Equipment and Solutions

Anatomy of a Forklift

Cat forklift moving wood

Similar to a car, a forklift has many moving parts and components critical to its operation. An operator must understand a forklift’s anatomy and how the parts function to control the device safely and efficiently. Thoroughly knowing the particulars about a forklift is also highly beneficial when purchasing a machine for your facility or adding to your fleet.

Major Parts and Functions of a Forklift

All the parts of a forklift are vital in some shape or form. However, some stand out among others in the operation of the machine. Here is a list of the most critical components and what they do:

  • Forks: The forks help accomplish most of a lift’s primary purposes. Forks are tynes that extend directly out in front of the machine to lift a load into the air. They attach to the carriage and can come in a variety of designs, shapes and sizes.
  • Carriage: The carriage is a platform in front of the forklift mast. The carriage includes the forks of the device, the load backrest and other components that come in contact with a load.
  • Mast: The mast is a vertical component supporting the carriage when it raises and lowers. Different types of masts determine how far a forklift can lift and reach. Some examples of mast types include simplex, duplex, triplex and quad.
  • Tires: The health of your forklift’s tires is critical for achieving peak performance. Cushion, or solid, tires require less traction and are ideal for indoor use, while air-filled pneumatic tires are necessary for outdoor tasks on challenging terrain. Worn tires can lead to excessive fuel consumption, battery discharge and even overheating.
  • Wheels: Most forklifts have two types of wheels — drive wheels and steering wheels. The drive wheels provide the necessary power to propel the machine and are often larger for this reason. The steering wheels are typically in the rear of the lift and control the machine’s direction.
  • Lift and tilt cylinders: The hydraulic lift cylinder gives power to the mast, allowing it to raise the forks. The tilt cylinder tips the load at increased or decreased angles to the ground, providing the necessary movement to secure or discharge the burden.
  • Counterweight: The counterweight is typically in the forklift’s rear, helping to balance and stabilize the machine when lifting or transporting a heavy amount of material. Without a counterweight, a device could tip over when handling a substantial load. Forklifts can carry only a certain amount of weight safely, so knowing the capacity before operating the machine is critical. 
  • Cab: The cab is where the operator sits and controls the forklift. This area contains various components to operate the machine, like the steering wheel, brake and acceleration pedals, mast controls, levers, parking brake and gauges.
  • Rating plate: The rating plate contains information about the maximum load a forklift can handle. You can find the plate mounted on the instrument panel near the operating controls. These plates are requirements of Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulation 29 CFR 1910.178(a)(3) and must be visible on all forklifts approved for service.
  • Chassis: The chassis is the framework along the forklift base that provides much of the machine’s structural support. All other primary components connect to the chassis in some manner.
  • Overhead guard: The overhead guard typically consists of heavy bars and takes the shape of a cage. It protects the operator from falling objects like boxes, bagged materials or other hazards.
  • Operator controls: The controls allow a forklift to perform its many functions. The hydraulic lift knobs enable the device to lift the load, tilt it or move it from side to side. The directional controls move the machine forward, in reverse or into park mode.
  • Power supply: Forklifts obtain power either through a battery or by burning gas, diesel or propane. Internal combustion forklifts use a fuel tank, which usually sits on the frame directly behind the cab. Electric forklifts, however, use batteries for power, which are often located in the body of the device above the chassis.

Benefits of Understanding a Forklift’s Anatomy

In addition to helping one learn how to operate a forklift correctly, understanding the essential parts and their functions has a wide range of benefits. Some examples include:

  • Having the skills to perform routine maintenance and inspections
  • Detecting minor operational problems that could turn into major issues
  • Working with dealers to discuss service or repair options
  • Assisting in the purchases of new machines for your company’s fleet
  • Learning how to train other employees for certification

If done correctly, regular preventive maintenance is one of the most vital components of extending your forklift’s service life. Learning the details of all the components and how they work is the first step in ensuring your machine receives the proper care.

Contact RAKA for More Information Today

Becoming familiar with a forklift’s anatomy is critical for an operator and the employees working around them. Let RAKA help you learn more about your forklift’s primary components and features to make the most beneficial purchasing or leasing decisions. Contact us online today for more information.