Few pieces of equipment take as much abuse as the forklift. In constant demand, it’s tempting to skip protocol when it comes to maintaining the forklift batteries. But for each episode of mishandling, the life of the battery is cut short. To extend the life span of your forklift battery, to ensure safety and optimal performance, and to decrease unnecessary expenses, proper maintenance is crucial.
Let’s start with some basic - yet often overlooked - don’ts of forklift battery maintenance:
- Do not opportunity charge. In other words, charging the battery based on convenience rather than protocol is one of the most destructive yet common practices. Most new batteries will last 1,500 cycles; a battery charged at the end of each work day will last five years. However, each charge costs a cycle, which means you can quickly deplete the life span of the battery if you opportunity charge. Charging twice a day cuts the life span in half.
- Do not perform a mid-shift swap. This goes hand in hand with opportunity charging and especially applies in cold storage environments where the battery’s run time may be four to five hours rather than the usual eight. Pre-mature charging eats away at the battery life.
- Do not discharge beyond 80 percent of the battery. Over-discharging will significantly reduce the life span of your battery.
- Do not interrupt a charge cycle. Allow the cycle to be completed unless you have a very good reason to cut it short.
- Do not let a discharged battery sit for extended periods. Again, the effectiveness and life of the battery will be significantly reduced if hard sulphation is allowed to build up.
And let’s turn to the do’s:
- Do clean the top of the batteries every month with warm water or a battery cleaner. Failure to do so will prompt some manufacturers to waive the warranty. If left unclean, build-up from the cell breather during the charge process will cause tray corrosion, voltage tracking, faster self-discharge, and may even affect the electronics within the forklift.
- Do top up the battery with clean water after charging only. Although some maintain water can be topped up prior to charging, doing it afterward is safer, faster and more efficient.
- Do switch the power off and leave it for at least five minutes before disconnecting the truck from the charger. Disconnecting too soon increases the risk of a spark setting off an explosion since the hydrogen gas emitted by the batteries during charging need time to disperse.
- Do take a monthly gravity reading on all cells with a hydrometer after charge.
- Do operate the batteries as long as possible even though it would be more convenient to charge them at shorter intervals such as during lunch breaks or midway through a shift.
Proper forklift battery maintenance is not difficult to execute. Being disciplined in a busy environment, on the other hand, can be more challenging. Keep in mind following protocol will always pay off in the end.