About Golf Cart Battery Chargers

Golf Cart ChargerThis presentation is rather long but understanding batteries and proper charging techniques are extremely important to the longevity of your battery pack and the dollars in your wallet.  Read on to discover typical  failures of golf cart battery chargers and other good stuff.  Do not assume that you need to buy a new charger just because your golf cart battery charger does not work.  

Chargers for electric golf cars fall into two basic types; Automatic (newer) and Not-Automatic (older).  Most of these basic charger types have an ammeter on the front to show the number of amperes being provided to the battery pack.  Otherwise they are very different.  Any 36-volt battery charger should initially start by providing at least 15+ amps to the batteries.  The amps may drop down very quickly if the batteries are fully charged but the ammeter should show at least 15 amps to start off.  If you know that the batteries need charging and the ammeter will NOT go above 15 amps, then you probably have a faulty charger and it must be repaired.

The older non-automatic golf cart battery chargers usually have an ON/OFF/TIMER knob that switches the charger ON or OFF and allows you to set the number of hours the charger will stay on, usually a maximum of 12 hours.

Golf Cart Battery Chargers

Almost all older golf cart battery chargers provide 36 volts although there are some early 24 volt and 48 volt systems as well.  Most of these early chargers will turn on and try to charge any 36-volt battery pack into which they are plugged…they don’t care what the existing battery voltage happens to be.  Newer ‘automatic’ chargers employ a solid state circuit board that MUST detect a certain amount of voltage from the battery pack to even turn on in the first place.  If the battery pack voltage is too low the charger WILL NOT come on!  This usually leads one to think the charger is bad.  NOT SO!  Read on.

Golf Cart Battery Chargers Timer Circuit Board

Lester Electrical Co. came out in the early 80′s with one of the first electronic 36-volt golf cart battery chargers dubbed the ‘Lestronic II’.  It has a small ‘bubble’ fuse encased in a plastic bubble on the front of the case and it has no visible timer mechanism, or on/off switch, as in many other chargers. The ‘Lestronic II’ automatically comes on when plugged into a battery pack, that has sufficient voltage, and cuts off when the charge cycle is complete or when the DC charger plug is pulled out.  

Lester Electrical, of Lincoln, Nebraska, makes many different golf cart battery chargers for different EV (electric vehicle) applications and their chargers are used throughout the world.  World Chargers are designed to automatically adjust for the different AC voltages (typically 120 or 240 VAC) and cycles per second (typically 50 or 60 hertz {abbr: hz}) encountered throughout the world.  Golf cart battery chargers must be built specifically for the AC voltage and cycles/second (hz), or sense and automatically adjust for the these parameters in order to avoid internal damage.  Lester makes chargers for Club Car (36- and 48-volt), Yamaha (36- and 48-volt), E-Z-GO (36- and 48-volt chargers) for golf, industrial and commercial products as well as many other battery powered electric vehicles. There are lots of different Lester chargers out there and they are excellent products.

E-Z-GO has made their own 36-volt golf cart battery chargers for many years. The early ones were non-automatic but in the mid 80′s they introduced the ‘Total Charge’ charger.  It has a white case with a large green label that covers the front panel.  It also has a timer decal and knob in the upper left to turn it on & off and to record the elapsed time of charge the batteries required. Later (’88 to ’97) they produced a ‘Total Charger II’, which features push button start, a ‘charge complete’ light and an LED readout of various voltage functions and length of charge in minutes.  Still later came the ‘Total Charger III’ that did away with the external timer unit.  It comes on when plugged in to a golf car with sufficient battery voltage. In 1995 E-Z-GO brought out their 36-volt ‘PowerWise’ charger for their Medalist and subsequent TXT models.

There are other golf cart battery chargers available manufactured by a variety of companies, most notably Lester Electrical and MAC, but E-Z-GO and Lester have the lion’s share of chargers common to OEM golf car use. The 48- & 72-volt chargers used by Bombardier, Trans II and Global Electric MotorCar (GEM) are ‘oddball’ chargers for which parts can be difficult or impossible to get. Call us at 1-800-328-1953 for more information about these chargers.

WHAT GOES WRONG

Chargers are fairly simple devices but there are several common failures that can be inexpensively & easily fixed. Other failures, such as a burned up transformer, or a bad circuit board can get rather pricey. All chargers have some type of on/off/timer unit (external mechanical, internal electronic or both), two diodes mounted onto an flat aluminum plate called a heat sink (a heat sink keeps the diodes cool by absorbing the heat created by the diodes), a capacitor (with a specific rating called micro farads  designated by the symbol ‘mf’), a transformer (the big heavy thing in the middle), one or more fuses, an ammeter and a DC plug that plugs into the golf cart.

Timer units, diodes and bad DC charger plugs are the most common failures in golf cart battery chargers. A bad timer unit usually will not allow the charger to cut off. If the timer unit is incorporated into a solid state circuit board which has gone bad, then the charger may not even cut on at all. Sometimes it is possible to wire around the circuit board to see if the charger actually works but the board must be replaced if bad. A charger that runs continually will hurt the batteries by overcharging them.

When a diode goes bad the charger will cut on and hum but not show any amps going to the batteries. Many times the charger suddenly hums louder when a diode fails and the external fuse blows (you can see the blown fuse in the bubble on a Lestronic II charger). Don’t replace the fuse until you check the diodes, it will just blow again if a diode is bad. Some diodes must be replaced as a pair, others may be purchased individually.

Golf Cart Battery Charger Diodes

 

bad DC plug and/or charger receptacle is usually visible. Look carefully at the plug and receptacle. They should interconnect firmly and have good clean contact faces. If either looks like it has been hot or is melting then something is wrong. A faulty DC plug will sometimes charge intermittently, cutting on while you stand there and cutting off when you walk away. A bad plug can be a fire hazard because the contacts get very hot when they do not make a good connection. Remember…the receptacle can be as much at fault as the DC plug and both may need replacement to fully correct the problem.

The internal AC fuses of the charger do not typically give problems but a simple continuity test will show them to be good or bad. There is also a DC fuse, which is sometimes inside the charger box and other times located on the outside. A simple continuity test will confirm its condition. Likewise the capacitor is quite long lived and generally does not give problems. It,too, may be tested with an ohm meter. The ammeter will sometimes give trouble, especially if its connections have gotten loose. This sometimes shows up as a brown sweating inside the ammeter dial face. It is an obvious condition once you open the charger box and look.

The bad news comes when everything checks out OK and the charger still does not work. Many times it will come on and hum but show no amps going to the batteries. I’ve even seen transformers catch on fire. If the thing looks like its been ‘cooked’ then it is probably bad. Lightning will take out a transformer, no problem. Be sure to disconnect your charger from the house AC and from the golf car if severe electrical storms are nearby. Also disconnect the charger if you are leaving for an extended stay away. Batteries in good charged condition will keep most of that charge for several months.

Unfortunately transformers are expensive and all the books say the same thing; To test a suspected bad transformer…replace it with a known good one. Simple huh?

If you need any of these parts we have discussed you can find them in this section of our catalog. If you have questions call us at 1-800-328-1953 or email us.

BATTERIES ARE DEAD AND CHARGER WON’T COME ON

Occasionally for some reason batteries are too dead for the charger to cut itself on, or the charger comes on and hums but very little or no amps show on the meter. What to do? The older non automatic battery chargers will come on and try to charge even the most dead of dead batteries. Check the water level and add some distilled water (preferably) if the plates are showing. Plug in the charger and let it charge for an hour or so. Make note of the amps. They may be very low but many times, after an hour or so, you will see a gradual increase in the number of amps the batteries are taking. If this is the case then allow the batteries to continue charging. The charger should eventually come up to full amps and then taper back down again to near zero. The batteries should be OK. Older style golf cars with resistor style speed switches will sometimes have a solenoid failure that allows the battery charge to be drained away by the resistor coils. This is usually indicated by a car that creeps when the brake is off and the car is in forward or reverse.

Modern automatic golf cart battery chargers monitor the voltage in the battery pack and react accordingly. If the voltage gets too low it can cut on and provide some charge. When the voltage stops rising in the batteries, then the charger will cut off. The problem with this is that the charger frequently uses the battery pack to monitor the batteries themselves. If for some reason the charger cannot cut itself back on then it will continually drain the batteries to below the critical ‘cut on’ voltage that the charger must sense to come on and charge. The result is a charger that will not work in that car. The charger is fine but the voltage is too low in the batteries. Solution: you must get the battery voltage up. You can do this by charging each individual battery with a 6 volt, or a connected pair of batteries with a 12 volt, auto style battery charger. It doesn’t usually require a whole lot of charging to get them up to the required voltage for the regular charger to cut on. The other solution is to get an old style non automatic charger and connect it to the battery pack and allow it to bring up the voltage. Once the batteries are recharged they should be OK.

by Jack Triolo

11 thoughts on “About Golf Cart Battery Chargers

  1. Hi. I have a 2001 EZ-GO. I purchased it in 2004. When charging yesterday I noticed the plug going into the wall and the large cart plug were very hot. This was after charging about 30-45 minutes. I never noticed this before but it may have always been like this. It usually takes 16-20 hours when I do an overnight charge. I pulled the plug out as I feared a fire. Is this normal? Mike

    • Hi Mike, It depends on the level of “hotness” you describe. If the cords are warm, this is normal as a lot of power goes through them. However, if the cords were so hot they would burn you as a result of touching them would indicate a problem. The most likely candidate would be resistance. resistance leads to heat. The main causes of resistance could be badly worn or damaged contacts at the DC plug (where cart and cord meet). be sure that these contacts are tight, shiny, and not damaged. Also, check inside the cart and trace the wires from the receptacle to the batteries. If there is excessive corrosion at those terminals, this could also cause resistance. If you batteries are really dead or older, it may take 16 hours for a charge. That is not uncommon. However, if it takes that long for every charge, you might be on the end of your battery life. typically, they’ll need to be replaced every 5-6 years. At the end of their life, they often do not hold a charge well and some of the heat could possibly be due to age. Let me know if you have questions. Mike Williams, Product Development Director.

  2. Hi Guys

    I have a club car ds with powerdrive charger 48v i think its a 2003/2004

    \the batteries are quite flat and havent been used for a while, but the buggy still drives but very slowly.

    I have plugged the charger in, then i hear a click and the charger starts buzzing and starts to work.

    Sometimes after 10 mins or even 2 mins it clicks off and the orange battery light comes on.

    Im assured the charger works so could it be that the batteries are too flat??

    Many thanks in advance

    • Based on your initial description above, I’m not so sure that your batteries are too dead to charge which can often be the case with many modern automatic electronic chargers. Most automatic chargers have a minimum voltage level that is preset into their electronics. If the batteries fall below this level, the charger will not come on. I know this may sound silly as that’s when you need a recharge the most. However, voltage and amperage are inversely proportional. As one rises, the other falls and vice versa. As that applies here, if your voltage drops, the amperage needed to bring them up rises. Lead acid batteries typically are charged in the 13A – 40A range depending on the manufacturer design and preferred battery type, etc. If the voltage is too low, it may require in excess of the 40A limit to recharge, which can be potentially dangerous, which is why this safeguard was installed. But, long story short, if your batteries were below this minimum voltage level, then the charger should not power up at all. But there are always exceptions.

      After a quick review in the Club Car service manual, it appears the possible causes for premature shut down could include AC power supply interruption, on-board computer malfunction or batteries may be already fully charged. I would say that your AC power is fine since if you plug it back in, it should come back on. However, be sure to inspect the AC cord well for signs of wear, nicks, cuts, etc. I also wouldn’t think your batteries are fully charged either because it has set for a while. The most likely cause would be an OBC failure in this scenario. The OBC or on-board computer is the brain of the charging system. It’s installed in the cart itself. Your main negative cable runs through the hall effect sensor in the OBC on it’s way to your speed controller. The OBC is designed to measure how many units of power were used, and communicate that information to the charger once it is plugged in. In theory a good idea, but since 1995, Club Car has experienced trouble with it and has gone through dozens of revisions. There are two ways to determine if the OBC has failed or not. If you have a neighbor of friend with the same charger, take you charger to their cart and plug in. if it comes on and functions normally, the problem is likely the OBC. If this is not an option, you can “bypass” the OBC to determine if it’s bad. This is not an official Club Car test, but it has worked for us for years. However be careful because it involves jumper wires and live power. You’ll need a set of jumper wires with alligator clips on each end. On the back of your charger receptacle, there is a fuse holder. Separate the holder and remove the fuse. Connect one end of the jumper to the “battery side of the fuse holder (not receptacle side). Be sure the clips touch the metal inside. Connect the opposite end to 24V positive or higher. If you have DS model form that time your main negative is on the driver’s far side. The only wire that doesn’t go to another battery. Each battery should be 8V. Follow each battery and wires in series until you get to the third positive terminal over in series and connect. If any doubt use a voltmeter across main negative to the positive connection point. It must read 24V or higher. If not, go over an extra battery. If you’ll send your e-mail address to mike@golfcarcatalog.com, I can send you a cart specific diagram. If you have Precedent from this time period, it would have four 12V, so you’d move over two positive from main negative. I can also send you a cart specific diagram for that as well if you’ll send me your e-mail. Once jumpers are installed, plug in charger. If it comes on and works, your OBC has failed. I would recommend replacing it and you’ll need model #’s from it. However, you could let it charge for a few hours to get it going. Beware that with the OBC in this jumped fashion, the charger will no longer cut off automatically.

      Also, within the troubleshooting, it covers the battery light. The causes above are mentioned, plus an additional one, which is bad batteries. A voltage test on your batteries is NOT sufficient. That only shows their ambient voltage. Without testing voltage under a load, there is no true measure of capacity. You either need to purchase a load tester to test each battery under a load, or you need to drive the cart while you measure the voltage across each battery. Whether you have 12 volt or 8 volt batteries, they should not fall more than .5 a volt of so under load. if the voltage drops significantly you have a bad batteries of bad bank of batteries. Hope this helps.

      Michael Williams
      Product Development Director

  3. Thanks very much indeed Michael,

    I have had a test today of the batteries and each battery has 8v and one has 7.0-7.4

    I have put the batteries on a 12 volt charger a little to boost them.

    What now happens is the charger clicks on but no buzzing sounds, and now it doesnt click off either it just stays on with no buzzing and no amp reading!

    Very strange! The fuses all look good. Im wondering if maybe the voltage in the socket isnt enough!?

    Never seen this before………….

    Any more tips would be hugely appreciated

    Thanks, WIlliam

    • William,

      Was that test done under a load? The reason I ask is that a voltage test with NO load is not an accurate test for battery capacity. The only true measure of capacity is to test voltage under a load. But, I’d have to say right off the bat, that if you have one battery down in 7V range before doing a load test, I’ll bet that one is going to drop really low under a load. Since that one has a lower reading than the others, you might want to start there. It is possible for one battery in the bank to fail prematurely. I’ve seen it hundreds of times. If your test above was not performed under a load, you should have that done. I’d suspect that battery is failing prematurely, and you could also have others, so best to check.

      To boost an 8V battery with a 12V charger, be careful. Only connect to one battery at a time, and use the lowest possible amperage setting on your charger. Based on the fact your charger is not buzzing would mean the transformer has not engaged and is not functioning. The clicking would be the relay inside,. but just because a relay clicks does not indicate that it is good. They can often click and still not work. Did you use my instructions to add power to the fuse holder (on the harness side , not receptacle side)? if so, you may want to go over yet another battery to the next (+) in line to see if that changes. If that doesn’t help, I’m not sure what would be next. Might want to seek out a dealer locally to run through it for you.

  4. What if the batteries have sat for a VERY long time. I tried to jump with a battery charger. When I connected the battery charger, the indicator light showed nothing was happening. Then in the fine print of the manual I see it reads that if battery is less than 2V, the battery charger will not work. Any ideas? Are the batteries completely gone and garbage at this point? thank you

    • Most modern “automatic” battery chargers require a minimum voltage be present in the battery bank prior to the charger powering up and recharging. This is an intentional safety feature. Voltage and amperage are always inversely proportional to each other. As one falls, the other rises and vice versa. So, if the voltage is very low, it’s gonna require a lot more amps to bring the batteries back up. Depending on what that amp level is, it could be dangerous at low voltages. Most modern chargers recharge somewhere in the 13-40 amp range depending on manufacturer specs.

      Long story short, your automatic charger is not going to turn on and recharge those batteries until they get to that preset minimum voltage level. Depending on the time elapsed, they may be too far gone, but worth a shot. As batteries discharge, some of the electrolyte is absorbed into the plates causing the liquid level to drop while discharged. When batteries are recharged, the chemical reaction is “reset” so to speak, and that electrolyte is released back into the battery cells causing the liquid level to rise. Oxygen will quickly deteriorate the lead plate inside, so it is important to recharge frequently and minimize the time spent sitting while in a discharged state. If discharged, the plates are exposed and can sustain damage over time.

      So, you need to try to manually recharge the batteries up to a minimum level. We often recommend using an auto chargers (12V) at low amp setting to recharge. if you have a 36V cart with six 6V, charge two at a time. If a 48V cart with four 12V’s, charge one at a time. If 8V, charge one at a time. see our You Tube video on this exact process for further details: . Once the batteries recover a bit, try your existing charger. Once it comes on, let it finish the cycle. You may also want to test each battery with a load tester. They should typically read around battery reference voltage when sitting (6V battery should read approx 6V). When under a load, if the voltage drops more than a 0.5-1 volt, you could have a falling battery (ies). Also, keep in mind that even under the best of conditions, most lead acid batteries only last 5-6 years, so if they’ve been sitting 10 years, I wouldn’t even bother trying to resurrect them. Likely long one. Hope this helps.

      Mike Williams, Product Development Director, http://www.golfcarcatalog.com

  5. I have a EZ GO 36volt powerwise charger that is not charging batteries enough. Thought problem was batteries but borrowed a neighbors charger and it made a big difference in a 18 hole round without discharging before I could get back home. My question is what could go wrong with a charger that doesn’t let it charge the batteries completely? The relay is working and charge starts but foe some reason it shuts down too soon. Any thoughts.

    • If the charger comes on, hums and the ammeter moves, but it does not charge fully, I’d suggest a diode issue. In that scenario, all outward signs appear to look like it’s charging, but further testing might reveal that all is not as it seems. A couple quick test will rule that out or not. Get out your voltmeter. Remove the seat of the golf cart to reveal the batteries. Place the the positive probe on the main (+) of the entire battery bank. Place the negative probe on the main (-) terminal of the entire battery bank. You should read approx 36 volts, give or take a volt or two. Leave the probes in place and plug in the charger. It should come on, hum, and the ammeter should move. Then, your voltage should jump from around 36 volts up to over 40 volts while charging. If all signs appear to be charging but the voltage stays at 36 and does not jump up to 40 ish volts, there is definitely a diode issue. There are two inside. If one goes bad, you’ll get the scenario described above. If both go bad, the charger will not come on. A diode is a one way gate for electricity. The diode are mounted inside the charger to an aluminum heat sink. They look out of place since wires from the transformer terminate there. You MUST disconnect all wires to a diode for testing. Otherwise, you may not get accurate results. You’ll need an ohm meter to test for resistance in ohms. Place one probe where the wire hooked up and the other probe on the back side of the diode. Observe the reading. Now switch your probes. Since diodes are a one way gate for electricity, you are looking for continuity one direction but not the other. if you have continuity neither way or both ways, the diode is bad and must be replace. I hope this helps. Let me know if that reveals anything further.

  6. Good morning,

    I have a EZGO charger 602718 36 volts, it turns on but the amps are in 3 amps and does not charge the batteries, I charged the batteries individually with a 12 volt charger and they work what can be the problem?

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