Battery Maintenance for Heavy Equipment: Best Practices for Longevity
Battery Maintenance for Heavy Equipment: Best Practices for Longevity
Reading time: 6 min
Batteries in heavy equipment serve as the heart of a machine’s electrical systems. They provide the power needed to start diesel or gasoline engines, and in the case of electric heavy equipment, act as the primary source of power for propulsion and operation. Electrical components such as lights, air conditioning and electronics in the machine’s cabin also rely on power from the machine’s battery.
When fleet managers neglect battery maintenance, batteries may corrode or become unusable. Dead batteries will prevent machines from starting, resulting in costly downtime and repairs. Given their pivotal role in the performance of heavy equipment, batteries must be well maintained.
In this article, we’ll cover the basics of battery maintenance for heavy equipment, helping you boost the longevity of your machine’s battery and cut repair costs.
Types of Batteries for Heavy Equipment
Lead-acid batteries consist of a lead dioxide plate (positive charge) and a sponge lead plate (negative charge) submerged in a diluted sulfuric acid solution enclosed in a plastic casing. They are typically heavy and have removable caps for electrolyte maintenance.
While lead-acid batteries are one of the oldest and most reliable types of batteries, they have certain limitations compared to newer battery technologies.
Lead-acid batteries are cost-effective, reliable and powerful.
They can be heavy and bulky, have a limited cycle life and require regular watering and cleaning.
Common use cases: Lead-acid batteries are commonly used in construction equipment with traditional internal combustion engines, such as dozers and tractors.
Maintenance: Regular maintenance involves checking and topping up the electrolyte with distilled water, cleaning terminals and ensuring proper venting to prevent gas buildup.
AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) batteries are sealed batteries with glass mat separators that absorb the electrolyte. They are generally lighter and more compact than traditional lead-acid batteries.
AGM batteries are maintenance-free (no electrolyte replenishment), have a high starting power, and have high vibration resistance.
AGM batteries are more expensive than traditional batteries and have limited deep cycling capabilities.
Common use cases: AGM batteries are often used in construction equipment where maintenance-free operation is preferred, such as in skid steers and some smaller excavators.
Maintenance: AGM batteries do not require electrolyte maintenance. However, they are sensitive to overcharging and may need specialized chargers to prevent damage.
Gel batteries contain silica-based gel electrolyte, which immobilizes the electrolyte and reduces the risk of acid leakage. They are similar in appearance to AGM batteries.
Gel batteries are maintenance-free and don’t carry the risk of acid leakage. They also have a high resistance to deep discharges and perform well in extreme temperatures.
Gel batteries are slightly more expensive than traditional lead-acid batteries and have lower cranking amps than AGM batteries
Common use cases: Gel batteries are suitable for construction equipment that may experience deep discharges and need reliable performance in a range of weather conditions.
Maintenance: Gel batteries do not require electrolyte maintenance, but overcharging can damage them, so using the right charging equipment is essential.
Battery inspections are critical to ensuring optimal performance and preventing unforeseen breakdowns. These inspections help identify early warning signs of battery deterioration such as corrosion, low fluid levels, loose connections or physical damage.
When inspecting your machine’s battery, pay attention to the following key areas:
- Physical condition
- Fluid levels
- Battery voltage
- Battery hold downs
- Electrolyte color
- Battery case cleanliness
The frequency of battery inspections should be determined by factors like the type of battery, equipment usage, environmental conditions and manufacturer recommendations. Generally, regular inspections at monthly intervals are a good practice for most equipment. However, operators should look for signs of leakage or visible damage on a daily basis.
Charging your machine’s battery according to the proper protocol is crucial to its performance. Typically, Batteries should be charged before they’re fully discharged to avoid deep discharges, which can hurt battery health.
A charge cycle refers to the process of discharging and recharging a battery from 100% to 0% and back to 100%. The impact of charge cycles on battery life and performance is significant.
Repeated deep discharges and frequent charge cycles can accelerate battery degradation and reduce its overall lifespan. Following recommended charging procedures, including avoiding overcharging and using the appropriate charger, is essential for optimizing battery performance and longevity.
Ignoring these procedures, on the other hand, can lead to overcharging, overheating and overall reduced battery performance. This can result in shorter runtimes, more frequent replacements and increased operational costs.
Effects of Temperature on Batteries
Extreme temperatures, both high and low, can significantly impact the performance and longevity of heavy equipment batteries.
High temperatures can accelerate chemical reactions within the battery, leading to faster self-discharge and shorter overall lifespan. Conversely, extremely low temperatures can reduce the battery's ability to deliver power, causing reduced capacity and efficiency.
Proper storage of batteries is also crucial to shield them from temperature damage. When storing batteries, it's essential to keep them in a cool, dry place, ideally between 32°F to 77°F, away from direct sunlight and heat sources.
Regular temperature checks are equally important. Monitoring the operating environment and making adjustments as needed, such as using insulation or heating elements in cold conditions or providing ventilation and shade in hot climates, can help maintain the battery's health. Consistent temperature management ensures that batteries remain in optimal condition, preserving their performance and extending their lifespan.
How to Handle Battery Damage
Handling battery damage on heavy equipment is essential for maintaining equipment reliability and safety. Battery damage is typically identified through a visual inspection of the battery's physical condition, looking for signs of cracks, bulges, leakage, corrosion on terminals or loose connections.
If you suspect your machine’s battery is damaged, it may need to be repaired or replaced. Generally, minor issues like loose terminals or minor corrosion can be repaired by cleaning, tightening and applying anti-corrosion measures.
However, significant damage, such as cracked casings or severe corrosion, may require battery replacement. The average lifespan of a heavy equipment battery varies depending on factors like usage, maintenance and environmental conditions, but it typically ranges from two to five years.
Regular inspections and proactive maintenance can help maximize battery life and identify potential damage before it becomes a more significant issue.
Despite their simple design, batteries require proper maintenance to keep your heavy equipment operating smoothly. Implementing best practices for battery maintenance can enhance the performance of your equipment and minimize downtime. If your equipment is in need of replacement electrical components, look no further than the EquipmentShare Shop. Our growing selection of OEM and aftermarket electrical parts has you covered. Can’t find exactly what you’re looking for? Reach out to our dedicated parts experts and get personalized assistance.
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