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Understanding batteries

Knowledge is power when you want to use your batteries to their full potential. Here are some tips on how to keep your batteries running at optimal performance.

Frequently asked questions

A battery works by storing electrical energy from the alternator as chemical energy. This chemical energy is reconverted on demand from the electrical system.It develops voltage from the chemical reaction produced when two dissimilar metals such as the positive and negative plates, are immersed in the electrolyte, a solution of sulphuric acid and water. In a typical starter battery the voltage is approximately 2 volts per cell, for a total of 12 volts. Electricity flows from the battery as soon as there is a circuit between the positive and negative terminals.

  1. Keep the vent caps on.
  2. Don’t allow smoking, open flames or sparks near the battery.
  3. Don’t allow the battery to become hot to the touch.

Maintain water level: If your battery has removable vent caps, you should re-check the water level and add water when it is low. Keep terminals clean: Visually inspect the terminals and cables at least once a year especially in hot temperatures for signs of corrosion.

Battery Care & Maintenance

Under normal circumstances, we recommend charging when a battery reaches 80% depth of discharge (near the “red zone” on most discharge meters) not before.

Most new batteries are designed to provide 1,500 charge “cycles” or more. If your application is light to medium duty, or sporadic, charge only when necessary rather than daily. This will spread the cycle life of the battery over a much longer period, ensuring maximum number of productive years from your investment.

Depending on your brand of charger, charge approx. every 5 to 10 cycles to keep the battery performing at peak efficiency. Failure to do so or selecting this option too often will harm the battery and shorten its effective life.

Batteries should not be put on charge more than once a day. This reduces downtime and the risk of accidents caused by drivers rushing to recharge when the battery is running low.

If a battery ever overflows, take a few minutes to rinse it with water immediately afterward (baking soda optional) to prevent corrosion on top of and beneath the battery. Use enough water to thoroughly dilute the spilled acid to the extent that it is not harmful to the environment.

The spilled acid is both highly conductive and corrosive. If not rinsed away, the conductivity can cause the battery to discharge itself, even while it is not in use, and generate additional heat during recharge.

  1. Do not charge a battery that has only been lightly discharged – it will prematurely destroy it
  2. Before disconnecting a battery from the charger, always ensure that the cycle is complete.
  3. Only top up with distilled water
  4. Check the condition of the charger’s plug and socket regularly
  5. Electric batteries produce a gas mixture that becomes explosive at just 4% concentration
  6. Battery Charging areas are dangerous! – posing a variety of ventilation, ignition, chemical, electrical and environmental risk.- Call today for a free site survey.

Most automatic chargers must sense a minimum battery voltage to activate and turn on. If the battery is below the threshold voltage, you will not be able to recharge the battery and may require a service call to manually start the charger.

Acid vapours escape during charge, and residue will develop around the vent cap area even under normal circumstances. We recommend that batteries be rinsed every spring and fall (or as needed), to remove the acid residue.

Never allow a battery to sit discharged for more than a few days to avoid “sulphation”. If it becomes necessary to store a battery for any period of time, charge it prior, and once every 3 to 6 months thereafter to avoid damage.

If you don’t have a working discharge indicator, we recommend installing at least a simple “passive” discharge indicator.

It’s tempting to fall into the bad habit of quickly charging your truck during break times. In the trade this is known as ‘opportunity charging’. A battery’s lifespan is determined by its charge cycles (i.e. how many charges it’s had). Short charges will result in steadily declining battery efficiency – to the point where it won’t charge at all. Instead, allow your truck to cool off during downtime.

It will cause overflow on the next charge. Acid loss shortens run time, generates more heat, and requires shop service to correct.

Never make a habit of giving short charges during lunch or break time. Each short charge constitutes a “cycle” and over time will significantly affect the performance and life of the battery. It also causes excess heat that will make the battery less efficient than not charging at all. It’s better to let a battery rest and cool during lunch or breaks.

Never interrupt a charge cycle if it is avoidable. It is recommended that once a charge cycle is initiated, it be allowed complete.

It will take over 72 hours of continuous charging to bring back to full charge, and may require shop service to restore full charge.

If a battery ever radiates excessive heat during use or charging or emits a strong sulphur smell, discontinue use and call for service. You have a battery, charger or lift problem.

Batteries produce explosive hydrogen gas while charging, which could cause an explosion resulting in injury or death.

Deep discharging will harm the battery. It can easily increase the recharge time outside your charger’s range to recover, causing the battery to be only partially charged for the next day. All of the forklift’s electrical components will run excessively hot. Significant lift truck damage can result, including complete motor failure, burned armatures and brushes, and burned or stuck contacts, which can quickly render the truck unsafe and unusable.

Over time, acid left on top of the battery which has not been cleaned regularly will form clumps of conductive white corrosion. If it is allowed to accumulate, it can dramatically shorten the life of the battery and make checking and adding water an unpleasant experience which employees will tend to avoid, as well as causing obvious safety concerns.


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