Forklift batteries cost $1,500 to $5,000 a piece. So, not giving importance to the proper maintenance might result in great financial loss or higher operating expenses in your business. Nearly all lead-acid forklift batteries provide approximately 2,000 charge cycles. This means a battery normally lasts around 5 years. But to have the maximum service life of a forklift battery, you need to take proper care of it. Without proper maintenance, your forklift battery may not even last 5 years. You can expect to use a battery longer than 5 years if you strictly follow the forklift battery handling and maintenance best practices.
Following are some useful battery maintenance and handling best practices and tips that you should follow:
1. Charge the Battery the Proper Way
People tend to charge forklift batteries whenever they feel convenient, known as “opportunity charging.” But this is a poor practice as forklift batteries should be charged only to certain degrees and at certain times. You should charge the battery until it is full every time it dips below 30 percent charge. It is important to note that both undercharging and overcharging a forklift battery can considerably lessen its life span. The best way to charge is having a fixed charge cycle and not interrupting the cycle. Never charge a forklift battery twice a day as it can cut its service life in half.
2. Regularly Equalize the Batteries
You must regularly equalize wet or flooded cell batteries. When the battery acid gets more concentrated at the bottom of the battery, the equalizing process reverses the chemical stratification. Acid and water stratification make it harder for the battery to hold a charge. Proper equalizing eliminates sulfate crystals from the plates of the battery and rebalances the electrolyte concentration. Equalizing is possible only when a battery charger has an equalizing setting. While maintenance specifications can vary from battery to battery, most batteries require equalizing almost every 5 to 10 charging cycles. Make sure you check the specifications before initiating the equalization process.
3. Frequently Check Fluid Levels
To work properly, forklift batteries require the perfect amount of water. Every 5 charge cycles, open up the battery to check the fluid levels. Check 2 to 3 battery cells and make sure that there is sufficient fluid to cover up the plastic element of the battery. In case if you are not sure checking only 2-3 cells, check all the cells and be sure about the fluid level. If you find that there is not sufficient fluid, you need to add water.
4. Maintain Correct Water Levels
Roughly every 10 charge cycles, you need to check the water level and add water to maintain right water level. Just top off the fluid in the battery and add sufficient water to cover the plastic element protector of the battery.
Just like not adding water when needed is harmful, adding extra water can be equally harmful. It is important to note that maintenance-free batteries are required to be topped off. Make sure you top off the battery only when it is fully charged. Adding water before charging the battery is a common mistake. Between 5 and 7 on the pH scale is the recommended limits for impurities. Remember, putting impure water into the battery can lead to damage of the battery.
5. Keep Forklift Batteries at a Safe Temperature
The temperature not exceeding 45℃ (113℉) is regarded as safe temperature to keep forklift batteries. For optimal cooking, try to ensure enough air circulation in and around the battery compartment. Charging a battery in extreme heat or cold can damage the battery and its service life. If you want to be 100% sure about the perfect temperature to keep and charge the battery, contact the manufacturer because the temperature can vary from battery to battery and model to model.
6. Have A Separate Battery Room
Having a designated area for charging the forklift battery is an OSHA-recommended best practice. Keep the room well ventilated. Make sure there is no open flame or smoking near batteries.
7. Move the Batteries the Right Away
As forklift batteries are quite heavy, do not allow a single person to move a forklift battery. Use special equipment such as walkie pallet jack equipped with a transfer carriage to move the battery.
8. Clean The Battery
At least once a month clean the battery with battery cleaner or warm water. Not cleaning the battery can cause faster self-discharge, voltage tracking, tray corrosion and even affect the electronics within the forklift. Some manufacturers waive the warranty if they find forklift batteries unclear.
9. Never Forget Worker Safety
It is recommended that the workers wear steel toe work boots to ensure their safety while handling a forklift battery. Having necessary arrangements for eye and hand washing nearby too are recommended to avoid health risks of the workers. Workers must wear chemical-resistant gears as well. Lead-acid battery cells contain a large volume of sulfuric acid, which can be the reason for serious chemical burns on human skin.
Never keep any metal objects on batteries as batteries are electrically live all the time. Metal objects can catch electricity and cause accidents. Always allow the battery enough time to cool before recharge or discharge. Never add acid or any other solutions to the battery. And never allow unauthorized representatives to service the battery. To prevent arcs and sparks, always turn off the charger before disconnecting the battery.