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Parts of a Forklift – All the Terms You Need to Know

If you’re new to the world of forklifts or trying to troubleshoot a problem with a new-to-you forklift, we can help! Below, we explain all the parts and pieces of the forklifts so that you have a deeper understanding of forklift anatomy the next time you are talking with your co-workers.

There are many different types of forklift classifications. From electric forklifts, to order pickers, reach trucks, pallet jacks, and high-capacity forklifts, and everything in between. For simplicity’s sake, we’ll focus on the parts and terminology of a basic forklift.


A forklift mast is the vertical support that allows a load to be raised and lowered within view of the driver. A forklift mast comes with two, three, or four mast sections, which determines how far a mast can extend and a load can be lifted.

There are two aspects that control the movement of the mast: the lift cylinder and the tilt cylinder. Generally hydraulically powered, the lift cylinder gives the mast the power for a vertical lift, while the tilt cylinder angles the load toward the cab of the forklift, to keep the load secure.

When talking about the height of a forklift mast, you’ll likely come across the following terms:

Lift Height:

This is simply the height that the load can be lifted. It’s also sometimes called the MLH, or Max Full Lift Height. But be prepared: the lifting capacity to lift heavy loads declines as the height of the load increases. Or in other words, you’ll be able to lift a heavy load close to the ground, but if you want to lift something high, make sure it’s a smaller load.

Free Lift:

This is the maximum height you can lift a load without changing the mast height. If you have a mast with three or four sections, your free lift will be

Overall Lowered Height (OAL):

This is the height of the mast when the mast is completely lowered to the ground. It’s helpful to know, in case your forklift needs to fit in tight spaces.


The carriage is the platform in front of the forklift mast. It holds the load, with the help of several other parts of the forklift:


This part of the forklift attaches to the bottom of the carriage and carries the load with two horizontal prongs, also called forklift tynes. They can come in a variety of lengths and widths, depending on the intended use.

Forklift backrest:

A vertical backrest attaches to the carriage as well and provides additional support for when a load is being carried a longer distance. It also protects the forklift mast, as it provides a vertical barrier between the load and the mast.

Operator Cab

The operator cab is the space behind the carriage. This is where the operator steers and maneuvers the forklift. Depending on the type of the forklift, the operator may sit or stand. A critical part of the operator cab is the overhead guard. This protects the operator in the unlikely event of a falling load.

Within the operator cab are three levers to control the forklift. These levers control the following:

Vertical Lift:

The height that the load is lifted, is directly related to the height of the mast.

Angled Lift:

The angle of the tilt helps secure the load on forklift while moving.

Horizontal Shift:

Sometimes a slight horizontal movement is necessary to move the load easily.


While a seemingly simple part of the forklift, there are different options depending on the type of forklift.

Cushion Tires:

Ideal for operating indoors, these tires have a small turning radius and are often easier to maintain and therefore less expensive.

Pneumatic Tires:

Often found in outdoor environments, pneumatic tires can easily withstand the surfaces that are rough and uneven.

Keep in mind that among the set of tires, there are two types of wheels, used for different purposes.

Drive wheels:

These wheels bear most of the weight and are often the larger of the wheels that are found on a forklift. They are responsible for helping the forklift drive the distance in a warehouse.

Steering wheels:

Located in the rear of the forklift, these wheels control the movement of the forklift.


At Fallsway Equipment Company, we provide new and used forklifts, lift truck rentals, parts and the forklift services you need to handle your heaviest load. The next time you need your forklift serviced, contact Fallsway.

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