It’s important to check the health of your golf cart batteries every once in a while. In this guide, we’ll highlight some of the signs to look out for that your battery is going bad, before outlining the step-by-step procedure of how to test your golf cart batteries.
Signs That Your Golf Cart Battery Is Going Bad
Sometimes, batteries can fail completely out of the blue. But more often than not, a battery will exhibit warning signs that it may be approaching failure. These tend to develop slowly, over time. And if you catch them early, you can easily prevent the damage from becoming too great. Here are the warning signs you should be looking out for.
A fully functioning battery will charge up to full and then drain at a normal rate. After using it for a while, you’ll have a pretty good feel of precisely how long it takes your battery to charge.
If the charging pattern starts to deviate from the norm, you can assume that something is up with your battery. Perhaps it is taking longer to charge than normal. Or maybe it is refusing to charge past a certain point. Either way, it’s a warning sign that shouldn’t be ignored.
Full Charge Runs Out Too Quickly
One of the most obvious signs of a battery deteriorating is when its charge depletes faster than normal. This could be either when you are using it, or when it is parked away for the night.
If you find that your cart is lasting you for fewer holes than normal, then you should assume that there is a problem that is affecting your battery’s charge.
It is normal for batteries to slowly discharge when they are not in use – but if you notice that this is happening faster than usual, then that’s a pretty good indication that the battery is going bad.
One of the great things about golf carts is how quickly they get going. You press the gas pedal, and then you’re off. Not at lightning speed, granted, but fast enough for golfing purposes.
But a struggling battery will most likely start to fail in this department. You’ll push the pedal to the floor, and your cart will pitifully trickle up to a slow speed. This will be even more noticeable whenever you are going up a hill.
If you’re getting slower and slower off the mark, it might be time to replace the batteries.
Visible Wear and Tear
More often than not, the signs of a failing battery walk hand-in-hand with visible evidence of wear and tear. Upon a simple inspection of your battery, you could quickly determine whether or not there is a problem.
First, you should check to see if the battery has bulged and bulked up. When this happens, it can cause the battery to crack and split. This might be beyond the point of reasonable repair.
Another thing to look out for is signs of corrosion on the metallic parts of the battery. This may be more subtle, but corrosion can very easily result in dodgy connections. You’ll also want to keep an eye out for leaking battery acid. Not only is this a sign that the battery probably needs to be replaced, but it is also very dangerous – only ever handle with gloves and extra care.
How To Test Your Golf Cart Battery?
If your battery is showing signs that it might be on the way out, then it’s a good idea to test it, so that you can know for sure. Even if your battery isn’t suffering from any obvious symptoms, it is still worth testing it in order to determine its health and performance.
The first test you should carry out is with a digital voltmeter.
Digital Voltmeter or Multimeter Test
This won’t tell you anything complicated about the battery’s chemistry, but it will allow you to determine whether or not your battery has voltage.
To conduct this test, you’ll need:
- A digital voltmeter (we recommend the AstroAI Digital Multimeter or the WeePro Digital Multimeter)
- Safety goggles
- Safety gloves
- Notepad and pen
- Safety is the first priority. Put on your eyewear and gloves, and make sure you’re working in a clear, hazard-free area.
- Charge your batteries to full. Make sure the terminals are properly fixed inside the cart.
- Take out your voltmeter or multimeter, and set it to 200V DC with the adjuster knob.
- Attach the black testing prong of the voltmeter to the negative (black) terminal of your battery, and the red testing prong to the positive (red) terminal.
- Find the reading on your voltmeter, and make a note of it.
- Repeat this process on each of your batteries, keeping a note of the readings of each one.
- Either on the top or on the side of each battery, you should be able to find the listed voltage. The reading generated by your voltmeter should be the same as or within 1 volt of the listed voltage. If not, you will need to replace that particular battery.
If the voltmeter has shown that your batteries are fine in terms of voltage, then that’s great! Now we need to test the chemistry of your batteries.
A hydrometer test will provide a more accurate means of testing the condition of your battery. To conduct this test, you’ll need:
- A hydrometer (we recommend the Mighty Max Hydrometer or the EZRED SP101 Battery Hydrometer)
- Safety goggles
- Safety gloves
- Notepad and pen
- Put on your safety goggles and gloves.
- Charge your batteries to full.
- Remove all battery caps, and correct the hydrometer reading to 80° F (27°C). Do not perform a hydrometer test on a battery that has just been watered. The battery must go through at least one charge and discharge cycle, so the water can properly mix with the electrolytes.
- Dip the hydrometer into your battery and take an initial reading. Release the liquid, collect some more, and repeat several times. This will allow the thermometer to adjust to the electrolyte temperature.
- Draw a full sample of the electrolyte and hold it in a vertical position. Allow the float to float freely.
- Take a reading of where the float meets the battery fluid.
- If your hydrometer does not allow for temperature adjustment, then you’ll need to manually account for it. To do this, add or subtract four points (.004) to or from your reading for every 10° F (6° C) the electrolyte temperature is above or below 80° F (27°C).
- Take a reading of each cell, and adjust the reading to the temperature as necessary.
- Compare the readings of each cell. A healthy, fully charged battery should read between 12.60 to 12.74. Each of your readings should be within 50 points (0.050) of each other. If there’s more than a 50 point difference between any two cells, it’s a sign that the battery has gone bad.
Battery Load Test
A load tester will allow you to test your batteries with a real-life simulation. You will be able to see the voltage of your battery as it is put under a load. It works by generating heat through the resistance of electrical current.
If used correctly, a load tester can provide the most accurate measurements of your batteries’ performance in the shortest amount of time. To conduct this test, you’ll need:
- A load tester (we recommended the ANCEL BST200 Battery Tester)
- Safety gloves
- Safety goggles
- Put on your safety goggles and gloves. Make sure you’re working in a clear, hazard-free area.
- Fully charge your battery, and then allow it to rest for a bit. Ideally, it will cool down to room temperature.
- Attach the load tester to the terminals of your battery. If the voltage reading is as it should be, then you’re good to continue.
- Using the load tester, you will apply a load to your battery based on your battery’s Amp hour (Ah) reading. You should be able to find this on the sticker of the battery.
- Activate the load tester, and observe the battery’s behavior. A drop of 3 volts or less is normal and indicates that your battery is probably performing OK. A drop of 5 volts or more, however, indicates that the battery has gone bad.
It’s normal for a golf cart battery to eventually go bad after a certain amount of time. They have a limited lifespan, and there’s not much you can do to prevent the inevitable.
But if you suspect that your battery is going bad before its time, you can carry out these tests to be sure. Just make sure you have the necessary safety equipment, and take your time. These tests are straightforward if you know what you’re doing – but if it’s your first time, double and triple-check that you’re doing it right. You can never be too careful around battery acid!
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.