The first vitally important 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 require much more maintenance in the form of watering and cleaning.
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 a 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 it is done.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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. If any connectors have loose wires, they need to be replaced.
- 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.
- Install the connectors. Install the cable connectors to the terminals using an insulated hand wrench. Afterward, 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 fully depends on the charge left in them and the specifications of the charger. If the batteries are nearly depleted 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. This helps to equalize the charge in each battery, which extends their overall lifespan.
You must also see to it that the charger is connected to a reliable AC power source. If the power 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 to be charged every day the golf cart goes unused. This may overcharge the batteries, which leads to corrosion and shortens 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 periodically refilled, 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 liters of water, and during its lifespan, it will need about 15 liters of replacement water. The type of water you use to refill the battery is very important because if the mineral content is too high, it could damage the batteries 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. This could permanently damage the plates, compromising the battery’s safety and strength. Always fill the batteries after they have been recharged. The average 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 have been securely replaced so the electrolyte does not spill out the next time the golf cart is used.
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 batteries 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 maximize the time before your batteries need to be replaced.