With longer lead times on industrial equipment, including forklift batteries (LPG and electric), it's critical to keep up with battery service.
Nothing new, right? But when's the last time you had those batteries evaluated?
Now's the time of year to think about this. Enough time to evaluate and service any batteries which need it, before the year runs out. Then you can breathe easy—because all your forklifts will be ready for next year's demand.
So let's talk a little about battery evaluations.
What's Involved in a Forklift Battery Evaluation?
Does your battery need service?
That's the question an evaluation answers. A service technician gives the battery a thorough inspection, and decide it's in one of three states:
- Needs reconditioning
- Needs replacement
How do they make this determination?
A Cromer service tech would inspect all of the following, as factors affecting in the battery's current state:
- Battery surface
- Water levels
- Battery Cells' operation (testing each cell in the battery)
- Battery age
- Service history for the forklift
- Battery size matched to forklift model—it might be the wrong size!
Here's an example of what happens during and after a battery evaluation.
A long-term rental customer contacted the Cromer Rental Department. They reported that four of their rental batteries couldn't operate past 3 hours anymore, even on a full charge.
One of our service techs evaluated all four. He discovered that three of those four batteries needed replacement. They were no longer reliable enough to serve.
The fourth battery he could salvage. To do so, he replaced two bad cells in the battery, ran an equalizing charge (more on this below) and retested.
The battery returned to full performance! We put it in another rental truck, and it's back to running 8 hours on a charge, every day.
Evaluations Tell You When It's Time to Service Forklift Batteries
When should you consider an evaluation? When you start seeing issues with a battery. These issues may look like any of the following:
- Corrosion visible
- Broken leads on the battery
- Broken connections to/from the battery
- Charge not lasting a full 8-hour shift
Say you have a battery only getting 4 hours per charge. You decide to have it evaluated. For the fastest evaluation with the clearest results, we recommend taking a few precautions prior to the evaluation.
Here's what you should do ahead of time:
- Forklift should NOT be in use at least 1 hour prior to evaluation
- We suggest doing an equalized charge before the evaluation
- If you haven't heard of equalizing, this is when your overcharge a lead-acid battery, after a full charging cycle.
- It removes built-up sulfate inside the battery cells, and balances each cell's voltage.
- Recommended to do these every 5-10 charging cycles, depending on the age of the battery, and its manufacturer guidelines.
With all of this done, the evaluation should only take 2 hours to complete.
What Happens After a Battery Evaluation?
Following the evaluation, the service tech will make a recommendation for the battery's continued performance. Either...
- Start up a forklift maintenance plan, which includes battery service (watering, inspection, charge tests).
- This means the battery is in good shape, and you can keep using it normally.
- Do a full battery reconditioning
- May include replacing battery cells, and equalization charge while testing.
- Battery replacement
Common signs the battery needs reconditioning include:
- It needs watering more frequently than normal
- Corrosion returns within 1 week of cleaning
- The battery dies quickly when in extreme heat/cold
NOTE: Reconditioning will extend the life of your batteries, but it may not restore full capacity if the battery's older than 3 years.
What about signs of a battery needing replacement?
- The last reconditioning did not improve performance
- Equalization charges produced no change in run time
- The battery has experienced significant damage to its leads and/or surface
If the battery does need replacement, the Cromer service tech will arrange disposal for you, and provide a new battery from our inventory.
Now is the Best Time of Year for Evaluations
Since evaluations identify which of your current batteries need service, and winter's coming up, now is the right time to schedule evaluations for any batteries you're unsure of.
It's especially important for electrics to have batteries serviced prior to the winter months
Without service, your electrics may start stalling in the cold. Not only disruptive and frustrating…this can even shorten your batteries' lifespan.
Let's keep that from happening. Call your local Cromer Service Department to schedule your battery evaluation.
Until next month!
Marshall Cromer, The Forklift Boss
Cromer Material Handling