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Be honest. Do you regularly check your car battery or do you just let it “do its own thing” until a problem arises? If car battery maintenance is high on your list of priorities, you’re in the minority. Do you have a regularly scheduled maintenance program for your forklift batteries? You probably do, but do you go beyond the basics and look after your forklift batteries as well as you could? Here again, if you do, you’re one of a small minority.
A forklift battery should last 5 years (or 1,500-1,800 cycles). They often don’t, though, and forklift owners tend to blame the battery manufacturers rather than place the blame where it belongs — on their lack of knowledge or care. These are some of the most common mistakes forklift owners make with their batteries:
Both over-watering and under-watering are very common problems. It’s usually because watering is considered important, while watering correctly is considered a minor issue. It’s not. Over-watering and under-watering can significantly reduce battery life through:
- Plate oxidation
- Capacity loss
- Drying out
- Lowering electrolyte levels
- Reducing amp hours (leading to overheating and boilovers)
The long term damaging effects of over and under watering are arguably worse than their immediate effects because we tend to learn fast when a battery dries out or boils over, but not notice the damage we’re doing over the long haul.
Another frequently made mistake is watering at the wrong time. Battery manufacturers stress the importance of watering after an equalizing charge. This is because electrolytes expand when batteries are being used. If you water after a charge, it minimizes the chances of overfilling, which can lead to a boilover.
Manually filling battery cells is a time consuming chore that can easily be put off until tomorrow even when the battery needs refilling. A good automatic battery filling system is an inexpensive way to make sure your batteries are always filled when they should be.
You probably know that over-discharging a battery is not advised, but in the course of the working week, you probably try to squeeze a little more out of your battery than you should. You get away with it once and decide that letting it dip below 20% is “no big deal.” It isn’t if you don’t mind replacing your batteries more often than you need to. Over-discharging is a leading cause of premature capacity loss and battery replacement.
Battery temperature has a lot to do with battery life. There are both internal and external reasons for batteries to be forced to operate at less than optimal temperatures. When the air outside is very cold, the battery becomes cold as well. This can reduce its capacity significantly. One solution for protecting your forklift batteries from the cold is to insulate the battery compartment.
In a cold climate, a battery charger will shut off earlier than it should because it will take an inaccurate voltage reading. This shortens battery life significantly. To avoid this, use a charger designed for use in cold temperatures and adjust battery discharge indicators to compensate for inaccurate readings.
Heat is arguably more of a danger to batteries than cold. The internal temperature of a battery rises when it is being used. When the outside temperature rises, it cannot effectively cool the battery. Charging, too, increases the internal temperature of the battery. Two things you can do to help prevent overheating are:
- Make sure battery charging areas are well-ventilated.
- Allow batteries to cool down after charging instead of immediately putting them to work.
Moisture causes corrosion and corrosion can lead to serious problems. One easy way to prevent corrosion is to keep battery tops clean and dry and use fully insulated cables and battery caps. There’s a clever and inexpensive battery cap in our inventory at Forklift Accessories that keeps moisture away from the outer surface of the battery and actually returns evaporated water back into the battery.
Conscientious battery maintenance takes no longer than slipshod maintenance and costs no more. All you have to do is make a habit of it and your batteries will serve you better and serve you longer.