The Critical Roll of Batteries & Chargers in Maintenance Costs

Your forklift batteries and chargers are primary drivers of maintenance costs over the short and long term. A battery purchase is a purchase of potential energy in advance and is comparable to the cost of propane, gasoline or diesel fuel. These costs on internal combustion machines occur regular as the forklift is used and consumes fuel.

The Life of the Battery

The costs of batteries go beyond the electrical cost to charge it. The life of the battery, the depreciation of the battery is a major component. Every battery by design has a life and battery warranties are invariably pro-rata and pretty much the decrease in value of the battery over time. At the end of a battery’s life, it is worth its scrap value at best. It has no value as an energy source and must be replaced. The forklift it powers could be in perfect condition but it is worthless without a new battery. A typical battery costing five thousand dollars is designed to last five years at a cost of 1,000 per year. If you don’t charge and maintain it properly you can substantially shorten the life of the battery.

We often see cases of customers not heeding this warning and the costs on large fleet of shortening battery life by one or two years can be staggering. Beyond that direct costs, improperly charged batteries or overuse and abuse cause voltage to drop creating unacceptable amperage rises to power the machine. The heat and increased current flow cause expensive motors and solid-state components to burn out, further increasing and maintenance costs and downtime which then snowballs into productivity loss.

How to Reduce Costs

As you can see if you have a fleet or even a few electric forklifts in a low to moderate cycle operation your maintenance and overall ownership costs will be impacted substantially by your battery maintenance and charging practices. In high cycle multi-shift operations, it becomes critical. Some basic practices outlined below are good general guidelines but partnering with a company like Accurate that has extensive experience with industrial batteries and has an “in house” battery division is critical. The following practices should be adhered to;

1. One battery, one shift two shifts, two batteries and so on. You cannot “stretch” one battery with a quick or partial recharge into two shifts without incurring substantial long-term costs, i.e., shortening battery life.

2. “Hot shotting” or putting a quick charge while on break is in most cases only shortens battery life.

3. Properly matched batteries and charges are critical. Any old charger on a new battery may or may not be right. There are multiple factors to consider and match.

4. Battery watering, maintenance, equalization, and testing is as critical and if it’s not being done, it needs to be.

Tips and Guidelines

Here are some general guidelines for operators. If you want to know more these, give us a call and we’ll send an expert!

Always keep the forklift battery clean and dry. Check the battery regularly for signs of corrosion, which will compromise the battery life and possibly affect the forklift's performance. A well-maintained battery will hold a charge longer and require charging much less than one that has been damaged by corrosion, or a battery that's simply grimy and dirty from use. Avoid battery corrosion by washing it thoroughly twice a year. Remember to dry the battery completely before placing it back in the forklift.

A forklift operator should also perform frequent checks on the water level, which you can check through the battery cap opening. The water should rise to about one-half inch below the opening of the battery cap. Keep water handy so this can be topped off as needed. Only add water to the battery after it has completed a charge cycle. This is the perfect time to check the water level since this is the only time you should be adding water. Most of the time, the water will need to be topped off weekly or bi-weekly, depending on how often the forklift is used. You should only use distilled or deionized water to the forklift battery, not plain tap water. A forklift operator always has to be cautious not to over-fill the water in the battery, as this can cause malfunctions.

Don't charge the battery whenever you get the chance. For example, if you're in the habit of charging the battery every time you take a break, stop! Every time the battery is connected to a charger, it uses up a life cycle. The battery will last much longer if the forklift operator charges it only when it has run out of juice completely. In other words, charge the battery only when it actually needs to be charged, not when you have the opportunity to charge it up. When the battery is charging, keep the truck compartment and the battery cover open the entire time.

Check all the vent caps and make sure they're tight and secure on the forklift battery at all times. If anything is loose or misaligned, straighten and tighten it.

By taking good care of your forklift battery, you will show yourself to be a true equipment specialist. That saves the bosses money and that reflects very well on you as a forklift operator.

Other Good Tips a Forklift Operator Should Follow

Forklifts travel at a maximum speed of eight miles per hour, but that doesn't mean a forklift operator should always be going at this pace. In fact, you shouldn't go the maximum speed for an extended amount of time. It should only be used for short bursts of speed because going the max speed for several minutes at a time can put a strain on the machine's engine. It's also not very safe to run a forklift at max speed for several minutes inside a factory or warehouse environment.

All forklifts have a maximum weight that they are able to lift. Do not attempt to lift loads that are heavier than this amount. Doing so can cause damage that requires parts replacement and other repairs. Forklift trucks are built to be a steady, solid vehicle, but all equipment has its limits. A forklift operator has to know those limits and not push the forklift beyond them.

Knowing how to care for a forklift is an essential part of being a forklift operator. Know how to take care of your equipment and your employers will know that you're an expert at what you do