The sun is shining, the wind has settled, and you’re all set for a day on the green. The only problem? Your golf cart has left you stranded.
By their very design, electric golf carts are hardy vehicles. But when their battery acts up, it can cause a total shutdown. Identifying if the battery is dying is the first step to fixing your cart.
Luckily, diagnosing battery problems is a straightforward and practical thing to do. This article will show you how to check for a dead cell in your golf cart. We’ll also highlight ways to maximize and prolong the battery so it won’t break down anytime soon.
What are the signs of a dead cell in a battery?
Golf cart batteries are a series of batteries linked in a circuit to form one big battery bank. Diagnosing the problem is the first step in finding a solution for your malfunctioning golf cart. You want to be sure they’re the problem before replacing some or all of them.
Sometimes, other parts of the cart malfunction and golfers wrongly assume the batteries are the culprits! Signs of a dead cell include:
- Speed: Slower speeds than usual, especially when driving uphill.
- Visible signs: If your battery is swollen, has cracks, or has significant signs of corrosion on the top of the battery, this is concrete evidence of its failing state.
- Distance: If the cart fails to make it around the entire course. Golf carts are specially designed for long-distance travel around golf courses.
- Full discharge: All batteries discharge. It’s only natural. But if your cart becomes fully depleted overnight, this is a significant cause of concern.
Three ways of checking for a dead cell in a golf cart
Golf cart batteries are special in that they use electrolyte mixtures to work. This means that you may occasionally have to add water to power cells.
A hydrometer tests the battery cell’s electrolyte density relative to its weight. Generally, a higher reading of electrolytes suggests the battery performs well and has a higher state of charge. Conversely, a low electrolyte weight indicates the battery is slowly running its course.
Do not conduct a hydrometer test on battery cells that have recently been watered. Allow for one charge and discharge cycle beforehand.
- Park your cart in a clean, open, and well-ventilated area. Put on protective clothing, gloves, and eyewear, as you will be near the battery’s sulfuric acid, which is highly corrosive.
- Carefully remove the cell caps of any batteries you want to inspect.
- Gently insert the hydrometer into each cell. Activate the syringe, and battery acid should begin to fill inside. Keep this position until the hydrometer fills.
- Once complete, examine the measured reading. Record it and continue to test the subsequent cells. Also, record the temperature, which must be factored into the results.
- Add or subtract 4 to your readings for every 10°F the electrolytes are above or below 80 10°F.
- A reading of 1280 is typical of new battery cells. The closer your readings are to this number, the better. Discharged batteries may score as low as 1140. A different reading between cells can help you pinpoint which ones are causing problems.
Expert tip: When using a hydrometer, ensure each cell is tested at room temperature to compare results.
2. Voltmeter or multimeter
A voltmeter is a simple device that measures the voltage passing between two points. It can give you a general picture of how your battery is performing. A multimeter is a similar piece of equipment to record the voltage.
- Again, start your diagnostic tests by protecting yourself. Voltmeters can cause sparks, so put on goggles, non-conductive clothing, and gloves, and remove any flammable materials from the area.
- Locate the positive and negative terminals. Positives are usually red, and negatives are black.
- Connect and clamp the positive cable between the voltmeter and the battery first. Repeat for the negative cable.
- Examine your meter and record its reading. Compare this to the listed voltage in the battery’s manual. A good-health battery should be within 1 volt of the excellent rating.
- Altogether, your combined battery cells should reach between 36-48 volts cumulatively. If it’s above the listed voltage, your kart is fully charged.
- Safety disconnect the negative terminal and then the positive terminal.
- If your batteries failed the test, plug your golf cart in to fully charge and repeat the test to compare and contrast results.
3. Load Testing
Load testing measures the amperes produced in a battery essential to starting the motor and the kart’s engine. If your kart is failing to start, this test can diagnose where the problem truly lies.
- Again, put on protective clothing and secure the area.
- Attach your voltmeter as described in the previous method.
- Place a jack underneath your cart and elevate it.
- Put the cart forward, turn the key switch on and gently press down on the accelerator to about 80%.
- Connect the load tester to your battery cells in a similar fashion to a voltmeter. Match positive and negative battery terminals, and record the reading that appears.
- To test each battery cell with a load test, change the positive and negative terminals of the voltmeter and your batteries, and repeat the above steps. Record each result for comparison.
- Ideal results vary depending on the power and voltage of your batteries. E.g.,8-volt batteries should score above 7.9. Another example is 6-volt batteries, which should score 5.9 or higher. Lower values suggest you need to replace that individual battery cell.
Golf Cart Battery Tips:
Below are some tips to help maximize your kart’s battery cells and ensure it reaches its full charge every time.
- Charge time: Depending on the level of use, golf carts typically require extended periods of about 8-10 hours to reach total capacity. Consider leaving your cart recharging overnight to reach this threshold.
- Be careful of overcharging: Leaving your cart connected will lead to overcharging, which can lead to battery degradation.
- Condition: Inspect the state of the battery charger, including evidence of fraying, cracks, or knots. A poor charger could be why your cart isn’t getting the power needed to drive.
- Age: The average golf cart battery’s life ranges between 5-6 years, depending on how often they’re used. After this time, you should consider replacing the battery entirely.
- Cost: It may be costlier to replace individual cells – consider replacing the entire system if it works out cheaper. That way, you’re preventing other cells from breaking down the line.
- Fluid: It cannot be stressed enough that you must be safety-conscious. Avoid coming into contact with any clear fluid surrounding batteries.
- Switch-off: Many golf carts come with various accessories and electronic systems like radios, GPS, alarms, and lights. Turn these systems off when not in use to conserve battery power and prevent energy drain.
- Fair Tests: When performing tests on individual cells, ensure conditions like room temperature are the same for each test. Otherwise, results can become compromised.
- Types of batteries: The batteries of newer models may be made of different materials than described in manuals and tutorials and, in turn, have other voltage demands.
- Dispose of them carefully: Because of their hazardous contents, dispose of lead-acid batteries carefully.
- Low water levels: You should regularly check the water levels of batteries. Top emptying ones with distilled water.
Whether on grass, sand, or stone, the golf cart is a powerful vehicle every golfer relies on. But at some point, they will, unfortunately, run into a little bother.
The most common cause of a golf cart failing you is a failed power supply. Electric carts have a unique design because their battery is a series of smaller cells acting together to power the cart.
While this can make for powerful acceleration, the golf cart can suffer when one or more cells begin to fail. The good news is that you can find out and check which cells are dead in your golf cart battery reasonably quickly. All you need is a recording device and some patience.
Please comment below if you have questions about diagnosing a failing golf cart battery or want to share your own tips.
But if in doubt, remember:
- A hydrometer, voltmeter, or load test are three effective means of testing out battery cells in a golf cart.
- After 5-6 years, consider replacing your entire battery bank.
- As an electrolyte battery, always wear protective clothing and eyewear in case of sulfuric acid spills.