The battery is the heart of your forklift’s electrical system. It connects to that system (and to its charger) through the often overlooked but essential components that are forklift battery cables.
Forklift battery cables are electrical cables specifically designed for use in electric forklifts. Electric forklifts come with pre-installed battery cables, as do most electric forklift battery chargers. However, these cables can wear out over time due to natural wear and tear, corrosion and other factors, which will require maintenance or replacement of the cables. Additionally, modifications made to the forklift’s electrical system, such as changing the battery or motor, may necessitate adjusting or replacing the existing battery cables to ensure compatibility.
There are many different forklift batteries, such as lead-acid batteries, lithium-ion batteries and thin plate pure lead (TPPL) batteries, and the connection to these batteries involves linking various components such as the motor controller, charger and other auxiliary devices.
What are forklift battery cables?
There are five components of forklift battery cables. They include:
Conductors: To carry an electrical current, forklift battery cable conductors are typically made of copper or aluminum. Copper is most common because it is highly conductive and resists corrosion.
Insulation: Insulation inside the cables helps ensure a user’s safety by preventing short circuits. The insulation material is often durable and heat-resistant to withstand a forklift’s daily rugged workplace conditions.
Connectors: The connectors, which are also known as lugs, and found at both ends of a forklift battery cable and designed to securely attach to the forklift’s battery terminals or other electrical components.
Voltage rating: Common voltages for electric forklifts are 24 volts, 36 volts and 48 volts. The battery cables correspond to the forklift’s voltage.
Size: In this case, battery cable sizing refers to the cross-sectional portion of a forklift battery cable. The necessary size of a battery cable is based on a forklift’s voltage, maximum current draw and needed cable length. Using the correct cable size helps prevent overheating, voltage drop and other issues that can impact performance and safety.
What gauge are battery cables?
Cross-sectional forklift battery cable sizes are also referred to as the battery cable gauge. Selecting the right battery wire gauge is crucial because it determines the cable’s ability to carry the required current without excessive voltage drops or overheating.
Battery cable gauges range from 4 AWG (American wire gauge) to 3/0 AWG, with larger numbers representing smaller wires. However, the most popular are either the 2 gauge or 4 gauge battery cables.
2 gauge vs 4 gauge battery cable
Two of the more frequently used forklift battery cable gauges are 2 gauge and 4 gauge. The choice between the two depends on the specific requirements of a forklift, how it is used and where it is used. Understanding the advantages of each can help you make the correct decision.
- Larger cross-sectional area compared to 4 gauge.
- Suitable for larger forklifts and heavy-duty applications with high current demands.
- Offers lower resistance, which helps reduce voltage drops over longer cables.
- Smaller cross-sectional area compared to 2 gauge.
- Suitable for smaller to mid-sized forklifts and applications with moderate current requirements.
- More flexible and easier to route than larger cables, making them suitable for tight spaces.
1/0 AWG through 3/0 AWG gauges are used in larger forklifts and applications with higher current demands.
Forklift battery cable sizing chart
A battery cable sizing chart is a valuable tool that can help someone determine the appropriate cable size for a specific application. These charts consider factors such as distance, voltage and current, providing a recommended cable size to help ensure optimal performance and safety.
|Cable Size (AWG)
|Maximum Ampacity (A)
|Voltage Drop at Max Current (%)
|Low-power, short distances
|Medium-power, short distances
|Medium-power, longer distances
|High-power, longer distances
|Heavy-duty, long distances
How to use the forklift battery cable sizing chart:
- Identify your forklift’s voltage. This information is found on the forklift data plate, which is located either on the instrument panel near the controls or the engine hood next to the seat.
- Determine the maximum current draw of the forklift.
- Find the appropriate cable size that meets both the maximum ampacity requirement and an acceptable voltage drop.
Remember that this chart is a general guide, and actual requirements may vary based on specific forklift models, usage conditions and safety standards. For example, forklifts that operate in extremely high temperatures may require adjustments to cable sizing.
How to connect wire to battery
When it comes time to install new battery cables, you want to get it right the first time. Selecting the wrong cable or making an incorrect attachment can adversely affect the forklift’s performance and potentially jeopardize the safety of operators and other personnel.
The first step is to identify the battery’s polarity. Before making any connections, find the positive and negative terminals on the forklift battery. Positive terminals are typically marked with a plus (+) sign, while negative terminals are marked with a minus (-) sign.
Next, prepare the wires. Use wire strippers to remove insulation from the ends of the wires. Expose enough wire to create a secure connection.
Make sure you select the appropriate terminal connectors. Find the type of terminal connectors (lugs), such as eyelet terminals or lugs, that securely connect to your battery’s terminals. Crimp or solder the connectors onto the wires.
Use the appropriate tools to securely fasten the terminal connectors onto the battery terminals. Check that the fit is tight to prevent voltage drops, which can cause the forklift to malfunction and create safety hazards.
Finally, apply the appropriate protective coverings to prevent corrosion and prolong the lifespan of your new battery wire connection. Using heat shrink tubing or other protective coverings will help shield the connections from potentially damaging environmental factors.
If you have any questions about the best battery cable gauges for your specific forklifts or you need assistance with battery cable repair, Texas Motive Solutions can help. Additionally, our complimentary forklift fleet performance analysis will help ensure that you will have the best batteries for your needs. Please give us a call at (888) 316-2459 or fill out this form to begin a service request and discover everything that Texas Motive Solutions can do for you.