Step 1 - Starting the Spring Prep
- First make sure all the batteries have sufficient water (more on this later), that the battery caps are securely in place and the car has been fully charged. Then take a hard look at the battery support racks and battery holddown brackets & J-bolts. Will the battery racks last another year? Do you need to remove the batteries to repair the racks from which a battery or two is hanging at a 45 degree angle? If so you can skip this part till the racks are fixed. Most times it's not so drastic but look the racks over from above and from beneath the car. Advanced cases of corrosion are usually accompanied by a white powdery looking crystal that can be very difficult to remove. If the following procedures do not virtually eliminate all of the corrosion, then the batteries may need to be removed for a more thorough cleaning & corrosion prevention treatment. Sometimes you will find a clean, corrosion-free rack that has become so rusted it is about to collapse. We have replacement racks if needed.
- Unplug the charger and drive the car to a convenient place where you can wash the batteries & battery racks with Neuralizer and lots of water (a garden hose is OK). Lock the hill brake.
- If you have a 'Regen' electrical drive system (automatically brakes going down hill), turn the master switch under the seat to 'Tow' or 'Tow/Maintenance'. This turns the car completely off. Be sure to turn the switch back to the "RUN" position after the cleaning is done or the car will appear dead and not run. If you do not have a 'Regen' system, then just put the Forward/Reverse (F/R) switch into the Neutral position (straight up) and turn the key to 'OFF'. This also turns the car off…no battery current can run to the motor.
- We recommend that you DO NOT disconnect any terminals unless it is necessary to clean them. Regen cars require that the 'Tow/Maintenance' switch be in the 'Tow' position and that a specific sequence of battery cable disconnect & reconnect be followed. There is some other maintenance to do here and we will cover cables later.
- Be sure your car is in a location where the neutralized acid water, grass and mud you are about to wash off will safely wash away. Be sure you are NOT wearing your best pair of jeans or any other cotton clothing. Hydrosulphuric acid just loves cotton. It's fond of skin too, so you might want long sleeves and gloves. Polyester clothing resists the acid.
- Start on one side of the car and spray our environmentally-friendly Battery Acid Neutralizer (Available through us or Most auto parts stores.) all over the tops & terminal posts of the batteries. Be sure to spray between the batteries, on the battery racks and the inside walls of the body panels, especially if they are metal. Now use an old paintbrush to scour all the nooks and crannies of the battery tops and sides. Use a little extra water if you need.
Follow the directions on the bottle in applying and rinsing the Neutralizer. This liquid will change color to signify that it is neutralizing any acid present. Allow this to sit and work for a few moments then wash the entire compartment thoroughly with lots of water, being careful to avoid any acid splash on you.
NOTE: Water from a garden hose with a pressure nozzle, or even a commercial pressure washer, will not hurt the electrical parts of the car. Do not let the pressure washer beat on the vital parts but a good thorough washing is fine. Many golf clubs wash the battery compartment out every day…this is great! Several times a month is good, once a month is ok, and certainly at seasons end at a very minimum. Hey, it's your investment!
Step 2 - Maintaining the Battery Terminals
WARNING 1: For your personal safety always, always, always remove all metal rings from fingers, watchbands or bracelets from wrists and any loose hanging necklaces. If the jewelry becomes a short circuit between batteries, it will ruin your day…not to mention that cherished family jewel!
WARNING 2: Eye safety is a vital concern too. Wear eye protection! A spark from a cigarette (NO! NO! NO!) or an inadvertent battery short, such as a dropped tool (or ring), can cause a battery to explode, spew battery acid and possibly catch fire (I know this from 'lucky' personal experience, thank you). Extreme caution is required. At best an exploding battery will put the hurt to your ears and a twitter to your heart. Should you ever drop a wrench or other tool onto a battery top—BACK AWAY IMMEDIATELY!!!!! It's a whole lot better, and cheaper, to replace a battery than have an Emergency Room visit. Retrieve the tool after the smoke clears.
- This is an excellent time to check, clean, tighten & treat all of the battery terminal connections. Battery cable looseness, weakness, oxidation and corrosion all interfere with the flow of electricity, create excess heat and decrease the efficiency of your Electric Golf Car. This looseness can occur and must be checked for anywhere the thick battery cables attach; battery to battery, at the F&R switch, at the motor, controller or old fashioned wiper contact & speed board, the resistor coils or the solenoid(s). Loose connections create a lot of heat; look for discoloration in the cable end or on the stud and base plate to which the cable is attached. Then perform these simple checks.
- Firmly wriggle each cable end side-to-side and then flex up & down. There should be no looseness or movement sideways. If there is, the nut that secures the cable end to the battery post needs to be tightened some more. Use an adjustable wrench to tighten the nut, clockwise, just a little. If the cable end will not tighten, even if the nut feels tight, there may be a problem with the battery post stud. Chronic looseness of any cable end, anywhere in the electrical system, will cause a heat buildup. Enough heat can 'freeze' the nut on the battery stud making it impossible to tighten the cable end. Over time the heat can cause the lead post to melt away from the cable end. You can see the melted lead on the side of the post, much like melted candle wax…sometimes even a pool on the battery top...sometimes little beads of lead splatter onto the battery top, melt through the case and allow acid to jostle out as the car moves along. Be sure the cables are tight to the post. Don't overtighten but they should be good and snug...no wriggle! Club car calls for 110 ft lbs of torque on your cables.
- The up & down flex motion at the cable end should not cause much flex. The end should be rigid to the post. The cable can flex but the metal terminal end should not. If it does easily flex or, worse, it's downright floppy, then you have a battery cable end about to give it up. Fix it before it leaves you, where you least expect it! Replace that cable or crimp on a new end. If you intend to repair your own cables & ends, you must use a good Crimping tool, quality cable and the right size cable ends (or lugs). One of the most common problems I see on battery cable repairs is a poor crimp of the cable end onto the cable. The crimping method is very important! If the cable is not adequately secured to the terminal end it becomes just another weak link in the electrical system of the car, subject to failure at any moment. If this situation exists when new batteries are installed, that connection will give it up. Guaranteed! Better yet Replace the cables with New ones to insure proper connection.
There are commercial battery terminal cleaner tools and if used regularly, they can do a good job. The sharp edged tools are usually more effective than the wire brush kind. A tough, crusty oxidation can build up that is difficult to remove, especially after a long storage. The wire type terminal cleaners are ok if you do this procedure several times a year, but they are largely ineffective on built up, crusted oxidation. The positive terminal of a battery seems to be the most susceptible to the oxidation and corrosion. Lots of people think their batteries need to be replaced when they will no longer push the car the required distance. The owners are usually very surprised to learn that the batteries are fine, but the terminals had become so corroded that current could not flow. There's a lot of current trying to flow to an electric golf car motor and it needs a clean circuit.
Getting back to the battery cable ends & posts, the positive terminals generally take the brunt of the corrosion but the negative posts will corrode too. If they are badly corroded, you will need to do some serious cleaning. You will probably need to remove the corroded cable end from the battery, soak it in neutralizer, wire brush the metal ends and then carefully inspect them. If the ends are ok, firmly wire brush the battery post clean, reinstall the cable on the battery and tighten the nuts securely to the battery post (are the nuts clean too? Don't contaminate a clean cable end with a corroded nut). Don't leave a cleaned battery cable end & post susceptible to future corrosion. Once finished all terminal should have a Heavy coat of terminal Protectant applied, Again you can get this from us or Most auto parts stores.
- CAUTION: Some electrical systems, especially 'regen' systems, require a certain sequence when disconnecting & reconnecting the batteries. Be sure to put the car in the TOW position before loosening any battery terminals. Consult your service manual.
In cold climates, when the car will be left uncharged for several months, leave the water level a little low (but above the plate tops). This raises the specific gravity of the acid, which will help prevent freezing. Lead acid batteries keep much better in the cold than in the heat, as long as the charge stays up. A fully charged battery will not freeze until 60 to 70 BELOW zero, whereas a discharged battery can freeze at 20 degrees ABOVE zero. As a battery becomes discharged, the acid turns into water by the basic chemical nature of the lead acid battery. As the charge is restored the water turns back into acid. A detailed description his chemical process is beyond the scope of this presentation.
In the busy golf season, especially in hot climates, it is recommended to keep a close eye on the water level, especially in older batteries, and NEVER let it get below the plates. Also a dirty, acid covered battery will self discharge at a faster rate than a clean treated battery, even in cooler temperatures. The heat of a Florida summer can cause a battery to self-discharge in as few as 30 days. Of course freezing is not a risk but a discharged battery will sulfate, which basically means hard crystals of lead sulfate clog up the tiny sponge-like cavities of the battery plates. The longer the state of discharge lasts the more this hard-to-dissolve crystalline structure builds up and the result is less capacity in the batteries. It is a harmful, and costly, condition if left untended. Adequate charging avoids this situation.
This is a very important step when preparing the car for seasonal use. If left in the 'TOW' or 'Tow Maintenance' mode, the electronic speed controller stays dormant and will not permit the car to move. Conversely, if the 'TOW' switch has been left in the 'RUN' mode, then the controller capacitors stay energized by drawing off the limited battery juice. This can run the battery voltage below the critical charger 'cut-on' voltage leaving open the possibility of excessive lead sulfate buildup on the plates and the batteries freezing if the temperature drops too low.
Step 3 - Finalizing the Spring Prep
- Check the tire pressure and inflate to 20–25 psi. If you have had any problems with a slow leaking tire, don't waste your time with the foam 'fix-a-flat' stuff that comes in aerosol cans. Usually it does not work permanently and can damage aluminum wheels. I recommend taking the tire to a professional and having it plugged (it's only about $5) or, if the tread is still pretty good, have a tube installed. While you are down there filling the tires, look at the tread and sidewalls. The tire tread wear should be even across the entire width of the tire. If the center of the tread is worn too much the tire may be over inflated. If the outer edges are worn away then a chronic air leak is indicated, maybe due to weather-cracked sidewalls or a pesky nail or golf tee. (Sidewall cracks are very common and the cracks may or may not be the cause of the air leak. Apply soapy water with a brush over the sides & tread of the tire and look for bubbles caused by escaping air.) If one front tire is worn a lot more than the other, or the tread has signs of feathering or scrubbing in one direction, then a front-end inspection & alignment may be needed. It is somewhat normal for a tire to lose 5 to 10 pounds of air pressure over a long storage. Low tire pressure makes the battery pack have to work a lot harder to power the car around especially in grass or loose dirt & gravel.
- In order to keep your steering system working smoothly and to prevent any metal-to-metal deterioration, it is recommended that your front end be greased at least once a year. For those that use the car year round or use the car above and beyond 'normal' usage', you may need to do this more often. A simple grease gun with a flexible delivery hose is recommended for this step. With the key 'OFF' and the F&R shifter in Neutral, jack up the front end.
- CAUTION: Always use jack stands or blocks of some kind when you are under the car. Never trust a jack to hold fast and you can never be too safe. The minute you let your guard down in situations under the car, bad things can happen.
- The beginning of the season is also a good time to be sure your brakes, brake cables and hill brake catch mechanism are all working. It doesn't do a lot of good to have a great running golf car that you can't stop and keep stopped. A hill brake lock mechanism that unexpectedly pops off is a mortal danger to anyone downhill from you. Thoroughly inspect and test your brakes regularly. Begin (with the key off and on flat ground) by pressing the brake pedal. Feel to be sure the pedal doesn't feel mushy or weak. If the pedal tension does feel weak, you may have a frayed, kinked or broken brake cable, need to disassemble & clean the brake shoe adjuster mechanisms, or perform an adjustment to the turnbuckle or compensator spring assembly where the cables attach to the pedal underneath the floorboard. Carefully check the cables for battery corrosion, rust, kinks or signs of fraying or unraveling. You can purchase new cables from us we always have them in stock. If the pedal tension feels ok, but you still have to press extra hard on the pedal for adequate stopping, you may need to replace the shoes or inspect the brake drums. You can purchase new brake shoes from us as well. Any of these components or combinations thereof may need replacing or adjusting to achieve the proper brake feel. With the vast array of shoes and cables out there, I have seen all kinds of jury-rigged combinations. The correct shoes, installed & adjusted the proper way, with the correct brake cables & drums helps insure proper braking and personal safety.
The hill brake catch mechanism is hard to inspect on any car. There are two parts; the notch (usually found on the hill brake pedal) and the catch plate (usually attached to the frame of the car). Either or both can wear and unexpectedly pop off creating a dangerous rollaway situation. The best way to check this is to get down with a flashlight and carefully look at both components for wear. The other way is to lock the hill brake down as you normally would, then reach down with your hand and try to dislodge the catch mechanism by shaking & pulling at it. It should hold very firmly. If it seems to pop off too easily then there may be need of closer inspection. Consult your service manual for complete instructions...or seek a Professional, we have full spring prep services available.
- Check the differential gear oil. This is often overlooked for years and lack of oil will cause the diff gears to start clashing, which leads to an audible gear whine noise as you accelerate, cruise or coast. Lots of older cars have both a drain & a fill hole but on more modern cars the drain hole has gone away. All of the modern Dana brand differentials take regular 30 weight motor oil but other brands may take a heavier 90 weight gear oil. It is always best to consult your service or owner's manual. If the oil is determined to be low; add to the bottom of the fill hole. Be sure you are adding oil to the actual fill hole and that you are not overfilling because this can lead to other problems such as blown wheel seals and oily brakes. I always look carefully for signs of oil leaks around the differential cover plate and at the end of the axle tubes where the wheels attach. If things look oily or caked with damp looking dirt chances are you have a leak somewhere.
- Check your reverse buzzer! OK, OK, everybody hates these loud obnoxious intrusions while concentrating on backing up. I find many cars that have a wire pulled or cut off. Others that just don't work. I also find cars accidentally left in the reverse position, standing quietly, ominously, waiting to unexpectedly go into reverse when the gas pedal is pushed. Don't do this! That buzzer is for everyone's safety. With the modern 'regen' cars the buzzer functions as the 'roll away protection' warning signal as well. In today's market, where the majority of golf cars are used for personal transportation and where parking areas are crowded with other golf cars and people standing around, a disabled or broken reverse buzzer is inviting disaster. And perhaps a lawsuit! If the buzzer is too loud, locate where it is located on the car and partially cover the buzzer hole with a piece of duct tape. This will cut down on the high pitch while still making enough noise to warn the driver, and those standing around, that the car is in reverse. If you walk past an unattended car accidentally left in reverse, do your neighbor a kind deed and shift it to Neutral. The legs you save may be your own!
- The last thing to really take a close look at is how tight the battery cable connections are throughout the car. I mentioned loose battery cables at the battery posts proper but anywhere the heavy cables are attached--the motor, the F&R switch, the wiper-style speed switch with the fixed copper contacts (older pre-electronic speed controller cars, 1990 & before), the newer electronic speed controller terminals and especially on the solenoid (the most common failure)--must have a clean tight connection. Looseness=Heat. Heat=Failure...sooner or later. Again, if you can wriggle the cable end under the nut that secures it, it is loose! If the entire contact moves on the board to which it is attached, then the contact is loose on the board. If the cable end or the stud & nuts look oxidized, rusted or discolored compared to other nearby connections, it indicates a heat buildup and impending failure. Deal with these problems while you have the vehicle where it can be repaired. Otherwise you will be dragging that bad boy home.