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Take care of your forklift batteries so they’ll take care of you

Mar 01 2021 Batteries Forklift Maintenance3 Min. Read

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

Reliable batteries are essential to your forklift fleet’s operation. A forklift can’t do its job without power. Proper charging and regular maintenance ensure that batteries keep delivering the power you need to keep your operation moving.

Rules for flooded lead acid battery charging

In most applications lead acid batteries will power a vehicle for an eight-hour shift but use your experience to develop a tailored charging schedule, using these rules as a guide:

1. Have a designated charging area or room that features good ventilation and a hand and eye wash station. (Charging batteries can give off fumes. The acid in batteries is a potential hazard.)

2. Only charge a battery when it has been drained to 20-30% of power. Charging a battery that’s above or below this level will shorten battery life.

3. Charge batteries completely. An under-charged battery won’t last as long, and under-charging, as well as over-charging, can shorten battery life.

4. Match the charger to the battery’s amperage and voltage.

5. Don’t charge a battery that’s over 115oF.

Rules for flooded lead acid battery watering

Flooded lead acid batteries contain an electrolyte solution made up of water and sulfuric acid. The water portion of this solution will evaporate over time and will need to be replaced.

1. For consistency, consider assigning one employee to be in charge of battery water levels.

2. Any employee who checks battery fluid levels or waters batteries must wear the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) - goggles, face shield, gloves, apron. Battery fluids are extremely caustic.

3. Check battery fluid levels (several cells, at least) every five charging cycles. Develop a battery watering schedule based on your operation’s experience. (In other words, there’s no rule that says you MUST water batteries every specific number of cycles. It varies based on your usage and conditions.)

4. City tap water (but not well water) is typically fine for forklift batteries. If there’s ever any doubt about water quality, though, install a deionizing filtration system for battery watering.

5. Only water fully charged batteries.

6. Add water only until it just covers the plastic battery element.

7. Only add water, never acid.

Other maintenance for flooded lead acid batteries

1. Specific gravity Once a month use a hydrometer to read the specific gravity of each of the battery’s cells. This should be done after a charge. Check your battery’s specifications for the recommended reading for your model.

2. Equalizing Some forklift batteries require equalizing, a process that reverses acid stratification (the acid concentration at the bottom of the battery is greater than that at the top). Wet cell batteries should be equalized about once per week. (Check your model’s specifications to see if this is required.)

3. Battery cleaning Once a month batteries should be wiped down to get rid of dust, dirt, and corrosion that may foul connections. This is a good time to check for leaks of electrolyte fluid. Leaks can be a sign of overwatering.

4. Charger cleaning Keep the inside of your charger clean by using an air compressor or a low-pressure air vacuum to remove dust build-up. Periodically check the tips and housing.

Lithium-ion battery maintenance

Li-ion batteries don’t require a separate charging area since they don’t produce harmful gases during charging. They can be opportunity-charged and do not need to be run down before charging. There is no need for watering, checking specific gravity or equalizing since these batteries don’t contain an electrolyte fluid. Regular battery and charger cleaning are needed.

When you need help

Often the first sign of a battery problem is a reduction in run time. First try checking the connections, charging it again, and checking the water level in each cell. If you’re still having problems, call us!

For expert help with your battery maintenance issues and your next battery purchase, contact Morrison. Our trained professionals are ready to serve you.