Proper industrial battery maintenance is critical to keep electric lift trucks running at optimum performance levels. In this blog post, we will focus primarily on lead acid batteries, the most common type of lift truck battery. But we will also touch on lithium-ion batteries, which are steadily gaining in popularity.
Routine battery and charger checks should be included as part of a required operator daily or pre-shift safety checklist. The operator should look for battery corrosion, cut, loose or frayed cables, damaged connectors, uneven cells, broken or missing vent caps. During operation of the forklift or while charging the battery, if an operator notices excessive gassing, smoke, steam, or excessively hot cables, these issues should immediately be brought to the attention of a supervisor. Companies should have a plan in place to address issues quickly. To paraphrase an old saying, fixing a small problem often eliminates larger, more costly issues.
Performing a regular battery equalization charge is recommended to de-sulphate battery plates. This should be done after the battery is fully charged. It can take up to eight hours to equalize a battery, so consider doing it over the weekend.
More extensive weekly or monthly maintenance checks should include noting the voltage and specific gravity of individual cells. Bad cells may be replaced to improve battery performance.
Checking and maintaining proper water levels in a lead acid industrial battery is critical. A simple “Smartblinky” light is often used to alert operators of low fluid levels in indvidual cells. But the routine use of a single-point-watering system is more reliable and effective. These systems will reduce the overall amout of time spent filling the battery and reduce safety / environmental issues related to spills that often occur when manually filling a battery with water.
Furthermore, using a watering system will also help protect employees from contact with battery acid and ensure batteries are not overwatered. When batteries are manually watered they are often overfilled, which leads to boil-over during charging and a loss of electrolyte (acid). This in turn results in corrosion of the battery case and an overall drop in battery performance until the acid is brought back up the proper levels.
Keeping your battery clean is extremely important, and periodic wash-downs are essential. Using a steam cleaner is recommended.
Any person performing battery safety checks and maintenance work must be outfitted with personal protective equipment such as safety glasses, goggles or a face shield, an apron, and rubber gloves and footwear. An eye wash station must be made available and located nearby.
Maintaining batteries during an extended shutdown is also important. When forklift operations are paused, proper steps must be taken to ensure the batteries are maintained as if they were still in use. When lead acid batteries remain idle for too long, they may incur substantial and irreparable damage to the cells.
Lithium-ion batteries differ from lead acid batteries and do not require the same amount of maintenance. They do not require watering or finishing charges. But like lead acid batteries, they must be managed properly during extended down periods. These batteries should be fully-charged and turned off prior to an extended shutdown. They will lose charge over time but may be safely discharged to 20% without detrimental results. Unlike lead acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries may remain inside an idled lift truck.
Call us today for recommendations on how to properly maintain your battery. We are happy to schedule one of our experienced Account Managers to visit and assess your operation.