With over 20 years' experience in the forklift industry, Dilyan Alexiev is managing director of PHL Limited, an international exporter of used forklifts.
For forklifts that run on batteries, as opposed to diesel or gas, it's vitally important that as well as taking care of the forklift through vehicle maintenance, you also apply regular forklift battery maintenance. By looking after your forklift battery, you can ensure that both it and the forklift have the longest lifespan possible.
Before we look into how to maintain your forklift battery life, it's useful to know that most batteries have about 1,500 charging cycles before they expire. If you charge your forklift battery once every working day (300 days) for a year, then that battery will last you for five years. This is why looking after your battery is important because, when you do, there are some huge benefits.
As well as maximising the potential life of your forklift battery, regular forklift battery maintenance keeps expenses down, as replacing a worn-out battery can be expensive. On top of this, a well-maintained battery improves the overall safety of your forklift truck, including its handling and overall performance.
Here are our five top tips for how best to maintain your forklift truck battery:
1. Charge the battery at the end of each day
By allowing your battery to run down during the day, when the forklift is in use, and then putting in on to charge overnight, you are keeping your battery in good condition. This also means that you get the most out of the number of charge cycles. If you employ what's known as "opportunity charging", i.e. putting your battery on to charge for a quick 10 minutes before you use it again, then you've used up one of your finite number of charge cycles - and not in the most effective way. It's best to leave the forklift battery to go through its process of charging overnight, in order to make the most of the charging cycle and keep the battery in good condition.
2. Change the battery in a dry place
Your forklift battery can be susceptible to oxidation and rust. This can be extremely harmful if the rust is allowed to build up on the battery. In order to prevent this from happening, change your battery in a cool and dry place, which is well ventilated. This will minimise the risk of oxidation.
3. Allow the charge to complete before using
Smart battery maintenance
Try not to interrupt the charge once it's begun. Once the battery is plugged in, allow it to charge for the suggested length of time, as opposed to prematurely disconnecting it. This will give the forklift battery what it needs in order to perform.
4. Maintain appropriate fluid levels
The fluid levels of the forklift battery are important to the health of the battery overall. If the fluid level gets too low, then the plates will be exposed to the air, causing long-term damage and reducing the battery efficiency considerably. Roughly speaking, fluid levels need to be topped up every 10 charges or so. Top this up after the charge and never before.
5. Keep your battery clean
If you keep your battery clean from any accidental acid spillages, this will help maintain the overall health of your battery. Rinsing your battery every six months or so, or more frequently if required, will help remove this acid and prevent any long-term issues.
By taking care of your battery, your forklift will operate more smoothly and more efficiently. As the power source, the forklift depends on the battery, so make sure that your machine is taken care of by looking after its source of power, too.