FAQs Forklift Batteries

forklift battery. (courtesy: Charles Green)

forklift battery.
(courtesy: Charles Green)

One could say that the battery is the heart of the forklift. Just as the human heart beats to circulate blood throughout the body, the battery is circulating energy through the forklift. It is important for a forklift operator to understand how the battery works, how to maintain it, and when to know that a replacement battery is needed. He should also understand what accessories are necessary to have on hand to assure that the battery performs well.

In order to pass this information on, what follows are answers to frequently asked questions concerning forklift batteries.

Q: What is a forklift battery?
A: Most, if not all, forklift operators probably understand that the battery is what provides power to the forklift. However, many may not be aware that the battery also provides a counterweight that helps with the lifting capacity of the lift.

Q: What is included in a forklift battery?
A: The battery includes a battery case that hosts its individual cells; the cells, which are small, self-contained individual batteries consisting of a series of tightly stacked lead plates filled with sulfuric acid; battery bars that link the individual cells to create a complete circuit; and battery cables, which handle the amperage the battery generates.

Q: Can a used battery sufficiently power a forklift?
A: Yes, it can. You can buy used batteries from local material handling or battery dealers. The batteries are put through a rigorous set of tests and maintenance procedures before it is sold to the public. The restoration process includes cleaning and equalizing the battery as well as filling it with fresh acid. This ensures that the battery will work to its optimum capability.

Q: What is a forklift battery charger?
A: The forklift battery charger is a device that is design to charge the battery. Back in the day the forklift operator was required to set the desired voltage and amperage for charging the battery providing a chance for mistakes due to human error that could possibility damage the battery. Today’s chargers include a complex combination of cards and sensors that effectively charge the battery without human involvement. The current chargers are programmed with preset parameters that protect the battery from overcharging and damage. If there is a problem during the charging of a battery, the preset parameters will actually stop the process and the charger will display an error code. There are assortments of chargers available including small portable chargers that plug into an electric outlet to large, wall-mounted chargers that feature large amperage capacities and dedicated wiring. Current chargers allow the forklift operator to custom tune a specific charge cycle and allows for the control everything from the amount of voltage, amperage, charging time, and fill rate over a given period of time. These features allow the forklift operator a greater amount of flexibility in charging the battery and ensure longer battery life and performance.

Q: What is included in a modern industrial charger?
A: The charger includes five elements –- the charger case, which hosts all the internal components; the circuit cards, large capacitors and transformers, and diodes; a digital display that exhibits the battery’s vital statistics, and the chosen charge cycle, and status of the charger.

Q: Can a used charger be used to charge a forklift battery?
A: Yes and they are available for a price that is about 40% to 60% less than a new charger.

Q: Is it possible to rent a forklift battery and charger?
A: Batteries and chargers are available to rent together or separately. The prices depend on the weight of the battery and its specifications as well as the specifications of the charger.

Q: What do I need to find out when researching about renting or buying a forklift battery charger?
A: You need to know the voltage of the battery so that you can match it with the voltage of the charger. You need to know what phase of electricity your battery features 1 PHS or 3 PHS. You need to know the battery amp hours rating. You need to know the line voltage at the location where the forklift battery charger will be used to assure that the charger and line voltage match. You need to know where the battery charger is stored. Some people store battery chargers in a freeze or cold storage and batteries should not be charged in conditions that are below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

Q: What is a forklift battery changer?
A: A forklift battery changer is a mechanical device that helps to safely remove and install electric forklift batteries. The changer commonly weighs between 800 pounds to 4,400 pounds. Some changers are on wheels so that they can be moved to where they are needed, some are attached to a powered piece of equipment so that they can be driven, and some are fixed fixtures requiring that the forklift be driven to the changer so that its battery can be replaced.

Q: What are battery-monitoring devices?
A: They are gadgets that provide information that show the condition of the battery. The information you get includes:

· The battery’s temperature, water levels, charge intervals and state of charge
· Low water levels
· The battery’s temperature conditions, weight, and overcharges
· Maintenance alerts
· Undersized battery alerts

Q: What is a battery water monitor?
A: A battery water monitor checks the water (or electrolyte) level of the battery and alerts you when the battery needs water. This device is essential for good monitoring of the battery because if a battery is watered too frequently, an electrolyte boil-over can occur. This adversely affects battery capacity by as much as 3% every time electrolyte spill over occurs. On the other hand, if batteries are watered infrequently, permanent damage can occur to the lift truck and battery.

Q: What signs should I be looking for to alert me that the battery is in bad condition?
A: Check the battery for post growth, dished battery tops, discolored electrolyte and a bad egg smell. Another sign that might occur while driving the forklift is poor run time. These symptoms can occur in one or more cells. Any cell that exhibits a symptom will have to be replaced whether the battery is being regenerated or not. Of course, if the whole battery shows symptoms, then it should be replaced.

Q: What are the main problems experienced by second hand batteries?
A: Problems can include sulfating of the plates, split gauntlets aka tubular plate, severe paste shed, and corrosion. In most cases, regeneration can recover the battery if it is only affected by sulfating. If the other issues are present, then the battery cannot be recovered.

Q: What is battery regeneration?
A: Battery regeneration is a procedure that removes sulfates from the plates of the battery and thus returning full capacity to the battery. Batteries sulfate from the day they are manufactured. The normal operation of charging and discharging the battery results in more sulfate build up on the plates. This is because charging technology is not 100% efficient. So after each charge, sulfates are left unconverted in the battery and this slowly builds up causing the battery not to accept a full charge. This causes a re-charging problem because the charger is reading voltage and resistance results in higher voltages and it is tricked into thinking the battery is fully charged causing the charger to switch off before the battery is truly charged. This leaves the battery with not much more capacity than it had prior to charging. The battery goes back into service, but the charge does not last as long as it should. Before regeneration batteries in this condition would have to be replaced. However, now with regeneration the problem is alleviated.

Q: What are the hazards associated with forklift batteries?
A: Some hazards include fires caused by hydrogen gas, Sulfuric acid/electrolyte leaks that can burn skin and eyes, electrical shock caused by a high rate of current, and the heavy weight due to the use of lead in the battery.

Q: What safety items should I wear while working with forklift batteries?
A: It is suggested that you wear protective goggles, face shield, rubber gloves and rubber apron.

Q: What safety items should I keep near forklift batteries?
A: Things that you should keep on hand include acid neutralizing solution or baking soda, proper eyewear, masks and gloves, non-metallic containers to hold liquid, and eyewash.

Q: What are the most common reasons why batteries fail prematurely?
A: Low water levels, over or opportunity charging, over watering, failing to equalize the charge, and corrosion are five reasons why batteries fail prematurely.

About Robert J