Even though forklift batteries are a major contributor to your lift truck’s life and productivity, the maintenance of these batteries is often a second thought until it is too late. When a lift truck battery is not properly maintained its life is greatly reduced and its run hours begin to get cut shorter and shorter. This will ultimately result in increased downtime and decreased productivity. However, with proper maintenance, you could increase battery life up to 25%.
Watering batteries is one of the most important tasks related to routine battery maintenance and if not done properly can lead to poor battery performance, shorter battery life, and equipment downtime.
As a lead-acid battery is used, water evaporates and needs to be replaced regularly. Neglecting to replace the water will shorten battery life and affect forklift motor brushes. Without proper battery maintenance, your operation could come to a standstill. So why aren’t batteries being maintained? The answer is simple: Not only has the importance of battery maintenance been poorly understood, but watering each battery by hand is a dangerous hassle that can take upwards of 20 minutes per battery.
During the last 20% of a battery’s charging cycle, the water in the electrolyte breaks down into hydrogen and oxygen gasses that bubble to the surface and escape through the vent caps on each battery cell. The result, after repeated charge cycles, is an incremental dehydration of the electrolyte. Therefore, H2O must be replenished periodically by watering the battery.
CAUTION: Only personnel who are properly trained in the watering of lead acid batteries should be allowed to do so.
When watering a battery, wear a face shield, plastic or rubber apron and gloves. Some general rules to be followed, not only during battery watering, but at all times where a motive power battery is concerned: do not smoke, use an open flame or create arcs or sparks in the vicinity of a battery. Only charge a battery in a well-ventilated area with the cover of the battery or compartment raised for maximum ventilation. Remember that motive power batteries are electrically live at all times, regardless of their state of charge.
The need to add water may vary from weekly to quarterly depending on application, battery temperature, and battery design. To extend this interval to the maximum period possible, follow these steps:
- Adjust watering gun to fill to maximum possible height, or use a single point watering system to assure consistent levels are reached in all cells.
- Water while the battery is in finish-rate charge and gassing; ideally.
- Do not add water until actual visual inspection shows top of separators/plates is visible.
- A Battery Water Monitor light is an excellent way to indicate when water is needed.
- Once a repetitive routine is established, water your battery at that interval.
Overall, battery maintenance is a critical element to keeping your lift truck fleet up and running at an optimum level. This publication is intended to provide you with some tips and information on how to properly perform battery watering.