The average lifespan of a forklift battery is 5 years. But your forklift batteries can last longer — or shorter — depending on whether you practice proper forklift battery maintenance.
Unfortunately, by the time you ask: “Should I be doing more to care for my forklift battery?” it’s often already too late.
To keep your operations running smoothly (without dead batteries slowing you down and eating into your profits), here’s everything you need to know about properly caring for your forklift batteries from the first day they’re delivered to your door.
But First: 2 Types of Batteries Means 2 Types of Maintenance
There are two main types of forklift batteries, each with their own required maintenance plan.
The two main types of forklift batteries include:
Lead-acid batteries have dominated the market for years. In fact: in 2021, 90% of electric forklifts in operation were using lead-acid batteries.
But demand for lithium-ion is increasing across industries. In the automotive industry, demand increased by about 65% between 2021 to 2022. And that demand is unlikely to slow.
Though lithium-ion forklift batteries carry a higher up-front cost, they come with some maintenance-related benefits:
Lithium-ion batteries are more energy-efficient
Charge up to 8x faster than lead-acid batteries
Never need to swapped out, and are easily opportunity-charged during operator breaks
Don’t slow you down as the battery discharges
Can reduce the number of forklifts required in multi-shift applications
And, most important: Don’t require as frequent maintenance or watering.
Despite some of the positives of lithium-ion batteries, they don’t make sense for every operation or fleet. That’s why we’re breaking down the maintenance you can expect from the most common forklift battery type: lead-ion batteries.
How Do You Maintain a Forklift Battery?
For lead-acid batteries (currently the most popular type of forklift batteries by far), there are 4 maintenance procedures to keep top of mind: Watering, Charging/Discharging, Temperature, and General Upkeep.
1. Watering Your Forklift Battery charger
As anyone who has thrown a few droplets of water into an oily hot pan knows: oil, water, and heat don’t mix. But that powerful combo is what powers your forklift.
During charging and discharging, evaporation reduces the water levels in your battery. When your acid levels are not properly balanced by water, it causes your battery to run at higher temperatures. Which can quickly do damage to your battery cells.
When water levels in your forklift start dipping below optimal levels, it can also damage your equipment and affect proper functioning — giving you less bang for your battery’s buck.
To properly water your battery:
Every 5-10 charges, add deionized or distilled water to your battery. You can check the documents that came with your battery for manufacturer recommendations. Or (and more recommended) keep an eye on your battery’s water levels.
You might also notice a change in your forklift battery’s watering schedule if use of your lift truck becomes more or less frequent.
Always charge your batteries to 100% before watering. This is your best defense against preventing boil overs, which can lead to injury and greatly reduce your battery’s lifespan. (One study claims that batteries lose 3% to 5% capacity — or 15 to 25 minutes of run time — every time a boil over occurs.)
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