How to Care for Idle Forklift Batteries

November 04, 2020

As any warehouse manager knows, forklift fleets are the backbone of efficient warehouse operations. But without operable forklift batteries, fleets cannot continue. Electric forklift batteries must be properly maintained to power a warehouse fleet for optimal performance. From proper battery charging procedures to preventative maintenance, electric forklift batteries have specifications to be followed so warehouse crews can stay safe and reap the most benefits out of their equipment.

This remains especially true for industrial batteries sitting idle for long periods of time. Without proper battery maintenance, forklift batteries can become damaged if out of service for extended periods of time. With the right care, idle batteries can be maintained and kept ready for the future when they will be needed again. 

Why Proper Battery Maintenance is Even More Essential for Idle Forklift Batteries

Battery maintenance is required in general for keeping forklift batteries in prime condition. Forklift battery care contributes to their longevity and helps you get the most out of your investment in motive power equipment, as well as ensures the safety of your warehouse crew.

This remains true for idle forklifts. The COVID-19 crisis has upended the daily operations of warehouses and distribution centers nationwide. The combination of reduced workforces and warehouse closures have now left forklift fleets and their batteries idle in facilities across the nation.  

Forklift batteries that are sitting idle or out of service for more than three weeks can sustain damage that will compromise their performance abilities once these workforces come back full force. To prevent any damage or a reduced cycle life, battery care is needed for batteries sitting for idle periods of time. 

HAWKER® batteries have prepared guidelines for warehouse staff to follow to properly manage batteries sitting for idle periods of time. Follow their tips so your electric forklift batteries can be stored properly during this period of downtime. 

How to Care for Idle Forklift Batteries During COVID-19 Downtime 

This guideline is for the proper care of batteries unused for more than three weeks for both Flooded Lead Acid batteries and FLEX Thin Plate Pure Lead batteries (TPPL). Although separate instructions apply for each battery, each forklift battery must be fully charged prior to extended idle idle periods. Additionally, a small amount of additional care is required to ensure each battery achieves its maximum life.

Flooded Lead Acid Battery Considerations

If not taken care of properly, flooded lead acid batteries can suffer damage from either sulfation and stratification. Since the chemical element Antimony is added to each plate grid for extra strength and durability, there is a greater self-discharge rate. During extended periods of time, a flooded lead acid battery left in a discharge state will experience sulfation. A sulfated battery will have a reduced life cycle and capacity; eventually, the battery will need to be replaced.  

Have a sulfated battery? REQUEST A QUOTE for a new lead acid battery TODAY:

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Below is a checklist of how to properly remove a flooded lead acid battery from service and how to return it to service after an idle period. Remember that you should read and record the Individual Cell Voltage (ICV) of each battery once a month during the idle period to monitor the battery's condition. 

Flooded Lead Acid Removal from Service:

  1. Equalize Charge battery
    a. Connect battery to charger
    b. Press Equalize button on charger
  2. Verify proper electrolyte level upon completion of Equalize Charge
    a. Electrolyte level must be above splash guard and approximately 1⁄4” below vent well
    b. Add water as necessary per battery instruction manual
  3. Disconnect all peripheral devices (parasitic loads)
    a. BBWC, remove fuse and tape fuse to fuse holder
    b. Any other battery monitoring device
    c. Battery fan
    d. Battery heat blanket
    c. Etc.
  4. Clean or wipe down the battery with an acid neutralizing agent.
  5. Place battery in cool dry area (ideal temperature, 77°F, 25°C)
    b. On battery rack
    c. Or, on a pallet on the floor or suitable rack
  6. Monitor battery, monthly
    a. Check Individual Cell Voltage (ICV)
    b. Test specific gravity on the cells with lowest ICV, highest ICV and 1 or 2 in with the average ICV
    c. If any cell has a specific gravity of 1.240 or less, Boost Charge (Equalize Charge) the battery
  7. Boost Charge (Equalize Charge) due to battery self‐discharge and electrolyte stratification
    a. Average ambient temperature of (>80°F, 27°C), boost every 2 months
    b. Average ambient temperature of (<80°F, 27°C), boost every 3 month

Flooded Lead Acid Battery Return to Service:

  1. Equalize Charge battery
    a. Connect battery to charger
    b. Press Equalize button on charger
  2. Verify proper electrolyte level upon completion of Equalize Charge
    a. Electrolyte level must be above splash guard and approximately 1⁄4” below vent well
    b. Add water as necessary per battery instruction manual
  3. Reconnect all peripheral devices (parasitic loads)
    a. BBWC, replace fuse
    b. Any other battery monitoring device
    c. Battery fan
    d. Battery heat blanket
    e. Etc.

FLEX Thin Plate Pure Lead batteries (TPPL) Considerations

FLEX/TPPL batteries can endure a much longer “shelf‐life” than other types of lead‐acid batteries if the forklift batteries are stored in a fully charged state. Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL) refers to the pure lead grid composition. Since additives, such as Antimony, are not required for reinforced plate grids, FLEX/TPPL forklift batteries charge at a much slower rate and there is a much less change of sulfation. 

Below is a checklist of how to properly remove FLEX/TPPL batteries from service and how to return batteries to service after an idle period. Remember that you should read and record the  Individual Cell Voltage (ICV) of each battery every three months during the idle period to monitor the battery's condition. 

FLEX/TPPL Removal from Service:

  1. Connect to HAWKER FLEX profile charger
    a. Enable Refresh charge in configuration settings. The HAWKER FLEX profile charger will then automatically Refresh Charge the battery to compensate for the minimal self‐discharge and parasitic loads.
  2. If unable to leave the HAWKER FLEX profile charger connected
    a. Equalize the battery
    b. Press Equalize button on the HAWKER FLEX profile charger
    c. Disconnect all peripheral devices (parasitic loads)
    d. BBWC, remove fuse and tape fuse to fuse holder
    e. Any other battery monitoring device
    f. Battery fan
    g. Battery heat blanket
    h. Etc.
  3. Wipe down top of battery if necessary
  4. Place battery in cool dry area (ideal temperature, 77°F, 25°C)
    a. On battery rack
    b. Or, on a pallet on the floor or suitable rack
  5. Every 3 months:
    a. Check Individual Cell Voltage (ICV)
    b. If any ICV is 2.12VDC or less, Boost Charge (Equalize) the battery.
    c. 12.72VDC for individual Blocs.

FLEX/TPPL Return to Service:

  1. Check Individual Cell Voltage (ICV)
    a. If any ICV is 2.12VDC or less, boost charge (Equalize) the battery.
    b. 12.72VDC for individual Blocs.
  2. Reconnect all peripheral devices (parasitic loads)
    a. BBWC, replace fuse
    b. Any other battery monitoring device
    c. Battery fan
    d. Battery heat blanket
    e. Etc.

Southern States Motive Power is proud to partner with HAWKER® Power Source, who has provided us with this information outlining proper maintenance for idle forklift batteries. With this knowledge, your warehouse will be ready to bounce back from the COVID-19 crisis with industrial forklift batteries that can immediately get back to work and drive revenue for your business. 

To receive additional information regarding a specific site or situation, please contact your local HAWKER Representative @ 1-877-7HAWKER. Or, reach out to the experts at Southern States Enterprises today to help with your idle battery maintenance.

POOR BATTERY MAINTENANCE CAN LIMIT YOUR PRODUCTIVITY

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