Forklift Battery Not Holding a Charge – What To Do

Did you know that a forklift battery is like rechargeable battery; it has a finite lifespan! Chances are your battery is going to give you problems at some point in time. Your battery lifespan depends on you and your application.

The frequency and amount of use in which the battery has been charged will impact the lifespan and will help you get the most out of your investment. There are many ways a battery can fail, that can be catastrophic or unrecoverable. If your forklift battery is no longer holding charge, Get in Touch with Wayco. We provide a forklift BATTERY CARE program. 

battery not holding charge?


Forklift batteries are much the same as the lead acid batteries seen in cars, although forklift batteries are a lot heavier, larger and more difficult to repair or refurbish. Forklift batteries are deep-cycle batteries and for this reason they can be discharged to lower levels without causing damage.

There are a number of steps that are very important to get the most life out of your battery, like cleaning, replacing fluids and removing sulfation. These can be done by the worker but refurbishing the battery is best left for a professional who has experience.

Common Problems Associated with a Forklift Battery

 Forklift batteries are very expensive and are often replaced far too soon because of improper care and neglect. Below is a list of common problems associated with forklift batteries that occur over time.


1. Short Circuit


A common type of short circuit occurs when the positive and negative terminals of a battery are connected with a low-resistance conductor, like a wire. With a low resistance in the connection, a high current will flow, causing the delivery of a large amount of energy in a short period of time.

A “shorted” lead acid battery has the capability of delivering an extremely high current, 100 to 1000 times the typical discharge current used in most applications.The following are signs that your battery has a short circuit.

  • Very low cell voltage and specific gravity during recharging and discharging

  • Low gassing while charging

  • Extreme rise of electrolyte temperature during charging phase

  • Fast drop of gravity after charging


2. Sulfation


Sulfation, a build-up of lead sulfate crystals, is the number one cause of early failures of lead-acid, sealed AGM or flooded (wet cell-filler caps) batteries. Sulfation is the accumulation of a crystalline form of lead sulfate on the plates of lead–acid storage batteries.

sulfated battery can lead to loss of cranking power or longer charging times. Sulfation can be avoided if the battery is fully recharged immediately after a discharge cycle.

The lead sulfate crystals are broken down (more or less successfully) in the charge cycle. Sometimes some crystals remain, or sometimes a battery is left partially discharged where the crystals of lead sulfate harden, and reduce the capacity of the battery to be charged. This is what desulfation is about.

  • While charging, the voltage and electrolyte temperature are much higher than the standard

  • Gassing is accelerated from charging and the gravity does not rise to normal

  • Voltage drops quickly while discharging

  • In some extreme cases, plates may become whitened 


3. Excessive self discharging


Selfdischarge is a phenomenon in batteries in which internal chemical reactions reduce the stored charge of the forklift battery without any connection between the electrodes. 

Selfdischarge decreases the shelf life of batteries and causes them to initially have less than a full charge when actually put to use. Self discharge is caused from improper handling. Self discharge can be thought of as energy leaking from your battery which leaks about 5% of capacity per month.

At higher temperatures, the rate typically doubles, so store batteries cool when possible. Remember to always wear PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) when working on batteries.

  • Quick drop in gravity after charging

  • Charging capacity of battery significantly reduced


Important Forklift Battery Facts

An important part of keeping your warehouse operations running smoothly is proper maintenance of your forklift batteries. When a lift truck battery is down, that usually means one of your forklifts is down and you are losing productivity. First here are some facts about forklift batteries:

  • A maintained, fully charged battery will provide about six hours of use, equal to an eight-hour shift with breaks included.

  • Batteries have a lifespan of approximately 1,500 cycles lasting up to 5 years. Each charge takes a cycle out of a battery.

  • Mismatched batteries and chargers can cause major damage to the battery and the forklift.

  • Batteries must have adequate water. Typically, they need water added after five to ten charges, and only after they have been fully charged, to prevent a boil over.

  • “Remember, the battery is the fuel tank of the forklift. Look after it and it will look after you.” 


Proper Battery Care

This video shares some tips on how to get the most life out of your battery and the do’s and don’ts when handling your battery and charger. 

Battery maintenance is an extremely forgotten yet important factor; as knowing a little about forklift maintenance will go a long way. Proper battery care and watering can help extend the life of your industrial battery. 

Everyday large, heavy and expensive batteries power electric forklifts and inevitably need to be re-charged. Waiting too long or making the wrong connection can cost your organization time and money.

Let Wayco keep track of your maintenance so it is done on time. To get the most out of your investment, machine operators should know and practice the proper care and maintenance of forklift batteries. Here are seven simple tips for proper battery maintenance:

  1. Keep the battery dry, clean, and free from corrosion

  2. Check that the battery charger cables are not damaged or showing heat damage.

  3. Keep flames and metal away from battery top

  4. Keep vent caps tightly in place

  5. Maintain proper water level (about one half inch below the battery cap opening)

  6. Add water only after the charge cycle. Add approved water only— never add acid

  7. Set up a watering schedule either weekly or bi-monthly to ensure proper water levels

  8. Avoid charging during break times and lunch breaks because each time you connect the battery to a charger, it uses one of its life cycles

  9. Inspect for any defects or malfunctions, and have your battery service provider repair them as needed

  10.  Wash and service your battery semi-annually to help control acid and corrosion

Remember check fluid level approximately every five charge cycles, be sure to check the forklift battery fluid levels by opening up the battery.


Charging and Recharging


An electric forklift is designed to operate for one shift and then be charged on the next shift, overnight or if it is discharged more than 30%. It is up to the user to ensure that proper charging occurs so the battery performs as it was designed to.

Charging an electric forklift battery is not complicated; it just requires safety precautions and a consistent, orderly process. Properly charging a battery is all about doing it at the right time and for the right amount of time. Use these tips when charging your forklift battery:

  1. Have a specific designated area for battery charging. Always charge a battery in a well ventilated area

  2. Keeping a battery water log will help support a warranty claim.

  3. Battery should be at 80% depth of discharge before charging; charging prior to the 80% can reduce battery life

  4. If the battery overflows, rinse overflow will help prevent corrosion

  5. Ensure the charger matches the voltage and amperage of the battery.

  6. Avoid overcharging the battery which can reduce the battery life

  7. Charge in proper temperature, extreme cold and heat can reduce service life

  8. After charging cycle add water if needed. Use distilled or pure water to bring the electrolytes to the proper level. Equalize batteries regularly.

  9. Never interrupt a charge cycle if it is unnecessary. It is suggested that once a charge has started, it should be allowed to finish. 

  10. Ensure the charger is turned off before connecting or disconnecting the battery.

Remember, a discharged battery that sits for extended periods will promote hard sulfation and reduce run time and life of the battery. 


FAQ – People Also Ask…


What does it mean to equalize a battery? 

An equalizing charge is nothing more than a deliberate overcharge to remove sulfate crystals that build up on the plates over time. Left unchecked, sulfation can reduce the overall capacity of the battery and render the battery unserviceable in extreme cases.


What does equalizing a battery do?

 Equalizing is an overcharge performed on flooded lead acid batteries after they have been fully charged. It reverses the buildup of negative chemical effects like stratification, a condition where acid concentration is greater at the bottom of the battery than at the top.


Do you charge a battery after adding water?  

The best time to water your batteries is always at the end of the charge cycle. However, if the electrolyte level is extremely low or the plates are exposed to air, add some water to cover the plates before starting the charge cycle


Can you put tap water in a battery? 

Add distilled water to any cells in which the level of electrolyte isn’t touching the bottom of the fill port. Use only distilled water. The minerals in tap water will eventually reduce a battery’s capacity. If your battery is one of the so-called low-maintenance varieties, you may not see any filler caps


Why does the battery need to be recharged in a well ventilated area? 

Because batteries release oxygen and hydrogen gases when they are charging, theareas should be well–ventilated with a fume hood or an exhaust fan to prevent explosions due to build-up of those gases. Using the proper tools and procedures, personnel can ensure the battery is stable during movement and doesn’t fall.


How many volts are in a forklift battery? 

The forklift battery may require ten times more current output (measured in amperes) than the golf cart battery charger can provide. Voltages of 12, 2436, and 48 volts became convenient standards as industrial electric vehicles evolved

In order to extend their lifespan, forklift batteries must receive the right care, at the right time. If you follow a few simple steps, you can get the most from your batteries for years to come and prevent your battery from not holding a charge.

There are three most important things to insure your battery life!

  1. Keep the battery charged

  2. Keep the battery watered

  3. Keep the battery cool

Put these simple measures in place to keep your battery healthy for longer. We hope you have grasped the benefits and basics of forklift battery maintenance. If you have any other questions on Wayco’s BATTERY Care program, please feel free to Ask Us anything related to forklift battery maintenance.