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Can You Extend the Service Life of Your Golf Cart Batteries?

Jul 28th 2016

When golf cart owners are making buying decisions, the first one to be made is gas or electric. The primary argument against gas-powered golf carts is the noise level, and the main argument against electric is the price of battery replacement. Although there are a number of differences between the two, mitigating either of these specific problems tips the favor to that side. If getting more service life out of your battery would be enough for you to buy electric over gas, there are ways to make it happen.

Understanding the anatomy of a golf cart battery, how it is charged, and how its charge is drained, will help you make buying and maintenance decisions that maximize your battery’s life span, and in turn increase the appeal of an electric cart. Buying the right battery, charging it effectively, and following a maintenance schedule can extend battery life for years beyond expectations.

Buying the Right Battery

Golf cart batteries are not like car batteries. They are deep cycle batteries, which means they can be drained of their charge (used) deeply and can be charged numerous times during their service life. Golf cart batteries come in packs of 6, 8, or 12 volts, for 36-volt and 48-volt combinations. For example, a 36-volt cart would have six 6-volt batteries. Unlike car batteries, they provide a steady current over a prolonged period of time.

Find out if your cart is built for 6-volt or 8-volt batteries. If you look at what you currently have on your cart, if the battery has three water holes on top, then it’s a 6-volt battery, because there is one hole for every two volts of energy. You would want six replacement batteries for your 36-volt cart, eight for your 48-volt (or eight 6-volts).

There are a few top tier true deep cycle battery brands that most golf cart owners have come to rely on, including Trojan, US Battery, and Deka. Spending more up front will mean saving far more in the long run, so you end up ahead with a premium quality battery that lasts longer. Lower quality batteries often have shorter life cycles and faster degradation with the same usage as a quality battery.

Trojan T-105 is a golfer’s favorite because it has a 750 cycle life, which means that you can charge and use (discharge) the battery that many times before it needs to be replaced. It’s truly top-of-the-line in this category. The discharge rate is 447 minutes at 25 amps. If you perform regular maintenance on it using only distilled water, you could expect a service life of five to eight years. The US-125 by US Battery Manufacturing, another good choice, has a lower cycle life at 625, but a better discharge rate with 517 minutes at 25 amps.

Limiting Depth of Discharge

Many manufacturers of top-of-the-line golf cart batteries recommend charging them at 50 percent or before they reach that point, rather than waiting for them to approach their run time limits. By periodically checking your golf cart’s state of charge, you will be able to determine when it reaches 50 percent depth of discharge (DOD). When you purchase your battery, ask for the manufacturer’s gravity vs. state of charge chart for that particular battery brand, and use a hydrometer or digital charge meter to check your golf cart battery’s charge. Keeping the battery in the top 50 percent of charge promotes service life, and, consequently, saves money. Keeping your battery at around 50 percent means a shorter charging time, which means less damaging heat for the battery.

Developing Routine Maintenance

The key to optimizing the life of a quality battery is essential maintenance. Clean the battery regularly, particularly the terminals; this can be done using a scrub brush dipped in a mixture of baking soda and water, and then rinsed clean. Doing this will keep corrosion at bay as well. Follow the manufacturer recommendations for watering the battery. Of course, stay safe during battery maintenance with protective eyewear and gloves.

Beyond cleaning and watering your battery as recommended, you can extend its service life with monthly equalization charging, which is charging beyond the regular charge to mix the electrolytes and balance all the cells contained in the battery pack. Failure to attend to this monthly task shortens your battery’s life.

By buying a high quality battery, keeping the DOD at 50 percent or lower, and regularly maintaining your battery – which doesn’t take that much time – you will increase the return on investment in your premier battery.

Do you have any other advice to add for extending the service life of your golf cart batteries?