Electric golf carts are widely known as low-maintenance vehicles that do not require much attention to keep going. However, not everyone puts the time and effort into the batteries that is required to extend their lifespans and keep the cart running smoothly.
Other than recharging them when needed, most golfers forget or are unaware that golf cart batteries require regular maintenance before they begin to fall out of peak condition. Also, poorly operating batteries can cause a range of problems to the cart and its electrical systems. Fortunately, maintaining a golf cart battery is a simple task when you know what to do.
Proper golf cart maintenance begins when your battery is first installed. A perfect installation reduces the risk of problems down the line, and it can extend the life of the battery by up to seven years. If you are installing the battery yourself, you can increase your chance of success with a few easy-to-follow tips:
1. Position – Before you remove your old battery, observe how it was installed, and note the position of the cable connectors. The positive cable should be connected to the positive terminal, both of which can be identified by a plus sign or red markings. The negative cable should be marked with a minus sign or be black in color.
2. Clean – After removing the old battery, clean the cables, the battery carriage and any connectors of corrosion and rust. The cable connectors should be soaked in a mixture of baking soda and water before being wiped clean and air-dried. The connectors should then be scrubbed with a wire brush. For clamp-on terminals, clean inside the connectors until they shine.
3. Inspect – Inspect the new battery to ensure that the water level is adequate, and the covers and terminals are tight.
4. Secure – Secure the safety straps or brackets that hold the battery to the carriage. The battery should be tightly bound so that it does not bounce or move when jostled.
5. Connect – Connect the cables to the battery terminals with a reliable wrench. After they are connected, apply a non-conductive grease or protective coating to prevent corrosion.
6. Charge – Charge the battery according to your charger’s guidelines. Never drive a golf cart with a new battery until it has been fully charged.
Charging a Golf Cart Battery
The specific instructions for charging golf cart batteries vary by the manufacturer of the charger. Always follow the instructions provided, but be careful to note the average time it takes to charge a battery of your type.
If your golf cart is heavily used, which is defined as 36 holes or more per day, your charger may not be capable of providing the charge you need for the time the cart is being driven. If this occurs, the battery may not fully charge even if it is plugged in for the entire duration it is not used. If it does not fully charge several days in a row, you may need a catch-up charge on a day that the golf cart is not being used.
If your battery has a specific gravity of at least 1.26, then a catch-up charge is not needed. But if the specific gravity is less than 1.26, a catch-up charge should be applied according the following chart:
- 1.24 to 1.26 – 4 hours
- 1.22 to 1.24 – 8 hours
- Lower than 1.22 – 12 hours
When charging your batteries, be careful not to overcharge them. Overcharging batteries will result in a reduced lifespan. The batteries should only be on the charger for the amount of time required to receive a full charge. They do not need to be charged on subsequent days the cart remains garaged. In addition to shortening a battery’s lifespan, overcharging will cause corrosion along the positive terminal and internal grid.
It is important that your battery charger always has sufficient AC power. Chargers made for cart batteries in the U.S. are designed to operate on 115 volts to provide a starting rate of 25 amps. At 110 volts, the starting rate drops to 22.5 amps, at 105 volts to 19 amps and at 100 volts to 16 amps.
Watering the Battery
Your golf cart battery requires an electrolyte to charge and to send electricity through the terminals. For most of these batteries, the electrolyte is a combination of sulphuric acid and water. However, the water in the solution will slowly evaporate over time and require refilling. The acid will remain inside the battery, and under normal circumstances, it will never have to be added.
The most commonly used golf cart battery delivers 6 volts of electricity and requires 6.8 quarts of water to operate correctly, but the water evaporates very slowly. You should not need to add more than a total of 16 quarts of water to a battery during its lifetime.
Water with a low mineral content works best. If there are too many minerals in the water, it will build up inside the battery and adversely affect its performance. Using distilled water will ensure low mineral content, but if you can verify that your tap water’s mineral levels are less than the maximum recommendations from the manufacturer, it can be used without a problem.
Although it is recommended to fill your battery with water after it has been fully charged, it should never be plugged in when the water is below the top of the plates. The plates should always be fully submerged. If they are not submerged, fill the battery until the water is just over the plates. After it is charged, you can then fill it the rest of the way.
When filling the battery, always leave 0.25 inches between the maximum level indicator and the top of the water, and be careful not to overfill it. If you overfill the battery, the electrolyte may spill out while charging, and this will reduce the capacity of the battery.
Cleaning the Battery
A golf cart battery should always be clean. If it is covered in dirt, acid or a combination of the two, it could sap the current out of the battery. If you spray the battery with a hose every time you notice it’s dirty, this should not occur. Accumulated dirt that cannot be removed by spraying can be cleaned with a solution of water and baking soda. Always rinse the battery after it has been cleaned this way.