10 Tips to Longer Lasting Forklift Batteries

1. Check the automatic watering systems.

These systems tend to be clogged during use. They also tend to be located in the lift and not taken out very often, so they get clogged. This often goes unchecked, the clog is not discovered and the cell gets burned up and dried. This results in $ 400 – $ 600 costs for a cell change and this is a frequent issue commonly seen that could be avoided.

2. Clean the tops of the batteries of acid and corrosion.

A dirty battery causes a lot of problems. If you put a volt meter on top there actually is a slow discharge of the battery. If you charge a battery it will slowly discharge over time. Corrosion builds up and will ruin your cables which cause poor battery performance. Cables can get expensive at $ 70 – $ 100 each if you have a lot of batteries, in addition to decreasing your battery performance. This can be avoided just by taking a little time to clean the top of the batteries.

3. Keep on top of under performing batteries.

A lot of companies do not take care of the problem batteries. Under performing batteries can draw heavy loads on electrical components of the forklift which are very expensive to the thousands of dollars. The damage happens when the battery gets low and it is used anyway.

You can tell a battery is under performing if it does not last a full shift. A lot of batteries only go for 1 or 2 hours and the drivers do not know which ones are good or bad. They just put them in and the batteries draw very quickly.

Facilities that have under performing batteries can spend thousands per month reflecting electrical components in forklifts and the root cause is under performing batteries. These batteries can be identified, Brought Up To Full Performance and this expense can be saved.

When the lifts go down you have less productivity, less product moved, more battery changes and unnecessary costs of replacing components and the labor to do so.

4. Use filtered water in batteries.

Being in so many facilities and seeing things first hand I can tell you without hesitation that using tap water in your batteries will cause you problems and unnecessary expense. I see this all the time. Batteries that use tap water are far worse than all the rest of them. They heat up more. The minerals in the water build up on the plates and it causes heat. Heat causes premature battery failure. My estimate is you cut battery life by 50%. Even if your battery is covered by a warranty you have to ship it out and wait for it come back, and incur the costs to do so. This can be avoided by using filtered water.

5. Use a water de-ionizer.

A cheap and effective solution to the problem of using filtered water. You can attach it to your water line, it is cheap and you get the benefits of filtered water. It's easy to use. You do not have to mess with bottles of filtered water. You can use an automatic water gun and a battery is filled up in seconds rather than the minute or so it takes to pour in filtered water from a bottle, which is probably the main detergent to using filtered water. This makes filling up easy and painless and eliminates the minerals that pollute the batteries and cause you expense and lost productivity.

6. Do not allow opportunity charging.

Do not allow charging during 15 minute breaks and lunch periods. Batteries are made to draw down 80% and then be full charged. If you opportunity charge you will significantly reduce the life of your battery.

I think the reason this process starts is when you have under performing batteries, the drivers know this and they try to get a little more charge during their breaks.

Opportunity charging accelerates the deterioration of battery performance. If you identify the less performing batteries you can avoid this issue.

This can reduce battery lift by a year or two, plus you have the cost of electricity for unnecessary charging and the labor cost and lost productivity when a battery needs to be charged.

7. Do not equalize the batteries more than once a month.

Equalizing creates thermal heat, especially when a battery is a little older. Heat kills batteries. It sheds the lead. Equalizing can give a temporary boost but the battery is used up more quickly. I go into facilities and see see batteries steaming from the heat.

The temporary boost you get comes at a high cost of shorter battery lift and the costs of increased handling and maintenance.

8. The batteries should cool down after charging.

Remember, heat kills batteries. If they are charged and then immediately used they are hot a lot longer. Companies that get the most from their batteries let them cool a few hours after charging.

9. Do a quick check of cables and connections monthly.

This can easily be overlooked. At a glance everything might look all right but a closer inspection can pick up corrosion which does not allow electricity to pass through. Jiggle the cables and make sure the connections are solid.

Bad cables impact battery performance. If electricity does not pass though efficiently, your battery is not discharging or charging completely. You might think your battery is bad, but it really can not be charged completely because the cables are bad. So check them for corrosion.

10. Program your chargers with a 30 minute delay.

One company I service could not stop their workers from opportunity charging during breaks and lunch when they were not being watched. So, they installed a 30 minute delay on the charger.

The workers plug in as normal but they are not being charged due to the delay.

The disadvantages and costs of opportunity charging are so significant that installing a delay was a very smart move for this facility. Most of the breaks are 15 or 30 minutes and it eliminated charging during this time.


Batteries will last a lot longer. A typical warranty is 5 years but you can get 7 or 8 years of productive lift from a battery. If you are not doing the above a battery may only be productive for a year or two and then it is under performing, with all the attendant unnecessary time, labor and expense, for the last few years it is in use. You incur the consequences of increased charging, lost productivity and unnecessary electricity and labor expense to keep them in service.

The labor cost of having under performing batteries is significant. Bad batteries mean you have people changing them. There are safety concerns. When batteries are being changed you have a risk of injury. With more activity around the battery area there is more opportunity for injury.

Copyright 2008 Jerry Moen. All rights reserved.