01 Jul How To Look After Your Forklift Battery: Maintenance Do’s and Don’ts
What is a forklift battery?
A forklift battery actually has two functions! The first is to provide a power source to the forklift, and the second is to provide mass as a counterweight, which aids the forklift’s lifting capacity.
How long should a forklift battery last?
The lifespan of a forklift battery (depending on battery type) will, on average, last a single-shift operation five years. However, through proper forklift battery maintenance, it can be extended up to 10 years! By prolonging the life of your battery you will help to ensure that you’re getting maximum value for your battery, decrease your expenses, improve battery safety and maintain the forklift’s performance. A typical forklift battery is worth up to 30% of a new truck’s value and offers you approximately 6,000 working hours so it’s important to ensure that you’re running both an efficient and cost-effective operation by maintaining the life of your forklift battery.
How do you maintain a forklift battery?
When it comes to maintaining your forklift batteries lifespan, there are three determining factors: battery type, usage, and maintenance.
There are two different types of batteries used for forklifts: lead-acid, and lithium-ion. The technology between the two differs greatly, and they therefore require different levels of maintenance. Lead-acid batteries tend to last between 1,000 and 1,500 cycles, and lithium-ion generally last between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles. Lithium-ion batteries require less maintenance and their battery packs tend to include a battery regulator.
When it comes to battery usage there are a few important things to remember! So here’s a few DO’s and DON’Ts when it comes to battery usage:
- Steer Clear of Extreme Temperatures! – This is vital. Battery life can be reduced once the temperature reaches 92 degrees, and similarly if the temperature drops to 30 degrees. If you know that you will be operating your forklift in harsher weather conditions ensure that you invest in a battery designed for those conditions.
- Recharge The Battery When It Reaches 20-30% – At this point the lifespan of the battery will begin to deplete if it continues to be used. By waiting until it hits 20-30% provide the ideal balance of battery life, performance, and downtime. You should also always allow your battery to fully charge!
- Don’t Charge During The Lunch Break – The amount of charge cycles that a battery has undergone is what determines it’s lifespan, so ‘opportunity charging’ significantly impacts this. Shorter charge cycles will therefore require more regular charging and overtime the battery will become less efficient and eventually stop charging.
- Don’t Swap Batteries Mid Shift – Changing the battery mid shift when it still has 50% remaining, effectively wastes one whole charging cycle, as it doesn’t differentiate between a full charge and a half charge.
Forklift Battery Maintenance
Proper maintenance of your battery is key in order to prolong battery life. With that in mind, here’s a few DO’s and DON’TS when it comes to maintaining your batteries life:
- Clean Batteries Every Month – The top of your battery should be cleaned monthly, using either warm water or battery cleaner. If this is neglected it can create long term issues.
- Wear Protective Gear – Sulphuric acid, the chemical that’s contained within the batteries, can cause severe burns. So wearing proper protective equipment, and also ensuring that you remove all metal jewellery, is extremely important!
- Check The Batteries Water Level – This is very important! Make sure that a specialist checks the battery water levels once a week. If the water levels drop too low it can cause permanent damage to the battery and shorten the lifespan. Distilled or deionised water should be added every 5-10 charges, and this should always be done after charging.
- Don’t Use A Battery That Emits Smoke – This isn’t safe to use. If a battery starts emitting smoke, it needs to be turned off straight away!
- Attempt to Pick Up a Forklift Battery – Proper equipment, such as a pallet jack should always be used when moving batteries. They are far too heavy to be maneuvered by an individual or team.
How do I know if my forklift battery is bad?
There are a few indicators that a forklift battery is bad and needs to be changed. Here’s a few things you can do, and look out for:
Inspect The Forklift Battery: What To Look Out For:
- Broken terminal
- Excessive leaking
- Bulge or bump in the case
- Crack or rupture of the plastic
If you notice any of these warning signs you should stop using the forklift battery immediately.
Take A Voltage Reading
Voltage readings will help indicate whether a battery is bad or not. If the battery is unable to reach higher than 10.5 volts when being charged, then the battery has a dead cell. If the battery is showing up as ‘fully charged’ but the voltage is 12.4 or less, the battery is sulfated.
Load Test The Forklift Battery: What To Look Out For:
- Excessive battery sulfation
- Fast battery drain
- Dim or flickering displays
- Damaged battery terminals/corrosion
If you’re noticing any of the above it’s probably a sign that the battery needs to be replaced!