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How does a diesel forklift work?

A diesel forklift works by converting the energy from diesel fuel into mechanical energy through combustion. This energy is used to power the forklift’s engine, which drives the hydraulic system that raises and lowers the forks.

At the heart of every diesel forklift is the diesel engine. This powerful component is responsible for generating the energy needed to move heavy loads and operate the hydraulic system. But how exactly does it work?

First, the fuel system pumps diesel fuel into the engine, where it mixes with air and is compressed by a piston. This compression heats the fuel, causing it to ignite and creating a controlled explosion that moves the piston and generates power.

The resulting energy is then transferred to the transmission, which controls the movement of the forklift. From there, the differential and drive axle work together to transfer power to the wheels and move the machine forward or backward.

It’s a complex process, but understanding it is key to maintaining and operating a diesel forklift efficiently. Keep reading to learn more about the powertrain and components of a diesel forklift.

Diesel forklift powertrain and components

As we discussed in the previous section, the diesel engine is the heart of a forklift, but it’s not the only component responsible for generating power. A forklift’s powertrain includes the transmission, differential, drive axle, and hydraulic system, all of which work together to achieve efficient and controlled movement.

The transmission is responsible for controlling the forklift’s speed and direction. It does this by regulating the amount of torque delivered from the engine to the drive wheels. The differential, on the other hand, is responsible for distributing power between the two drive wheels, allowing for smooth turning and manoeuvring.

The drive axle is what transfers power from the differential to the wheels, and it can be configured in different ways depending on the type of forklift. For example, some forklifts have a front-wheel drive axle, while others have a rear-wheel drive axle.

The hydraulic system is also a critical component of a forklift’s powertrain. It’s responsible for powering the mast and the forks, allowing for goods to be lifted and moved. The hydraulic system works by converting the forklift’s engine power into hydraulic pressure, which is then used to power the hydraulic cylinders.

Diesel forklift powertrain




Controls the forklift’s speed and direction by regulating torque delivered from the engine to the drive wheels.


Distributes power between the two drive wheels, allowing for smooth turning and manoeuvring.

Drive axle

Transfers power from the differential to the wheels and can be configured in different ways depending on the type of forklift.

Hydraulic system

Converts engine power into hydraulic pressure, powering the mast and the forks.

By understanding the powertrain and components of a diesel forklift, you can maximise its potential and ensure it operates at peak performance. Regular maintenance of these components, including regular fluid changes and inspections, can help keep your forklift running smoothly.

Maintenance and efficiency of diesel forklifts

Performing regular maintenance is essential to ensure the longevity and efficiency of your diesel forklift. Proper maintenance can prevent costly repairs and downtime, as well as improve the overall performance and safety of the machine.

Diesel forklift maintenance

Regular maintenance tasks include oil changes, filter replacements, and inspections of the brakes, steering, and electrical systems. It is also crucial to keep the forklift clean and free of debris, especially around the engine and hydraulic components.

If you are unsure of how to perform maintenance tasks on your diesel forklift, consult the owner’s manual or a qualified technician. Neglecting regular maintenance can result in decreased efficiency, increased fuel consumption, and reduced lifespan of the machine.

Diesel forklift efficiency

Diesel forklifts are known for their efficiency and power. Compared to other types of forklifts, diesel forklifts can lift heavier loads and operate for longer periods without needing to refuel.

One factor that affects the efficiency of a diesel forklift is its age and condition. Newer forklifts generally have improved fuel efficiency and emit fewer emissions than older models. Proper maintenance can also contribute to improved efficiency by keeping the engine running smoothly and reducing fuel consumption.

Additionally, using the correct forklift attachments can also improve efficiency by allowing for quicker and easier loading and unloading of materials.

Remember: regularly maintaining your diesel forklift can improve efficiency, prolong the lifespan of the machine, and prevent costly repairs.

Types of Diesel Forklifts and Forklift Servicing

There are various types of diesel forklifts available on the market, each with its unique features and capabilities. Popular brands of diesel forklifts include Hyundai and Linde, which offer a range of models suitable for different industries.

In addition to purchasing new forklifts, some businesses opt for purchasing used forklifts as a cost-effective option. However, it is essential to ensure that used forklifts undergo thorough inspections and refurbishments before use to avoid potential safety hazards.

Regular forklift servicing is crucial for maintaining the efficiency and longevity of diesel forklifts. It is recommended to carry out regular maintenance tasks such as oil changes and filter replacements, as well as adhering to the manufacturer’s guidelines for significant repairs.

Hyundai Forklifts

Hyundai offers a range of diesel forklifts suitable for various applications, from smaller models to larger, heavy-duty machines. These forklifts are designed to provide excellent fuel efficiency, delivering high performance even in challenging environments.

Linde Forklifts

Linde forklifts are popular due to their innovative features and ergonomic design. Many models feature Linde’s hydrostatic drive system, which offers smooth and precise control, making them ideal for indoor and outdoor use.

Alternative Equipment Options

It’s essential to consider alternative equipment options to meet the specific needs of your business. Combilift and Aisle Master offer narrow-aisle forklifts suitable for narrow warehouse aisles, while cleaning machines and access platforms provide specialised functions.

Forklift Servicing

Proper forklift servicing is vital to ensuring the safety and efficiency of your diesel forklift. Servicing should include regular maintenance tasks such as oil changes and filter replacements, as well as inspections and repairs by qualified professionals.

TAG Forklifts provides comprehensive forklift servicing, including safety inspections and maintenance tasks, to ensure that your forklifts are always operating at peak performance.

FAQs about diesel forklifts

As you continue to learn more about diesel forklifts, you may have some questions that need answering. To help you out, we’ve compiled a list of some of the most frequently asked questions about diesel forklifts.

What attachments are available for diesel forklifts?

Diesel forklifts are incredibly versatile machines, and there are a variety of attachments available to enhance their functionality. Some of the most popular forklift attachments include side shifters, fork positioners, and clamps. Additionally, there are specialised attachments for tasks such as carpet handling, drum handling, and carton clamping.

What is forklift refurbishment, and when is it necessary?

Forklift refurbishment is the process of restoring a worn or damaged forklift to like-new condition. This can include replacing old or worn-out components, repainting the machine, and ensuring that it is fully serviced and functioning properly. Refurbishment is necessary when a forklift has reached the end of its lifespan or is no longer functioning efficiently.

What type of tyres should I use for my diesel forklift?

The type of tyres you should use for your diesel forklift depends on the type of work you will be doing. If your forklift will be used primarily indoors, cushion tires are a good option. For outdoor use, pneumatic tyres are best. It is also important to consider the weight of the loads your forklift will be carrying, as heavier loads require more durable tyres.

What safety systems should be in place on my diesel forklift?

When operating a diesel forklift, it is essential to have certain safety systems in place to protect both the operator and those around them. These may include backup alarms, warning lights, and seat belts. Additionally, some forklifts may be equipped with advanced safety features, such as automatic braking systems and obstacle detection sensors.