An often-talked-about advantage of purchasing an electric forklift (even a heavy-duty large electric forklift) is the fuel cost savings. While the acquisition costs are higher than an LP-powered forklift, the battery powers the electric unit for multiple years. However, there’s a factor many companies overlook when estimating the return on investment of the battery – the “people factor”.
Forklift batteries must be properly maintained to reach their full potential. Improper watering, cleaning and charging can cut battery life by 50%.
While routine battery maintenance can be outsourced to a third-party, the best results occur when companies provide training to forklift operators. A commitment to training operators increases awareness of safety risks and best practices. This ultimately keeps operators accountable for the condition of the battery. Weekly battery checks by a company’s maintenance department or supervisor also reinforce the training.
Quick Tips for Forklift Battery Maintenance
Forklift Battery Charging
- Charge forklift batteries as recommended by the manufacturer. For most manufacturers, daily charging is favored.
- Only recharge your battery if it has been discharged 30% or more; and, don’t run the forklift if the battery is discharged 80% or more. The lift-interrupt device reduces lifting speed when the battery reaches such a high percentage. Never bypass the lift-interrupt.
- Allow time for the battery to cool after charging. Running hot batteries will warp lead plates and cause battery cells to short out.
- Always keep open flames and metal items away from the battery.
- Don’t ignore forklift batteries that aren’t in operation. Long periods of sitting will cause hard sulfation to form on the battery.
- An electric forklift motor is a device that converts electro-chemical energy, provided by an industrial battery, into mechanical energy. Make sure to apply the same amount of care, maintenance, and attention-to-detail to your motors as you do your batteries, since very often the two work in unison.
- Always use distilled water or water that is known to be free of abnormally high amounts of impurities.
- Add approved water after charging – never add acid.
- Keep the electrolyte level above the battery’s plates. Moisture on top of the battery indicates overfilling.
- Clean battery overspills with neutralizer to prevent corrosion on the top of and under battery.
- Require – and enforce – employees are properly outfitted with PPE, including safety gloves, glasses and apron.