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Maintenance guidelines to extend the life of forklift batteries

Apr 01 2024 Batteries Forklift Maintenance 4 Min. Read

Here are some maintenance guidelines to keep your electric forklift's lead acid batteries performing and lasting as they should.

In the bustling world of material handling, the heartbeat of your fleet lies in the power that propels your forklifts forward. Without a reliable source of energy, even the most robust fork truck or hi-lo finds itself sitting idle, turning potential uptime into costly downtime. Ensuring your batteries receive proper charging and maintenance is not just a task—it's a cornerstone of operational efficiency.

The Golden Rules for Flooded Lead Acid Battery Charging

Flooded lead acid batteries are still the most common power source for electric forklifts, capable of powering through an eight-hour shift. However, optimizing their lifespan requires a bit of know-how and adherence to some key practices:

Designate a Charging Zone: This area should be well-ventilated and equipped with safety stations for hands and eyes. The charging process can release fumes, and the acid within the batteries poses its own risks.

Charge at the Right Time: A battery should ideally be charged when it dips to 20-30% of its capacity. Charging too early or too late can diminish its longevity.

Full Charges Only: Ensure each charge cycle brings the battery to full capacity. Partial charges can lead to a shorter battery life, as can both under and overcharging.

Match Your Charger: The charger you use should align with the battery's voltage and amperage requirements.

Watch the Temperature: Never charge a battery that's hotter than 115°F.

Keeping Your Batteries Watered

Water plays a crucial role in the life of a flooded lead acid battery, but it evaporates over time. Here's how to keep them hydrated:

Assign a Watering Champion: Consistency in battery maintenance can be achieved by delegating this responsibility to a specific team member.

Safety First: Anyone involved in checking or topping up battery water levels must wear appropriate PPE, including goggles, a face shield, gloves, and an apron, due to the caustic nature of battery fluids.

Monitor and Schedule: Check the fluid levels in several cells every five charging cycles and develop a watering schedule tailored to your operation's needs.

Use the Right Water: City tap water is generally fine for forklift batteries, but consider a deionizing filter if you're unsure about quality.

Water After Charging: Only add water to a fully charged battery and fill just enough to cover the plastic elements within, avoiding acid.

Additional Maintenance Tips

Specific Gravity Checks: Use a hydrometer monthly to check each cell's specific gravity after charging, comparing it to your battery's spec sheet.

Equalizing: Required for some batteries, this process helps redistribute the acid evenly throughout the battery, recommended about once a week.

Cleaning: Monthly cleaning of batteries is essential to remove debris and check for leaks, which could indicate overwatering.

Charger Care: Keep your charger dust-free and inspect regularly for any damage to ensure efficient charging.

When to Seek Help

A noticeable decrease in runtime often signals a battery issue. Before sounding the alarm, check connections, recharge the battery, and inspect water levels. If issues persist, it's time to reach out for professional assistance.

For comprehensive support with your battery maintenance or to explore your next battery acquisition, Morrison stands ready to assist. Our team of experts is equipped to boost your operation's efficiency and keep your fleet moving.

What About Lithium-Ion Batteries?

Lithium-ion batteries were invented in 1991. Although they are more expensive than lead acid batteries upfront, they are the more cost-effective option in the long run because there is almost zero maintenance required for lithium-ion batteries. And they’re long-lasting, with an expected useful life of 2000-3000 charge cycles. Another benefit over lead acid is Li-Ion batteries don’t need to be removed for recharging and can be charged throughout the day. (For example, when a forklift operator takes a break, they can plug the truck in to charge). Charging is fast, too. A lithium-ion battery can gain a full charge in one or two hours. This capacity for opportunity charging is important since lithium-ion batteries have less capacity (200 ampere hours) than flooded lead acid batteries (600 ampere hours).

Because of these advantages, Li-Ion batteries are the most economical option for 24/7 operations or those with multiple shifts since you need fewer batteries. Also, without the time-consuming process of battery changes, productivity and efficiency get a big boost.

Need to Weigh Your Options?

Contact the Morrison Service Manager near you, and we will provide a total cost of ownership for you to consider.

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We are your one-stop source for battery service and maintenance, replacement batteries, and battery care guidance. Contact your local Morrison today for assistance!