Batteries FAQs

Batteries:

What if we want to water our own forklift batteries, can TMS show us how?

Absolutely! We understand it makes sense for some warehouse operators to utilize employees to handle battery watering duties for them. TMS customers can contact us to schedule complimentary employee training sessions as needed.

Can improper watering turn into a safety hazard in warehouses?

Yes! When acid gets trapped in the battery plates, you can’t maintain appropriate fluid levels. Eventually the fluid overflows, and acid spills on the batteries and floor. When employees water batteries improperly, they can get acid on themselves, which could cause dangerous acid burns.

What happens if you don’t water forklift batteries properly?

Any deviation from the recommended battery watering schedule can result in overflow or lack of fluid, either of which can damage forklift batteries and lead to unnecessary repair or replacement costs. Unfortunately, it’s rare that warehouse operators do a good job handling their own forklift battery watering.

When do you need to water forklift batteries?

If you use lead-based batteries for your forklift fleet, those forklift batteries typically must be watered and maintained weekly or bi-weekly after an equalized charge. A forklift operator shouldn’t water when it’s convenient for him or her. Battery watering requires a disciplined approach, with battery levels checked frequently and water added as needed.

What exactly do I do with my scrap batteries?

Scrap batteries are considered a hazardous material and must be documented and disposed of properly. TMS can safely handle scrap removal for you. We will provide the battery indemnification documentation you need and properly dispose of the scrap at a certified smelter. Depending on the current value of lead, we may offer to buy your scrap as well. Learn more about the TMS Scrap Disposal program here.

What is sulfation and what causes it?

Sulfation appears as a crystallization on the positive plates of a battery and prevents acid from flowing in and out of the plates. This occurs when a lead acid battery sits in a discharged state for extended periods of time. A sulfated battery will produce shorter run times and often run at a higher temperature than normal. Battery sulfation should be treated promptly, or battery life could be severely shortened.

Why should I invest in a battery and charger preventive maintenance program (PMP)?

The purpose of a battery and charger PMP is to help you better manage your forklift fleet by catching small maintenance issues before they turn into major repairs. Consequently, a PMP helps minimize repair costs and prolong battery and charger life, while maximizing your return on investment. During PM visits, TMS also checks for safety issues, so if anything poses a safety hazard, we can address it right away. Learn more about TMS’ PMP here.

Can I use electric tape on a cut battery cable?

Using electric tape to fix a battery cable is not a safe or recommended method of cable repair. Once a battery cable is cut and copper is exposed, the cable must be replaced or the battery will lose its UL listing, and it won’t be covered under warranty.

My battery overflowed, what caused that?

A battery overflowing is typically caused by one of two things: You either watered the battery at the wrong time or have overwatered the battery. If you water a battery when it is discharged, it will overflow during recharge. If you overwater a battery and fill it all the way to the top, when the battery gets to the gassing phase of the charge cycle, electrolyte can bubble out of the top and cause a spill.

I have an old battery that is a little too small for my lift but it powers the lift for my needs. Is this ok?

No, a battery is an important part of a forklift’s counter weight requirement. With almost any forklift, an undersized and underweight battery can cause the forklift to tip over when picking up the load for which the lift is rated. Only a battery of proper size and weight—as specified by forklift manufacturer—should be utilized.

What is the “shop process” battery companies refer to, and what does it do for my battery?

The shop process is a comprehensive evaluation of the condition of the battery that includes an acid adjustment if required. Once the technician completely desulphates the battery and obtains an accurate measurement of battery’s exact specific gravity and voltage, the goal is to bring batteries back to factory specifications to maximize remaining battery life. At TMS, we also paint the battery and replace damaged cables, contact tips, etc. to return the battery to as close to new condition as possible.

How often should a forklift battery be watered?

If you use lead-acid forklift batteries, the general rule of thumb is to check battery water levels weekly and only add water when required. If you find a battery is always dry during the weekly check, start checking water levels every 3 to 4 days. Older batteries and refurbished batteries usually need to be watered more frequently. Proper watering is essential for prolonging forklift battery life and minimizing repair and replacement costs. TMS offers watering services for our Texas customers, as well as complimentary training on battery watering best practices.

How do I know if my forklift battery is bad?

There are several signs that your forklift battery may be bad or need service or refurbishing. Signs that a forklift battery is bad or in need of repair may include:

  1. Decline in performance, power and/or battery life.
  2. Evidence of spilled acid on or near the battery.
  3. Signs of corrosion or damage to the battery terminals.
  4. Battery gives off a rotten egg smell.
  5. High operating temperatures.
  6. Battery starts smoking.
  7. Lights on the display of the forklift go dim or flicker.
  8. Damaged cables, connectors or contact tips.

How much does a forklift battery weigh?

Forklift battery weight is important because the battery often acts as counterweight for the lift. On average, forklift batteries weigh between 1,000 and 4,000 pounds.

Can a forklift battery explode?

No, forklift batteries don’t explode. However, lead-acid forklift batteries do release hydrogen during charging, and lighting that hydrogen gas could blow the plastic top off of the battery cell. You may hear a very loud “pop” but NO fiery blast will result. This hydrogen gas ignition and tops potentially blowing off of cells may also result in electrolyte splashing onto anyone nearby, a very real safety hazard. Proper ventilation—based on the number of batteries residing in the charging area—is essential for ensuring a safe, charging environment. TMS can guide you on proper charging protocols for worry-free, forklift battery charging stations.

How are forklift batteries measured?

To calculate accurate battery size, be sure to measure from the external edge of the steel tray that holds the forklift battery. For width, measure the tray from the front to the back of the forklift. For length, measure from one lifting tab to the other, across the width of the forklift. For height, measure from the bottom of the tray to the top of the lifting tabs or battery cover if one is present.

How to properly measure a battery

How long does a forklift battery last?

For single shift operations, forklift batteries last about five years on average. If you run multiple shifts on one battery and utilize rapid charging technology, you can expect a shorter battery life. Regularly scheduled maintenance helps extend forklift battery life, this includes proper watering of lead-acid batteries, cleaning and parts replacement as needed, charging according to manufacturer’s recommendations and more. Keep in mind, battery performance will decline over time, which can greatly hamper employee productivity. When it gets to the point where you need to charge batteries multiple times per shift, it’s time to recondition or forklift battery repair or invest in new batteries to protect your bottom line.

What kind of batteries do forklifts use?

The types of batteries our commercial forklift battery customers use most often include lead-acid and Thin Plate Pure Lead (TPPL) batteries. In recent years, more industrial battery manufacturers have also added lithium-ion batteries to their lines. The best battery for your application depends on several factors, including number of shifts, hours used per day, how the lift will be used, power needed to perform required tasks and other considerations. It’s also essential to choose the right type of battery charger for the application.

How much does a forklift battery cost?

Cost varies based on the size, features, brand and other factors. The average cost of a new forklift battery (for the most common forklift sizes) ranges between $2,000 to $8,000 for lead acid batteries. You will pay more for newer, more innovative battery technologies. Leasing batteries can be a more affordable solution for some warehouse operations because there is minimal upfront investment. WAREHOUSE OPERATORS: To find out how much HAWKER® forklift batteries cost, contact your lift truck dealer. DEALERS: Please contact us for pricing on our forklift batteries for sale and rental.

What are common signs I need to replace or service my forklift batteries?

Your forklift battery may need service or replacement if you notice decreased run times, a sulfur smell or if it feels hot to the touch or uses more water than normal. In addition, should you find you’re regularly replacing components on your forklift, the battery may be to blame. Finally, if your forklift service technician ever tells you you’ve “burnt” anything—motor, control board, battery, etc.—that’s also a red flag.

Why are some batteries and battery brands more expensive than others?

A couple of key factors contribute to higher battery cost: The quality of materials used and technology the batteries include. For example, HAWKER® uses more material in the positive plates of its batteries for forklifts, resulting in thicker plates. The company also uses a higher quality lead and more advanced technology in its batteries than other manufacturers. Quality manufacturing processes like these result in more efficient batteries and longer battery life. While you may pay more up-front, that cost will be more than recoupled over the life of the battery. In fact, HAWKER® batteries have been shown to deliver a lower total cost of ownership than less expensive batteries.

Do you sell used batteries?

TMS does maintain an inventory of used refurbished batteries and rent. If you’re considering buying used batteries, it’s always good to ask about the age of the battery, when it was last tested and what battery life remains.

Can I buy a smaller battery? I don’t lift anything heavy.

No! An electric forklift battery acts as the counter balance for the forklift, so it’s important to abide by forklift battery sizes as recommended by your lift manufacturer. Using a smaller battery puts the safety of the lift operator at risk and may void both the forklift and battery warranties.

What does battery sulfation mean?

Battery sulfation refers to the formation of crystalline lead sulfate (or acid) on the surface of the positive plate of a battery. Sulfation impedes energy transfer (acting like a blockage) and chargeability as a result of discharge, self-discharge or what HAWKER® refers to as “pickling.” Once the acid is trapped on the plates, it can’t be forced out with a charge and needs to come into shop.

What does shedding of a battery mean and why is that important?

When a battery sheds, it loses active material (small microparticles of lead, which are heavy) from the battery’s positive plates, which fall into a designated space or bridge in the bottom of the battery. Active material refers to the lead paste on the plates of a lead acid battery, which is a sandy, porous material. Shedding is normal and occurs over time during charging. However, shedding can occur at a rapid rate if you use an improperly sized charger, so it’s important to ensure the charger you use is compatible with your batteries to maximize battery life.

What is a forklift battery cycle?

A battery cycle refers to the discharge and subsequent recharge of a battery. For example, a manufacturer may say their forklift batteries are good for 800 battery cycles (cycles of charge and discharge). The industry is moving away from this rating and toward amp hour throughput consumption (amp hours vs. number of charges). You’ll find these ratings provided with lithium and thin plate pure lead (TPPL) batteries.

How often should I charge my forklift batteries?

It all depends on the charging technology you use. If you use a conventional charger, expect to charge the battery once a day for eight hours. For opportunity and fast charging applications, it’s typically best to charge the battery whenever it is not in use, typically a minimum of three times per shift.

How long should my forklift battery last?

Battery life depends on the type of battery used and how well the forklift battery is maintained. If you follow proper maintenance protocol for a traditional lead-acid battery, you can expect the battery to last about five years (the warranty term) or more. In fast charging and rapid charging applications, the life of the battery will depend on how disciplined you are about charging, watering and maintaining the equipment. In most cases, expect four years at best for fast charging and six years at best for opportunity charging (both beyond the warranty terms).