There are several main specifications when shopping for a forklift that you need to consider. Capacity, tire type, fuel, and mast specs will usually get you close to the forklift you need for your application. Today I will explain the different types of forklift masts and go over some often-overlooked details of forklift masts that need to be considered when making a purchase.
Types of Forklift Masts
Triple Stage Mast
In the world of straight-mast forklifts there are four main types of masts. The most common is the triple stage mast. This mast has three rails on either side of the mast meaning that it uses three sections to go up to its maximum lift height. In the middle of the mast is a hydraulic cylinder, referred to as the primary lift cylinder. This will raise the forks and carriage near the top of the mast before the second set of rails stages up, also referred to as free lift. A standard triple mast for a forklift with a capacity from 2,000 lbs to 6,000 lbs will have approximately 190″ of maximum lift and will be around 85″ high lowered.
Two Stage Mast
The next mast type is separated into two categories; two stage mast and two stage mast with full free lift. A two stage mast works the same way as the triple stage mast except that they do not have the primary lift cylinder so the second set of rails will start raising as soon as the forks and carriage go up. A typical two stage mast for a forklift with a capacity from 2,000 lbs to 6,000 lbs will have approximately 130″ of maximum lift and will be around 85″ lowered. Two stage masts are very common in high capacity forklifts of 30,000 lbs and up.
Two Stage Mast With Full Free Lift
A two stage mast with full free lift is a combination of a triple mast and the regular two stage mast except, yep, you guessed it. This mast has full free lift thanks to the primary lift cylinder.
Quad Stage Mast
The fourth most common type of forklift mast is a quad stage mast. You can probably guess the difference in this mast and that it has four sets of rails that raise the load. A quad mast will generally have a primary lift cylinder so it will have full free lift as well.
Consider This When Buying a Used Forklift
Many people may wonder why some of these differences matter. One would think the only important aspect of a forklift mast is how high it can lift. However, the lowered height is sometimes just as crucial as the maximum lift height. If your application requires you to take a load through a door or your facility has any overhead restrictions, the down height is very important. Can you make it through all your doors? One step further, can you make it through your doors with your load raised 6″? Full free lift can make that difference. Ex. When loading and unloading trucks on a dock, in a container, etc…
Keep in mind your capacity as well. Forklifts have a certain base capacity. Take a 5,000 lb cushion forklift, a Caterpillar C5000 with a triple mast and a sideshift attachment. While the forklift was built to handle a capacity of 5,000 lbs, that was before they attached the triple mast and sideshift. Those things can “de-rate” your forklift so your maximum capacity raised all the way to 188″ and tilted all the way forward, while using your sideshift, could be as low as 2,500 lbs.
It is because of these details that it is very important to spec out your facility and application when purchasing a used forklift. If you have questions, CALL US! We can help you figure out exactly what size forklift you need and what mast would be ideal for your application.