Frequently Asked Questions
Have questions about forklift batteries, chargers, maintenance, service or repair? We’ve got answers.
If you’re weighing battery and charger options available to power electric forklifts or not sure how to properly maintain your forklift equipment, Texas Motive Solutions is here to help. While it’s typically best to speak with a TMS sales and service representative for insight pertaining to your specific application, we’re happy to share some general knowledge here.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Several safety issues exist that can be easily managed when you set up the forklift charging station properly and employees are trained to handle batteries and chargers safely. Some forklift charging best practices include:
- Require battery room attendants to always wear proper PPE—including gloves, aprons and eye protection—while watering batteries to avoid contact with battery electrolyte.
- Keep open flames and sparks away from batteries during charging, as batteries produce combustible hydrogen gas during the gassing phase of battery charging.
- Make sure all battery and charger cables are clean and undamaged because old, cut or damaged cables can cause shorts and potentially produce an electrocution hazard.
- Properly mount chargers up off the floor to prevent forklifts from running into them and causing potential electrocution hazards.
TMS can guide you on best practices for setting up a battery charging area and train employees on safety protocols. We’re also happy to install the equipment and accessories necessary to help ensure your space for charging forklift battery inventory is safe.
How do I know if my forklift application is a good candidate for opportunity charging, rapid charging or IONIC charging?
Every application is unique, which is why TMS recommends performing a thorough evaluation of each customer’s forklift utilization. During our analysis, we evaluate available idle times, based on the time the application allows for charging and how many hours the lifts run per day. This insight dictates which charger technology best suits the specific application and helps us formulate the optimum solution for the customer.
Based on your charging needs and the size of the battery, proper forklift battery chargers can range in price between $500 and $10,000. Seeking the guidance of an expert to help you pick the most economical charge solution for your application is a very important step.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Decline in performance, power and/or battery life.
- Evidence of spilled acid on or near the battery.
- Signs of corrosion or damage to the battery terminals.
- Battery gives off a rotten egg smell.
- High operating temperatures.
- Battery starts smoking.
- Lights on the display of the forklift go dim or flicker.
- Damaged cables, connectors or contact tips.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The BBWC collects data and communicates with the charger. The device pulls data on voltage, amperage in and out of the battery, temperature and fluid levels, and it can also detect cell imbalances. The BBWC also monitors equalizations, quality of charging, energy throughput (consumption of power) and more.
The SPWS is much like the sprinkler system you use for your yard. It’s a watering system that distributes the proper amount of fluid into each of the batteries individual cells, without having to manage each cell individually. With the SPWS, an assembly of valves and injectors are installed on the battery to assist with fluid level management. Typically, using an SPWS will eliminate the need to pull batteries out of forklifts on a weekly schedule.
No, it’s highly recommended that you NOT use one charger for multiple forklifts. Each piece of equipment should have its own charger at your forklift battery charger stations because it has to be equalized weekly, and you can’t do that with one charger. This approach to charging is also very difficult to manage because charging is a manual process. More likely, you would end up voiding your warranty due to the inability to manage charging properly.
It depends on the type and age of the charger, the application and whether your charging needs have changed. Many newer chargers improve energy efficiency much like HE (high efficiency) appliances do and offer advanced technology to help prevent battery damage due to improper use. For example, the HAWKER® IONIC charger helps overcome certain issues that arise when a battery is treated improperly during operation. From an energy efficiency perspective, most warehouse operations want to conserve energy and recognize the importance of reducing the amount of power consumed from the energy grid. High frequency chargers help meet both goals because they are much more efficient in converting A/C power to D/C and don’t waste as much power as older charger technology.
When you deep discharge a battery, you discharge the battery beyond the recommended minimum state of charge for the battery technology you are utilizing. Deep discharging damages the battery and shortens battery life. Each technology is different (flooded lead acid = 80% DoD; TPPL = 60% DoD; lithium varies depending on manufacturer and application), so it’s critical to know what type of battery you are using.
Equalize charging provides an extended charge to balance the voltage of all cells in the battery, which develop variances over time. Equalizing also helps prevent premature battery failure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
It’s very important, and the customer’s responsibility, to inspect all products shipped from the manufacturer prior to signing for them. If damage did occur during the freight process, you would need to submit a claim with the freight company, not the manufacturer. Typically, battery manufacturers are not responsible for items damaged in freight. Make sure to physically assess the packaging (starting during un-banding of the freight) and the product for damage and document any issues with the freight company prior to acceptance. We’ve seen many occasions where the product arrives damaged in packaging other than the original packaging the battery company used (which is very specific). This usually means something happened in transit and the freight company repackaged the product.
I don’t charge my forklift battery until it’s completely dead, which takes several days. Is that ok?
In most cases, no. It’s best not to go more than two days without charging your battery because chemicals in the battery need to be mixed regularly for optimum performance. Allowing the battery to sit in a partially discharged state can cause irreversible damage over time and shorten battery life. It’s likely that the amount of power the battery provides exceeds the demands of your application and a different battery may suit your needs better. TMS can help you weigh options when it’s time for a battery replacement.
Water is consumed during the battery charging process, plus, water evaporates over time. Traditional forklift batteries require weekly watering checks but you should only add water if the battery is fully charged and when it’s needed. You may need to water older batteries and refurbished batteries more frequently. Get more battery watering tips on our Preventive Maintenance page.