Rising fuel prices and environmental concerns have encouraged many forklift owners to make the switch to electric trucks. While battery power delivers substantial savings – especially in the current financial climate – these can quickly be lost by poor battery care.
A typical forklift battery is worth up to 30% of a new truck’s value and offers you approximately 6,000 working hours. It is your fuel for the next five years or more… providing you look after it according to the manufacturer’s maintenance guidelines.
It is usually an engineer’s responsibility to maintain the battery and its charging equipment, but it is often the truck operators responsibility to carry out the simple day-to-day tasks involved in battery care.
General Safety Points
- Do not smoke in the charging area and never use a naked flame as a light when checking batteries.
- The battery cells contain acid, therefore a supply of water (clean) must be available so that should a person come into contact with the acid it can be washed off immediately.
- Disconnect the battery from the truck or the charger before commencing any maintenance inspection of the battery.
- Make sure that loose objects such as tools, or metal wrist straps cannot accidentally fall onto or come into contact with the top of the battery.
- Before opening the vent caps, personal protective equipment (PPE) such as goggles, rubber gloves and rubber/plastic apron must be worn.
At the end of the day or shift the battery will generally require charging.
- Disconnect the battery from the truck and lift the cover. Once you have put on your PPE, check the electrolyte levels in the cells, the liquid should completely cover the plates. Top up if necessary with distilled water until the plates are just covered. Dry off any spillage immediately and ensure all cell tops are replaced.
- Ensure the charger is switched off, and examine the charger cable and plugs for damage, then connect the charger cable plug to the battery plug.
- Switch on the current and ensure that the ammeter is registering the charge current.
- When disconnecting the battery on completion of charge switch off the charger before disconnecting the charger lead from the battery. Hang the lead up off the floor.
- Ensure the battery tops are dry and cell tops are secure. Connect the battery to the truck and replace the cover.
- IMPORTANT: When batteries are charging a slight amount of hydrogen gas is produced. This is highly flammable. The cover must remain open when charging is in progress to allow this gas to disperse harmlessly into the atmosphere.