Choosing a Forklift Mast for Your Equipment

Yellow forklift mast with a free lift cylinder

Before purchasing equipment, you’ll need to consider what forklift mast you need. This choice will affect what you can and cannot accomplish with your forklift.

The forklift mast, also called the upright, is the backbone of your equipment. It is the portion of the machine that is responsible for lifting, lowering, and positioning the load. Each mast type has its own limitations and capabilities.

Industrial Forklift Truck has your company’s best interests in mind. We’re here to help point you in the right direction. Before you make a big purchase, learn more about the different forklift mast types.

Forklift Mast Types

There are four main forklift mast types to choose from. While they vary in lift height and versatility, each type works in the same basic way.

Forklift masts are composed of nested rails or channels that allow the mast to extend to its maximum height and collapse down into its lowered position. These masts also have a forklift carriage, which is the solid steel frame that the forks are mounted to. The forks are the part of the machine that the load ultimately rests on.

A forklift uses hydraulic pressure to raise the lift cylinders and, as a result, raise the inner mast channels. Lift chains and anchors are used in combination with the lift cylinders to raise and lower the forks. While they all work the same way, forklift mast height varies, as well as free lift height. Here are the four forklift mast types:

1. Single-Stage Mast Forklift

A single-stage mast has just one channel. A channel looks like an I-Beam and runs perpendicular to the forks. Of all forklift mast types, single-stage has the most limited lifting height. These masts do not have the ability to free lift. Free lift allows you to raise the forks without changing the forklift mast height.

A forklift can have limited or full free lift capabilities, depending on mast type. Limited free lift is available to equipment that does not have a free lift cylinder. The amount of free lift varies with adjustments to the forklift’s lift chains.

On the other hand, full free lift uses a free lift cylinder to lift the carriage separately from other channels. A free lift cylinder may or may not have “free view”, which gives the operator a less obstructed view.

2. 2 Stage Mast Forklift

A 2 stage mast forklift is more common than a single-stage option. These masts are typically used for indoor applications with limited overhead clearance. A 2 stage mast forklift has two sections. The inner section raises the carriage and forks, while the outer section stays stationary and allows for free lift.

If you need minimal lift height but require free lift capabilities, a 2 stage mast forklift may be the best choice for you.

3. 3 Stage Mast Forklift

A 3 stage mast forklift, or triplex, is the most common mast type. Its three sections allow it to lift loads higher than the previous two forklift mast types. A 3 stage mast forklift also has free lift capabilities, making it ideal for a variety of warehouse applications.

Of all forklift mast types, this one is the most versatile.

4. Quad Mast Forklift

A quad mast forklift, or 4 stage forklift, is ideal for very high stacking. These masts have four sets of moving rails. If you need lots of forklift mast height, this is your best option.

Also, a quad mast forklift has a shorter collapsed height in comparison to a 3 stage mast forklift with an equivalent maximum fork height. This is ideal for workplaces with low entryways. Use a quad mast forklift for high stacking in specialized warehousing operations.

Additional Considerations

When choosing a forklift mast, there are many things to consider. Obviously, forklift mast height is important, but it’s not the only factor.

First, think about lowered height. Each mast type has a different height when it is completely lowered. Where are you planning on storing your equipment? How tall are your doorways and other entrances? All of these answers will play a role in the lowered height you need.

Second, consider load backrest. While most forklifts have a 48-inch load backrest, this isn’t always the case. Think about whether or not you need a specialized load backrest before choosing a forklift mast.

Red warehouse forklift with a 3 stage mast and cushion tires

Find the Equipment You Need

Once you know what mast you’re looking for, it’s time to find equipment. Industrial Forklift Truck can help you find the best deal in your area.

Simply select the specifications you need and we’ll match you with forklifts that fit your workplace. Receive free pricing on each of your matches before you make a decision. Browse the largest inventory of forklifts for sale nationwide.

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