how to fix a pallet jack not lifting

How to Fix a Pallet Jack Not Lifting

Sawyer McGuire

Sawyer McGuire

Marketing Coordinator at Hy-Tek Material Handling

Manual pallet jacks are not the most complex tools.

They have a hydraulic pump, a spring, forks, some wheels and a handle, that’s about it. 

So when a pallet jack is not lifting, there’s only a few areas that you need to check. 

To learn how to fix a pallet jack not lifting, see Method 1 to get started.

Method 1: Try Removing Trapped Air by Pumping the Handle

The most common issue that prevents your forks from lifting is trapped air in the hydraulic system. 

A simple fix before you take anything apart is to try and remove the air by pumping the handle. 

Make sure no weight is on the forks. You will want to pump the handle 15-20 times. 

This will bleed air out of the pump and the hydraulic system will now be filled with fluid only. 

In most cases this easy fix works, however if it doesn’t or if the problem returns we will need to take some pieces apart. 

Method 2: Replace the O-Ring to Restore the Hydraulic Fluid Pressure

Step 1: Prop Up the Pallet Jack

Place on jack stands or place an object (such as a block of wood) under the axle to prop up the drive wheels off the ground.

This allows for easy access to the o-ring.

manual pallet jack drive wheel

Step 2: Drain the Hydraulic System

Drain all the fluid by loosening the screw that holds the cover over the reservoir with an Allen wrench.

Make sure you pump the handle so that you are pressing all of the fluid out of the machine.

Once the fluid is completely drained tighten the screw back on. 

Step 3: Remove the Lower Lever

A pin holds the lower lever in place. 

Use a Phillips head screwdriver and a hammer to loosen the pin. 

Hold the tip of the screwdriver over the pin grove and hit the screwdriver a few times with the hammer. 

Once loose, pull the pin out. 

Step 4: Pull the Valve Cartridge Out

Use pliers to grab the end of the valve cartridge and then pull out the old O-ring. 

Wipe down the insert where you will place the new O-ring to remove any excess fluid. 

Put the new O-ring in place and put the valve cartridge cover back overtop. 

Lock the cover in place with the pin. 

Step 5: Fill with Hydraulic Fluid

Fill the pallet jack back up with hydraulic fluid and see if it operates properly again.

If you still experience your pallet jack not lifting your best bet is to purchase a new one. 

Paying a technician to come out and look at it will cost at least $50 just in travel charges and by the time you pay for the labor and parts it will be right around the same $200-300 that you would purchase a new manual pallet jack for. 

How to Get the Right Size O-Ring

Any hardware store will do just fine for finding new O-rings.

To make sure you are getting the correct size look up and bring with you the make and model of your pallet jack. 

The last thing you want to do is take apart your pallet jack and place your new O-ring in, only to find out that it is the wrong size. 

Find the Right O-Ring and Seal Kit for your Pallet Jack Below





Manual pallet jacks weigh anywhere from 140-200 lbs. Electric pallet jacks weigh about 1,000 lbs. 

Pump the handle down and up to raise the forks. The handle is connected to the drive-wheel, this allows you to control the direction of the pallet jack. To lower the forks squeeze the lever on the handle. Read here for more details.

A standard manual pallet jack is 27 inches wide (27″ x 48″). Some pallet jacks have narrow forks and are only 21 inches wide (21″ x 48″).