Should I Repair or Replace My Forklift Battery?

If you depend on electric forklifts to run your operation, you know the significance of making a wise investment in the right battery. Batteries that power electric forklifts may require a sizable investment, especially if you’re purchasing batteries for multiple forklifts. Learn how to tell if you can repair them, or if you must replace your forklift battery. Contact us with any questions you may have; our experienced team would be happy to help you.

How Long Does a Forklift Battery Last?

As the owner of an electric forklift, you must understand how long a battery will last. General estimates usually depend on the type of battery you have. However, there are many other factors that can play a significant role in forklift battery longevity. These factors may include:

  • Battery type
  • Battery usage
  • Maintenance

Once you understand how these factors can impact a battery's lifespan, you can better determine how long the battery will last.

Forklift Battery Types

Electric forklifts are usually powered by either lead-acid or lithium-ion batteries. The technology differs between the two; lead-acid batteries are filled with electrolyte and have been used for decades as the standard method. Lead-acid batteries are heavier in size and can be problematic when charging and storing.  Lead-acid batteries also require regular refilling with water, or the chemical process will degrade and the battery will suffer an early failure.

Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, are the newer,more compact, and more efficient option. Unlike lead-acid batteries, their cells are sealed shut, requiring no water maintenance. 

Forklift Battery Usage

If electric forklift batteries are well-maintained, you can expect lead-acid batteries to generally last between 1,000 and 1,500 cycles, while lithium-ion batteries may generally last between 2,000 and 3,000 cycles. 

It’s important to note that lead-acid batteries take about 8 hours to charge, and then require another 8 hours for a cooling period. Therefore, one lead-acid battery can only power a forklift for one shift. If your business is a multi-shift operation, you will need two or three lead-acid batteries per forklift.

Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, only take 1 to 2 hours to charge and do not require a cooling down period. Opportunity charging can take place in between shifts or during lunch breaks, for example. Therefore, one lithium-ion battery can power one forklift for all three shifts.

So, if your business only has one shift in which a forklift is used, a well-maintained lead-acid battery should last around 5 years (1,500 cycles over 300 workdays per year). A lithium-ion battery, in comparison, should last 10 years or more (3,000 cycles over 300 work days per year) based on an average 6-day operational work week, with 12 days non-operational for holidays. 

Forklift Battery Maintenance

Proper care will help your forklift battery last. Lead-acid batteries require more maintenance because you must water them in order to prevent degradation of the chemical process. To learn about battery watering procedures, click here.

 

Lithium-ion batteries, on the other hand, don’t require as much maintenance. In fact, lithium-ion battery packs include a battery regulator, which ensures the battery cells remain balanced.

It’s essential to follow manufacturer recommendations to ensure your battery performs at its maximum potential. For example, don’t recharge the battery until it has discharged to 30 percent. Not keeping up with routine maintenance or following proper safety protocols can significantly decrease the lifespan of your forklift battery.

When to Replace Your Forklift Battery

If your forklift battery doesn’t hold a charge like it used to, that's a sign you may need to replace it soon. If you notice poor response time, corrosion on the battery case, spilled acid on the exterior, corroded or damaged terminals, dim or flickering displays, a rotten egg smell, or smoke, your forklift battery is likely going bad.

That said, if the battery is only a few years old, or has fewer than 1,000 charging cycles, you may be able to repair it rather than replace it. Slow performance and dim displays may be due to a loose connection. Cables can come loose, wear out, or aren't reconnected properly after charging.

Have an experienced operator with proper training inspect the connections and check for signs of corrosion or wear. They should also clean the connection area(s) properly before reattaching any loose cables. If the operator finds corroded or damaged terminals, excessive sulfation or acid leakage, have the battery inspected by a professional to evaluate whether your forklift battery is still safe to use (after some cleanup), or if it should be sent back to the manufacturer.

Get Answers to Your Forklift Battery Questions

Contact us to help determine if your forklift battery needs repaired or replaced. If it needs repaired, we may be able to refer you to a professional. If you need it replaced, we may have the perfect forklift battery for you. Browse our inventory or contact us to find a replacement. We look forward to working with you!

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