Engine Inspection and Cleaning
Before any cleaning begins on a gas engine, take a very close look at the engine, engine components and engine compartment. Keep an eye out for wet spots that indicate an oil or gas leak from the engine or related parts. One spot to look at in particular is the crankshaft between the drive clutch and the engine case. A crankshaft seal can become weak and allow oil (or the oil and gas mixture in 2-cycle engines) to leak, leaving telltale oil around.
Also, look carefully at the engine case just inboard of the drive clutch. Most modern 4-cycle engines have a split case that is sealed with a paper gasket that can leak. The older 2-cycle engines have a split case that will spring a leak as well, but they are harder to detect. Look for a very clean spot amongst the dirt. Worse, they have a paper gasket that seals the cylinder base to the engine case. Once this gasket is compromised, the engine’s low-end compression starts to weaken. This leads to weak fuel pump pressure and eventually to more difficult starting. This can happen even with excellent top-end compression.
On the 4-cycle engines, check around the valve cover gasket (usually on top of the engine), look around the carburetor for possible gas leaks (this is not a good time to be smoking), check to assure that the oil dipstick is in place and the oil fill hole has a cap in place. You don’t want to allow water into the crankcase. You might even check the around the differential (rear end) and at the backs of the wheels where the brake cables attach. Wheel seal leaks permit oil from the rear end to leak into the brake drums, contaminate the brake shoes and this greatly reduces braking efficiency. Slight amounts of oil and dirt on and around the engine are not cause for great concern. If there is a wet looking spot and everything else around the spot is dry, you may have reason for worry. If an area on the engine has a lot of oil around it and others areas do not, make a mental note and continue to watch that area in the future after the engine has dried off. If fresh oil or wetness persists then an oil or gas leak may be indicated. Needless to say, we have all the necessary parts to repair these problems, and the parts for the tune up procedures that follow.
Gasoline powered golf cars have their own particular concerns with grease and dirt and battery corrosion. A good place to start your winterization is to thoroughly clean the entire engine compartment. Start by applying an acid neutralizing/cleaning agent to the battery top, sides and rack. Just let it sit and work for a few moments. Then spray a can of ‘Gunk’ Degreaser, purchased beforehand at your local auto parts store and follow the directions. Generally, you spray it on the engine components & frame, let it sit a few minutes and then spray it off using a high pressure tip on a garden hose, preferably with warm or hot water, and then let it drip dry. Pay particular attention to the battery terminals and rack. Direct the spray around the four sides of the battery and don’t forget the interior body panels. Remember, the fairway grass and dirt picked up on the golf course is very corrosive.
Note: If the engine is relatively clean and a light coating of dust and dirt the main culprit, just a battery neutralizing and thorough wash down with the hose may be all that is required. You are not trying to conquer every spot, just keep the compartment relatively clean. It is very difficult to properly service an engine that is caked with dirt and dust. It gets everywhere you don’t want it to be. Grit never helps an engine’s internal components!
Caution: Do not perform this job 15 minutes before tee time. Sometimes getting water on the starter and drive belts will cause them to slip. Allow at least one hour or more for the car to sit and dry.
Now is a good time to check the air filter, the fuel filter and the oil level. The purpose of an air filter is to stop airborne dust and grit from entering the engine and contaminating the cylinder walls, piston rings and engine oil. I have seen air filters that will support a potato crop. Not good! A dirty air filter can reduce engine efficiency by as much as 10% and lead to premature engine failure. Fuel filters perform the same function for the gasoline. Dirty fuel will carry chunks of debris that can clog the very small passages in the carburetor and cause the car to run poorly, if at all. I have seen dirty fuel filters actually prevent a car from running because they are so clogged. Buy your fuel from a high volume gas station and don’t go on the days they fill the tanks. When possible, only use pure gasoline, and not E-10. The ethanol causes build-up inside the carburetor and other fuel system parts. This is extra important for those with 2 cycle engines. Bad gas (especially if it contains water) runs through the entire engine, upper end and lower end, and can permanently damage or lock up the main crankshaft and lower connecting rod bearings. The piston can also seize against the cylinder wall, even if the normal lubrication is present. Does this sound expensive? These filters are inexpensive items that make a big difference to engine life. They will not prevent water-contaminated fuel from entering the engine but they still go a long way in protecting your investment. Replace them regularly. I can’t say enough about engine oil. Keep it clean and especially keep it topped up. Regular 30 weight motor oil (or 10W30 in colder climes) is fine. The same oil you use in the auto. If you change the oil please recycle it. Local auto repair garages or your municipality will guide to the proper disposal. Remember that the oil filter is considered toxic waste and should be disposed of in a similar manner.
Note: Be careful not to overfill the engine with oil. Excess oil will find its way to the air filter, soaking it, and eventually getting into the combustion chamber causing smoky and uneven running of the engine, even fouling out spark plugs. Oil is the absolute lifeblood of any gasoline engine. If it is low, dirty, or too old, make arrangements to have it changed. We cannot stress this too much. Even if the damage is not severe enough to kill the engine, rest assured that no good comes from this condition. Change the oil at least once a year, more often if you use the car a lot, especially in dusty areas. Owners of golf cars with 2-cycle engines must not neglect the oil either. Adequate oil supply is imperative at all times. Use a good marine type, TC-W3 rated, 2-cycle oil, mixable to at least a 128:1 ratio of gas to oil. That means one ounce of oil to one gallon of gas. Not all 2-cycle gas engines use a 128:1 gas/oil mix. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Servicing the Battery
For your personal safety always, always, always remove all metal, watchbands, necklaces, or bracelets before working with batteries. If the jewelry becomes a short circuit between batteries, it will ruin your day, not to mention that jewelery!
Eye safety is a vital concern, too, so be sure to wear eye protection! A spark from a cigarette 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. (We know this from personal experience.) Extreme caution is required. Should you ever drop a wrench or other tool onto a battery top, back away immediately! It’s a whole lot cheaper to replace a battery than have a bill from the emergency room. Retrieve the tool after the smoke clears.
A little preventative maintenance can save you a lot of money down the road. Anti-Corrosion Gel protects your batteries from oxidation, increasing their life.
First make sure all the cell caps are snugly attached. Most modern 12-volt batteries claim to be “maintenance free”, which is an exaggeration if we ever heard one. If your charging system is overcharging the battery, it will boil water out just like the old batteries did. Usually the cell covers can be removed and the water checked.
As a battery charges, the electrolyte level rises. Therefore you should adjust electrolyte level when the battery is fully charged.
Be careful if you remove the cell caps not to introduce dirt and other contaminants into the cells. If water is needed, use distilled water if possible. A Battery Filler Bottle will help you get just the right amount of water in each cell and you can use this durable, inexpensive, bottle for you car or truck too! Local tap water may or may not be suitable for use in your battery, it depending on the presence of trace minerals present in the water. If you do find the electrolyte level of the battery to be low it can be due to the starter/generator overcharging the battery. This significantly shortens the life of any lead acid battery. It is simple test to check the voltage output of the generator but it does require a multi-tester.
Carefully wriggle the positive and negative battery cable ends side-to-side and gently up and down. There should be no looseness or movement. If there is then the cable end needs to be tightened some more. The up and down motion should not cause the cable terminal end, which is secured to the battery post, to flex. It should be rigid to the post. The cable itself can flex but the metal terminal end should not. If it does easily flex, or worse, it’s downright floppy, you may have a battery cable end about to give it up. Fix it before it fixes you, where you least expect it! Also inspect the ground cable that runs from the battery negative to the frame of the car. Do not overlook the battery ground of a gas car. A bad or faulty ground will drive you nuts! It will cause one to look everywhere, except at the ground, for an electrical problem because it seems as though the problem has to be elsewhere. Start with the basics and then move to the more complex. If the ground cable at the frame looks rusty or corroded, remove it and clean it.
If the battery cables have the old style terminals that encircle the battery post and have a bolt to clamp it tight to the post (which is just about obsolete), then follow this tip. Remove and examine the inside of the collar of each battery connector. The lead should be shiny and bright on both the outside of the battery post and on the inside of the lead ‘banjo’ terminal at the end of the cable. If there is any dullness, it is beginning to oxidize and you’ll need to clean the lead surface, preferably with a sharp knife, or other sharp edge, until it’s shiny clean. Clean just enough to remove the oxidation, do not take too much of the lead. There are commercial battery terminal cleaner tools and if used properly 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 inside the terminal that can be very difficult to remove, especially after a great while. 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 most susceptible to oxidation and corrosion. Many times people with older automobiles think their battery is about to die when it will hardly turn the engine over. They are surprised to learn that the battery is fine but the terminals were so oxidized or corroded that the current could not flow. It’s a lot of amperes trying to flow and they need a clean circuit.
The type of oxidation mentioned in the above section is fundamentally different than corrosion. Although both are caused by the acid atmosphere in and around the batteries, corrosion is much more sinister. The crust and/or cable looseness can cause the car to stop. Corrosion eats the car alive, aluminum and steel frames alike!
Aluminum frames may handle seaside salt air better than steel, but both are the vegetable de jour to battery acid. Here again the positive terminals generally take the brunt of the corrosion but the negative posts will corrode as well. If they are badly corroded, you will need to do some serious cleaning. Here you may need to remove the cable ends from the battery, soak them in neutralizer, wire brush the metal ends and then carefully inspect them. If the ends are okay, firmly wire brush or scrape the battery post clean, reinstall the cable on the battery and tighten the nuts securely to the battery post. Make sure the terminal bolt and nut are clean too. Don’t contaminate a clean cable end with corroded hardware.
Corrosion can appear as thick yellow goop (sometimes gooey, sometimes hard), white powdery fluff or as bluish goo. Sometimes these different kinds are on the same terminal or post or battery rack. This is never a good thing, as corrosion seems to beget more corrosion. Real trouble comes when it starts to get on the frame of the car. Wave goodbye to the battery rack…and part of the car frame in severe cases. And it is so easy to prevent! Just hose off that battery and rack several times a year. No big deal! b. If the battery rack corrosion is bad enough, you will need to remove the battery and clean the rack and battery hold down bracket. After a thorough cleaning, allow it dry and treat the metal with Anti-Corrosion Gel. This will give you a head start on preventing future corrosion.
Bare metal will rust and corrode much faster than properly treated metal. A paint based treatment is not recommended because when the paint dries the acid atmosphere will cause it to flake away, soon exposing the metal rack to new corrosion. NOTE: Don’t overlook the importance of the brackets that hold the battery firmly in place. The manufacturer would not include these items if they were not needed. They keep the battery from rattling around while the car moves over rough terrain. This protects the fragile plates that allow the liquid electrolyte to freely course through the sponge like pores that allows the battery to convert chemicals into electricity. Also, in the event of an accident, the hold down brackets keep the battery in place so it does not end up somewhere it’s not supposed to be, like your chest or head.
Finalizing the Winterization
Recharge your 12-volt battery to a full charge. Charge it with your home charger for a couple of hours or until the charger ammeter drops near zero. (In the spring give it another charge before you put the car in full operation.)
If you have any electrical accessories that draw a constant current from the batteries; such as a 12-volt clock, an unswitched battery charge indicator or gas gauge, a radio with a clock or memory circuit that remembers your favorite stations, they must be disconnected or otherwise switched OFF. These constant little draws from the battery will soon drain it of charge and unpleasant things will occur. This is not a day-to-day problem during the active season when the battery gets a charge every few days, but after weeks and months of bleeding the battery, trouble lurks.
Check the tire pressures and inflate to 20–25 PSI. If you have had any problems with a slow leaking tire, take some blocks of wood and put under the axle of that tire so that if it does go completely flat, the wheel rim will not sit on the deflated tire causing the sidewall to crack. 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 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 tee. If one front tire is worn a lot more than the other, or the tread has signs of feathering or scrubbing, then a front-end alignment may be needed.
Say goodbye to your car until next season!