Charging the batteries in a golf car is one of the most common maintenance procedures fleet managers perform and is often done on a daily basis. However, improper charging and not knowing the condition of batteries prior to charging, can lead to loss of performance or premature failure. Here are some expert techniques that every fleet manager and golf car owner should perform when charging flooded lead-acid batteries used in golf cars.
- Make sure the golf car ignition key is in the “off” position. This removes any load on the batteries.
- Make sure you are using proper safety equipment and work in a well ventilated area.
- Examine the batteries and make sure the terminals are clean and the wires are properly connected to the terminals with the appropriate torque (~100 in-lb). Remove any corrosion with a 50/50 solution of baking soda and water, while using a wire brush with a wooden or plastic handle to clean around the terminals and connections.
- Check the electrolyte level of the battery cells and ONLY add water if the tops of the cells are not covered. If needed, add just enough distilled water to cover the cell plates.
- Always charge your batteries as soon as possible and try to limit the depth of discharge to 50 percent for best life. The lower the depth of discharge in lead acid batteries, the greater number of cycles they will deliver. If you don’t keep track of the depth of discharge, you can’t go wrong by always charging the batteries after every use.
- Charge the batteries completely by allowing the charger to perform a complete charge cycle. The charger will shut off when it determines that a full charge is achieved. However, to ensure your batteries are getting a full charge, use a hydrometer to check the state of charge. A fully charged battery usually has a specific gravity reading close to 1.275, but check with the battery manufacturer for this information. If the charger turns off before the batteries are fully charged, cycle AC power to restart the charger. If the charger continues to turn off before the batteries are fully charged, consult the golf car or charger manufacturer for corrective actions. Continuing to use batteries without fully charging will result in low runtime and short battery life.
- Never leave batteries un-charged for long periods of inactivity or in storage. This will shorten the life of the batteries. Boost charging every 60 days in storage will keep the batteries healthy.
- Most automatic chargers have an automatic charge maintenance function designed to maintain batteries at a full state of charge between normal charge cycles. Consult your golf car or charger manual for recommended procedures to follow during periods of inactivity.
- If the charger is left connected during long periods of storage or inactivity at extreme temperatures, it is best to monitor the batteries monthly to prevent overheating at high temperatures or freezing at low temperatures.
- Perform an equalizing charge at least once a month. This will cause the electrolyte to gas (bubble) and reduce the chance of stratification, which can lower battery life.
- Check the electrolyte levels after charging and add distilled water using a watering pitcher or with a single point watering system. Check with your battery manufacturer to determine the correct levels.By following these basic procedures, you’re sure to get maximum performance from your batteries. Charging batteries this way will also extend battery life and lower your annual operating costs. It is important to regularly check your charger to make sure it’s working properly, and keep it stored in an area where it won’t get damaged. To find additional resources on charger diagnostics, battery maintenance and ways to increase battery efficiency and service life, visit U.S. Battery’s website at www.usbattery.com.