Checking and Verifying the Age of Golf Cart Batteries
If you are in the market to purchase an electric golf cart, then the simplest thing to do first and foremost is considering the age of your golf cart batteries. This is important due to many consumers being misled as to the age of the batteries in the cart they are purchasing. At times, a consumer will be told by a private party or dealer that the batteries are brand new when in fact they are 3 to 4 years old. Take this picture for example:
These batteries look brand new and are incredibly clean! This is typically a good sign, however if we look closer, then we can identify the actual date of the batteries. All batteries will have some sort of stamp either on the terminal, sticker, or battery case that will indicate the age of the batteries.
If we look at the stamp date on these, then we can determine them as from January of 2017. Now, how did we determine that? Well, our first letter indicates the month of the battery while our second digit determines the year of the battery. We see an A-7 in the above example. Since the letter “A” is the first letter in the alphabet, it gets pinpointed as being the first month of the year which in this case is January. For the number 7 in the stamp, it is pinpointed to be the year 2017. Let’s make a layout for our months to help us out:
A – January
B – February
C – March
D – April
E – May
F – June
G – July
H – August
I – September
J – October
K – November
L – December
With our layout for the letter according to our month, it is easier to determine the age of the batteries once we find the stamp. So, if our stamp date found on a set of batteries is F-7, then this would mean our batteries are from June of 2017. Some people ask if the batteries could be from June of 2007. It is possible, however it is highly improbable as batteries rarely last 10 years. If they did, then the likelihood of them working would be minimal and they would unlikely be clean.
Voltage and Amperage in varying battery packs
Let’s take a close look at Voltage in a battery pack. For comparison, we like to take a look at cars since we are familiar with horsepower and miles per gallon (MPG). Therefore, voltage in a battery pack inside of an electric golf cart has to do with power. It does not have to do with fuel. Therefore, voltage in a battery pack within a golf cart will be comparable to the horsepower in a car. With this knowledge in place, we can determine a 72 volt system can be more powerful than a 48 volt system, and a 48 volt system can be more powerful than a 36 volt system. If you took notice, we said that it “can” be more powerful. The reason for this is due large in part to the controller inside the vehicle. A controller determines how much amperage is delivered from the batteries to the controller.
Voltage is great to know, however the true knowledge lies with the total amperage in a battery pack. To get a better idea of what amperage is like in a car, let us discuss the relationship between Horsepower and MPG. Horsepower within a car determines the acceleration and power of your car. If there is no fuel in the car though, then the vehicle is not going to go anywhere. That is the importance of MPG and also how big your gas tank is in your car. It determines how far you can travel before having to fill up the tank. Well, amperage in a golf cart is like the gas tank in your car. It will determine how far you can travel on a single charge in an electric golf cart. The more amperage in a battery pack, the further you can drive before having to charge.
Different Battery Systems
Now we understand the differences between Amperage and Voltage and we can begin to break this down so we can locate the differences between various battery packs and systems. This can be visually determined by locating the cells per battery. A cell is distinguished by a battery cap that is used for watering the batteries. With batteries used in Golf Cars, each cell will represent 2 Volts. Let’s take a look at some common battery voltages and systems we see in the market.
6 Volt Batteries
A 6 volt golf cart battery can be identified by seeing batteries with 3 cell caps on top of the battery indicating 2 volts per cell. Generally speaking, a single 6 volt battery will have the highest amperage capacity and will allow for the greatest range in an 8-6 volt battery system.
8 Volt Batteries
An 8 volt golf cart battery can be identified by seeing batteries with 4 cell caps on top of the battery indicating 2 volts per cell. Generally speaking, a single 8 volt battery will have moderate amperage capacity. 6-8 volt battery packages are the most commonly seen battery packs seen in electric golf carts. For instance, Club Car golf cart batteries and Yamaha golf cart batteries are typically a 6-8 volt system.
12 Volt Batteries
A 12 volt battery can be identified by seeing batteries with 6 cell caps on top of the battery indicating 2 volts per cell. A single 12 volt golf cart battery will have the least amperage capacity and is commonly used in 72 volt battery systems which are not terribly common among golf carts. EZGO golf cart batteries are known to be use 4-12 volt battery systems in some of their golf cart models.
How long do Golf Cart Batteries last on one charge?
Battery Amperage calculated using Trojan Batteries at a 20 Amp-Hour Capacity Rate
Now, with all of this broken down, we want to make sure we iterate that top speed, acceleration, and other parameters will have an effect on travel distances. Therefore, we calculated mileage distances off a standard 19.9 MPH calculation and an acceleration rate of reaching 20 MPH in 10 seconds or more. With our chart, we can see how long golf cart batteries approximately last on one charge. Be aware, batteries can last long on a single charge, however it is not good for them. It is best to take the batteries down to a 50% discharge rate (half the total charge of the batteries). In quick summation, DO NOT drive your batteries to a state where it will not operate. The chart’s approximate travel distance is based on this rule of using up 50% of your batteries capacity.
Which Battery Configuration is Best for Me?
The best battery pack to use in terms of power and range would be an 8-6 Volt Battery pack. However, if you have determined your Golf Cart use will be driven less than 5 miles per day, than you can have your pick of battery packs. Keep in mind though that a standard 18 holes of golf ranges between 5-7 miles per round depending on your handicap ;).
How to charge your batteries?
Electric golf cars come with two major forms of battery charger types. Some will have an off-board charger that resides in your garage to be plugged in when you return home. Others will have an on-board charger that is able to be plugged into any regular outlet with an extension cord (we recommend the extension cord to be at least a 16 gauge and the shorter the better). To charge a golf cart, PLUG IT IN AFTER EACH USE. It is damaging to your batteries to not charge them after every use. Even if you only drove it 1 mile. To begin charging, plug your golf cart in with your charger and let the charger run until it turns off. Chargers will turn off after a battery pack has been fully charged. If your charger has been on for 24 hours straight, then unplug it and contact your local golf cart dealer to see if you have a battery or charger issue.
For on board chargers, do not use a 25 foot cord or longer as resistance and heat build up will escalate with length. Golf cart fires are typically cause by improper charger use. For instance, a 100 foot long extension lying organized in a spool will essentially turn it into a resistance coil and lead to a sparked fire.
There are a wide range of golf cart battery chargers available out there, however the most important thing is to determine your voltage system and battery plug type when it comes to selecting the right charger if you don’t have one.
Tips for Purchasing
What you consider before you decide what to buy and where to buy it involves several important factors.
Voltage is key…
because the more voltage the greater the acceleration.
Capacity is important…
because that will dictate how much can be held in a single charge.
Choosing the right brand…
for your specific cart is critical and should probably be done with the help of a cart professional so the match-up is ideal. Check out our Top 3 Brands Here.
You’ll need to take a close look at the terminals and wires too…
because they can demand more care and/or cleaning to prevent them from heating up and causing a hazard down the line.
Finally, take a look at features and warranty.
Remember the Fram oil filter ad where the mechanic says, “you can pay me now or pay me later.” That is also good advice for a battery purchase. Going for cheap may not be the best move because you could be limiting performance and battery life. If the price sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
A good example of why you consider paying more for replacement is the case for lithium-ion batteries versus the more traditional and less expensive lead acid battery. A lead acid battery can weigh as much as 130 pounds and averages around 65 pounds. A lithium-ion battery averages 28 pounds. Less weight means your cart will be able to haul more weight at a greater speed. And, they are capable of holding a single full charge for a year instead of losing a charge slowly over time. Also, some lithium batteries carry a lifetime warranty and can deliver up to 5000 cycles versus the typical 100-500 cycles for a lead acid battery.
Even with a 500-cycle lead acid battery cart, that means replacing the power source 10 times more than the lithium-ion model. Granted, lithium-ion batteries are expensive, but they are also maintenance-free, so you can spend more time playing instead of filling water and cleaning terminals on your lead acid batteries. When it comes to cart batteries you truly do get what you pay for. Be aware though, lithium batteries need to be charged properly. Not every charger is built to charge lithium batteries as well.
How much are batteries for a golf cart?
We have all been there when we are trying to determine how much do the batteries in you golf cart can cost. Pricing varies from pack to pack. The general consensus for golf cart battery replacement ranges from $600 on the low end to $1600 on the high end. If you are buying batteries in the lower end of the price range, then they are most likely cheap golf cart batteries that will not last as long (you really do get what you pay for when it comes to batteries). Some packs cost as much as $2500 when you start dealing with 72 Volt systems and sealed for lithium batteries. But, for the typical lead acid battery pack, $900 to $1500 is about the norm. This price range is assuming you are working with a local golf cart dealer.
Of the 48 Volt systems, the 4-12 Volt system is typically the least expensive (not always) since only 4-12 Volt deep cycle batteries are required. However the 4-12 Volt system has the least range. The more lead and the heavier the battery pack as a whole typically leads to a more expensive but higher quality battery pack. And a higher quality battery pack will have a longer life for your golf cart and generally better performance in terms of range.
Batteries can be cheaper if you install them yourselves, however we recommend you prevent long term back pain from picking up heavy batteries and have your local professional golf cart dealer provide the service. Batteries being replaced that were not maintained properly will require acid cleanup and potentially a replacement of cables and connectors in the battery bay. Now, these extra items are not typically included in a normal battery install. However, general cleaning typically is. When the batteries are all installed, the dealer will ensure the batteries properly charge and perform a safety check, so that you can drive off without any worries. While you’re getting the batteries replaced though, have your dealer perform a preventative maintenance check as well. You might as well get it all done at once and keep yourself safe while driving on the road.
Why are batteries so Expensive?
Simply put, Golf Cart Batteries are expensive because you aren’t visiting the gas station every week. When you purchase them, you are essentially pre-paying for fuel. Yes, you still have to charge the vehicle, however the electricity cost usually breaks down to pennies per mile. In some studies, it was shown a golf cart costs less than $.02 per mile to operate in terms of electricity cost. Buying higher quality batteries versus cheaper ones will be better in the long run and will actually cost you less since you are replacing them less frequently.
Purchasing Batteries for my vehicle Online
Now that you’ve evaluated all the facts, you only need to decide where to buy when your old batteries begin heading for the elephant’s graveyard.
Let’s look at the internet first.
The internet is basically a long-distance retailer and everything you buy there must be shipped. Shipping is more difficult, because six of them can weigh a lot, meaning the shipping charge will add much money to the initial price. In comparison, lithium-ion batteries are lighter and will cost less to ship.
There is also the fact that a battery containing acid can be considered as having a hazardous material. Depending on the supplier and how they will ship, you could end up with an unpleasant and possibly dangerous surprise.
Most golf courses with electric cart fleets use lead acid batteries because they get a great price by buying in quantity, they have cart barn employees to perform all the maintenance and with newer carts they have state-of-the-art chargers that will keep a trickle charge going when the carts are not being used and prevent any overcharging.
Purchase Batteries Locally
All of that said, we recommend you shop for replacement batteries locally instead of buying from a website. There are several benefits that come with this recommendation. First and foremost, you can talk directly with a professional and get your questions answered about the right type and brand battery for your specific cart and pattern of use. The same expert can work the numbers to show you whether you should invest in a lithium-ion product swap. Additionally, you will have no concern about shipping and can probably arrange both delivery and installation, so you are not schlepping very heavy batteries that could present a hazard if mishandled. Lastly, buying locally allows you to see the batteries upfront and ensure they are brand new by checking the year and month they were manufactured.
Also important is the fact that you will have a local contact you can meet face-to-face should any warranty issue or problem occur that requires remediation or even exchange. If you end up shipping the heavy beasts back and forth to a distant internet supplier, those costs will quickly add to your overall investment.
So, bite the bullet (or the battery if you will – but not literally) and do the work to make the best decision. You can always turn to your local dealer or your PGA Pro for a recommendation of where to start and how to help you make a decision. Do this and you will have less to worry about other than why you can’t seem to hit your 3 wood three hundred yards.
How to maintain them for longevity?
The reason why we maintain and clean batteries is because they are filled with acid and lead plates needed to produce a chemical reaction to hold power to drive your cart. Properly maintained batteries can last as long as 7 years while improperly maintained batteries could last less than 2 years. If batteries are improperly maintained by watering and cleaning them, then acid can potentially get on the top of the batteries causing a myriad of issues. Any corrosion or damage can potentially decrease current flow and can lead to sudden loss of power while driving. In addition, when batteries charge up, they emit gasses which can cause corrosion and damage to battery cables and terminals.
Putting Water Into Your Batteries
Batteries in your golf cart need to be watered on a monthly to quarterly basis. It is ideal to check the water level inside of your batteries once a month at the very least. A couple of Key Points to take heed to when watering your batteries:
- Only water your batteries after the vehicle has cooled down from a full charge.
- Do not water your batteries right before you charge the golf cart since this can lead to unwanted acid overflow.
- After removing the battery cells’ plastic caps, top off each cell’s reservoirs with distilled water only. Never use mineral or tap water since these have minerals in them that are harmful to batteries.
- Never allow the cell’s fluid level to dip below its plates. The plates inside the battery must always be submerged since oxygen in the air is damaging to the plates.
- Never let the level of water in the battery be too high. As in, it should never be touching the plastic lip that goes down into the battery from the plastic cap. Be sure there is enough to make the battery plates submerged. Too much can lead to acid overflow on to the top of the batteries and potentially damaging the garage floor below.
To effectively remove acid and corrosion from batteries, there are a couple of methods we would recommend. We need to neutralize the acid on top of the batteries first and foremost. This can easily be done with a homemade mixture of baking soda and water. Mix 1 cup of baking soda for each gallon of water and spread evenly over the batteries. You know the acid will be neutralized due to a bubbling chemical reaction between the substances. Then, proceed by using water to remove the homemade mixture. Be aware that when cleaning the acid off the batteries, it will stain concrete and the ground underneath it. Therefore, try to clean the batteries off over rocks or dirt to insure the ground below does not get permanently stained. Once the batteries are clean, dry them off with a towel and wipe off any remaining grime.
Now, this is a messy way to clean off the batteries. You can also purchase battery cleaner that comes in a can. We recommend throttle muscle from professional experience. Not only does this battery cleaner neutralize acid, but it also will indicate where the acid is coming from. Knowing where the acid is coming from can indicate battery cells that are receiving too much water and also indicate battery casing leaks. Also, you can forget the big mess that comes with baking soda and water.
We have officially cleaned our batteries! The next step will be to remove unwanted corrosion from terminals. By cleaning off the batteries, we were able to rid the batteries of unwanted acid. After this, we need to clean the cables and terminals. To do this, we will want to use a wire brush to scrape off unwanted debris and corrosion. By scraping off corrosion, it will allow for clean contact between cables and terminals to reduce and interference. We recommend the following wire brush due to its size and rugged ability to clean effectively.
How to know when golf cart batteries are dying?
When your batteries are starting to die, there will be a few signs to look out for. If you have been taking care of your batteries as we have taught you, then you should be happy with the years of use you have gotten from them.
Most golf carts will have a voltage meter on the dash. The most accurate meter is an analog meter that reads the direct status of the batteries. An electric gauge is better than nothing, however they are not nearly as dependable. Dying batteries will begin to lose their acceleration ability quicker after a full charge and show small signs of diminished range. Another sign will be that it will take longer to charge the batteries. Batteries can also be tested as well if you really want to know how they are performing.
How to test batteries and identify bad batteries
To properly test batteries, you would need to hook up a battery discharge tester which is an expensive industrial unit. Most reputable golf car dealers will have this. It is used by getting your batteries to a full charge and then hooking up the machine. The machine will then take a consistent energy draw from the batteries to determine their “discharge rate” in terms of minutes. This is also the most effective means to identify a bad battery in a pack. A bad battery can only be identified when a golf cart battery is completely discharged. A bad 6 volt battery may show 5 volts of charge when under load (meaning it is being used) and will completely drop out to 2-3 volts if it has a bad cell in it. However, this bad battery can still be fully charged and operate normally until it reaches that same low discharge rate.
How to Replace Golf Cart Batteries in 5 Simple Steps
Now, this is a very basic breakdown of how to replace your batteries.
- Take a picture and make a diagram
- Disconnect and Remove the Batteries
- Clean Battery Tray and Dissolve Acid
- Install the New Batteries per picture and diagram
- Reconnect Batteries and Perform a Safety Check
As stated earlier though, we recommend you have a golf cart dealer do this for you. If you still insist on installing them yourself, then we have created a thorough step by step guide for you along with a detailed video.
Now, one of the best and longest battery warranties we have seen is at 2 years full replacement. This type of warranty will not be offered everywhere, however if you call around enough, then you may find a golf cart dealer that offers it. Do not confuse this with a 4 year limited warranty though. A 4 Year limited warranty has fine print details such as hours of use and cycles attached to it in addition to a residual payout based on time. This means that if the batteries go bad after 3.5 years and meets the hours of use addendum, then you would receive 25% of the value you paid for the batteries back instead of a full replacement pack or equivalent.
Refurbished Golf Cart Batteries
There is a lot of info out there about refurbishing your batteries through a variety of methods. Some include a method of replacing the acid in your battery. Others discuss putting vinegar or some other substance in the battery to rejuvenate them. There are also desulfating charging systems (which are great for long term storage by the way) that claim they will refurbish the batteries. Overall though, the science does not support a damaged battery can be effectively refurbished. You may see some signs of life for a short time, however in the end you will likely pay more in the end. Professionally, we do not recommend taking this route as a means to save money or prolong your batteries.
Used golf cart batteries for sale
Used batteries are not going to be easily found online and we do not recommend purchasing them online. They are expensive to ship since they are heavy and also a hazardous material. If you have identified one bad battery in your cart, then you could consider buying a single used golf cart battery for your local golf cart dealership.
There are numerous golf cart battery manufacturers out there that we can take a look at. In terms of which has the best battery is truly in the eye of the beholder. Let’s take a look at some of the best known golf cart battery manufacturers in the industry though.
Now, Costco is not necessarily a battery manufacturer as they will typically private label their generic batteries from one of the larger manufacturers of golf cart batteries. Buyer beware though, Costco batteries are considered to be on the cheaper end of batteries. This means they may not get quite the longevity and use out of them as a higher priced battery. We discuss some of these battery manufacturers in more detail in an opinion based article on “which golf cart battery brand is best”.
Other Battery Types: Lithium & AGM (sealed batteries)
While the aim of this article is to discuss primarily deep cycle batteries used in golf carts, some people are interested about learning the other types of batteries being used in Golf Cars. We have an article for you that discusses differing battery types in detail specifically for you.
We hope you have appreciated our complete guide to golf cart batteries. If your enjoyed it, then please like us on facebook or share with your friends. We also love comments from our readers too!