What Is a Counterbalance Forklift?

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What is a counterbalance forklift? A counterbalance forklift is the most common type of forklift. It gets its name because it has a heavy weight on the back that off-sets the weight of the load it is carrying. Read on to find out more about these popular forklifts. If you need to purchase or rent a counterbalance forklift, contact the forklift professionals at Wayco today. We have a wide selection of both new and used quality forklifts for sale and rent.


What Is a Counterbalance Forklift

It's the Most Common Forklift: A counterbalance forklift is one of the most common types of forklifts. You've probably seen many of them, but just didn't know that their proper name was a counterbalance forklift.

A Weight at the Rear Acts as a "Counterbalance": The term "counterbalance" comes from the fact that these types of forklifts are equipped with a very heavy weight at the rear of the truck that is able to off-set the load that you need to lift on the forks at the front of the truck. Without this weight, your forklift would become unbalanced and tip over from the extra weight on the forks.

Designed with Forks out Front: Counterbalance forklifts are designed with their forks protruding out at the front of the vehicle, and they don't have any outrigging legs or arms to stabilize them. This means that you can drive your forklift right up the the precise spots where your load or racking is located. You do not require a reach facility to access and deposit your load. The rear wheels are the turning wheels on a counterbalance forklift.


You can drive your counterbalance forklift to the precise spot where your load or racking is located


Difference Between Electric and Propane Gas Counterbalance Forklifts

At first glance, an electric and a propane gas counterbalance forklift looks pretty much the same. From the front, the two look almost identical and they have the similar seats and steering wheels. There are, however, a few key differences in design between the two.


Propane Counterbalance Forklifts:

Better for multiple shifts: If you are running your forklift for multiple shifts or around the clock, a propane one works much better. They are easy and quick to refuel; you simply need to change the propane tank and you are ready to go again.i

More powerful: A propane counterbalance forklift is more powerful and can lift more weight than the electric one. They are also much faster.

Four Hydraulic levers: The propane counterbalance forklift usually has one more hydraulic control than the electric version. The hydraulic levels from left to right include: up/down lever, tilt lever (to tilt your load), side shift lever (to move your load from side to side), attachment control (for attaching things like roll clamps or box clamps)


Electric and Propane counterbalance forklifts look similar but there are a few design differences


Inching brake: The propane counterbalance forklift has an accelerator and brake pedals like a car, but it also has an additional pedal to the left of the brake called an inching brake.

The inching brake allows you to hydraulically disengage the transmission. This is necessary because on this type of forklift, you need to hold down the accelerator pedal to raise or lower the forks. The inching brake allows you to safely do this without moving the truck forward.

Emergency brake pedal: To the left of the inching brake is the emergency brake pedal.

Steering column controls: The directional controls and the emergency brake release are located up on the steering column.

Exhaust: The propane will have an exhaust underneath whereas with an electric forklift, there is no exhaust because it doesn't give off fumes.

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The inching brake allows you to hydraulically disengage the transmission to safely operate your forks


Electric Counterbalance Forklifts:

Better for working around food: If your forklift will be working around food, the electric counterbalance is a better choice. This is because the carbon expelled by the propane gas can harm the food.

Working Single Shifts: If you are using your forklift for single shifts or working regular business hours, you can charge it at night. If you prefer an electric forklift but you need to use it for multiple shifts, then an alternative is to purchase extra batteries.

Quieter: An electric counterbalance forklift is much quieter to run than a propane one.

Better for indoor applications: Electric forklifts don't need ventilation because they do not give off fumes so they are safer to use inside.

No inching brake: The electric forklift doesn't have an inching brake as it is not necessary. Unlike the propane truck, once you remove your foot from the accelerator, your forklift will not move forward.

A propane forklift is similar to an automatic car in that if you remove your foot from the accelerator and the vehicle is in "drive," the vehicle will move forward; the electric version will not. Because it it battery powered, the forks will raise up quickly so you don't need to hold down the accelerator to raise up the forks like you do with the propane version.

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Because electric forklifts are battery powered, the forks will raise up quickly with no need to hold down the accelerator to raise up the forks


Three Hydraulic levers: Electric forklifts only have 3 hydraulic levers: up/down lever, tilt lever (to tilt your load), side shift lever (to move your load from side to side). They can still have attachments, but they would be added separately.

Emergency hand brake: The electric forklifts have an emergency hand brake, instead of a foot pedal.

Display panel: Most have a display panel that will tell you information such as the battery level or the amount of hours on the truck.

Battery: The battery used for an electric forklift is very heavy. They can weigh about 2000 pounds. That is about half the weight of a car. Because the battery is so heavy, it helps with the counterbalancing as it adds to the total weight of the forklift.

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Three wheel counterbalance forklifts have a smaller turning circle so they are great in a tight space


Three Wheel Electric Counterbalance Forklifts

Electric counterbalance forklifts also come in a three wheel version. They have a smaller turning circle, so they are great if you need to operate in a tight space. Their maneuverability is much better than a 4 wheel forklift.


What's the Difference between a Counterbalance Forklift and a Reach Truck

Unlike the counterbalance forklift, a reach truck is designed with two outer legs that distribute the load and a single set of wheels located at the back, below the operator.

They have a very tight turning radius that allows them to operate in very narrow spaces. They also can lift loads to significant heights. They are battery operated and designed for indoor use only.


Reach trucks have two outer legs that distribute the load and a single set of wheels located at the back, below the operator


Counterbalance Forklift Rentals

If you need to use a counterbalance forklift or you need an extra one temporarily and you don't want to have to buy one just yet, contact Wayco. Wayco rents out a full range of high quality material handling equipment including counterbalance forklifts. We can offer you:

  • Short and long term rentals

  • Daily, weekly, and monthly contracts

  • Competitive rates

  • Indoor and outdoor equipment in varying sizes and weight capacities

  • Large fleet discounts

  • Delivery right to your location

When you need this type of equipment, we're here to help. Renting allows you all the benefits of buying without the worries or hassles of maintenance and the huge initial capital outlay. Ask us about our leasing and rent-to-own options as well

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Wayco: For Counterbalance Forklifts and Safety Training Too

If you are looking for top quality counterbalance forklifts, contact WaycoWe sell the best forklifts you can buy and our knowledgeable staff will be able to help you choose the perfect model that will best suit your particular applications.

We will be happy to answer all of your questions and we can even provide top-notch safety training for your operators. Contact Wayco today for all of your forklift needs.

Wayco's intense and comprehensive forklift safety training program will provide you and your employees with the best safety training at the best price. This thorough program has a 98% pass rate. We can train individuals or groups at our facility or yours - you choose.

Our Safe Operation of a Lift Truck/Forklift Program is an excellent way for you to ensure forklift safety in your workplace. With our training you will experience:

  • Innovative training practices

  • Affordable pricing

  • Flexible and professional trainers

  • Comprehensive in-class and practical experience

Contact Wayco today to book your next session.

"I really recommend to get your lift license here. One of the best courses I've taken in my life, they make sure everything's done the safest ways step by step so you can walk out ready for the job. Angela is the best teacher, very funny but makes sure all precautions are taken. Excellent place to get your forklift or scissor license in Kitchener Waterloo."

- Miguel Maza

Read more testimonials here.