect the brake shoes for any signs of damage caused by the warped drum or disc, and replace them if necessary.

The Importance of Professional Assistance

Complex Brake Shoe Issues

While routine maintenance and minor repairs can be done in-house, there are instances where professional assistance is necessary. Complex brake shoe issues, such as problems with the brake shoe mechanism or extensive damage to the braking system, often require specialized knowledge and equipment to diagnose and repair. In such cases, it is advisable to seek the expertise of a certified forklift service provider.

Specialized Equipment

Some brake shoe maintenance tasks may require specialized equipment that is not readily available to the average forklift operator or maintenance personnel. For example, removing and installing certain types of brake shoes may require specific tools or machinery. Professional forklift service providers have access to the necessary equipment and expertise to handle these tasks safely and efficiently.

Manufacturer Warranty Considerations

Another aspect to consider when seeking professional assistance is the manufacturer warranty. If your forklift is still under warranty, performing major maintenance or repairs yourself may void the warranty. To ensure that the warranty remains valid and to take advantage of any warranty coverage, it is advisable to consult with a certified forklift service provider when dealing with brake shoe issues.

Frequently Asked Questions about Forklift Brake Shoes

Are brake shoes the same as brake pads?

No, brake shoes and brake pads are different components used in different types of braking systems. Brake shoes are typically used in drum brakes, while brake pads are used in disc brakes.

How often should brake shoes be replaced?

The frequency of brake shoe replacement depends on various factors, including the type of forklift, its usage, and the operating conditions. As a general guideline, brake shoes should be inspected regularly and replaced when the friction material lining is worn down to the manufacturer’s recommended minimum thickness.

Can brake shoes be repaired instead of replaced?

In some cases, brake shoes can be repaired if the damage is minor. This may involve resurfacing the brake shoe lining or replacing specific components, such as the friction material. However, it is crucial to assess the extent of the damage and consult with a professional to determine whether repair is a viable option.

Can I use aftermarket brake shoes for my forklift?

While aftermarket brake shoes are available, it is recommended to use brake shoes recommended by the forklift manufacturer. These brake shoes are specifically designed and tested to meet the performance and safety standards of your forklift model.

What should I do if I experience brake failure?

If you experience brake failure while operating a forklift, remain calm and follow proper emergency procedures. Shift to a lower gear, use the emergency brake if available, and steer clear of obstacles. Communicate the situation to others in the vicinity and seek immediate assistance from a trained professional to address the brake failure issue.


Forklift brake shoes are crucial components that play a vital role in the safe and efficient operation of forklifts. Understanding their function, signs of wear, and proper maintenance techniques is essential for every forklift operator and maintenance personnel. By following the guidelines and recommendations provided in this comprehensive guide, you can ensure that your forklift’s brake shoes are in optimal condition, promoting a safe and productive work environment. Remember, regular inspection, cleaning, lubrication, and adjustment of brake shoes, along with seeking professional assistance when needed, will help extend their lifespan and ensure reliable braking performance for your forklift fleet.

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