Charging Golf Cart Batteries: 8 Key Questions Answered

Golf carts are one of the most fun ways to navigate your way around the golf course.

For some players – especially those who are elderly or not physically able – a golf cart is necessity; for others, they are a luxury item given the Average Joe will be more likely to be seen shunting around a push cart, or perhaps an electric cart if their budget permits.

But regardless of the reasons why you own a golf cart, one thing remains consistent for everyone: the need to keep the batteries charged and properly maintained (along with rotating the wheels to ensure they wear evenly).

Golf cart batteries aren’t cheap, so it’s important you take care of them and charge them properly – if you can do this, not only will you save money, but you won’t suffer the annoyance of breaking down halfway through a round.

I’ve scoured the internet and found the answers to the eight most common questions golfers have about charging golf cart batteries, which I’ve put together in this easy-to-read guide for you.

How often should you charge golf cart batteries?

Golf cart batteries should be kept fully charged at all times – this means hooking them up to a charger as soon as you are finished using the cart. Regular charging will prevent damage to the battery and give it longer-lasting life.

It’s important not to let golf cart batteries go dead as this can cause them harm and potentially reduce their ability to maintain charge.

For this reason, you should place your golf cart on a charger each time you finish using it.

As battery experts Golf Cart Garage explained in a helpful YouTube video:

“Deep cycle batteries that power golf carts are best maintained when they’re kept fully charged during downtime.

“This doesn’t mean they should always be actively charging; it simply means once they’re used for a while, they should be charged up to full and that charge maintained at regular intervals to make sure they don’t go dead, as this can cause damage.”

This creates a nice segway into the next question, which I’ve already partially answered (but will elaborate on further).

Should golf cart batteries be charged after every use?

Yes. Charging your golf cart batteries after every use – even if you’ve only spent five minutes driving – is crucial for maximising their lifespan. Leaving batteries in a prolonged state of low charge can decrease their capacity over time and wear them out quicker.

Golfers may find themselves only playing a quick nine holes alone, or with friends, in their golf cart after work or if they’re pressed for time, and a common mistake would be to assume that they haven’t drained the battery enough in this short time to warrant placing it on charge.

This, however, is incorrect: regardless of how much time you spend using your golf cart – whether it’s two minutes, or two hours – it is essential to connect your batteries to a charger afterwards, and let them recharge.

Your batteries should be fully recharged after 8-10 hours, but may require longer if they are older.

You can purchase automatic golf cart battery chargers – such as this one from manufacturer LIYYOO – which will shut off once peak charge has been reached, ensuring the batteries aren’t overcharged as a result.

Should you charge new golf cart batteries?

Yes. New golf cart batteries should be charged every time they are used as this will extend their lifespan, help them retain their capacity for longer, and prevent discharge. It is vitally important to charge new golf cart batteries, even after their first use.

Basically, new batteries love to be charged. If want them to last, you’d best make sure you connect them back up to the charger every time you finish your round.

Avoiding using a new battery when it’s not fully charged will go a long way to prolonging its life and preventing discharge (and the same habits should be applied if you have an electric golf push cart).

But should your golf cart be on or off when hooked up to a charger? That brings us to the next question.

Should your golf cart be turned on when charging?

No. You should turn your golf cart off when charging its batteries. Trying to charge a golf cart while it is running is a pointless exercise, as the battery will be draining while you’re trying to charge it. A golf cart should only be turned on once its batteries are fully charged.

Leaving your golf cart running while trying to charge its batteries is akin to filling up a bucket of water that has a couple of small holes in it.

Sure, you’ll eventually fill it up if you leave the water running long enough, but it will drain quicker as soon as you turn off the tap.

The same goes for a battery: if you try charging them while your golf cart is running, you may eventually get them to full capacity; but it will take longer, and they will drain faster as soon as you disconnect them from their power supply.

For this reason, it’s definitely recommended you turn your golf cart off when charging its batteries.

Should golf carts be plugged in all the time?

No, you should not leave your golf cart plugged in all the time. While automatic battery chargers are designed to shut-off once at full capacity, leaving a battery connected to power for long periods leaves it susceptible to damage should the electrical circuit be overloaded.

For example, if you had your golf cart hooked up to a charger during an electrical storm – and the power circuit surged as the result of a lightning strike, or a power line being knocked down by strong winds – there is a risk the extra current could fry your battery.

To be safe, it’s recommended that you disconnect your golf cart from power once its batteries are fully charged (most chargers will indicate this by the use of a green light, or something similar).

Should golf cart batteries make noise or bubble when charging?

If your golf cart uses a standard 12 volt flooded lead acid battery, then it is quite normal to hear a bubbling sound when it’s charging. However, if your cart uses a sealed battery (such as a gel or AGM battery), then a hissing or bubbling sound may indicate damage.

Basically, the bubbling sound is created via a process called electrolysis, which is electrical current passing through water or electrolyte solution causing it to release hydrogen and oxygen.

Some chargers may pass a current through the battery at a higher level, and this can intensify the noise that it makes.

While it is normal for a flooded lead-acid battery to make a bubbling sound during the charging process (and water can be added to replace evaporated fluid), a sealed lead acid should never be made to bubble since any vented gases cannot be replaced and air pockets form in the battery, which ruin its conductivity and lifespan.

So, in summary: flooded lead acid batteries making noise while charging is perfectly normal, however if you have a sealed lead acid battery, you don’t want to hear any bubbling or hissing sounds.

How long should golf cart batteries last?

If you play golf twice a week – and use your golf cart for each round – you can expect a standard, brand-new battery to last just under 10 years before needing to be replaced. If you charge your battery correctly after use, you can maximise its shelf life.

According to RMI Golf Carts, manufacturers usually provide a two-year or limited four-year warrantee on new sealed lead-acid golf cart batteries, which are meant to output approximately 20,000 energy units – about 1000 rounds of golf – when properly maintained. 

Most modern-day golf cart batteries come in either 6, 8 or 12 volts (the voltage being the force needed to create an electrical current, indicating the strength of the battery).

If you find yourself needing to replace your battery, be sure to check with the manufacturer’s specifications to determine you have the right one.

Failing this, you can either: count the number of acid holes on top of every battery, and multiply the number of acid holes by two to determine the voltage requirements; or take visit your local battery distributor and seek specialist advice.

Golf cart batteries do come in different types and models – including Flooded Lead Acid; Gel Lead Acid; and AGM Lead Acid – so it’s important to seek clarification if you’re uncertain about which replacement to buy.

How do I keep my golf cart batteries from dying or corroding?

To ensure long-lasting life for your golf cart batteries, make sure you: keep them fully charged at all times; keep the water level in your battery cells at an optimum level; and keep the terminal connections on your battery clean. Doing these three things will prevent your battery from corroding or dying.

Golf cart maintenance website Go with Garretts has some handy tips that cover each of these three points in a little more detail, but in a nutshell, here are the takeaway messages.

Keep your batteries charged

As explained earlier in this article, make sure you fully charge your batteries each time you use your cart. Driving your cart on a partially flat battery may damage it and reduce its ability to hold charge.

Keep the water levels correct

The water line in a battery cell should be above the lead element, around an inch from the top. If it’s below this, add some distilled water (regular tap water may contain damaging trace chemicals). Keeping your battery cells hydrated will prevent the plates inside the battery from drying out.

Keep terminal connections clean

If you spot any signs of corrosion building up around your battery terminals, you could remove them as soon as possible. An easy way to do this is simply by mixing some water and baking soda together, and scrubbing gently with a light, steel-wire brush. Once clean, rinse with water and add some battery terminal protector spray to prevent corrosion returning.

Final message

Golf cart batteries can last anywhere up to 10 years if you charge them correctly.

Making sure your batteries are fully charged (ideally by using an automatic charger to prevent over-charging) before you take your golf cart out for a spin around the course is the best thing you can do to ensure their longevity.

Also, checking for signs of corrosion and also the water levels of your battery cells once every couple of months will further prolong their life and limit the chances of you breaking down halfway through your round.

Drew Wallace
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