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How Do Forklifts Work?

How does a forklift work

Forklifts can be valuable to almost any industry. The different styles and classes lend themselves to a piece of equipment that is equally at home in a large warehouse or on a rocky construction site. OSHA has defined seven different classes of forklifts which are determined by construction and function. In order to operate a forklift of any type, a person needs to pass an exam. This is to ensure proper safety protocol is understood. The type of tires on a forklift will depend upon where it will be used and the type of power used will differ. Regardless of the individual classification, forklifts are all designed basically the same. They also use the same method to accomplish their task.

Parts of a Forklift

There are several major parts that go into making a forklift:

    • Frame – This is the basic body of the forklift and the part that all the other parts attach to, including the lifting mechanism.
    • Counterweight – Located underneath the body, this weight is what helps maintain the center of gravity that keeps the forklift from tilting over when a heavy load is being moved.
    • Power Source -This is either an engine or a battery, depending on the source of fuel.
    • Mast – The mast is the long arm used to lift material
    • Forks – These are the flat pieces on the end of the mast that material rests on. The forks can be changed to make lifting items of different shapes easier.
    • Backrest – The backrest keeps any lifted material from sliding backward and falling off the lift.
    • Overhead Guard – This creates a “cage” of sorts to protect the driver should anything accidentally fall onto the forklift from above.
    • Hydraulic Cylinder – These are hollow tubes that are filled with/emptied of air and are used to make it possible to lift and retrieve material
    • Roller Chain Pulley – These add extra lift to the height of the forklift’s reach.
    • Controls – There are two sets of controls. One is for driving the forklift and the other set is for operating the lifting mechanism.


How It All Works

The principle behind how a forklift works is a simple one. With training, the actual operation isn’t as complicated as it first seems, but it requires knowledge and attention to detail to make things run smoothly.

In order to lift the mast, the forklift operator pushes the control lever forward and air from the outside is sucked into the hydraulic cylinders. As the air fills the cylinder, the gears of the pulley system are rotated clockwise and the mast raises. When the mast needs to be lowered, the control lever is pulled back and the air is slowly released. It takes skill to know how quickly to let air enter and release and this is where training comes into the picture.

Contact Us

Illinois Lift Equipment has a wide variety of both new and used forklifts to meet your needs. Whether you are in the market to rent or buy a forklift, contact us for a quote.

Feature image: Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock

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