Golf carts are just like other outdoor vehicles. They need a little care before storing for a time, and need protection from the elements, especially dampness and moisture.
First, clean your cart to get it ready for storage. Use a water hose and some kind of mild detergent or car washing solution. Make sure you get all the dirt off and grimy spaces clean, taking care to get into the tighter spaces where dirt and residue can hide.
This is a handy time to check for rust spots and repaint them. Rust can only spread if not taken care of promptly. Wipe the cart dry using soft hand towels.
Next, take care of the tires. A regular tire gauge used for auto tires works on your cart as well. Usually, these tires take 20 to 25 lbs. of air pressure but be sure to observe the tire manufacturer’s recommendations. The tires may have the recommended pressure stamped on the sides. If air is needed, these tires are light enough to use a bicycle pump to add air if nothing powered is available. There are also small plug-in tire pumps that can even handle auto tires, so you know they will work for your cart tires.
If you’ve had trouble with a tire over time, it may have a slow leak. Now would be a good time to have it repaired or replaced. If possible, store your cart up on blocks or bricks placed under the frame to get the weight off the tires. This will prevent the tires from forming low or flat spots with long storage.
Drive the cart to its storage place. Open the battery compartment, which is usually under the seat. The seat may lift up or it may tilt to open, depending on the cart model. Invest in some battery acid neutralizer in a spray can. Spray it over and around the battery, following instructions on the container.
This substance acts as a cleaner. You can use an old paintbrush to distribute the cleaner all over the battery. Wait a few minutes, then use water to remove the solution along with any debris the solution loosened. Dry the battery with a towel as well as the area around it.
Clean all the terminals and connections. This is a good time to check the water levels in each cell and make sure they are all filled correctly. Coat the terminals with a gel made to prevent corrosion. Auto parts stores usually stock this item. Make sure your battery is fully charged.
Many carts will not draw any power once the key is turned off. If you’re not sure about your model, check for a switch under the seat that says “tow” or “tow/maintenance” and turn it to the tow setting to completely shut off the electrical system. If you have a dashboard switch that says “forward/neutral/reverse,” set the switch to neutral. Don’t use the parking brake to keep long-term strain off the brake cable. Block the wheels using chocks or bricks instead.
Can You Store an Electric Golf Cart Outside in the Winter?
It’s really not a good idea to store your golf cart outside in the winter. It needs to be protected from winter weather, especially from moisture. If you don’t have an enclosed garage or shed in which to store the cart, consider storing it in a storage facility that is climate-controlled.
Not only will this help keep the cart in better shape, but it will also keep moisture from seeping in and causing corrosion on the wiring and other electrical parts. It will also keep you from having to worry about potential theft.
If you really don’t have any choice but to store it outside, try to at least keep it under a roof and cover it. Many golf cart dealers also offer cart covers. Look for one that is as weatherproof as possible. If your cart is equipped with a rain cover, remove and clean it, making sure it is thoroughly dry before folding and bringing it inside These covers are usually held by a zipper or snaps and are easy to remove and reinstall.
Should You Keep Golf Cart Plugged in All Winter?
You can leave it plugged in during the winter with a trickle charger, but it’s not an ideal solution. Trickle chargers will not damage the battery, but it’s important to keep the charger out of the weather if possible. The charger itself can be damaged by moisture, and dampness in the air can be just as damaging as getting rain on it.
If you aren’t using a trickle charger, even using one that shuts itself off when the battery is fully charged is not foolproof to leave plugged in over the winter. Any electrical glitch such as a tripped circuit could turn the charging back on and damage the battery.
Also, remember that heat is more damaging to the battery than cold, and charging the battery always creates some heat. Leaving the battery on a trickle charger will create periods of heat over the winter as the charger turns on periodically to top off the battery charge. Your battery should come with a guide that will tell you what is best for storing your particular battery over the winter.
How Long Do Batteries Last in Electric Golf Carts?
Usually, the life of these batteries is between five and ten years. To get the maximum life out of the battery, be sure to take care of it. When it starts to take longer and longer to charge the battery or to make it up hills, it’s probably time to look into getting a new battery.
How you use your cart has an effect on its life as well. If you use your cart on the golf course and drive it to and from your house several times a week, the battery won’t last as long as it would if you only play on weekends. Custom features and accessories such as lights, soundbars, radios and USB charging ports also draw power from the battery and can add to the shortening of battery life.
Should I Charge My Golf Cart Every Night?
Actually, this is not recommended. Unlike other batteries, such as those used on laptops and cell phones, a golf cart battery does not have protection against overcharging, especially older models. The battery should not be left on the charger overnight. Instead, the battery should be charged after each use. Choose a charger that will turn itself off after the battery is fully charged so you won’t have to keep checking on it to disconnect it when it’s done. Also, avoid driving the cart to the point that the battery goes dead.
Can You Put a Trickle Charger on a Golf Cart?
This is a good idea for the battery, as trickle chargers won’t overcharge the battery. A three-phase charger for your battery is best. The first phase is charging, which takes up 80 percent of the charging time. After that, it goes in absorption mode, where the charging slows during the last 20 percent. After that, the charger goes into float mode, which is trickle charging.
The trickle charger will send enough power to the battery to keep it charged but won’t overcharge it. Trickle chargers can be used on batteries for your car and other vehicles as well, so they are a good investment.
While leaving your battery on a trickle charger over the winter is not recommended because of the extra heat it creates, if the cart is left in storage at an inconvenient distance, such as a vacation home out of state that prevents you from charging it periodically over the winter, a trickle charger may be the only solution.
Should You Disconnect Golf Cart Batteries for Storage?
Depending on the brand and model of the golf cart, there are some that will draw a bit of power during storage. In this case, there is usually a switch that puts the cart into a different mode and keeps the cart from drawing power. With most cart models, however, once the key is turned off there is no power drain.
This means that disconnecting the batteries isn’t necessary, but it won’t hurt anything to do so either. One recommendation from some manufacturers is to keep the battery charger indoors. Many cart owners have a habit of storing the charger under the seat where moisture can collect during the winter and damage the charger.
The batteries should be charged once per month during winter storage. Fully charged batteries are more likely to be able to withstand freezing weather than those that aren’t kept charged.
How Can I Make My Golf Cart Batteries Last Longer?
Most carts use lead-acid batteries. Your battery life starts with the battery purchase. Paying a little more for a quality battery will save you money in the long run, as the better quality batteries will last longer than the cheaper ones. The good ones often can last over 10 years with proper care.
Charge your battery after each use and use a three-phase charger for your battery. This type is also called a trickle charger. It is great for keeping your battery in good shape over the winter, as it will charge your battery and keep it fully charged without overcharging it or causing any other harm. Of course, it also takes care of your normal charging.
Be sure to follow the directions included with the charger as to which connectors go where and in what order, both when connecting and disconnecting the battery. These batteries will need to be checked periodically to maintain proper fluid levels. Once a month is a good schedule for this.
The fluid level should never go below the plates in each cell. Choose a level surface on which to work in a place with plenty of ventilation. After taking the plastic caps off the battery cells, make sure each cell is properly filled. If a cell needs liquid, don’t use anything but distilled water. Tap or plain bottled water is definitely out for this.
Add water slowly, as you don’t want the level to get too high. The level should never touch the plastic lip that goes down from the plastic cap. The level should be just enough to keep the plates submerged. Any overfilling can lead to acid overflowing, which will potentially damage anything it touches, including your garage floor.
Corrosion can shorten a battery’s life and is always a potential problem when it comes to golf cart batteries. One way to avoid this is to keep from draining a battery down to a lower level than 30 percent of a charge. The longer a battery takes to charge, the more heat is created. This heat will gradually erode the battery plates, making the battery useless sooner.
The acid in a battery, of course, corrodes its own parts eventually. Many parts can have a longer life with a little protection, however. Use a quality, non-hardening sealant to coat the battery’s nuts and bolt, wire lugs and terminals. A think film of pure petroleum jelly is great for protecting the terminals. Any exposed wires will be helped by sealing them with submersible rubber tape. Any good auto parts store should have these items available.
How you drive your cart also can affect battery life. Take it easy when driving your cart. If you let your grandchildren drive it for fun, remind them that it isn’t a dune buggy or ATV and isn’t meant for racing or doing donuts or other tricks. Don’t overload the cart; it should have a weight capacity listed in the owner’s manual. Also, avoid steep hills if possible. Check out my article How to Store Golf Clubs During Winter for tips of storing your golf gear during the winter.
Just like any other vehicle or outdoor machinery, your cart needs a little tender loving care before you put it to bed for the winter. The better care your cart and battery receive, the longer they will last, the fewer problems you will encounter. The less you have to deal with problems or worry about being stuck on the course with a dying battery, the more time you can have fun and just play golf.