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Maintaining Golf Cart Batteries - Prolonging the Life of your Investment
While an electric golf cart is relatively low maintenance the bank of batteries that powers it is largely taken for granted and often times ignored. Since batteries now cost upwards of $150 each it would be very much worth your while to take a few preventative measures and properly maintain your batteries. With proper use, care and maintenance of your batteries you can easily extend their life and save quite a bit of money at the same time.
On average, a set of golf car batteries can last anywhere from 5-7 years. The reason for such a wide margin is that a lot of variables go into determining the overall lifespan of a bank of batteries. The biggest variable by far would be the maintenance regimen employed, or lack thereof. This article sets out to explain simple steps you can take to prolong the life of your batteries and get the most out of your investment.
Keep Them Clean!
Whether you’ve just bought a new electric golf car, put new batteries in your existing golf car, or are just now getting around to taking care of your current battery bank, it is very important to keep your batteries clean. Any kind of build-up on the terminals can and will cause performance issues and eventually shorten the overall life of your batteries. A simple hosing of the batteries with water will work for new and clean batteries while older batteries might need some acid neutralizer to prevent any frame damage from occurring and/or worsening.
Most golf car manufacturers apply an anti-corrosion gel to the terminals of all the batteries which does just what the name implies – prevents corrosion. This gel is invaluable as it keeps debris and unwanted materials from interfering with the terminal connections and causing possible shorts that can immediately destroy your batteries. When you buy new batteries chances are that this gel was not applied so it’s something you’ll have to do yourself.
Keep Them Watered!
Without a doubt the most common mistake we see in maintaining batteries is the failure to keep proper water levels within them. Whether our customers over water their batteries or under water them it always seems to be a topic of confusion and its importance cannot be stressed enough. Water plays an integral part in maintaining the balance of battery acid to water (specific gravity) and once this balance is upset your batteries will begin to decline.
More often than not people tend to under-water their batteries as opposed to over-water them. Over time, water naturally evaporates from within the cells of the batteries and if it isn’t replaced the internal lead places will eventually get exposed. If the plates are exposed for prolonged periods of time a sulfate film develops that clogs the pores responsible for creating the chemical reaction that produces electricity. In short, it destroys the batteries.
Now, if you’re reading this and suddenly realized you haven’t added water to your batteries in quite some time, or ever for that matter, keep one thing in mind. Do not add water to discharged batteries unless the lead plates are exposed. Even then, only add enough to cover the plates, charged the batteries, and then top off the water level to the appropriate amount. Adding water in the discharged state can actually cause an over-watering issue, believe it or not.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, we have the over-waterers. While at first it may seem like you’ve done nothing wrong you’ll quickly realize your mistake once you’ve charged your batteries after over watering them. The chemical reaction during charging can cause the acid/water mix to boil through the vents and soak the battery terminals, cable ends and potentially the chassis which can have disastrous effects. In addition, the fluid mixture within the batteries will be completely compromised and with depleted electrolyte levels you’ll see decreased performance from the entire bank.
For those who would prefer to take the guesswork out of filling your batteries we offer several battery maintenance products that make the process much easier and faster. Before we close out this topic there are a few more key points to keep in mind:
· Use only distilled water when filling your batteries. Tap water and even some “purified” waters contain impurities and contaminants that can adhere to the lead plates and damage them.
· Check your water levels no less than once a month. If you use your golf cart frequently or daily you’ll want to check the levels more often – every 2-3 weeks or so. The same is true for hotter environments as the water will evaporate much more quickly. The more you use your golf car the more you should check the water levels.
· Always take proper safety precautions when working with and around batteries.
Keep Them Charged!
One of the last key points in keeping your batteries well maintained is to keep them charged. All too often we hear from clients who haven’t used their golf cars in ages or stored them when they went away for the summer only to come back to a dead bank of batteries. While this is a huge nuisance as most modern smart chargers can’t bring the batteries back without first detecting a nominal voltage (which is beyond the scope of this article) it’s an even bigger detriment to the life of your batteries.
Batteries are meant to be used, not stored. If you allow your golf car’s batteries to fully discharge a great deal of damage can be done and if left long enough the entire bank could be destroyed. Ideally you should look to re-charge your batteries when they get at or around 50% discharged for optimal battery health (see Charging Cycles for more information).