Forklift Batteries: How Can You Extend Their Useful Life?

October 09, 2019

Forklift batteries can be a large expense for warehouses and distribution centers, especially for those with large fleets of motive power equipment. So, as a warehouse manager, extending battery life should be one of your top priorities.

This allows you to get the most out of your investment in industrial batteries and keeps your forklifts running smoothly long-term. So, now that you must be wondering how to extend battery life for your electric forklift batteries, here’s what you need to know!

Why Your Facility Needs Functional Forklift Batteries 

Your motive power equipment helps your business generate revenue. After all, without forklifts to move your inventory around your warehouse and onto trucks, how would you deliver your products to your customers?

Industrial batteries are the power behind your motive power equipment. So, if you want to keep your forklifts operating at maximum capacity, your forklift batteries are a key component of the equation.

Worn out forklift batteries may not supply a sufficient charge to safely power your forklifts. The unstable electrical output from faulty industrial batteries can even cause serious damage to your motive power equipment. When your employees are trying to use forklifts that aren’t fully functional, it slows down productivity (reducing profitability) and creates safety risks. 

How to Extend Battery Life and Keep Your Forklifts Running Efficiently 

There are lots of do’s and don’ts when it comes to caring for your electric forklift batteries—and following best practices when it comes to forklift battery maintenance and charging can be crucial for extending battery life. Here are a few quick tips for how to extend battery life in your warehouse so you can keep your motive power equipment operating at maximum efficiency! 

Choose the Right Industrial Chargers

There are many different types of industrial chargers on the market to keep your forklift batteries powered up. However, when choosing a charging system for you forklift batteries, it’s important to select the type that is right for your needs. This can help with extending battery life! So, when selecting industrial chargers for your warehouse, be sure to:

  • Choose an industrial charger with the right Amp Hour (Ah) rating. Using an industrial charger with an incompatible amp hour rating can contribute to sulfated batteries, which decreases the useful life of forklift batteries. 
  • Consider the dimensions of your forklift batteries. It’s important to use a battery charging system that will fit your forklift batteries. So, before purchasing industrial chargers, be sure to check that they’ll actually be compatible with the batteries used in your forklifts.
  • Think about how you want to optimize your battery charging schedule. Different battery charging systems are designed for different forklift battery charging procedures. When looking at industrial chargers, think about what your main priority is (whether it’s charging speed, energy efficiency, or extending battery life) since different ones will emphasize different performance characteristics. 

Charge Your Forklift Batteries Correctly

Charging your forklift batteries may sound easy at first—all you need to do is slap the battery onto the charger whenever it gets low, right? Wrong! If you want to extend the useful life of your forklift batteries, you need to be sure that you’re charging them properly. This includes:

  • Always checking to make sure your industrial chargers are turned off before connecting or disconnecting batteries.
  • Using the industrial charger specified by the forklift battery manufacturer and following any given instructions.
  • Only removing battery caps when refilling flooded batteries. Make sure to put caps back on after each refill and when charging and cleaning your industrial batteries.
  • Starting the charge cycle when the forklift battery has somewhere between 20% and 30% charge remaining. If you let a battery deplete too much before charging it, that could have negative effects on the battery’s performance in the future—but to avoid wasting battery charge, it might be best not to charge it too early. So, this 20-30% range is your sweet spot!
  • Letting your forklift batteries reach 100% charge before attempting to remove them from the charger. Cutting a charging cycle short can be harmful to the longevity of forklift batteries.
  • Not letting a discharged battery sit for too long—by doing so, you increase the likelihood that hard sulfation will develop, which will reduce the useful life of forklift batteries.
  • Be aware of battery temperature when charging, as excessive heat can shorten the useful life of forklift batteries by nearly half!

Maintain Proper Fluid Levels in Your Forklift Batteries 

Having the right amount of water in your electric forklift batteries is very important for extending battery life and enabling full functionality, as it helps to maintain the proper temperature and prevents overheating. So, watering your industrial batteries should always be a part of your forklift battery maintenance checklist. Keep a written battery watering schedule clearly posted in your warehouse so every employee always know exactly when each forklift battery was watered last.

However, it’s important that you don’t overfill your industrial batteries and leave some additional space for expansion when they are in use. If you overwater your forklift batteries, it could cause acid dilution or a spill that puts your employees at risk.

Conduct Regular Battery Equalizing

Your forklift battery maintenance checklist should also include regularly equalizing your forklift batteries. This will rebalance the battery’s acid concentration levels and prevent stratification. If you don’t conduct regular battery equalizing, you will end up with a higher acid concentration at the bottom of the battery than the top, which can cause damage that affects its useful life.

Keep in mind that not all forklift batteries will require battery equalizing. Check the specifications on your battery before adding this to your forklift battery maintenance routine. Most batteries that do require battery equalizing will have a specific equalizing setting on their charger, so you can start by checking there.

Periodically Test Your Forklift Batteries

If you’re wondering how to extend battery life, having your forklift batteries professionally tested periodically can certainly help. This will make it possible to identify any potential problems and signs of weakness before they result in premature electrical component failure.

You can also test your batteries on your own with a battery status system, such as the Hawker BSS-40C. This is a critical battery monitoring tool that can enable proper forklift battery management. It connects directly to your industrial chargers, collecting all recorded data on a battery's charge status. This helps you to improve battery rotation, extend battery life, maximize run time, and increase productivity throughout your warehouse.

Clean Your Forklift Batteries

Cleaning the top of your forklift batteries with battery cleaner or warm water isn’t just a “nice-to-have” on your forklift battery maintenance checklist—it’s required to maintain the warranty on some electric forklift batteries (but be sure to check your warranty documentation to confirm). Even if it’s not required by your warranty, you should still clean your forklift batteries regularly to avoid corrosion, which can decrease their useful life.

Don’t Operate Your Forklift Batteries in High Temperatures

Did you know that storing, using, and charging industrial batteries in a warehouse with temperatures over 92 degrees Fahrenheit can diminish their useful life by nearly 50%? So, it’s important to regulate the temperature of your warehouse—utilizing warehouse fans and proper ventilation can help.

If you must operate a forklift in harsh temperatures, make sure you invest in a forklift battery specifically designed for those harsh conditions, and be sure there is proper air circulation in the battery compartment so it can cool. When you’re not using your forklift batteries, remember to always keep them stored in a clean, dry, and cool place.

Get the Most out of Your Forklift Batteries with SSE's Battery Maintenance and Repair Services

Keeping your motive power equipment fully operational is essential for ongoing warehouse operations. SSE is here to help! We offer both on and off-site industrial battery repair services performed by experienced, certified technicians. We also conduct battery safety surveys that provide you with a written checklist on the condition of your industrial batteries, as well as what forklift battery repair or replacement services are needed.

Additionally, we provide battery reconditioning and mobile/remote battery washing services, plus industrial battery training and education classes for your employees! No matter what your needs are, SSE is ready to be your motive power equipment partner. Now the question is: are you ready to maximize your return on investment by extending the useful life of your forklift batteries? If so, reach out to an SSE specialist today!

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