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Battery and Charger Q and A

Written by William C. Shumay Jr. for Arcon Equipment Inc., published in the Material Handling Wholesaler
copyright © William C. Shumay Jr.
For more articles, please visit http://www.arconequipment.com

Since we all encounter a lot of questions from customers and business associates, here again is a selection of questions and answers that pertain to electric lift truck batteries and chargers.

I just bought a six year old battery, but I just found out that the charger I got with it is over 15 years old. Should I get my money back for the charger?

Not if the charger is doing the job for you. Batteries may be hard-pressed to last 10 years in industrial conditions, but battery chargers can, and do, last far longer. With adequate ventilation and protection from moisture and dust, most of the components in today’s chargers do not "wear out" in service.

The one moving part in many older chargers, the electromechanical timer, is readily replaced with a modern solid-state auto control. This not only extends the trouble-free life of the charger, but also provides precise charging for longer battery service life.

My battery has been giving me some trouble lately, and the light on my charger’s auto control panel flashes at the end of a charge. Does this mean the charger is the problem?

If the light is flashing a "fault" signal (see your control’s instructions) the computer control may have determined that your battery did not attain proper voltage during the normal charging time. Since many computerized charging controls do not make a distinction between problems caused by the battery or by the charger, the fault signal could be the result of a battery problem caused by one or more cells failing but it might be caused by low or absent charging current due to failure of a charger component, an interruption in the AC power source (fuse blown, breaker switched off, etc.), or a poor or intermittent connection to the battery.

Check the AC fuses (or overload breakers) inside the charger cabinet as well as those in the wall box. If the charger has just been installed, be sure that it is not wired to a breaker that is routinely shut off at closing time.

I can’t easily slide the battery out of my stand-up rider lift truck in order to water it. Must I invest in a battery handling rack or cart just to water the battery?

Although it is generally a good idea to have the means to safely remove your lift truck battery for inspection, service, or replacement, you may wish to leave infrequent battery handling operations to service professionals who bring appropriate equipment with them. If this is the case, you still must be able to water the battery properly, and an extended nozzle watering gun or an automatic watering system may be necessary.

These guns, which shut off automatically at the proper fill level, are available with a variety of nozzle lengths and configurations. Even in applications where battery access is not a problem, a watering gun allows rapid and accurate watering. By avoiding overfilling, acid overflow during charging is eliminated and battery corrosion is greatly reduced. Any battery compartment that allows enough room for you to reach in to open and close the cell caps is accessible to a watering gun nozzle. (Don’t operate or charge a battery with cell caps left open; acid spray from the cells will cause corrosion problems).

For tight-clearance situations, a battery watering system can be quickly installed and left in place to maintain proper fill levels. Special valve-equipped cell caps interconnected with tubing are supplied with water from a fill tube accessible from outside of the battery compartment. In some systems, the fill tube is connected to a small reservoir tank mounted directly on the truck. Other battery watering systems use an external rack-mounted tank that is left in the charging room and periodically connected to the battery’s fill tube.

Key points to remember about battery watering equipment: the initial cost of hardware is more than that of a funnel and bucket, but the payoff is in speed, safety, and accuracy.

I’ve heard that cleaning connector tips by sanding or filing is not a good idea, but what if they are corroded?

Battery connector tips as well as lift truck contactor tips are typically coated with a layer of silver. Silver provides an ideal contact surface because of its very high electrical conductivity and a special property: corroded (oxidized or tarnished) silver surfaces also conduct electricity well.

Sanding or filing of tarnished silver-plated tips to brighten them is completely unnecessary, and this tends to remove the valuable silver layer. There is also the danger of distorting or roughening the mating surfaces of these high-amperage contacts and severely reducing their current-carrying capability.

What should I spray across the top of my battery to prevent corrosion?

Water. Cleaning of the top of the battery occasionally using clear water is the best way to prevent attack of the steel battery case by the sulfuric acid residue that comes from battery vapors (or overflow from improper cell watering).

For more information, contact Arcon Equipment Inc. (440) 232-1422.

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