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Proper Forklift Battery Maintenance

Keeping your forklift batteries well maintained lessens the need for replacements and helps lower your costs. To ensure you get the most out of your forklift batteries, you want to ensure that you have regular maintenance intervals set up for all of your batteries. Many lead-acid batteries can outlast their warranties and power your forklift for years longer than the average battery lifespan when you care for them properly. 

At Trupar America, we have put together some proper maintenance tips to help you care for your forklift batteries and extend their life. 

How Often Do I Need to Perform Battery Maintenance?

We've put together a general checklist for forklift battery maintenance which can be adjusted based on your forklift usage and application. 

Weekly Battery Maintenance

  • Check water cells after charging.
  • Check electrolyte levels.
  • Check for acidic residue on battery cases and spot clean if needed. 
  • Perform an equalization charge.
  • Measure the specific gravity of the battery with a hydrometer after charging. 

Monthly Battery Maintenance 

  • Clean/wash the tops of the battery cases. 
  • Measure the specific gravity of the battery with a hydrometer after charging. 
  • Perform a thorough inspection, check for corrosion of the terminals, and damage the connectors or cables. 

Battery Maintenance at Three to Six Month Intervals

  • Perform a thorough battery wash. 
  • Remove any spent batteries and send them to a recycling service. 
  • Equalization Charges to Balance Power Unequal Power Capacities

As your battery ages, it can lead to the different cells within the batteries developing different power capacities. This prevents you from charging the battery fully since one cell may hold a full charge while another may only hold half of a charge. 

An equalization charge, or purposeful overcharge, will help to prevent this issue. A regular charge lasts about eight hours; an equalization charge will add three hours to that charging cycle. 

Equalization charges also help prevent stratification, which occurs when the acid and water separate within the battery's cells. During the last stages of an equalization charge, the batteries will release hydrogen and oxygen. These gases form bubbles that provide a stirring action electrolyte prevention stratification. 

An equalization charge requires more cool-down time than a typical charge cycle and should be performed weekly. Be sure to schedule your equalization charges when there is enough downtime for charging and cooling before the next shift. 

Battery Watering to Prevent Oxidation

A forklift battery electrolyte is comprised of sulfuric acid and deionized water. When this level gets low, the battery plates can become exposed to air, which can lead to oxidization. Damage from oxidation can cause your battery to have a permanently reduced capacity and a shorter lifespan. Water loss can occur from natural evaporation and the charging process. 

The charging process breaks water down into hydrogen and oxygen. As these gasses escape through the battery vents, the water level will be reduced. 
When watering your forklift batteries, you want to make sure that you only water the batteries after they are charged. 

The electrolyte will expand as the battery charges, so if you add water before charging, you risk over-watering, leading to boil-overs. Other tips for water include:

  • Only use clean non-ionized water. The additives and minerals in tap water can collect on battery cells and leave a residue that can affect battery capacity. Use a deionizing water system if you live in an area with hard water. 
  • Best practices indicate that you should fill the battery cells ¼ inch above the element protector. Overfilling or underfilling can negatively impact your battery. 
  • It is recommended that you water the forklift batteries once a week. Keep an eye on older batteries as they may need more frequent watering. 

If you feel that you are excessively watering your batteries in a specific unit, there may be an issue with the batteries or the charger. Be sure to inspect them for any issues. 

Battery Washing to Keep Batteries Charged and Prevent Damaged Terminals

The electrolyte can escape and build up on battery cases due to the acidic vapor that can drift to the top of the cases, or the initiated electrolyte spills over or boils over the battery vents while charging. The battery may also leak electrolyte onto the batteries below if the batteries are stored in a rack without drip pans or the drip pans are not changed regularly. 

This acidic residue on forklift battery cases can lead to a variety of issues, including: 
  • Limits to battery lifespan- This residue can create a conductive circuit between the battery's lead posts and steel case, which causes a constant, low-level self-discharge. This depletes the charge cycles and affects the lifespan of the battery. 
  • Terminal corrosion- The acid accumulation can cause corrosion of the terminals, which can cause electrical problems in the lift trucks while also limiting the capacity of the battery or making it unusable. 
It is crucial to regularly spot clean the tops of your batteries and to clean them after boil-overs with an acid-neutralizing de-greaser. To avoid ruining your battery, be sure the vent caps are closed tightly before applying the de-greaser. On average, you should also thoroughly wash your batteries two to four times a year. How often you need to clean them will depend on how often you use them. 

In Need of Forklift Battery Replacements or Parts?

At Trupar America, we offer a large selection of quality forklift parts that our Pittsburgh customers and those in the surrounding areas can take advantage of. Contact us today to learn more!  

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