Golf car retailers who want to increase their customer base, as well as customer loyalty, often use various marketing methods to accomplish this. Some, like Jim’s Carts & Parts in Milton, Wisconsin, however, have built their customer base by focusing on teaching customers proper care and maintenance.
According to Jim’s Carts & Part’s owner Jim Naughton Sr., he provides mandatory training for all of his customers before they purchase a new or used golf car from him. While the classes aren’t too difficult, the questions that come up are typically those that customers “hear” from other golf car owners, especially when it comes to battery maintenance for these vehicles. “There’s a lot of old wives’ tales about battery maintenance that simply isn’t true,” says Naughton. “We often dispel these procedures and give our customers some basic tips that can help them extend battery life and improve performance.”
Some of the best tips that Naughton provides his customers are simple, and very specific, which helps his customers more easily understand the maintenance process and when/how to perform them.
All battery powered golf cars should have a battery gauge installed.
According to Naughton, they won’t install a new set of golf car batteries without the customer installing one on their vehicles. “This helps to keep them aware of the state of battery charge and we tell them to charge the batteries between the quarter and half-mark on the gauge.” It is a good idea to recharge as often as possible. Taking advantage of opportunity charging will keep the level of discharge higher extending the life of the battery.
Identify the two pilot cells in the golf car and check the water level on these each month.
The pilot cells are the cells starting at the main positive battery cable. That is the number one battery. The last battery in the pack at the main negative is either the number 4 or 6 battery, depending on the voltage of your system. “If customers check the water levels on these two battery cells, since these tend to run hotter than the rest, it’s a pretty good indication if the rest of the pack needs water or not.” Naughton recommends the number two and number five batteries on 36 and 48-volt systems with six batteries. On four-battery systems using 12-volt batteries, check the number two and number three batteries.
Never undercharge the batteries.
“We see this all the time, when people plug in their vehicles and charge the batteries for only an hour or two. This will only shorten battery life in the long run,” says Naughton.
Plug the charger to your battery and don’t unplug it until the charger automatically turns off.
“Telling customers to do it this way is the best way they understand on how to give their golf car batteries a full charge,” says Naughton. Fully charged batteries should read 1.270-1.280 when checked with a hydrometer. Also, batteries should be equalized every thirty days if possible. Most chargers have this feature built in but if yours does not, simply unplug the charger, wait a few seconds and then plug the charger back in to the outlet.
Don’t use an extension cord for the battery charger, plug it directly into an outlet.
According to Naughton, the draw from the charger can heat up cheap extension cords and cause problems.
Use bottled water.
“Many golf car owners, especially those in retirement communities, don’t have the strength to hold large one-gallon water jugs,” says Naughton. “We recommend 10-12 ounce water bottles for ease of use and low cost.”
Remember to always charge batteries first, then add water if needed.
This, according to Naughton, keeps the electrolyte from spilling, as charging expands the liquid and it can overflow. When following this procedure Naughton tells his customers that the water level in the batteries should simply cover the tops of cell plates, not all the way to the vent tube.
Don’t over-fill the batteries.
Once the batteries have been fully charged, you can add additional distilled or deionized water bringing the water level within ¼” inch of the bottom of the fill well, never all the way into the fill well.
To store the golf car for winter, keep the batteries in the vehicle and fully charge them.
Then leave it alone until spring. “Some people think they need to take out the batteries, not realizing that the golf car can help shield the batteries from the cold,” says Naughton. Most new chargers have a charging maintenance feature included. If yours does, leaving the charger plugged in all winter will keep the batteries fully charged and they will be ready to go when you take the car out in the spring.
These simple tips Jim’s Carts & Parts tells its customers has led to many of them having no battery issues and extending the life of the batteries as much as 10 years. Additional information on battery maintenance and safety tips can be found on the U.S. Battery Manufacturing website at www.usbattery.com.