The weather outside is frightful? Well, that's not as scary as the costly downtime it can cause your operation.
Cold weather challenges can impact the health of your forklifts — and the batteries that power them — if they aren’t being properly maintained. But, an advanced telematics system, can help ensure precautions that avoid costly vehicle downtime are in place and completed.
The fact is temperature impacts a forklift and its batteries performance. Some forklifts show a 25-50% decrease in cycle times while operating in cold conditions. Condensation also plays a role in reducing safety and causing mechanical issues.
But, by implementing some preventive maintenance precautions and battery monitoring, you can avoid mishaps and breakdowns caused by the impact of cold storage areas in your facility or winter weather.
Give forklift issues the cold-shoulder
Your forklifts might be built for cold storage use, but it can still be challenged by freezing temperatures. Condensation is one of the biggest offenders. Very low temperatures affect mechanical health and condensation can accumulate as they move from cold storage to warmer areas in the facility. When the truck re-enters the cold-room, this condensation quickly turns to ice.
But mother nature can be an even bigger- more unexpected challenge if maintenance, battery charging and general precautions are not adjusted. Forklift operations can become more challenging during the winter thanks to harsher temperatures, ice, and snow. It all depends on how much outside exposure happens on any given day and how much the fleet is exposed to changing conditions.
Important reminders for all operators and employees in charge of maintenance:
- Cold temperatures affect a battery’s electrolyte, causing it to thicken and struggle to achieve the chemical reaction needed to power the forklift. As a result, battery life may be shorter.
- Freezing temperatures thicken the forklift’s oil — sometimes to the thickness of honey. This lowers the amps and causes all hydraulic-powered functions to slow down. Oil with lower viscosity performs better in cold temperatures.
- For forklifts operating in both warm and cold areas, extreme changes in temperature can cause condensation to form. That leads to inefficient operations and additional downtime for the forklift.
- Snow, ice or freezing rain may make outdoor surfaces and loading bays slippery, increasing the risk of heavy forklifts sliding down icy embankments. Lift truck operators must be trained in winter driving conditions.
Telematic monitoring as a simple solution
There are a few things you can do to protect your fleet and operators from cold temperature challenges. Here are five cold weather precautions:
- Make sure the batteries are holding a charge properly. Battery-monitoring technology can show a battery’s discharge, temperature, voltage, and amperage — providing real-time alerts and warnings while in use.
- Make sure the water-to-coolant ratio is correct to prevent radiator issues or, worse, cracked blocks.
- Optimize forklift routes and limit the number of times the truck needs to go from room temperature to a freezing environment. This reduces the chances for condensation to form and prevents potential mechanical damage caused by frozen condensation.
- Make sure operators complete safety checks by using a telematics system that locks the vehicle if the checklist is not successfully completed.
- Monitor operator behavior, winter driving skills, and adherence to speed limits. Speed limits should be enforced in any location affected by the weather or icing.
Cold temperatures are a real threat to productivity and the health of your forklifts — and the batteries that power them. By deploying an advanced telematics system, you can ensure you're monitoring all preventive care and taking precautions that support safety and avoids costly vehicle downtime.