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Forklift Basics - Parts of the Counterbalance Forklift

Parts of Counterbalance Forklift Illustration

How a Forklift Works

The forklift works using the cantilever principle. A load on

the forks supported by a fulcrum (the front wheels) will

be counterbalanced by a weight on the other side. The forklift

body and the counterbalance weight. When the forklift is

unloaded or the loaded forks are on the ground, the center

of gravity (The red dot) will be located near the middle of the

forklift, within the stability triangle. (Fig A)

Forklift With Load Illustration
Forklift Load Max Illustration

When the forklift raises the load to its maximum height,

the center of gravity (red dot) will move as well within

the stability triangle. It is at this point that it is very

important to be extra careful operating the forklift as you

can be reaching the limits of the stability triangle. You should

avoid driving quickly, sharp turns and long distances in this

situation as the forklift can possibly tip over. (Fig B)

And in this example (Fig C) shows what will occur when

the load is shifted forward on the forks and the forklift

is raised to it’s full height - here the center of gravity has

shifted forward and is now past the stability triangle.

At this stage, it is now likely the forklift will now tip over.

Overloaded Forklift Illustration
Weight balance illustration

The Stability Triangle

When at rest, on level ground, the forklift's center of gravity is within the stability triangle. But if the

forklift is put in motion, or sits on a sloping surface, its center of gravity shifts. Any time the forklift's center of gravity moves outside the stability triangle, the lift will tip over. As an operator, you must always be aware of the stability triangle and never exceed the limits of your machine.

Stability Triangle Illustration

Basic Forklift Controls

Basic Forklift Controls Illustration

STEERING - Unlike a car, a forklift will usually have it’s rear wheels be the ones that steer as the

front wheels are the drive wheels. This will enable the forklift to rotate in a perfect circle.

Remember the pivot point is in the front wheels. Be sure to look for clearance in the rear of the

forklift as it swings in either direction.

Forklift Levers Illustration

LOWER OR RAISE LOAD LEVER - Usually the first control lever next to the steering wheel, this will raise or lower the mast of the forklift and raise the forks and the load. Pull back on the lever

to raise the load and push forward to lower it.

Forklift Tilt Mast Lever Illustration

TILT MAST LEVER - Usually the second control lever next to the steering wheel, this will tilt the mast forward or backward.

Shift Forks Lever Illustration

SHIFT FORKS LEVER - Moving this lever will adjust the front forks either to the left or the right. This will allow you to position your load to its location without having to maneuver the forklift itself.

Adjust Forks Lever Illustration

ADJUST FORKS LEVER - Moving this lever will move the forks inward or outward.

This is often an option on some forklifts.

Otherwise, you will have to adjust the forks by hand.

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