The Forklift—Understanding Its Key Parts and Functions

The Forklift—Understanding Its Key Parts and Functions

Forklift with all its labeled parts
Photo by: ProEnclosures


Forklifts come in different sizes and configurations, but they all share some common components that make them capable of lifting and transporting heavy objects. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the different parts of a forklift and their functions.


The mast is a vertical part of the forklift that supports the forks and helps lift the load up and down. It is usually made of strong steel. The mast can move up and down, allowing the forklift to raise and lower heavy items. There are different types of masts:

Simplex—One stage, with the least height range.

Duplex—Two stages, giving a higher reach.

Triplex—Three stages, providing the highest reach.


The forks are the two long, flat prongs at the front of the forklift. They slide under the load and lift it. Forks can be adjusted to fit different load sizes. They are usually made of strong steel to handle heavy weights. The ends of the forks are slightly curved upward to keep the load from slipping off.

Forks on a Forklift

Photo by: Tonito


The carriage is the part of the forklift that holds the forks. It moves up and down along the mast. The carriage can tilt forward and backward, helping to stabilize the load when lifting or moving it. This tilting action is controlled by the forklift operator.


The counterweight is a heavy block attached to the back of the forklift. It balances the weight of the load being lifted at the front. Without the counterweight, the forklift would tip forward when lifting heavy items. The counterweight is usually made of iron or lead.


The cab is where the forklift operator sits. It has the seat, steering wheel, and controls. The cab can be open or enclosed. An enclosed cab is used in places where the operator needs protection from the weather or dust. The cab has a clear view so the operator can see the load and where they are driving.

Upgrade your cab by adding a ProEnclosure roof or windshield. They made from polycarbonate—making them 250 times stronger than glass and 25 times stronger than acrylic. Its the best material for protecting operators from the elements and warehouse hazards.


Unicarrier Forklift

Photo by: ProEnclosures


The engine powers the forklift. It can be an internal combustion engine, which uses gasoline, diesel, or propane, or an electric motor, which uses batteries. Electric forklifts are quieter and produce no emissions, making them suitable for indoor use. Internal combustion engines are more powerful and are used for outdoor applications.


Hydraulics are used to lift and lower the load. Hydraulic cylinders are filled with fluid and connected to the mast and carriage. When the operator moves the control levers, hydraulic fluid is pumped into the cylinders, causing them to extend or retract. This action moves the mast and carriage up or down.

Wheels and Tires

Forklifts have different types of wheels and tires depending on where they are used. Indoor forklifts usually have solid rubber tires that don't puncture. Outdoor forklifts often have pneumatic tires filled with air, which provide better traction on rough surfaces. Some forklifts have two wheels at the front and two at the back, while others have more wheels for better stability.


The controls are used by the operator to drive the forklift and move the load. Common controls include:

Steering Wheel—Used to steer the forklift.

Accelerator Pedal—Makes the forklift go faster.

Brake Pedal—Stops the forklift.

Levers—Control the lifting, lowering, and tilting of the forks.

Overhead Guard

The overhead guard is a metal frame above the operator's seat. It protects the operator from falling objects. If something falls from the load, the overhead guard catches it, keeping the operator safe.

Battery (Electric Forklifts)

Electric forklifts have a large battery that powers the motor. The battery needs to be charged regularly. Charging stations are used to keep the batteries full of energy. A fully charged battery allows the forklift to work for several hours before needing another charge.

Drive Axle

The drive axle connects the engine to the wheels, allowing the forklift to move. It transmits power from the engine to the wheels. In some forklifts, the drive axle also helps with steering.


The transmission transfers power from the engine to the drive axle. It can be automatic or manual. An automatic transmission shifts gears by itself, making it easier to drive. A manual transmission requires the operator to shift gears.

Photo by: TVH

Lights and Horn

Forklifts have lights and horns for safety. The lights help the operator see in dark areas, and the horn is used to alert people nearby. Some forklifts also have backup alarms that sound when the forklift is moving in reverse.

Safety Features

Forklifts have several safety features to protect the operator and others. These include seat belts, mirrors, and warning lights. Some forklifts also have sensors that detect obstacles and prevent collisions.

Full Cab Enclosure

To maximize protection even more, fully enclose your forklifts with ProEnclosures' Full Cab Enclosure kit. This one-of-a-kind kit includes a front windshield, rear windshield, roof, and a set of doors. By adding this to your fleet of forklifts, you offer protection and comfort for your operators that improves work efficiency.

Photo by: ProEnclosures


Forklift Parts You Can Count On

Forklifts are complex machines with many different parts that work together to lift and transport heavy loads. Each part has a specific function and is crucial to the safe and efficient operation of the forklift. By understanding the different parts of a forklift, operators can work more effectively and minimize the risk of accidents and injuries.

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