Outfitting a Forklift: The "Almost New" Battery

If used batteries of recent vintage are widely available, the decision to replace an electric forklift battery becomes a little tougher.

It’s a nice position to be in, though, since it includes the opportunity to save large amounts of money. You can make a wiser battery decision with access to the batteries we see out there today at several price levels and characteristics.

You can always buy new, get the exact match the lift truck manufacturer had in mind, and qualify for the full factory warranty. This has its clear benefits, but it requires the most money up front. It also can involve weeks of waiting for delivery, depending on the model and the manufacturer.

If you have located the appropriate model battery on the used market, however, availability is fairly immediate. The key word here is locate.

If you want a used battery, you have to be a bit flexible. You may not find the exact replacement for the old battery, but this is not necessarily bad. If you can’st find the same thing, you will need to get out the tape measure and accurately define the dimensions of the lift truck’ss battery compartment. Try to avoid relying on book specifications.

The compartment and counterweight configuration of the lift truck model in your shop may differ from the standard arrangement. Your compartment measurement defines the maximum physical size battery that will work. To determine the minimum physical size, you must check the manufacturer’s "minimum battery weight" specifications. Often this information is available on the truck»s nameplate. If the nameplate also gives a "maximum weight allowed" use this along with compartment dimensions in defining the upper limit.

Minimum battery weight is critical, and the weight of the battery you install in the compartment should not fall below the minimum specification. Without the addition of more counterweight, an underweight battery can dangerously reduce the lifting capacity of the lift truck. Actual battery weight is stamped on the side of the battery’s steel case (near a lifting ear). When ordering a battery that approaches the minimum size for your lift truck, make sure someone eyeballs that weight stamp for verification.

A battery at minimum size is also a battery that provides less run time, other things being equal. If you can find it used, you may also be able to afford a bigger, harder working battery since you aren’t paying for a new one.

Today’s technology has produced a new breed of expensive sealed lead-acid industrial batteries that will increasingly find their way into the used equipment market. Today’s sealed batteries are not compatible with most battery chargers and may be damaged beyond repair if they are charged on a conventional charger. Batteries of this type are more difficult to check out because they do not permit hydrometer readings. If you find this battery type offered as used, make sure that it comes with the charger the manufacturer specifies for it – as well as some assurance that it has never been charged on a conventional charger.

As far as conventional style batteries go, two-year-old and newer used batteries are a real find in the marketplace, but be sure to deal with someone who is knowledgeable about the batteries they have. (Even if the batteries appear to be "almost new", your only warranty may depend upon the reputation of the dealer). A clue: whether or not the outfit customarily runs capacity tests on the used batteries it sells. The dealer should be able to characterize his batteries by a percentage figure that provides a basis of comparison against a 100% capacity new battery. A rule of thumb: buy used batteries that test 80% or better – batteries much below this point may not have a lot of lifetime left.

Your used battery dealer should also provide you with other important assistance to ensure that your purchase is correct for your lift truck. Correct cable length and connector type is important, as is the addition of a cover to the battery, if needed. It's very nice if the dealer is able to supply a correctly matched battery charger, as well – one that meets factory specifications (even if used) and is set for your AC voltage.

Under the conditions outlined above, a "fairly new" used battery purchase can be a viable option to obtaining a new one – even for the most demanding applications.

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