Okay, maybe it’s a little too early to start talking about winter, but some of you have been asking us how to take care of your electric golf cart once the colder, and wetter, weather comes upon us. We’ve scoured the resources of the Internet, as well as our own experience, to come up with a few easy pointers that will help you and your golf cart survive the tempest!
The first, and most important topic: batteries. Since the batteries are the most important part of the cart, they will also take up most of this post.
It is important that your batteries are fully charged before you start this process.
The first thing that you want to do is unplug the battery charger. Next, we recommend switching the tow/run switch to the TOW position; this shuts off all power to the electrical components of the cart. Remove the key from the ignition, if you haven’t already done so.
Now you want to clean off the batteries. These batteries contain sulfuric acid, and it can destroy clothing, burn skin, and cause other serious damage. It is very important to protect yourself when dealing with golf cart batteries. Proper gloves and eye protection are recommended; as well, remove any dangling jewelry such as watches, bracelets, and necklaces, as they could make a contact between battery terminals, causing sparks, or worse. If a contact is made, back away quickly and assess the situation before proceeding. There is also no reason to disconnect the batteries from the cart.
Cleaning the batteries can be done with a simple solution of 1 tablespoon of baking soda to 6-8 ounces of water. Another recipe was 1 pound of baking soda to 1 gallon of water. Even sprinkling straight baking soda will work. You might want to check with your municipality regulations, as washing that much baking soda into our streams might not be healthy for the fish and other wildlife. A neutralizer is also available as a spray or applicator. Which ever way you go, make sure to leave it on for the recommended time (about 5 minutes for baking soda); then rinse with a lot of water. Spraying inside the battery compartment is okay, as long as you aren’t directing long and hard pressure at the other electrical components.
Once the batteries are rinsed and clean, allow the cart to dry off a little, then wipe down the batteries with a cloth. While you’re drying them off, make a point to check the connections on the terminals, noting any loose wires or connectors, additional corrosion, or anything that just doesn’t look quite right. Tighten the connections and replace any wires that are corroded or damaged.
Batteries contain sulfuric acid, which is created using lead plates. Those plates need to be completely submersed in liquid in order to create an efficient charge. Many electric golf carts have a refilling systems installed that allows you to refill the batteries using one connection without having to remove the caps. These usually require the use of a battery fill bottle, available with us, or at your local parts supplier. If you don’t have an auto-filling system, the use of a filler bottle still makes it easier.
Check the levels of the batteries by carefully removing the caps, remembering that this is acid, and acid burns the skin and destroys clothes! With a flashlight, ensure that the plates are fully covered with water. If not, add only distilled water, slowly raising the level until the plates are covered. Do not overfill, but if you do, use a baster or a hygrometer to remove the water. Once the batteries are at their optimal levels, replace the caps, and thoroughly rinse the battery area once again.
An anti-corrosion solution can be used to protect the battery terminals. You can use a spray protector or a gel/paste, either of these are available at your parts store. Use liberally, but be careful to follow instructions, and don’t get it on your paint job. You wouldn’t want to ruin the flames!
The final step with the batteries is to charge them again, especially if you added water to them. Get them fully charged.
There are various opinions regarding charging batteries over a long period of time. It is common practice to plug in the charger, especially if you are using a newer style with meters and timers, and leave the batteries plugged in for longer periods, even up to a month or more. Most chargers will stop and shut off once the batteries are fully charged, or go to a trickle mode; however, some chargers will shut off at a full charge, and not come on again unless the charger is unplugged from the cart, and then plugged in again. We also suggest leaving the switch in the TOW position, and if you can, use a high quality surge bar that protects against surges, spikes, and lightning strikes. Many come with warranties; check at your electronics store to see what is covered. If at all possible, check on the charger every couple of week, even have a friendly neighbour come over if you can’t. Promise them BBQ steak once the spring season returns! If you are leaving the cart unattended for a period longer than a couple of months, you might want to consider disconnecting the batteries completely.
Here in the Pacific Northwest, we can usually expect a little bit of rain in the off-season. If at all possible, store your cart indoors, or at least under cover. Canvas covers and weather enclosures aren’t sufficient, as they can tear or wear out in the wind, and are meant for short term use. If you park your electric golf cart indoors, be sure to park it on a mat or tray to protect the floor from any battery acid that might boil over. If you are parking it indoors or under cover, open the rain cover for the clubs (over the bag well) if you have one, to prevent mildew, as it might still be damp. If you are parking the cart outside, remove the rain cover and store it open inside or under cover. Remember that cold and freezing weather can damage any see-through vinyl, making it brittle and causing it to crack and break.
Check your tire pressure; fill them to 20-25 psi for most stock turf tires, or to the suggested level on custom tires. While you’re checking the air, check the tread, making note of uneven wear, cracked sidewalls, or embedded golf tees. Repair or replace as soon as possible, but if you have to store the cart with leaking or flat tires, put the cart on blocks to prevent the tire from sitting on the rim, damaging the sideways.
Make sure that your electric golf cart is in the TOW position, remove the key, and block the tires to prevent it from rolling. Disengage the parking brake to relieve stress on the brake cable.
Finally, give your cart a hearty handshake, a hug, or blow it a kiss; whatever you’re into, and say See You Later!