Your Lift Truck Could Use a Drink: A Crash Course in Battery Watering

Forklift Battery Maintenance: Battery Watering

Electric forklifts are quite popular right now for various reasons, which means there are more lift truck batteries in operation than ever. Battery-driven technology is convenient; typical forklift batteries will last several years if properly handled, and they require little maintenance, which you can typically perform yourself. It would be best to recharge your battery periodically, but there is also one other form of regular upkeep necessary to make your battery last: Battery Watering.

Why Do I Need to Water a Battery?

A battery may not be a potted plant, but it still needs water to live a full life. This is because modern lead-acid batteries (which power your forklift) contain an electrolyte mixture of sulfuric acid and water. As you may have noticed, each cell of the battery resides in its own vented “jar,” where metal plates activate the electrolyte solution to create energy. During charging, however, the water breaks down, releasing small amounts of hydrogen and oxygen gas. Also, because of the heat produced during operation, some of the water evaporates over time. For these reasons, it is necessary to add water to the battery from time to time to maintain proper functionality.

How Do I Go About It?

Battery watering is pretty straightforward. A general rule is that you should check water levels and fill the cells approximately every ten charges of the battery, at least for the first few years of the battery’s life. If you have a reconditioned battery, you may want to cut this interval to once every five charges. Checking a few cells every five charges to ensure electrolyte levels remain above plastic element protectors is an excellent way to determine refill necessity.

Always fill batteries with clean water—distilled water isn’t usually necessary as long as your water is sufficiently clean—after charging the battery. The reason is that electrolyte levels rise when charged, and filling water after the charge helps prevent overflows that can cause acid-related damage and overheating. The one exception to this rule is if the metal activating plates in the cell is exposed to air—in this case, fill enough water to cover them, charge the battery, and fill the rest of the way.

Only add enough water to cover the plastic element protector by ¼”, or ¾” below the cell’s top. The extra space is needed for expansion while gassing/bubbling at the end of a charge. Alternatively, if your lift truck has a single-point watering system installed (basic plumbing on top of the battery allowing you to fill cells with an appropriate amount of water from a single input point without accessing the top of the battery itself), you can save time by filling all the cells at once. If you removed them, always secure the cell caps when you’re finished.

One other thing to keep in mind is that you should beware of exposing your battery to cold temperatures for prolonged periods, as the freezing of water can cause issues.

Battery watering is generally straightforward, but questions could arise. For more information on battery watering or any other forklift-related concerns, contact us at (614) 896-2360.

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