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How To Remove, Clean And Replace Dirty Or Worn Load Wheels On A Manual Pallet Jack

by April Carlson

Manually-operated pallet jacks are the workhorses of many warehouses, stock rooms and receiving areas, and they function with quiet reliability day in, day out. Though these simple and rugged pieces of equipment need little maintenance, the wheels that bear the brunt of the loads, known appropriately as load wheels, will occasionally need cleaning, or they will wear out and need replacing. Cleaning or replacing these wheels is a simple task, and almost anyone with basic tool skills can do the job in just a few minutes. Below is a guide to the tools and materials you will need, as well as a step-by-step guide to do the job:

What you will need

  • Ball-peen hammer

  • Pin punch set

  • Needle-nose pliers

  • Eye protection

  • Replacement load wheels, if needed

  • Bucket

  • Grease-cutting dishwashing soap

  • Brush

  • Shop towel

Step-by-step procedure

1. Work with safety in mind - Even though removing, cleaning and replacing wheels on a pallet jack is a low-risk job, the use of striking tools can pose a danger to unprotected users. Small fragments can be separated and enter your eyes when metal is struck by a punch or hammer. Always wear appropriate eye protection when using striking tools to prevent a possible injury, and ensure that any bystanders are also protected.

2. Prepare the pallet jack for maintenance - Begin by moving the pallet jack to a location with plenty of space to turn the jack over and with adequate lighting to view your work. Next, pump the jack handle until the pallet jack reaches its maximum elevation; this will enable easier access to the load wheels by extending them fully downward from the forks.

When the pallet jack is fully elevated, grasp the jack handle with your right hand and turn it to position the steering wheel at a right angle with the jack. Place your right foot on top of the nearest fork, then pull the handle toward yourself and allow the jack to "pivot" beneath your foot. Once the opposite fork is in reach of your left hand, grasp it and use it to pull the jack further toward yourself; roll the jack over carefully on the ground and move the handle out of the way to allow the jack to lay flat. You should now be able to easily access the load wheels which are facing up.

3. Remove the wheels from the forks - Looking at each end of the wheel brackets, you will notice small openings that contain retainer pins. These pins hold the axles in position but can be easily removed with a pin punch. Within your punch set, find a punch that will just fit inside the holes; hold the punch in position so its end rests on the retainer pins, then strike the top end of the punch lightly with a ball-peen hammer. This will loosen the pins, and a few more taps should drive the pins completely out of the opposite holes. Be careful not to damage the pins by striking them too hard, or you may not be able to reuse them later.

Once the pins are out of the way, select a larger punch and hold it against the ends of the axles on each wheel assembly. Strike the punch sharply with the hammer, and the axles will slip from their mounting locations. As the axles fall out, the wheels and their end washers will also fall free, so be prepared to grab them as they do.

4. Inspect and clean the wheels - Once the wheels have been removed from the forks, take a few seconds to look them over carefully for signs of damage, such as chipping, cracking or warping. If the wheels are worn or damaged, then you need to order new ones from the pallet jack manufacturer or from a parts supplier. However, wheels that are simply dirty can be effectively cleaned by soaking them in a solution of hot water and a few teaspoons of dishwashing soap. After the wheels soak for several minutes, use a firm bristled brush to scrub away stubborn dirt or deposits on the wheels. Rinse the wheels with clean water, and dry them with a shop towel.

5. Reinstall the cleaned wheels or replace with new ones - Regardless of whether you are reinstalling the same wheels, but cleaner, or if you need to replace worn or damaged wheels with new ones, the process is the same. Begin by slipping the ends of the axles into the wheel brackets, then position the wheel washers over the axles. While holding the axles and washers steady, align the wheels with the axles and slide the axles through the opening inside the wheels. Slip the opposite wheel washers on the axles, then push the axles all the way through into the other brackets. Tap the axles into position with your punch and hammer, so the ends of the axles are flush with the bracket surfaces.

Once the axles, washers and wheels are in position, reinsert the tips of the retaining pins into the holes on the wheel brackets, and hold them in place with a pair of needle-nose pliers. Tap the ends of the pins with your hammer, taking care not to bend the pins as you strike them. Finish by continuing to tap the pins until they are flush with the wheel brackets. 

For more advice, contact a material handling equipment company like Tri State Surplus Co.