Wet Disc Brakes

The merits of wet disc brakes in forklifts are often debated. Generally, if the forklift is larger, then the reason for adding the wet disc brake option is more logical.  However, this reasoning is often based on misconceptions.  Below is a brief outline of some of the pros and cons of having wet disc brakes on your new forklift:


  • There is likely to be a price premium for wet disc brakes on your new forklift.  For example, the option may add $8,000 – $9,000 on an 8-tonne unit.


  • Generally, your wet disc brakes give superior performance. Although, this mainly relates to the durability of the mechanism.  Your operator is unlikely to notice any operational difference in comparison to drum brakes.
  • Your ordinary brakes are easier to inspect visually, thereby providing a clearer indication of wear.
  • Both wet and drum brakes may last for up to 20,000 hours or greater with due care and servicing.


  • At intervals of 500-1,000 hours, wet disc brakes can perform typically, preventative servicing. Although this will only involve an oil change. We can serve an ordinary set of drum brakes, particularly on a larger forklift, every 1,500 hours.
  • Where oil changes do not occur regularly, the wet disc mechanism will wear out, and significant mechanical & financial risks may result.
  • A full service should be performed on wet disc brakes every 8,000-15,000 hours, subject to the make and application (although a precise interval may not be provided in the service manual).
  • The application, and in particular travel speeds, will affect the oil temperatures in wet disc brakes.  This may lead to cooling problems and may affect performance.
  • Fast travel speeds may also affect oil distribution. It may lead to more frequent servicing due to heat degradation and possible contamination from friction material or damaged seals.
  • Servicing becomes more expensive on wet disc brakes due to the complexity of the assembly, and more moving parts (this can be up to 1-3 days of labour or $20,000 for larger forklifts).  To control these potential service costs on your wet disc brakes, be sure to use oil coolers, and manufacturer-specified oil.
  • Driver training can also protect you against excess costs (e.g. the resting of a foot on the inching pedal will wear discs).


You may have to pay a premium for your wet disc brakes, but they will last longer and will require servicing less regularly (except for oil changes).  However, these services will cost significantly more than for standard dry brakes.  Be sure to speak to your qualified forklift mechanic to discuss how you can ensure that you get the most out of your wet disc brakes, and minimise the operating costs.

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