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Battery safety is obviously a crucial aspect of maintaining an electric forklift, and in the past we have discussed the importance of wearing safety goggles and keeping an emergency eyewash station nearby at all times. There also remain areas of battery safety that are frequently misunderstood, and one of these concerns mixing sulfuric acid with water. OSHA does specify that forklift mechanics should add acid into water and not water into acid, but the regulations do not go into any sort of detail in explaining why this is the case. This post explains why it is important to add acid into water, and also explains other basic aspects of safe battery practice.
The importance of mixing sulfuric acid with water
The basic necessity of mixing sulfuric acid with water is to create the electrolyte solution that is so important in maintaining the electric charge. It is important to remember that the ratio of sulfuric acid and water in the electrolyte solution is 35% sulfuric acid and 65% water. When the electric charge cannot be maintained, the electrolyte solution restores the charge. A potential mistake that forklift mechanics make is to add only water to restore the charge, and this is ineffective. The importance of adding acid to water is that without acid, water is unable to maintain an electric charge. The reason why it is necessary to add acid into water, and not vice-versa, is that otherwise safety hazards such as smoking and splashing can result. This splashing is obviously harmful, as sulfuric acid can ruin one’s clothing and result in burning to the eyes and skin. In order to avoid any splashing, it is also important to pour very slowly.
How can you determine the strength of the cells in the battery?
Determining the strength of the battery cells is a crucial aspect of battery maintenance. To perform this task, be sure to use a battery hydrometer. The battery hydrometer measures the level of gravity in the battery, telling you the level of electrolyte that is discernible in the cells. Keep in mind that a fully charged cell should have a gravity of 1.280. If you notice that a cell in the battery has a gravity of greater than 25 points less than the rest of the cells, it is likely that there is damage to the forklift.
Adding acid into water is an important battery maintenance procedure for any electric forklift, but it is also potentially dangerous. Forklift operators should always remember to add acid into water and regularly calibrate the strength of the cells in order to keep batteries in good working order and know when a problem arises.