Electric forklifts are quickly taking over a large market share. Warehouses and other indoor environments benefit from reduced air quality concerns, less noise, and ease of use. However, I often find that the batteries and electric motors are completely overlooked. Recently I found a forklift that was 36 litres low on electrolyte! The customer was unaware that the battery required service. Here’s another funny story about battery service gone off the rails: Battery Service Failure!
Since this seems to be a systemic problem, I contacted Adam Booke, owner of Booke Battery Solutions, and asked him some common customer questions.
1: Give us an overview of who you are and what your company does.
I started Booke Battery Solutions in 2014 after several years of working for someone else in the same field. I wanted a chance to take on what I knew and what I am passionate about. BBS sells and services many types of batteries and chargers from UPS system batteries to Industrial steel cased forklift batteries and chargers.
2. What is the most common mistake you see industrial battery owners doing?
Underestimating the importance of proper maintenance with their batteries and chargers. I have seen countless times where poor watering, or even cut cables over time can cut a battery’s life in half or worse. With a simple service call by a trained technician and a bit more knowledge of what was going on and should be done, the lifespan of the battery could be drastically increased saving thousands of dollars.
3. What is the most common thing you see equipment technicians overlooking?
Many times I see technicians overlooking all possibilities. When a customer has problems with runtime of a forklift most have the gut reaction to blame the battery. The battery is only part of the system. The battery, charger, and lift make a complete circuit. If any one part of that is not right, problems occur. Many battery problems are due to charger malfunctions, many charger problems are due to battery problems, and many battery/charger problems can be lift problems. It’s very important to consider all of the facts when troubleshooting issues.
4. Charging….to fill first or fill after?
Under normal conditions you should always fill after the battery has been charged. The electrolytes are driven out of the plates within a cell when charging and will cause expansion. If watered before it can cause a spill. There are times when a battery has been sitting dry for long period of time that water must be added first in order to take a charge. That is rare and should really only be done in a battery shop where it can be observed while charging.
5. What is the realistic lifespan of a properly maintained industrial battery?
Most manufacturers will have a 5 year warranty. A battery really only has 4 main needs to live a long life: discharged to proper level, charged back up to 100%, time to cool down before use, and a proper watering schedule. If all those can be achieved regularly and it is a good strong product to start, then I have seen batteries last 5-10 years. The oldest battery I have ever seen still in operation was 16 years old, which obviously is very rare. If any one of those 4 items are missed frequently less than 5 years is very likely. Just like automobiles it all comes down to proper care and maintenance.
6. What should customers know about the newer “charge on demand” type batteries?
They work very well in the right circumstances. I’ve found that with opportunity charging since the battery does not get changed out that watering of the battery can be the first thing neglected. A watering system really should be in place to help prevent under watering. It would not be ideal to start opportunity charging on a battery that is older or shows signs of problems. Since there is more current flow from the charger defects in the battery can show themselves very quickly.
While it’s great for the customer to be able to charge during breaks at least once per week the battery should be allowed to reach 100% charge, watered, and allowed to cool down.
7. Should the top of a battery be tarred to avoid acid getting into the case?
Tar can work well if it never cracks or has any blemishes. That being said workplaces are not always the best environments. Having a background in service I have seen too many times where tar did more harm than good. As soon as the tar cracks and the slightest bit of acid gets down into the battery tray it will begin to corrode the tray. I prefer no tar so that that if there is ever a problem with acid escaping the cell it can be easily cleaned and neutralized.
8. How can a customer know when his industrial battery is nearing its replacement stage?
Several factors can come into play here. A good relationship with a lift dealer or their battery supplier can help as they will hopefully keep track of the condition of the fleet. At BBS we offer a complimentary battery and charger inspection on an annual basis. This can be great for budgeting purposes. We keep track of age, condition, and offer recommendations on batteries that are not up to spec.
9. How do you load test an industrial battery out in the field?
There are a couple of different ways to do this. There are full size portable load banks that can accurately test a battery in 3-6 hours. Most customers do not want to wait for something like that in their facility. Another is a smaller automotive style load bank that can put a load onto a few cells at a time. This can be good for quick tests to see if there is are obvious bad cells. If none of that is an option depending on the type of lift it’s possible to take voltage readings with a multi meter while lifting a load with the forks. If it can be done safely it can determine quickly if there is a dead cell.
10. Oops. Acid spill… Now what? Walk us through cleanup, and what to do about lost electrolyte.
After an acid spill from a battery you want to contain first. Hopefully the battery being charged was sitting above a drip pan, and preferably a drip pan lined with an acid absorbing/neutralizing mat. If no absorbing mat or no drip pan you will want to make sure to wear proper PPE (Acid resistant gloves, safety glasses, face shield, acid resistant apron) and contain the spill.
1. Apply product around spill to build a barrier.
2. Slowly pour from the outside of the spill inward.
3. Allow 5 minutes or so for the spill to be neutralized and absorbed.
4. Dispose of properly according to regulations in your area.
Many battery companies can usually add the waste to scrap loads of batteries that go off for recycling, but be sure to check local regulations.
The battery needs to be washed and neutralized properly by trained personnel to prevent more corrosion. Small amounts of acid loss may not be an issue with battery performance, but if enough had been lost more acid may need to be reintroduced to the battery. That should be done in a battery shop setting and by a trained personnel.
Thanks Adam for this information. If anybody in the Omaha area wants help with their battery needs, how should they contact you?
They can call, email, or text. 402-740-9984
Facebook @ Booke Battery Solutions Omaha, NE.
LinkedIn – Adam Booke Adam@bookebatterysolutions.com
If you need forklift parts or tools check this link: Lift Parts
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