Anatomy of a Forklift Truck

Forklift Anatomy

Anatomy of a Forklift

Learn about the different terminology and parts that make up a forklift truck. Use our forklift diagram for reference.

forklift parts diagram

Forklifts have many moving parts and pieces that allow the forklift to operate properly. Understanding the terminology of the parts and anatomy of a forklift is important for effective communication with others while on the job. Here are some of the fundamental features that make up the anatomy of a forklift truck.

MAST

The forklift mast is the raised vertical support that allows loads to be raised and lowered. For most forklifts, the mast is designed toward the front of a forklift and directly in the forklift operator’s line of vision.

Forklift masts come with various sections that elevate or lower the forklift carriage along with the forks. These include:

  • Duplex: Two mast stages
  • Triplex: Three mast stages
  • Quad: Four mast sections

When selecting a forklift, it is important to familiarize yourself with the different features and terminology of a forklift mast: the mast’s lift height, the free lift height and the extended height and the lowered height. This will allow you to select a forklift that is designed to fulfill the specific needs of your applications.

For more information on forklift masts, read our article Forklift Mast Types.

LIFT CYLINDER

The forklift lift cylinder powers the vertical movement of the mast, or the raising or lowering of the forklift carriage and the forks. The lift cylinder is generally hydraulically powered and is a single-acting hydraulic cylinder, meaning it pushes in one direction.

TILT CYLINDER

Similar to the lift cylinder, the tilt cylinder controls movement for operation purposes. The key difference is that the tilt cylinder controls the tilt movement of the carriage and the angle of the forks relative to the ground.

FORKLIFT CARRIAGE

The carriage is a platform located in front of the forklift mast that is used to mount objects to be controlled by the mast. This includes the forks of the forklift, the load backrest and other features of a forklift truck that come in direct contact with the loads. 

FORKS

Also known as the tynes, the forks on a forklift are used to make direct contact with a load for transport. They are attached to the forklift carriage and are designed to carry a load from the bottom. Forklift forks come in all shapes and sizes. There is a wide variety of fork types available for various applications. Standard ITA forks are the most common type of forklift forks, but they too come in various widths, lengths and shapes. 

LOAD BACKREST

The forklift backrest provides the operator another surface to rest the load against and is attached to the carriage. This helps prevent the load from slipping backwards toward the forklift operator during lifting and travel conditions. The forklift backrest also helps protect the forklift mast and mast components from being damaged by the load. 

It is important to use a load backrest that is designed for the forklift. It is also important to never remove the backrest before operating the forklift for your own safety as well as the well-being of the forklift.

COUNTERWEIGHT

The counterweight is the weight installed onto the forklift to help offset the weight being lifted by the forklift. This helps keep the forklift stable during lifting and traveling operations. Forklifts are designed with maximum carrying capacities using the counterweight for balance, so it is important to know the carrying capacity intended for the forklift. Check the rating plate on the forklift for this information.

Internal combustion forklift counterweights are located toward the back of the forklift, or on the opposite side of the forks. For electric lift trucks, the battery acts as a counterweight.

POWER SUPPLY

The power supply refers to the power source of the forklift, which can include an engine or batteries depending on the type of forklift. Forklifts can be electric (battery powered), diesel, gas or propane powered. For internal combustion forklifts, the engine is typically located toward the back of the forklift, below the seat. Propane powered forklifts often have the tank externally mounted for easier access.

TIRES

All forklifts need tires to operate, but the types of tires and layout of tires on the forklift can vary significantly. Forklifts that use four tires are capable of lifting heavy loads and are versatile for many applications. Three-wheel forklifts are ideal for indoor environments where space is limited and the ability to turn and maneuver efficiently is important.

There are two main types of forklift tires:

Cushion Tires – Generally used for forklifts operating indoors, where surfaces are flat, smooth and consistent. Cushion tires are generally less expensive and easier to maintain, but lack the traction pneumatic tires offer. Cushion tire forklifts are ideal in warehouses and other indoor environments where small turning radiuses are necessary.

Pneumatic Tires – Pneumatic tire forklifts are generally used for operating outdoors, where surfaces can be uneven, rough or variable. Pneumatic tires are more similar to your car’s tires making them better at handling non-paved and rough-terrain surfaces. Pneumatic tires can be air pneumatic tires, meaning they are filled with air, or solid pneumatic tires, meaning they are made entirely out of solid rubber.

WHEELS

Drive Wheels

The drive wheels provide the necessary power for the forklift to travel and are often larger than the steering wheels as they are responsible for bearing a large amount of mass during operation.

Steering Wheels

The steering wheels are generally located in the rear of the forklift and facilitate the steering of the forklift. It is easier to control the movement of the forklift using the rear wheel or wheels.

OPERATOR CAB

The forklift cab can be open or enclosed depending on what options are chosen. It is the space of the forklift where the forklift operator controls and operates the forklift. The cab contains a variety of forklift operating components and features used to control the forklift. These include, but are not limited to: The brakes, the steering wheel, mast controls, acceleration pedals, levers and gauges.

OPERATOR SEAT

If operating a sit-down forklift, the seat will be located in the operator cab. Some forklifts are designed to have the operator stand. Whether you’re operating a sit-down or stand-up forklift, it is important that the forklift operator is seated or standing in the location deemed appropriate by the Operation and Maintenance Manual for that particular forklift.

OPERATOR STEERING WHEEL

The operator steering wheel controls movement of the rear wheels or steering wheels of the forklift. Some steering wheels have a knob attached to the wheel to enable faster turning.

LEVERS

There are various levers located in front of the seat that control movement of the mast and forks. These can include:

  • Tilt Lever – controls the angle of the forks relative to the ground.
  • Lift Lever – controls the height of the forks.
  • Side Shift Lever –controls horizontal movement of the carriage.

RATING PLATE OR CAPACITY PLATE

The capacity plate is featured on the front of a forklift and tells operators detailed information about the forklift. This will include model carrying capacity, lift heights, forward and back tilt degrees, tread width, tire information and other safety information. It is important for all forklift operators to read and understand the information on the rating or capacity plate before operating the forklift.

OVERHEAD GUARD

The overhead guard is a critical feature of a forklift’s safety. The overhead guard’s purpose is to help protect the operator should something fall onto the forklift cab.

Forklifts are designed to help minimize the potential for objects falling, from loads, on top of the overhead guard. However, factors like accidental bumps or misplaced loads can result in an object falling on top of the forklift cab. Always properly secure loads and follow the operator’s manual instructions prior to lifting any load.

OVERALL FORKLIFTS ARE DIFFERENT

As previously mentioned, forklift models are designed differently and not all forklift anatomies will contain all of the various forklift features mentioned above.

For further information, contact an MCFA forklift dealer in your area. They’re close by and that can assist you with finding a forklift that contains the right features and components that your business needs to get the job done.


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