Forklift Batteries Basics: What You Need to Know

Blog Image - Forklift Batteries Basics  What You Need to Know

Batteries are critical components in an electric forklift. You ensure that your trucks are running smoothly, but sometimes the heart of them is overlooked. Your forklift battery’s performance and longevity can vary wildly, with the main culprit of low production being poor care and maintenance. While they last an average of five years, you can double the expectancy of your device with regular upkeep. Here’s how to keep your electric battery humming for up to a decade.  

Undercharging and Overcharging

Proper charging of a forklift battery is critical to maximize its useful life! Both over and under charging can cause serious damage to the battery. Nowadays, overcharging seems to be the larger culprit. Often times, due to a hectic pace in warehouses, drivers will plug the unit in multiple times per day so that the battery is “always full”. This is a NO-NO! Each time this occurs, the battery is essentially tricked into thinking it was empty, therefore shorting the life of that particular charge. Proper procedure would be to hold off on putting the battery on charge until there is only 15%-20% of battery life remaining.

Traditional lead acid batteries require a system of 8-8-8 to function at peak efficiency. (8 hours of charge, 8 hours of cooling, then 8 hours of use) If a battery is not making the full 8-hour shift, then adding an additional battery to the mix may be necessary. Another option would be to consider a Fast Charge or Opportunity Charging system.   Each of these two options require special battery and charging components, but allow for much quicker charging times, plus they are designed to withstand the rigors of always being “plugged in”!!

Charge It Fully

Forklift batteries aren’t cell phones. Charging them in short bursts is not practical, as they have a limited number of total charges in their life. A half-charge takes as much of a toll as a full recharge, so make each one count. 

Protect the Battery from Extreme Temperatures

The chemical composition of a battery is somewhat fickle. Power units function best in average temperatures, and too hot or too cold can severely affect your forklift’s performance. Extreme heat is especially damaging and can cut short the battery’s lifespan by 50%. Be wary while charging as temperatures rise during the process.

Stay Safe when Handling Batteries

Batteries can cause substantial damage if you don’t take the correct precautions. They contain sulfuric acid, which can cause severe eye and skin damage. Protective clothing and eye protection are both a must when you service your electric forklift.

Water the Battery Regularly

Many types of batteries, but not all, require watering. They need a thin layer of clean or distilled water - experts recommend a ¼ inch covering - or the units can suffer irreversible damage. Electrolyte levels increase during charging, and the water prevents overflows that may produce overheating or acid erosion.

However, knowing when to add the water is just as critical! Water should NEVER be added prior to charging!!! It should only be added after a complete charge has occurred, AND the battery has had time to cool. In a perfect world, you should charge for 8 hours… then let it cool for 8 hours prior to adding the water. Then, its ready to use!

Keep it Clean

A primary culprit of battery damage, which can increase in damp environments like those we often see in humid climates, is oxidation. Once that layer of rust has appeared on the terminals or tray, it may be too late. To avoid this disaster, make sure you clean the battery frequently with warm water or a cleaning solution and otherwise keep it dry. Cleaning once a month should help your battery last many years. However, without proper cleaning, it can devolve quickly. 

Handle With Care

Forklift batteries are dense and heavy. If you attempt to move your vehicle or the battery itself, use specially-designed equipment. A drop can be devastating to the battery and its components. If you do need repairs, don’t fret.

Look for Warning Signs

It can be challenging to know when the life of a battery is coming to an end. Sometimes, though, it can be painfully obvious. If the unit produces smoke or smells like the rotten egg scent of sulfur, it is a sure sign of trouble. Another warning signal is excessive heat, as this can be a sign of the last gasp. If you do need a replacement, you can easily find a stop-gap so your business can move forward without hiccups.

Keep Active

If a battery is idle for long periods, its lifespan can be cut short. These devices are engineered to be active and in use, either powering your electric forklift or charging. A battery that is sitting around unused can lead to decreased performance of the unit - and the vehicle - over the long haul.  

Ensure Proper Ventilation when Charging

Chemicals inside batteries can react with each other unpredictably. Whether it is leaks, spills, or sudden bursts of smoke, this can lead to dangerous situations. Besides safeguarding yourself with eyewear, gloves, and protective clothing, you should have proper ventilation. Charging your battery can produce noxious fumes, which can be extremely dangerous in inadequately ventilated spaces.

Your electric forklift is a finely-tuned machine. The individual components work together to power your company’s productivity, and the battery is no exception. You can prolong batteries by handling them gently and safely, and keeping a close eye on their condition.

You can find electric forklift components in a wide range of quality. Now that you know how to extend your battery’s life, make sure you follow the steps of proper maintenance to maximize its performance. 

We’re an authorized dealer for Toyota, Clark, and Linde forklifts and serve customers throughout Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee and eastern Arkansas.

Please contact us online or by phone 800-238-3006 with any questions you have about new or used forklifts. Or come say hello at one of our 13 locations

Arkansas - Jonesboro
Alabama - Birmingham, Dothan, Irondale, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery
Mississippi – Tupelo and Richland
Tennessee - Jackson, Kingsport, Knoxville, and Memphis

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