Forklift battery maintenance

Forklift Battery Maintenance

Care For Your Forklift Battery or Pay the Price!

I am often struck by how much forklift battery maintenance is overlooked. A little care will improve the performance and extend the lifespan of your battery, improving both efficiency and safety. 

The aim of this blog is to summarise how batteries in a forklift can be maintained properly and so secure users substantial cost savings.

Charging Forklift Batteries

Forklift batteries are designed for long life and significant usage levels. Most batteries will take about 1500 cycles (recharges) in their life. If a forklift battery is charged once each working day it will last 5 years. It is up to the user to properly charge the battery to ensure that it performs as it was designed to.

  • Equalise/weekend charge option should be selected every five to ten charge cycles.
  • It is generally recommended that you charge a battery at the end of each eight hour shift or if it is discharged more than 30%.
  • Charge a battery in a well ventilated area.
  • Don’t over-discharge the battery. Discharging beyond 80% will significantly reduce the life expectancy of the battery.
  • If a battery does become flat charge it immediately. Don’t let a discharged battery sit there for extended periods. This will promote hard sulphation and significantly reduce the run time and life of the battery.
  • Avoid opportunity charging, for example do not part charge during lunch breaks. Remember, each charge costs a cycle. If you charge your battery twice a day your 1500 cycles will be used up in 2.5 years instead of 5.
  • Avoid interrupting a charge cycle. Wherever possible once a charge has started, allow it to finish.
  • Fast charge with caution – keep it for emergencies. Depending on the type of battery fast charging can cause overheating and so damage the battery. 
Topping up Fluid Levels in Forklift Batteries

Topping up Fluid Levels in Forklift Batteries

Fluid Levels

Monitoring and maintaining the correct fluid level in a battery is important.

  • Always use distilled, de-ionised or approved water. Never add acid to compensate for spilling.
  • Top up batteries after charging not before.
  • Check water levels and top up appropriately every 10 or so charges for the first few years. For a reconditioned battery you may need to do this every 5 charges. Most batteries now have Single Point Watering kits fitted.
  • Only add sufficient water to cover the plastic element protector by roughly 5mm. The additional space is needed for expansion while gassing at the end of the charge.
  • Check two or three pilot cells every 5 or so charges to check that the fluid level is above the perforated plastic element protector after charge.
  • Never over fill as it will cause overflow on the next charge. An acid loss will inevitably shorten overall running time, can cause overheating and may require an engineer service to rectify.

Battery Cleaning and Maintenance

Batteries should be visually checked and kept dry and clean. Spilled battery acid is conductive and corrosive. If it is not cleaned adequately the battery will quickly deteriorate and may overheat.

  • If a battery over spills wash it immediately with water (baking soda optional) to stop corrosion on top of and underneath the battery. Use plenty of water to dilute the acid.
  • Any corrosion of the surrounding metalwork should be removed, cleaned and protect from further corrosion by covering with acid proof paint.
  • Acid residue can accumulate around the vent cap area. Rinsing of batteries is therefore recommended half yearly (or as needed) to remove the acid residue from the battery.
  • Check bolted connections on the battery for tightness and ensure that they are clean.
  • Inspect battery cable insulation and battery charging connectors for wear, damage or signs of over heating. Refurbish or replace as necessary.
  • Keep all inter-cell and terminal connectors protected with terminal protector.
  • Check your battery for signs of sulphation (development of white crystals on the lead plates) as part of your regular checks. Sulphation is one of the top causes of premature battery failure. Any concerns request a visit from one of our expert engineers who can advise on corrective measures.

Safety

Forklift batteries are designed to be extremely safe but there are a few important precautions you should take when dealing with them. Be aware that lead-acid batteries contain dilute sulphuric acid which is corrosive and will cause burns and irritation.

  • Handle batteries carefully and always keep them upright. Neutralise and clean up any spills.
  • Wear protective gloves, goggles and suitable protective clothes when working with batteries.
  • If you do get battery acid on your skin or eyes wash immediately with lots of water. If in any doubt seek medical attention.
  • During recharging explosive gasses are evolved. Ventilate the area and avoid sources of ignition.
  • Avoid short circuits. Keep metal items such as watches or jewelry away from batteries and use insulated tools.

A typical forklift battery is worth up to 30% of a new truck’s value and with these simple practices it will provide years of reliable and cost effective service. If you have any concerns over the performance or care of your batteries do not hesitate to contact us to book a battery survey. We are happy to advise you on battery care and can offer a battery regeneration service to extend the lifespan of your batteries.

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