The care and maintenance of your golf cart batteries, like many other things, depends on multiple factors. The following points, based on our 30-plus years of golf cart manufacturing and maintenance experience, are important to answering this question.
1. What part of the country do you live in?
Warmer climates mean shorter battery life, no matter what, especially here in Florida. You can minimize the effects by keeping them fully charged at all times, without overcharging, and being sure that water levels are above each cell’s plates, but not too high as to cause overflow during charging or operation.
2. What about sulfation?
Sulfation is known to be the major cause of early battery failures and loss of power. It’s caused by leaving batteries “self-discharged” such as in the off-season. Sulfation hardens the plates inside the battery, reducing and eventually destroying their ability to generate volts and amps. This
is obviously a bad thing and this process begins when the specific gravity of the battery falls below 1.225 or its voltage measures less than 12.4 (for a 12 volt battery) or 6.2 (for a 6 volt battery) Without the use of a proper maintenance charger to keep the battery from losing its charge, sulfate will form in as little as a week. Unless it can be safely removed (dissolved), batteries can never again deliver full capacity and will have a shorter life. Periodic or automatic, full-time desulfation is one sure way to reduce charge time and ensure a full-charge, especially as batteries grow older. It will also significantly reduce water loss and most importantly, extend battery life and performance. An optional solar golf cart canopy charging system also helps to prevent sulfation.
3. Can you get rid of sulfation before it kills your batteries?
There are several methods used by charger makers to remove sulfate. The oldest and most common method is called “Equalization.”* It can only be performed on wet cell (flooded – filler caps) batteries, not the newer, sealed AGM types which are gaining in popularity. However, frequent equalization, although effective in the short run, shortens battery life. Newer methods using high-frequency current pulses (not high voltage) can be as effective, without the negatives associated with equalization. Some manufacturers allow, and even recommend, their use on sealed AGM type batteries. Look for chargers with built-in desulfator-conditioners that work full-time and automatically while also charging simultaneously.
4. How bad is it to run batteries down all the way?
Frequent deep discharges wreak havoc with golf cart batteries.** Try to limit the depth of discharge to a minimum whenever possible. If you must “push” them to get the desired range, also use a maintenance-type charger capable of more fully charging the batteries than the majority of “stock” O.E. types supplied with your cart. Batteries that are not regularly subjected to discharge depths of 50% or greater will perform 25% – 35% longer than those that are. A solar golf cart canopy charging system is designed to lessen the chance of running your batteries all the way down.
5. Does keeping batteries “clean” help them function better and longer?
Dirt on the tops of batteries creates an electrical “leakage path” which leaches valuable power-capacity from batteries. Brush them off regularly or use a mild solution of baking soda and water. If not used for more than a few days before recharging, keep a maintenance charger on them to compensate for the self-discharge and for any power loss due to small (hard to see) dirt particles.
6. Is testing the Specific Gravity of the electrolyte fluid very important?
One of the best ways to determine the “health” of batteries is to measure the specific gravity level in each cell. When batteries are in good shape, the specific gravity readings you will get will be in the range of 1275 (4 balls floating, if using a ball type hydrometer). In addition, all cells will be “even” meaning they all should read the same. If not, those that test lower than the rest are “weaker” and will be the first to fail. Try desulfating them as mentioned earlier. If successful, you will see all cells become more “equal”, meaning their specific gravity readings will be closer to the same.
7. Is testing the voltage total of all batteries in the “string” helpful?
Using a digital voltmeter to determine the “rested” voltage of the entire series-group gives a good indication of whether they are fully charged, not holding their charge or perhaps not charged enough. Golf cart 6-volt batteries should test, after fully charging and letting rest overnight, at 6.4 volts. 8-Volt type batteries should test at 8.5 volts. Thus, in a 48-Volt series, total voltage should be 51.1 – 51.3 volts. Any reading higher indicates batteries were overcharged. If lower, than either they were not fully charged or are not holding their charge.
8. Do certain pulse-type maintenance chargers provide a “topping off” charge?
When left on after the “bulk” stock charger shuts off, maintenance chargers ensure batteries are truly fully charged. If they are also a pulse-type, desulfation-type maintenance charger, they likely will continue improving the condition of the battery to the fullest extent possible. Using such chargers when batteries are new gives them their best chance to live long, powerful and trouble –free lives. The solar golf cart chargers offered by Cruise Car can help you achieve this very goal.
9. Do keeping tires at correct pressure help battery life?
Proper pressure, use of radial vs. stock bias-ply, using accessories to a minimum, all contribute to less work the batteries need in order to perform. Therefore, being attentive to all the above will assist with battery life and with lessening the depth of discharge that batteries are subjected to.
10. Do solar golf cart chargers keep your batteries topped off?
One of the keys to the best battery performance is bringing batteries up to the proper specific gravity levels as recommended by battery manufacturers and keeping them there. Eco Trans Alliance, LLC manufactures the Sunray Solar Canopy that can consistently maintain a high level of charge (1). It can significantly reduce sulfation, a primary cause of premature battery failure, by maintaining the charge, the battery’s electrolyte and in turn, the proper specific gravity level. This results in over 25% more discharge time for the customer and a much better service life. The Sunray Solar Canopy provides a very fast recharge time, reaching maximum charge levels in less time due to a lessoned discharged state. This all means longer battery life and results in more money staying in your pocket. With the increase in battery costs and the decrease in solar costs, the question, “Why haven’t you gone solar?” becomes even more relevant.
*Requires careful observation during process (lasting as much as four  hours) to ensure batteries do not “boil out” their electrolyte water.
**Deep discharges equate to drawing batteries down by more than 50% of their rated capacity.
1 The charge maintained by the operation of the solar depends on the exposure to constant sun light and service demanded from the vehicle that depletes energy from the batteries.