The first vital aspect to understand about golf cart batteries is that, although they look like standard automobile batteries, they are very different. Most golf carts use deep-cycle batteries, which are made to be slowly drained and recharged on a level not required by cars. Deep-cycle batteries are similar to car batteries in that they contain an electrolyte solution made of acid and water, but they need much more maintenance in the form of watering and cleaning. Today we explore a few tips for effective electric golf cart battery maintenance.
Before you begin any maintenance procedure on your golf cart, you want to make sure you are safe. Remember, batteries store dangerous amounts of acid and electricity, and discharge of either at the wrong time can land you in the hospital or worse. Always wear goggles, non-conducive gloves and protective clothing to prevent injuries. Any tools you use should also have a non-conducive coating on the handles. If they do not, you can wrap them in vinyl tape.
Installing Golf Cart Batteries
When you buy a new golf cart, the dealer may help you install the batteries or install them for you, but if they ever have to come out, it helps to know how to do it.
1. Check the polarity. The initial step in installing the batteries is to check their polarity. An easy way to do this is to draw a diagram of how the batteries are connected, including the specific positions of each cable and terminal.
2. Visually inspect the batteries. The containers and terminals cannot be broken, damaged or compromised in any way. Also, take a look at the carrier once the old batteries are out, and clean any corrosion or rust that may be present.
3. Clean the cable connectors. To clean the cable connectors, all you have to do is soak them in a bucket of warm water mixed with a cup of baking soda. After they have soaked for several hours, wipe them clean, and scrub them with a wire brush until they shine. Replace any connectors that have loose wires.
4. Install the batteries. Ensure the arms that hold the batteries in place are secure but avoid over tightening them, which can cause the battery case to crack.
5. Install the connectors. Install the cable connectors to the terminals using an insulated hand wrench. Afterwards, apply a protective coating of non-metallic grease to prevent corrosion.
Charging Golf Cart Batteries
When charging the batteries for your golf cart, always follow the instructions from the manufacturer of the battery charger. The amount of time it takes to charge your batteries depends on the charge left in them and the specifications of the charger. If the batteries are flat after 36 holes or an otherwise long day, they may take longer than eight hours to recharge. Should this happen several days in a row, it may be necessary to give the cart a day off so that you can perform a catch-up charge. Giving your cart a full day’s charge helps to equalise the charge in each battery, which extends their overall lifespan.
You must also ensure the AC power attached to your charger is reliable. If the electricity flowing into the charger from the AC outlet is not sufficient, your batteries may not charge at all. Lastly, be aware that the batteries do not need charging every day the golf cart goes unused. Overcharging batteries may lead to corrosion and shorten their life.
Watering Golf Cart Batteries
The liquid in your golf cart batteries is mostly water, but it also contains sulfuric acid. Because the water slowly but continually evaporates, it must be topped-up periodically, but you will only need to add acid should the solution accidentally spill out of the battery. The average 6-volt battery holds about 6.4 litres of water, and during its lifespan, it will need about 15 litres of replacement water. The type of water you use to refill the battery is critical because if the mineral content is too high, it could damage the cells or affect their performance over time.
The best water to use has less than 100 parts per million of total solids in it. If the mineral content of your local water is too high, you can always use distilled water. To know when to fill the water, check the indicator ring located inside the filling well, but never let the electrolyte solution fall below the top of the plates inside the battery. Allowing the electrolyte solution to fall below the top of the plates could permanently damage the cells, compromising the battery’s safety and strength. Always fill the batteries after charging. The typical schedule is about once every 30 days, but this may vary by several days depending on your specific situation.
When filling the batteries, add just enough water to bring it 1/4 inch to 1/8 inch shy of the indicator ring to prevent overfilling. Overfilled batteries may leak acid, which causes corrosion and reduces the total capacity. Always ensure the vent caps are secure, so the electrolyte does not spill out the next time you use the golf cart.
Cleaning Golf Cart Batteries
Golf cart batteries should always be clean and free from contaminants, especially those that can carry an electrical charge and cause a short circuit. If the cells are dirty or grimy, they can be sprayed down with a hose. If the hose does not do the trick, then they can be scrubbed with a stiff-bristled brush dipped in a mixture of water and baking soda.
Following the above maintenance checklist will help you get the most out of your new golf cart, and it will maximise the time before your batteries need replacing.
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