Ask any battery room operator how often to water forklift batteries and you’ll probably get one of two responses: “Check them once a week and water as necessary,” they’ll say. Or they might say, “That depends.” The second response is about as accurate as it is frustrating, which is to say, totally.
The fact is, battery watering can be tricky to nail down. It’s a good idea to start with weekly checkups and go from there, but ultimately, establishing an ideal watering schedule will take some experimentation. Watch out for the three major efficiency killers when you’re figuring out your watering routine:
- Don’t overwater. This can cause damaging boil-overs during charges.
- Don’t underwater. When cells dry out, they lose capacity — permanently.
- Don’t spend so much time checking battery water levels that you can’t complete other vital battery room tasks.
A startling range of variables combine to determine ideal watering intervals. Frequency of use, type of charger, battery size, and even environmental conditions in your warehouse can all affect the evaporation of water within battery cells. But with a little preparation and some careful data collection, you’ll be able to plan a watering schedule that will keep your batteries running for as long as possible. Here are a few tips to get you started:
Start by studying battery usage.
Does every battery get charged every day? If you use batteries heavily, it’s best to check water levels at least once a week. If your usage is more relaxed, you might be able to get away with checking water levels as infrequently as once a month.
Adjust as needed.
Keep track of which batteries need watering, and when. You might find that the same battery comes up consistently low. That could be a sign that the battery is getting near the end of its operating life, or it could mean that it’s a favorite among forklift operators. Either way, it’s something you should address.
Get help from fleet maintenance software.
Paper logs can only go so far. To really track battery usage, including maintenance schedules, implement an advanced software solution, such as Fleet Tracker from BHS. Fleet Tracker prolongs battery life by helping operators choose only batteries that are ready for use, while providing detailed records of everything that happens in the battery room.
Fleet Tracker also alerts users to maintenance tasks, and can be adjusted on the fly. After you figure out the ideal watering strategy, Fleet Tracker will help you stick to it.
Only use deionized water.
Battery electrolyte is a sensitive substance. Both the water and the sulfuric acid that go into electrolyte should be as free from impurities as possible.
Tap water, especially hard water, is full of minerals and other tiny pollutants. Over time, these substances can damage battery performance. The solution is to run water through a Water Deionizing System before adding it to battery electrolyte.
Install an Integrated Watering System.
Efficiency in battery watering isn’t just about the batteries, of course. It also involves staff. Manually checking and watering a whole fleet of forklift batteries can be incredibly time-consuming.
In order to keep battery room staff free for other tasks, consider installing an Integrated Watering System into battery stands. This single-point watering system integrates with chargers to release water only at the end of a charging cycle. It waters multiple batteries at once and eliminates inefficient manual watering.
It’s easy to forget to check battery water levels, but that’s a costly error. In fact, watering batteries is a crucial part of an overall maintenance plan, which should also include equalization charges, regular washing, and performance tracking. Forklift batteries aren’t just fuel for the fleet; they’re complex electrochemical machines in their own right. Like any machinery, forklift batteries will only treat you as well as you treat them.
“Forklift Battery Charger – 10 charging tips for lift truck batteries.” WarehouseIQ. Warehouse IQ, 5 Sept. 2011. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.
Gooley, Toby. “Battery room confidential.” DCVelocity. Agile Business Media, LLC., 22 July 2013. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.
Vanasse, Harold. “Other Voices: The major impact of watering on battery room operations and maintenance.” MMH. Peerless Media LLC, 10 Sept. 2015. Web. 23 Aug. 2016.