Forklift Mast Types: How to Choose the Right One

When purchasing a forklift, you have several important considerations, and choosing the right mast type can have a big impact on safety and productivity. A forklift mast is the part of the machinery that does the lifting and positioning of the load. With four common forklift mast types to choose from, you want to pick the one that will work best for your business. Start by learning more about each type.

What Are the Forklift Mast Types?

Choosing the right mast type requires an understanding of the environment where you will use it. For example, if you have limited overhead space, you may need a full-free lift, but that also means the driver will at times have less visibility during operation. Consider the layout of the facility, particularly the tightness of quarters, as you navigate this brief guide to buying a forklift.

Single Stage Mast

If overhead clearance is not a concern, the single-stage mast type with only one channel is likely the best option. This type needs more space to stack loads because it cannot lift without moving the channels. It is most commonly seen in outdoor settings or large warehouses where operators have more than enough overhead clearance.

2-Stage Mast

A 2 stage mast forklift allows full free lift, meaning the operator can raise the forks without extending the inner mast channels immediately. This feature allows loading within a tighter space with a lift space of anywhere between 50 and 130 inches depending on the size and weight capacity of the forklift.

If you need a forklift for indoor, trailer, and box car uses, the two-stage mast, also known as a duplex mast, is a great option. You can use this type of forklift for double stacking at weight capacities up to 15,000 pounds, though the most common use is for 2,000 to 6,000 pounds.

3-Stage Mast

What is a 3-stage mast in forklift types? How does it differ from a single or duplex mast? The three-stage mast, also known as the triplex or triple mast, is most common in a warehouse setting. It has the most versatility with free lift capability and the ability to reach greater heights.

The triplex mast has a hydraulic cylinder that allows the operator to raise the forks and the carriage almost to the top of the mast, typically reaching a lift height of about 189 inches. This is the most commonly used of the forklift mast types when a business requires a full free lift with a weight capacity of 2,000 to 6,000 pounds.

4-Stage Mast

A 4-stage mast, or quad mast, differs from the other types because it has four sets of rails used during a lift. The hydraulic cylinder provides the same full free lift as the duplex and triplex masts. However, the quad mast can load and unload higher stacks, reaching lift heights up to 240 inches.

If your forklift needs include stacking and double stacking at greater heights, the quad mast is likely your best option. However, make a note that the weight capacity of a lift decreases the higher you go. Using this type of mast requires caution to protect the load and the operator's safety.

How Does a Forklift Mast Work?

Now you have answers to the questions "What is a 3-stage mast in forklift types?" and "When should I use a 2-stage mast forklift?" However, you also need to know how a forklift mast works. The process is relatively simple:

  • Battery power or internal combustion supports the hydraulic pump that allows the mast to function by feeding hydraulic fluid into the control valve.
  • The control valve manages the direction of hydraulic fluid, starting and stopping the flow to make it function as the operator commands.
  • The fluid pressurizes against the pistons in the hydraulic cylinder, causing the structure to move up and down.
  • A pulley system connected to the carriage and forks activates the lifting motion.
  • A flow valve regulates the movement of fluid through the system, keeping the load in place.

Understanding the process that makes a forklift work is important for maintaining the lift truck for optimal functionality.

What Should You Consider When Selecting Forklift Mast Types?

Answering the question "How does a forklift mast work?" is the first step in purchasing the machinery. Now you must consider which among the four types best suits your needs. Important factors include:

  • Maximum lift height. What is the highest point of stacking for optimal organization and safety in your facility?
  • Collapsed height. Does the mast collapse low enough to avoid damaging any doorways? Will it be able to fit safely inside a container if necessary? Does the forklift allow you to make it through the door with a full load?
  • Load backrest. Is the backrest high enough to keep the load secure and safe from damage? Do you need a specially made backrest? Do the items you intend to load and unload need cushioning to protect them? 
  • Free lift capability. Is your operation in a confined space? If so, how much room will your mast need to stack the highest load?
  • Weight capacity. How heavy is the average load, and how high do you need to lift it?

Consider these factors and the types of masts to determine which one works best for your intended use. It may help to think in scenarios. For example, a triplex mast with a capacity of 5,000 pounds may only carry half that weight if you need a side-shift attachment. You may even need more than one type of forklift to operate effectively.

What Forklift Mast Types Suit Your Needs?

Forklifts have many capabilities, and the various forklift mast types can accommodate a wide range of load sizes and heights. Determine which mast best suits your needs before committing to a purchase. Choosing wisely is an important part of creating a safe environment for the people working with and around the machinery. It could also save you from damaging valuable cargo. Find the best deals on forklifts with the right mast type for your operation with Industrial Forklift Truck. Click the button below and request a quote today.

Compare Forklift For Sale Near You