Forklift battery maintenance is one of the things that drives your fleet.
When you work in a warehouse or on construction sites, you’ll understand more than most how important a forklift is for daily operations. Crucial for transportation, this machine is a productivity dream machine, able to move heavy objects from point A to B and even lift the items onto high and hard to reach areas; without a forklift, the workday would be so much longer and a worker’s safety would be compromised as a forklift does a lot of the heavy lifting.
Your forklift might be your prized possession of the workplace, but they can be expensive to invest in, particularly as new and more advanced models come out with faster speeds and Artificial Intelligence technology. If you want to make the most out of your forklift, then you need to take great care of your machines. Clearly, you need to keep the forklifts themselves well maintained with regular maintenance and excellent staff training, but the secret to a device with great longevity starts with the device batteries themselves. Here is a comprehensive guide about Espex Batteries with everything you need to know about caring for them:
About forklift batteries
Batteries are the powerhouse of any vehicle; without them, your device is useless so it’s crucial that you know how to efficiently care for them so you don’t need to replace them as often. There are many tips and tricks you can follow in order to make the most out of your batteries and there are also certain things you should avoid at all costs to increase their life.
If your company is working on a huge construction project or even if you’re working in a particularly large warehouse, just one forklift isn’t going to be enough. There is a vast range of forklifts available, each with a different task and purpose to fulfil; for instance, reach trucks are designed for elevation and to transport goods to areas that are difficult to access. As such, different devices will require different batteries and chargers; it might sound obvious, but when it comes to using forklift batteries, make sure not to mix these batteries up when charging as this can cause irreparable damage.
On a basic level, charging the battery is easy and quick; check that the charger cables are in good working condition and then connect the male and female connections together and allow it to charge for the full eight hours (or the length of time permitted on the specific battery manual). Disconnect the battery once the flow indicator stops revolving, as this suggests that the battery has received an adequate amount of fluid. However, there are a lot more specific rules you should adhere to if you want to make the process as safe and efficient as possible.
What is good forklift battery maintenance?
1. Clean and dry the batteries
It might seem like a simple task but making sure your forklift batteries are sufficiently cleaned is essential. Unclean or eroded batteries will not only affect the function of your forklifts, but they could even nullify the warranty of your product. When your battery is disconnected from the charger, make an acid neutralising solution of ammonia and sodium carbonate/bicarbonate (1kg to 10 litres of water) and give your batteries a once over with a rag. You’ll only need to do this a few times a year, but it’s worth the effort if you want batteries that will last a lifetime.
2. Top up batteries with distilled water
Topping up the water levels of your batteries is essential if you want to achieve the optimal acid/electrolyte level to keep your battery working at peak capacity; however, you can’t just use regular water from the tap as these contain metals, chemicals and ions that react with the acid and impact the performance of the forklift batteries. Water needs to be as pure as possible so always top up the battery with distilled water.
3. Regularly check your levels
Many people ignore the readings on batteries and some don’t even know how to check them. The electrolyte level is perhaps the most important one to check; you can see if it needs topping up by removing the tops covering the cell ports and see if the plates are exposed or nearly exposed. If you want to extend the life of your battery, you should check these levels daily.
Did you know that you also need to check the specific gravity readings? You can do this using a hydrometer and the specific gravity readings should be no less than 1.210; if there’s more than a 30 point difference between cells, it’s likely that your battery needs replacing. Check these levels often and keep a record of the readings.
4. Charge with lid open
Whenever you charge your batteries, keep the component lid open. It’s a simple tip, but it can really help to extend the life of your batteries. Overheating can damage the product as well as it’s components; ideally, electrolyte levels should be kept below 50°C which can be achieved with proper ventilation.
5. Top up to the correct level
You should aim to top up your battery’s water to the perfect level, which is around 15mm above the cell plates. It’s essential to meet this water level, as underfilling them will create an unbalanced acid to water ratio which will reduce the efficacy and longevity of the battery. On the other hand, if you overfill the battery, it can be dangerous and cause a risk of injury and even a fire hazard.
6. Be patient when disconnecting the battery
Never disconnect the battery without first switching off the charger; likewise, remove the plug from the socket by holding the plug itself instead of tugging the wire. It pays to be patient when disconnecting the battery and it’s recommended that you wait at least five minutes before disconnecting the batteries from their chargers; you need to wait for hydrogen gas levels to dissipate as failing to do this could result in an explosion.
7. Use petroleum jelly to avoid corrosion
A great inexpensive tip to follow when maintaining a forklift battery is to stock up on petroleum jelly. Layer the jelly onto the positive and negative electrodes in order to avoid damage and erosion which is caused by using tools on the terminal bolts.
What to avoid doing when using and charging forklift batteries:
1. Never under or overcharge the battery
With a busy work day ahead, it’s easy to slip into bad habits and charge batteries at the earliest and most convenient time. Not only will this impact the speed and productivity of your workday, but it will also decrease the long-term life of your forklift batteries. On average, the batteries have a charging cycle of around 1500 times; this number is greatly reduced by staggered charging. A more efficient solution is to charge for around 8 hours straight at the end of the day so that they are fully charged and ready to go in the morning. If you or your workers find yourself constantly running out of forklift charge, it might be worth investing in a few more forklift batteries and chargers so they can be swapped out quickly and efficiently.
2. Don’t let a discharged battery sit for an extended period
Leaving a battery uncharged can do a great deal of damage. If you leave it for more than 24 hours, sulphur will build up in the battery, causing it to erode and become less efficient at holding charge.
3. Never charge with battery vent caps open
The vent caps on forklift batteries are there to adjust the pressure inside the battery itself; it’s recommended that you leave them alone wherever possible. While charging the battery, you should never leave the vent caps open; if left open, the battery acid could leak, damaging the battery casing and cause a hazard to workers.
4. Do not attempt battery repairs yourself
A forklift battery can be incredibly dangerous if you don’t fully understand how the components work. If your battery isn’t working and a simple clean or water top-up doesn’t fix it, you shouldn’t attempt any repairs yourself. Contact the battery manufacturer to discuss the issues; they may be able to fix the problem for you.
5. Never top up your batteries with acid
This is a surprisingly common misconception when it comes to forklift batteries, but it’s distilled water that requires refilling and you should never top the battery up with acid; this could instantly kill your battery. If there is an electrolyte problem, contact a professional who might be able to help you with your problem.
Health and safety considerations
When it comes to battery maintenance, it’s essential to train yourself and any forklift operators on some health and safety rules. Here are some basic rules to consider:
1. The batteries themselves are heavy, so be careful when lifting. Adopt the correct posture and lift with your legs, not your back.
2. Make sure the tubes connected to the battery are straight; this will guarantee an even flow of liquids to the battery.
3. Avoid having metal near the batteries or you could risk being electrocuted. Similarly, you should only use insulated tools when replacing or adjusting terminals.
4. Wear protective clothing. It might feel unnecessary but protective gloves and goggles are essential to protect you from any battery acid leaks.
If you’re looking to purchase some quality forklift batteries for your own machines, then contact a member of the West Mercia Fork Trucks team who can answer any queries you may have and get your order underway. Once you have the batteries in your possession, make sure to follow the tips and tricks in this useful guide to increase the longevity of your products.