A low angle view of a staff member driving a forklift in a warehouse.

Forklifts are impressive machines that combine hydraulics and pulleys to exert exceptional lifting power that makes them ideal for an extensive range of applications. While forklifts are essential items of machinery that play a major role in powering warehouses, factories and other workplace environments, few people really understand how they work.

Whether you work in an environment in which forklifts are utilised or you’re thinking of getting a forklift ticket and you’d like to learn how these machines work, this short guide to forklifts provides a brief overview. Here we look at how forklifts work and their main components, including the batteries that power these vitally-important machines.

Forklift Basics

The two main mechanisms that power forklifts are its hydraulic cylinders (hollow tubes with pistons) and roller chain pulleys. To lift a load, the lift handle activates the air pump, forcing air through a tube into the hydraulic cylinders. This process relies on the pressure caused by an increase of gas inside the cylinder, which when applied across the piston, results in upward force.

To move the load up, the operator moves the handle forward which pumps more air into the cylinders, and to move the load down, the handle is pulled back and gas is gently released from the hydraulic cylinder. This ‘push’ action combines with the ‘pull’ action of the roller chain pulleys. When the hydraulic cylinders and internal pistons push the forklift’s masts up, its gears push against the roller chain pulleys, moving the masts further upwards.

Without roller chain pulleys, forklifts simply wouldn’t be capable of reaching such heights and would require significantly taller hydraulic cylinders. The way forklifts operate is simple physics but impressive nonetheless — especially when you take into account the loads that forklifts can move and raise in comparison to their size, all the while maintaining stability.

Stability and Control

Stability and control is managed by the forklift’s large footprint and heavy, robust structure that enables it to lift heavy loads, and two sets of controls — one set for steering via its rear wheels (which provides greater precision and turning control) and the other for lifting and lowering loads. The steering controls are similar to conventional vehicles, while the lifting controls are a set of two levers, one for raising and lowering loads, and the other for tilting loads back and forth.

Forklift Batteries

The two main forklift battery types are lead acid and lithium-ion, though other types are also available, including gel batteries. Lead acid batteries are the most commonly used and are the more cost-effective of the two. Lithium batteries are relatively new in comparison and while significantly more expensive, offer benefits such as minimal maintenance and faster charging times. At Ceil Power, we stock an extensive range of premium-quality lead acid batteries to suit all fleets and forklift applications.

Like to learn more about forklift batteries and chargers? The Ceil Power team is on hand to help you understand which forklift batteries and chargers best suit your forklift fleet needs. Contact the team online or give us a call on 1300 877 531 to speak to a battery and charging solution specialist at your nearest Ceil Power location.

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