Nicholas Fluhart

November 5, 2011

Project: 1971 Clark CY20B Forklift

I promised a project post from my recent forklift purchase, so here it is. This has turned out to be one of the most handy machines I have owned. I’m not sure how I got along without a compact forklift for as long as I did, and with it being an all-terrain unit, it has been perfect for my application.



When I got this lift, it ran OK and was overall functional, but I knew it needed service so I began planning the project.When we finally got some down time, my new mechanic Jose and I pulled it up into the shop and got started….

Getting Started

The first order of business was a general tune-up and service. The engine in this Clark CY20 is a very small, 4-cylinder, gasoline Red Seal. Since I don’t have a manual on this unit, we pretty much had to go on skill. The ignition points were fried, so we replaced them along with the condenser, distributor cap, and rotor. We also installed a new set of plugs and wires, wrapping up the ignition system.

Next, we changed the fluids starting with the engine oil and then the transmission fluid. Forklifts are usually compact and difficult to work on, but fortunately the engineers at Clark had a little foresight and placed the filters in an easily accessible area (see the engine oil and transmission oil filters below). While changing the transmission fluid, we found something troubling. Metal shavings? No, not quite that bad, but still troubling: There was a large amount of water in the transmission. The fluid looked like strawberry milk. My first thought was the transmission oil cooler which is in the radiator. I was prepared to mount an external cooler if necessary, but upon further testing we determined that the water did not get in through the cooler. So how the heck did it get in there? We never fully solved the mystery but surmised that it must have been due to the machine having set out in the weather for an extended period of time before I purchased it….either that or someone ran it off into some deep water? Whatever the case, I had to flush at least five gallons of costly transmission fluid through it and change the filter twice to get the water out. I’ve run it several hours since, and no sign of water so I’m calling it resolved.

We decided to wait on hitting all the grease points until last because the next step was to put a shinny new coat of paint on her, and I didn’t want to fool with washing a bunch of grease off before painting. We pulled it outside the shop and begun stripping it down. As I point out on this page, my general goal is not to pursue a show-quality finish. The aim here is to have a good, solid finish without the unfeasible cost of completely disassembling the machine and stripping all parts to bare metal. So we went over it with cup brushes and various abrasives to remove any loose paint and most of the faded paint.

Then it was time to remove the side panels, seat, and roll cage to deal with them separately.

Once everything was adequately sanded, we began the priming process.

Next, we began the final painting process. Like most Clark forklifts, this unit was originally green. However, at some point in its life it was painted orange and white. So rather than trying to go back to the original color, which would have meant painting the entire engine compartment, transmission, and running gear that was all now orange, I opted to keep it orange. In fact, I painted it one of my favorite equipment colors: Allis-Chalmers Orange. LOL Below you’ll see Jose mixing up the paint and applying the first coat. We used a tractor/implement paint and added hardener for a durable finish.

We painted the wheels, side panels, and roll cage white, and once dry, we removed all of the masking and began reassembling the machine.

In keeping with my lighting policy (notable in several other posts) the final step was to add lights and of course decals. We fixed the strobe light on the roll cage and added front and rear work lights wired to a switch on the dash. The front lights are such that the operator can adjust them by hand if needed. The rear light is similar, but without the adjustment. I purchased “Clark” decals to go on the mast.

And now for the finished product…

And that pretty much sums it up. Many more projects like this to come…

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