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Battery Compartment Concerns

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

Most industrial batteries do their work sitting in a forklift battery compartment. In many cases the selected battery is a relatively close fit within this space, and the best compartment designs are those that provide means to eliminate any side to side or front to back motion. Battery options for a given truck model can vary significantly in physical size, so a good compartment is one that provides an adjustable stop. Adequate restraint is an especially important consideration in stand-up lift truck models that have rollers in the battery compartment.

Excessive vibration is rough on a battery, and is likely to reduce service life. An extreme example of a poor compartment/battery combination is the aforementioned stand-up forklift with an undersized battery that not only "rattles" in the compartment as it tips fore and aft during forward motion, but also slams inches from side to side as it glides on the rollers during turns. Besides the damage to the battery, there is the potential for truck damage and safety problems.

A battery that is "rattling" in the truck compartment can splash electrolyte (sulfuric acid). If the movement is violent and frequent, end plates in the compartment can be damaged or knocked loose. Insulation on battery cables could be damaged by such motion, setting the stage for a serious electrical short.

The "loose cannon" effect of a couple thousand pounds of battery slamming the outside edge of the battery compartment during a turn could influence the controllability of the truck. An inch or so "slop" is often seen in this type of compartment, but when an undersized battery moves several inches during operation of the lift truck, it is excessive. Solid, well-secured stops should be installed in a compartment to control excessive battery motion.

The act of opening and closing the battery compartments merits care. Older lift trucks have heavy metal covers that often are detachable- these can cause injury if dropped during hurried battery handling operations. Hinged compartment covers need safe props to hold them open for battery watering or changeout. Be wary of doing anything with metal covers or tools over the top of a battery that does not have plastic covers (shrouds) on the lead connector straps between cells.

Although common, an accumulation of crusty corrosion products in the battery compartment is not to be considered normal. In some poorly maintained lift trucks, the battery is sitting on top of an inch or more of damp sulfates and oxides. This is the result of overflow from the battery due to overfilling. Electrolyte level in a battery rises during charging— a fact that accounts for most of the corrosion seen in lift trucks (Always water a battery with this property in mind- donít overfill). The battery compartment should be cleaned out with care. Remove the battery and use scrapers to remove the corrosion products rather than flushing with water— components below the compartment could be damaged by the acidic runoff.

Be careful when removing an old battery from a badly corroded truck compartment. If the truck compartment has been affected by acid, then the steel battery case has been affected to some degree. Lifting could be dangerous for two reasons: The lifting ears may be eroded by acid exposure, or the bottom of the steel case itself may be eaten away. This type of case damage is why it is a good idea to avoid electrolyte overflow, and to make sure that the floor of the truck compartment is free of any corrosive deposits when a battery is installed.

Battery cable clearance should be a priority when installing a battery in any lift truck compartment. Cables can be damaged as a battery is dropped in, or improperly positioned cables may extend a loop outside the truck compartment far enough to be caught on nearby objects during operation.

In summary, pay particular attention to the following:

Battery Compartment Safety Points

  • Handle heavy lids and end plates with care. Many old-style compartment covers are heavy and awkward. Replace all parts carefully before operating the lift truck.
  • In the battery changeout/charging area, have a specific location to place compartment covers where they will not impede traffic or fall over on personnel.
  • Do not extend metal compartment covers out over the top of a battery which has bare connections (unshrouded connector straps).
  • Keep hands and feet clear during any work around a roller-equipped battery compartment. Even a slow-moving battery has crushing momentum.
  • Pinch points abound around tip-up seats and swing-open compartment covers.
  • Use secure means to hold seats and lids open during battery changeout.
  • Removal of a battery from a roller compartment should be done with appropriate tools (battery cart winch, etc.). Do not tug on battery cables.
  • Make sure battery cables are properly routed within the battery compartment.

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

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