How to Move a Forklift With a Dead Battery - 3 Options

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How to Move a Forklift With a Dead Battery - 3 Options

How to Move a Forklift With a Dead Battery - 3 Options Dec. 05, 2023

How to Move a Forklift With a Dead Battery - 3 Options

When your electric forklift has a dead battery, you have a few options.

  1. Use a bigger forklift to move the dead one
  2. Hook the dead forklift up to some car batteries
  3. Replace the dead forklift battery with a charged one

If your business is based in Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee or eastern Arkansas, there’s a simple fourth option: call The Lilly Company at 800-238-3006. We’ll send an experienced technician in a well-stocked van who can diagnose and repair the problem.

You may be wondering, “can I jump-start my electric forklift with another forklift?" Good question.

Can You Jump-Start an Electric Forklift?

A series of car batteries will give you enough juice to move a dead electric forklift, but please note: the car battery solution should only be used to move the forklift to a charging station. Do not use car batteries to powerlifting a load, play forklift basketball, etc.

Option #1 - Use Car Batteries to (Temporarily) Power an Electric Forklift 

  1. Confirm the voltage of your forklift battery (36 or 48 volt)
  2. Collect enough car batteries so, when linked together, they add up to the same voltage as your forklift battery. For a 36V forklift battery, you need 3 x 12V car batteries.
  3. Put the car batteries on a pallet and daisy chain them together. Remember to connect the positive on one battery to the negative on another.
  4. Use a voltage meter to confirm the voltage of your battery series.
  5. Pick up the pallet of batteries with a manual pallet jack and place it on the forks of your dead truck.
  6. Connect the batteries to the forklift

Option #2 - Move a Dead Forklift with a Big Honkin’ Forklift

Buying car batteries is not the cheapest solution. The easiest way to move a dead forklift is with a bigger forklift (if you have one). Kinda like that video that makes the rounds every so often (don’t try this at home!!!).

How big does that big honkin’ forklift need to be?

An electric forklift with a 3,000-6,500 capacity (often called a “core” electric forklift) can weigh between 5,000-11,000 lbs (not including any accessories). To determine how much your forklift weighs, check its data plate, or contact your local forklift dealer.

Once you’ve verified you have a large forklift with sufficient capacity, pick up the dead forklift and move it to your charging area, battery swapping room, or a safe location where it can be parked and properly locked out/tagged out.  

Option #3 - Swap Batteries

This third option won’t be possible for all forklifts and all operations. First, you need backup batteries. Second, if your forklift has a top-loading battery, you’ll need lifting equipment to get it out.

That said, if you have a forklift with a side-loading battery, you could use a portable battery extractor to remove the dead battery and replace it with a charged one. Swapping batteries in the middle of your work area is dangerous; use extreme caution.

How To Ensure Your Forklift Battery Lasts as Long as Possible

Healthy forklift batteries don’t completely discharge on their own. A dead forklift battery is almost always caused by operator error such as: leaving the forklift in the key position all weekend, improper charging or insufficient maintenance.

  • New technologies such as fast charging and opportunity charging minimize the chance for human error.
  • We can provide

    on-site training

    for your operators on proper forklift battery charging and maintenance.
  • We also sell portable battery power packs

    . A single unit can provide  24v, 36v or 48v of power. It's a flexible solution if dead batteries are a frequent problem for your operation.

Have questions? Need forklift service? Contact an electric forklift expert at The Lilly Company online or by phone 844.LILLYCO, or visit one of our 13 locations across the Mid-South.

Arkansas - Jonesboro
Alabama - Birmingham, Dothan, Irondale, Madison, Mobile, and Montgomery
Mississippi - Tupelo and Richland
Tennessee - Jackson, Kingsport, Knoxville, and Memphis

Further Reading:
Forklift Battery Basics
How Often Do Forklifts (Really) Need Service?

Design & Engineering discussion in Forkliftaction's forums


Please excuse this question if it seem somewhat naive. I have a 1987 vintage 48 volt Clarke e;ectric forklift that has been sitting for over a year without charging the battery. The battery only shows 7 volts (let me guess, not good). Before the forklift was put into storage, there was a problem, sometimes it ran sometimes it did not. In order to get a technician to look at it, I was told t he battery had to be fully charged. I'm not sure if the battery can still be charged. I don't want to lay out a lot of money for a replacement battery before I make sure the forklift is worth fixing. My question is this: Could I use 4-12 volt car batteries in series to temporarily power up the forklift in order for the tech to troubleshoot it? Also, can you operate the forklift with the same 4 batteries for short periods (5 minutes max.)? Thank you. Mitch

  • Posted 26 Jan 2006 15:36
  • Discussion started by mitchell_k
  • New York, United States
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Showing items 1 - 4 of 4 results.

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It will definately work as long as there is no significant loading put on the machine i.e. as long as the wheels are off the floor then they will power the traction motor(s) without problem.

In this instance though the intial diagnostics can simply be done with the key on and line contactor in, without a real need to load up the machine.

Take some power pallet trucks these days and you'll find that they get there 24 volt power from two 12V gel type batteries the same as those you could fit to a car.

  • Posted 11 Feb 2006 22:27
  • Reply by daniel_g
  • Flevoland, Netherlands
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Interesting scenario. It sound like it might work if you have strong enough batteries. I also agree it might only work for 5 min.

Let us know if it works.


  • Posted 11 Feb 2006 09:22
  • Reply by antoine_c
  • Quebec, Canada
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You cannot simply use the car batteries in the truck once it is repaired.
The battery is a large part of the counter weight.

You'll also destroy the batteries pretty quick due to the huge demands of all the motors.

  • Posted 11 Feb 2006 03:15
  • Reply by mike_n
  • Alberta, Canada
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It seems you've got it figured out to me.

The traction battery you have with 7 volts is well and truely gone, so it is out of the equation for the moment. It will drop to 0 volts if you probably put a low wattage bulb across it....

Your plan is fine and although you'll not be able to put any significant load on the machine it should allow intial diagnosis of the problem by a tech, well atleast show any fault codes.

  • Posted 26 Jan 2006 22:33
  • Reply by daniel_g
  • Flevoland, Netherlands
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forklift battery


Arr Tee

Originally Posted by

What are the chances of using three quality12v automotive type batteries in series instead of the standard 36 volt forklift battery. Addressing the counterweight concerns of course. Has anyone tried this? I found a deal on an electric forklift/charger with a bad battery and wondered if I could make it work for my needs on the cheap. I would only use it once in a while for a few minutes at a time. The existing battery is massive but it is designed to run all day on a charge. What I don't know is would automotive style batteries have the amp output required to function properly.

but it would be a lot less than optimal...

I could be wrong but seem to remember that those heavy duty forklift batts sometimes can be rejuvenated

maybe one of those desulfating kits??

just some thoughts...

you could probably get by with some deep cycle batts for short duration intermittant use like 65 series or better yet some 8D series marine batts...but it would be a lot less than optimal...I could be wrong but seem to remember that those heavy duty forklift batts sometimes can be rejuvenatedmaybe one of those desulfating kits??just some thoughts...


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