What Three Simple Machines Make Up a Wheelbarrow



You can look at wheelbarrows as compound machines made from simple machines. They consist of a single wheel and two handles used to push the wheelbarrow.

There are many uses for wheelbarrows and understanding the simple machines that make up a wheelbarrow can easily increase your view on what they can be used for. You would be surprised at how versatile wheelbarrows can actually be.

What is a Simple Machine?

So, you know that a wheelbarrow is a compound machine which is a machine made of simple machines. That can be a bit confusing. As such, let’s talk a bit about what a simple machine is.

A simple machine is simply a mechanical device used to change direction or magnitude of force. Using leverage, force can be magnified or manipulated through simple machine designs. There are 6 common simple machines that have been around since the Renaissance era. (R)

  • Inclined plane
  • Pulley
  • Screw
  • Wedge
  • Lever
  • Wheel and Axle

In other words, you can look at simple machines as the building blocks of many larger devices(such as a wheelbarrow).

So, what three simple machines make up a wheelbarrow?

Simple Machines in a Wheelbarrow

The three simple machines that compose a wheelbarrow are the lever, wheel and axle, and inclined plane. Each provide a simple yet important function for the wheelbarrow.




Looking over what a lever does, you should be able to notice why and how it is a part of the wheelbarrow. Levers are composed of a beam that is fixed on a hinge. The lever itself can rotate on a fixed point. It uses leverage (hint lever) to amplify input force and provide a higher output force.

In terms of the wheelbarrow, you can see the lever as an extension of the handle all the way down to the fixed point on the wheel. This is how you can give little force and effort to lift the back of the wheelbarrow even when the items inside the wheelbarrow weigh a ton. The wheelbarrow is a class 2 lever that uses a fulcrum and effort arm. The effort arms are the handles and the wheel is the fulcrum or pivot point of the lever itself.

Wheel and Axle

Another of the six simple machines, the wheel and axle is pretty self explanatory. It is made of a wheel that attaches to an axle. These two work together to lessen the amount of force that may sit on each other. The force is thus transferred between each one when they rotate together. Similar to the lever, a hinge will provide extra support to the axle.

Looking at the wheelbarrow, you can see the wheel and axle design. It helps to move the wheelbarrow without running into too much friction. The ratio is the important factor of the wheel and axle. The sizes of each have to be proportional to make the wheel and axle simple machine work. For example, if the wheel is 15 times larger than the axle, you can expect the axle to do 15 times more work when moving the wheelbarrow.

Inclined Plane

Lastly, you have the inclined plane. This is simply a ramp described by having a flat service with one end being higher than the other. This simple machine is a little harder to see in the wheelbarrow, but it is there.

Laying the wheelbarrow down on its side, you can see this. Also pushing the wheelbarrow forward and tipped over can reveal the inclined plane. This helps in letting the user dump out debris and other things easier.


Here at Greencollab.com learning is one f our top priorities. Simple machines are fascinating devices that use leverage to lessen the amount of force required by you to accomplish certain tasks. This is done by amplifying the little force that you do apply. A wheelbarrow uses three different simple machines: lever, inclined plane, and wheel and axle to accomplish this. Learning how wheelbarrows work can open your eyes up to more uses for the device itself. 

References And Recommended Reading

  • http://met510.weebly.com/wheelbarrow.html
  • https://sciencing.com/simple-machines-make-wheelbarrow-7420727.html
  • http://www.explainthatstuff.com/toolsmachines.html
  • https://prezi.com/meivnmwldtzp/simple-and-compound-machines-the-wheelbarrow/
  • http://www.encyclopedia.com/social-sciences-and-law/economics-business-and-labor/businesses-and-occupations/simple-machines
  • http://www.answers.com/Q/What_simple_machines_are_in_wheelbarrows
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Simple_machine
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lever
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wheel_and_axle
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Inclined_plane

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