As a golfer who lives in a golf development, I’ve decided it’s time to buy my own cart instead of wasting money on gas driving back and forth to the club. It’s also an easier, safer ride home from the 19th hole.
I have seen a cart with a dead battery from time to time, and it got me thinking. How could you know ahead of time that a golf cart battery was bad? I started digging to find out how to test a Golf Cart Battery.
There are two simple ways to test a golf cart battery. The first method is by using a voltmeter, which you can use the cart motor switched off. Another method is using a hydrometer to test the specific gravity of the electrolyte solution.
For a voltmeter, a reading of 50-52 volts would be a reliable result. A good reading with a hydrometer would be 1.280 specific gravity. You then verify the results with a load tester.
Testing golf cart batteries sounds like quite an undertaking, but it’s simpler than you think, and just about anyone can do it. I’ve done the leg work and found the best methods and the other knowledge needed to get the job done right.
Testing a Golf Cart Battery
A golf cart battery is a little different from the 12-volt battery that you find in your car. It’s a collection of individual units linked together as opposed to the single-housing unit that cars use. When you want to test them, two of the most effective ways are using a voltmeter or a hydrometer.
Before you start testing, however, you should charge up your batteries as you normally would. You’ll get the most accurate and useful information only when you do the test on a fully charged golf cart battery.
Voltmeter testing is the simplest method and the first one that battery experts would recommend. It’s a rough reading that you get, but it should be enough to give you a clear indication as to the health of your golf cart batteries.
Touch the negative probe to the battery’s negative terminal, and then do the same thing for the positive side. Check the reading on the screen; hopefully, it will be at least 48 volts, but even better at 50-52 volts.
If you can access the individual battery units that make up the whole battery pack, you can repeat the test on each unit. In this way, you can spot a defective unit in advance. One failed unit is typically a precursor to more failing soon.
The second method of checking is by using a hydrometer to check the electrolyte mixture in the battery. Before trying this, ensure you are wearing protective goggles and other protective gear such as rubber gloves and a rubber apron to guard against sulfuric acid spills.
Place the lower nozzle into the battery electrolyte mixture and draw a sample into the center pouch. Then hold it up at eye level to get a reading from the markings on the pouch. Your ideal goal is something between 1.275 and 1.280 specific gravity. You can perform a test on each cell to learn its current charge range. For example, a reading of 1.200 to 1.219 indicates that the battery is only 25-50 percent charged. If it’s at 1.140, then it’s fully discharged.
Verify Your Testing with a Load Tester
The above methods are both relatively quick and simple ways to check on your golf cart battery health. Both methods provide simple information, but it’s a good indicator of the overall battery state. Armed with this information, you can then seek help from professionals to replace batteries that aren’t charging properly.
This is where the load tester comes in. It simulates the real-life conditions under which you would use golf cart batteries. While testing, we look at the change in voltage. If it changes by 0.5 volts or more, then it shows us that the battery is defective.
Safety Steps for Golf Cart Battery Testing
Batteries use a lot of hazardous ingredients and components, especially when you put the wrong things together. Using a voltmeter is arguably safer than using a hydrometer, but there are things you should do as a precaution in any event.
First, when testing a golf cart battery, you should always use a well-lit and well-ventilated space. Ventilation is especially important as the batteries give off certain gases that can be harmful.
Second, prepare rubber gloves, a rubber apron, safety goggles, and closed-toe footwear as protective gear against sulfuric acid spills.
Third, another important rule is to keep all sparks, naked flames, or ignited objects away from the battery. That includes lit cigarettes or cigars.
Finally, when doing the tests in extreme temperatures, ensure the battery temperature has reached at least 20 degrees Celsius or room temperature (68 Fahrenheit). Also, if you’re doing load testing, never remove the load clamps before the test is concluded. It can lead to arcing and even a battery explosion.
What are the Warning Signs of Golf Cart Battery Failure?
Battery testing is the best step to confirm that the golf cart battery is dead or near death. However, before you test, you can use one or any number of key warning signs of battery degradation.
Slow Battery Charge
Have you noticed that your Golf cart is taking longer than usual to charge up? If the process seems slower, this is the first major warning sign. It indicates that the internal chemicals may be past their life expectancy or that an individual component has deteriorated.
On the other side of charging, are you noticing that the battery is discharging faster than before? Where you may have gotten several rounds on a single charge, you now might struggle to get around one or two. The range of the golf cart is a big red flag.
Is the pedal to the metal, but the cart is barely speeding up? An electric vehicle is typically characterized by lightning-fast acceleration and high torque, even a golf cart. If you’ve noticed the cart is not as quick off the mark as before, then it’s time to check the batteries.
Reasons for Golf Cart Battery Failure
Batteries are subject to all manner of wear and tear, and any of the following things can cause them to fail:
- Battery Age: This one is obvious; the older the battery is, then the more likely the failure is due to normal wearing from long-term use.
- Overcharge: When people swap out chargers for more powerful units or just use another more convenient charger, the result can be heat and water loss.
- Undercharge: Conversely, if someone has replaced the proper charging equipment with a cheaper lower-power alternative, then this causes problems. Specifically, you get a buildup of lead sulfate that crystallizes on the plates and reduces recharging capacity.
- Overtaxing: Do you make heavy use of your golf cart’s additional electronic features? These might include radio, headlights, and other things. If you are using the golf car onboard electronics a lot, you will tax the battery more.
- Corrosion: When the electrolytic fluid gets low, corrosion can occur on the battery connections. This easily and quickly reduces the battery’s life.
- Incorrect Battery: Your golf cart will come with a recommended configuration of battery units. For example, it may require six 6-volt units. Some attempt to circumvent this by using three 12-volt units. The math works, but the performance ratings do not.
For all these reasons and more, it’s important that we can test the batteries in our golf cart at any time we need to check for signs of degradation or failure.
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