Categorized | Construction

How to Look After Forklift Batteries Properly

With increasing fuel costs as further environmental concerns, many forklift operators are switching to electric-powered forklift trucks. Battery operation can deliver considerable savings – particularly in the current economic climate – but these can rapidly be lost through incorrect battery care. A new forklift truck battery offers in the region of 6,000 working hours on condition that you look after it consistently with the correct maintenance guidelines.

Handle with Care

Simple working practices such as scheduling the day’s work around set battery refuelling periods will reduce downtime, but remember that batteries should not be charged more than once every 24 hours. Running the battery below a 20 per cent charge will also harm it and cause the engine’s electrical systems to run too hot, which can result in major damage. There is a risk of having burned-out components or even a total motor failure.

Low battery power also slows down traction and hydraulics – a good indicator that it needs charging. Many operators fall into the habit of giving a battery a quick ‘top-up’ charge over lunch or coffee breaks, but this will shorten the lifespan of the battery as charge cycles affect the overall lifetime. Quick charges reduce the efficiency of a battery over time and will eventually lead to it not charging at all.

Maintenance Is Key

Regular checks of the battery’s water level are vital to maintaining its health. Throughout a charge cycle, water is heated and divides into gases, which release oxygen at the positive plate and hydrogen at the negative plate. If the water level is too low the plates will be exposed to air, which causes the material to become brittle and dry and will damage the plates permanently. Distilled water should be added to the battery, usually after around ten charge cycles. Top-ups should be made after a charge cycle. Make sure you don’t overfill as this too can cause damage. Overfilling can lead to sulphation of the battery, where the white sulphuric crystals attach themselves to the plates. When this happens, the battery will be unable to hold a charge very well.

Daily checks of a forklift should include looking for any tell-tale signs of white crystals developing on the battery plates. If you spot any problems such as this it is advisable to book a visit from an engineer who will be able to offer advice on how to correct the issue.

Fast-Charge Caution

Carrying out a fast charge may reduce downtime but it comes with a cost. Batteries can be given a quick charge, but the heat created during the charge can radically reduce a battery’s lifespan. Only use fast charging for dire emergencies. If a battery does run flat it really should be given a complete and continuous charge cycle of around eight hours.

Richard Hall is a journalist and blogger who writes about industries in the north east of England. His earlier work in warehousing and logistics led studying the workings of a forklift truck in Durham, in particular the battery and drive-chains.