Frequently Asked Questions
What is the proper way to disconnect a battery from its charger?
Be sure the charger is OFF. Important for three reasons:
- disconnecting while current is flowing can cause sparking/arcing and explosion of gasses released by the battery on charge.
- sparks/arcs will pit the connector contacts. Poor connections create excessive heat and cause the connectors to fuse together.
- disconnecting while on charge causes a voltage “spike” which can damage charger components.
Hold the connector housings firmly to pull apart. Don’t pull from the cables.
Check both connectors for cracks, breaks or melting, check cables to ensure there’s no exposed copper, check contacts for pitting or discoloration.
Avoid disconnecting the battery before the charge cycle is complete.
How to do a visual battery inspection prior to use
Check cables to ensure no copper is exposed – along the cable, at the connector. If there is, cover with electrical tape temporarily. Call for service; nicked or damaged cables should be repaired with heat shrink. Secure cables with cable ties to keep them clear of pinch points.
Check connector housing (on battery and on lift truck) for cracks, breaks or melting and to ensure contacts are secure inside. If there is pitting, corrosion or discoloration on the contacts, call for service so they can be replaced.
Ensure all battery connectors and both the positive and negative cable heads have their protective covers securely in place to prevent contact with metal.
Ensure all cells have vent caps to prevent contamination of the electrolyte and safe containment of the acid.
Ensure there is some electrolyte visible in each cell (at least up to the perforated plate protector). If not, add pure (distilled) water, leaving approximately 2” headspace in each cell.
If the battery has a cover, ensure the cover bolts are in place holding the cover secure.
Ensure there are no tools or other metal objects on the battery.
What is the proper way to charge lead acid batteries?
Use a charger with an output correctly rated to your battery – not any charger will do. Incorrect matches will over-charge or under-charge the battery causing short- and long-term operating issues.
Lead-acid batteries should never be discharged more than 80% during a usage cycle. If your lift truck discharge meter is in the yellow range, or between 50% and 80% discharged, it’s time to put the battery on charge. DO NOT run a battery into the red zone or below 80% discharged. This can appreciably shorten the battery’s life expectancy. If using a hydrometer to test the specific gravity of the electrolyte, the battery should be charged once the SG drops to 1.140 – 1.160 per cell.
Before charging, be sure both connector housings are intact with no cracks, breaks or melted plastic. Have the connector housing replaced if there is any sign of damage. The connectors need to fit tightly together. A poor contact creates heat and causes housings and cables to melt.
Check cells to be sure the battery isn’t dry. There should be evidence of some electrolyte in each cell, at least up to the perforated plate protector with at least 2” of headspace in each cell to accommodate bubbling while on charge. If a battery or cell is dry do not fill before charging, add only enough water to cover the perforated plate. After the charge cycle is complete the low cells may then be filled as above. Overfilled batteries will spill acid while charging.
Most chargers have an “equalize” option either programmed into the charger to occur after a set number of cycles, or as a manual equalize button. An equalize charge after every 5-6 charges (automatic or manually activated) restores weaker cells by giving the battery a “trickle” for about three hours. Regular equalize charging is a necessary part of proper battery operation/maintenance.
Once connected to the charger, leave the battery on charge until the entire cycle has completed and the charger is putting out 0 amps, or says END, OFF or Charge Complete. Disconnect the battery from the charger by holding both connector housings firmly and pulling apart.
What is battery sulfation?
Sulfation occurs when a lead-acid battery produces electricity. The longer sulfation remains in the battery plates the more difficult it is to reverse during charging. If a battery is run down too low during a usage cycle, not charged long enough during a charge cycle, or sits unused in a discharged state for weeks/months sulfation can become permanent, reducing the battery’s ability to produce electricity or accept a charge.
As a battery is being used (energy depleted), tiny sulfate crystals form inside the plates. These crystals dissolve during regular charging (energy restored). However, when the battery remains in a discharged state for a prolonged period (or is chronically over-discharged), the sulfate crystals form into larger crystals. These large sulfate crystals displace the battery’s active material (plate material sheds and falls to the bottom of the cell), reducing its capacity to accept and hold a charge.
If diagnosed early, most sulfation can often be reversed with a controlled, monitored charge. However, permanent (irreversible) sulfation sets in when the battery has been in a low state-of-charge for weeks or months. Then some, but not all, of the sulfation may be reversed. At this stage, no form of restoration is possible and the battery will be useful only for light duty, if at all.
Sulfation can be avoided by:
- fully charging the battery once it is 50% to 80% discharged (yellow zone)
- equalize charging after 5-6 regular charge cycles
- never “opportunity charging” (connecting to charger for short durations)
- maintaining unused batteries in a charged state (charged biweekly-monthly)
- properly matching charger output to battery requirements
How often should I add water to my battery?
Flooded lead-acid batteries need to have water added regularly. That is, pure water needs to be added to each cell, either manually, or through a battery filling system, so that the electrolyte remains in contact with all of the active material on the plates contained in each cell.
Each cell’s electrolyte level should be no lower than the perforated plate visible when the cell cap is removed.
After charging, purified water should be carefully added leaving 2” headspace in each cell. This headspace is needed so that as the battery gasses (bubbles) on charge, the electrolyte won’t overflow.
How often? Check each battery regularly by removing a few cell caps (3-4) and peering into the cell using a flashlight to accurately observe the level(s), which often vary. Add water as needed. If addition of water is not required, don’t add any. It will become apparent over time how often adding water will be required. The more a battery is used and charged the more often adding water will be necessary. If you notice a cell consistently dry or needing considerably more water than the others, call for service. This is an indication of a “problem” cell that should be inspected to ensure it won’t cause battery failure or explosion.
It’s important to use purified water so that other minerals and organic materials don’t pollute the battery’s chemistry.