The average electric battery will last 1,500 charge cycles, which is about five years if it’s well-maintained. By providing regularly-scheduled preventative maintenance, you will get the most out of your investment.
Here are the most important things to do to maintain your forklift battery performance, and keep your material handling equipment working at maximum output.
1) Electrolyte Levels: Keep the electrolyte in the cells at the proper level. Battery monitoring systems can cover voltage spikes or drops, amp-hours, water levels, etc. These systems consist of either or both a plain monitor and a battery water monitor. These are important because batteries need to be charged and watered proportionately to extend its life.
2) Battery Watering and Water Monitoring: There are several ways to water a forklift battery. Some are more convenient than others. What matters is that each cell in each battery is only watered until reaching the top of the lead-acid plates. These plates are visible in each cell and are usually about 2.5 inches below the cell cap. If you overwater your battery it can lead to several serious issues like cauliflowering, leaks, worker injury, and battery failure.
Only top off a battery after the battery is fully charged. It is also important to use the right water, which measures between 5 and 7 on the pH scale and is within recommended limits for impurities. Impure water can lead to battery damage.
Even under normal working conditions, your electric forklift battery will lose water through evaporation. Water levels should be checked every five charges and clean water should be added as needed. Keep an eye on newer batteries and be sure to add new water every week.
If you have a large fleet, single-point watering systems or specialty watering guns are more efficient. For smaller fleets, batteries can be easily filled using water canisters. Make sure the water is only filled up to ¼” above the top of the plates prior to charging. Batteries can suffer damage by both under and overwatering. Your lead-acid battery contains a liquid electrolyte mixture of sulfuric acid and water. Small amounts of oxygen and hydrogen gas that are created during discharge gets released out of the vented cap on the cell. This causes evaporation and you have to replace the lost moisture or risk burn out. An industrial battery can last up to the manufacturer’s specifications if properly watered and maintained. To help get this accomplished proper watering is a must. Make sure vent tops are secured tightly in place.
Gravity Feed System – This system features a large water drum or tank hoisted in the air and has a hose attached to it that the operator takes from cell to cell until they are properly filled.
Battery Watering System – These systems hook your batteries up to a hose that attaches to each cell, and properly fills each cell. After this, it automatically shuts off when each cell is properly filled.
Watering Gun Method – This method involves hooking a battery watering gun attachment to a hose and going cell-by-cell and manually filling each cell to the proper levels.
If you do not maintain the battery you can lose a significant amount on your investment by cutting the life of the battery in half or even thirds. If batteries are not properly watered; downtime and maintenance increase while battery lifespan and safety decrease. Moisture on the top of the battery indicates overfilling has occurred. Protect your investment by ensuring your staff know-how, when, and where to water your batteries.
3) Forklift Battery Washing: Corrosive buildup on batteries can cause damage to the plastic casing, corrode the terminals and shorten the overall battery life. Inspect batteries regularly for corrosion and wash them with water and battery acid neutralizer as needed.
Make sure the battery is completely dried before charging it again. When washing batteries, be sure to follow EPA and OSHA regulations. Wash in a closed-off area with proper wastewater disposal. Make sure personal protective clothing and gear is worn to stay in compliance with regulations.
An important maintenance function is to keep the top and sides of the battery clean. Spills and dirt can conduct charge from the battery posts to the case of the battery or to other cells. These shorts can reduce capacity and are potentially dangerous.
4) Battery Storage: Store Batteries at the Proper Temperature
Forklifts can be used in pretty extreme environments, so you have to consider the temperature of the batter when in use. Keeping a battery at a safe temperature and not exceeding 113?, will help to prolong its life. Be sure there is plenty of air circulating in and around the battery compartment for optimal cooling. Check all the battery connections for wear and damage. Keep in mind that batteries contain hazardous chemicals, they generate heat when charging, they produce harmful gas and can splash acid. Proper handling and procedures are paramount to extending the life of your equipment and providing safe working conditions for your employees.
Proper battery care for forklift batteries requires special tools and personal protection equipment in order to do the job right.
5) Forklift Battery Charger: Use the right type and size of charger for the battery. Industrial chargers are needed to charge your battery. They charge your battery as quickly as possible without decreasing the battery’s lifespan. They also monitor your battery for overheating and overcharging. These chargers allow you to set your charging cycle to control the voltage, charging times, amps, and fill rates giving you extended battery life. Some chargers are on wheels and are moved from lift to lift and others are fixed fixtures where the battery is driven or hoisted to its station. When installing battery chargers you need to take your phases into account. Many manufacturers offer either single or three-phase chargers. You should take into account how your building is wired when purchasing a charger to avoid rewiring and to get the best charge while avoiding damage to your system or battery.
Single Phase is a two-wire alternating current power circuit. It is commonly used in homes or small businesses to power lighter items such as TVs and lights. Usually, there is one power wire and one neutral wire; power flows between the power wire through the load and the neutral wire.
Three Phase is a three-wire alternating current power circuit. It is commonly used in commercial buildings for large HVAC systems, larger water heaters, and industrial equipment. 3 Phase 4 Wire power arrangements are used because of its power density. A 3 phase power arrangement provides 1.732 times more power than a single phase. The advantage of a three-phase charger is that they will draw less amps for charging and reduce energy costs because less energy is lost with reduced electrical current resistance.
6) Battery Charging: Make sure to charge batteries fully every day. Charging a battery whenever it is convenient is not the best way to go, it should only be charged at certain times and to certain degrees. You should charge a forklift’s battery only when it dips below 30% to preserve your plates. Over or undercharging industrial batteries can significantly decrease its overall lifespan. Keep truck compartment and battery cover open during charging. Make sure the battery is cooler than 115 °F before charging.
7) Equalize Batteries: Each week you must provide the battery with a finish and equalization charge. Make sure to follow specific battery manufacturers specifications for maintaining battery equalization. The controlled process of overcharging batteries to break up the sulphation on the battery plates should be scheduled at regular intervals. This procedure helps to rebalance the electrolytes and rejuvenate the battery. Keep in mind it takes longer than a typical charge and is best done every 5 to 10 charges.
8) Allow the batteries to rest after each charge cycle. Properly charging a battery requires three important steps: full charging, trickle charging and resting. Not allowing the charge to finish, and not allowing the battery to cool down will result in some of the cells not being fully charged, meaning the cells will have less capacity available after each charge. Eventually, one of the cells will be so much worse than the others, the battery will underperform, and the vehicle battery gauge will over-report the remaining charge at rest, and under-report it during hard use.
9) Maintain records: Start a regular system of recording battery use and charging. Watch for reductions in capacity over time. Check the battery for damage and leaks.
Lead-acid battery maintenance is extensive and time-consuming but it will result in a longer-lasting battery. If you’re interested in low-maintenance lithium-ion batteries, contact your nearest Burns Industrial Equipment location for more information. We carry a full line of forklift batteries and provide in-plant battery washing and mobile service and battery rebuilding service.
For more information about forklift batteries and how they can be an asset to your business:
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