Golf cart battery chargers are necessary to regulate the current going to your batteries. This is to help prevent over-charging or under-charging, both of which can cause great damage to your golf cart batteries.
The first thing you gotta know is the type of charger that is necessary for your battery pack. For the most part, golf cart battery packs come in either 36 or 48 Volts. And you will need the proper charger for either one. A 36 Volt charger is necessary for a 36 Volt pack, and a 48 Volt charger is necessary for a 48 Volt pack.
Most new battery chargers are fully automatic, which means you can keep them plugged in over night, or however long you want, without the worry of over-charging your batteries.
A smart charger, or a three-stage charger, regulates the amount of voltage going to your batteries by charging them in three stages: bulk, acceptance, and float.
The bulk stage sends the maximum amount of voltage that your batteries can safely receive until they reach up to a 90% charge level. The second stage, or the acceptance stage, tapers off a steady current until the batteries are fully charged. The third stage is the float stage, where the charge is reduced to a trickle to prevent the fully charged batteries from discharging.
The float stage is the key to fully automatic chargers. Many older golf cart battery chargers continue to charge as long as they are plugged in. In this case you would need stop charging when the batteries are fully charged, or else you would actually begin to discharge the batteries by leaving charger plugged in too long. The damage happens when all the water evaporates and the batteries become discharged past the point of being able to re-charge.
Other golf cart battery chargers automatically shut off after a certain period of time, either by timer or when the batteries are fully charged. If you use a timer a good rule of thumb is to set it for at least twice as long as you drove your cart.
And always remember to add water after a charge. This is because the charging process increases the rate of evaporation from your batteries.
If your automatic charger never shuts off or doesn’t make it to float mode it might be because your batteries are not fully charged, possibly because they are no longer able to hold their charge. At this point you will need to determine which battery is the bad one, or if all of them need replacing.
You can use a voltmeter or a hydrometer to determine if the batteries and the charger are in good condition.
If, for whatever reason, your batteries have lost too much charge, then your golf cart battery charger may not be able to read the charge coming from your batteries, and therefore not be able to charge your batteries at all. If this happens you will need to use an older, non-electric charger to bring the charge up to the threshold that your normal charger is looking for.
To help ensure you’ve got a proper charge at all times there are several other accessories or items to consider:
- Battery Maintainers help prevent your batteries from getting too low or losing their charge completely. This is not actually a battery charger, but works with your batteries while they are not charging.
- Battery Charge Indicators let you see how much juice your batteries have left. You can mount one to your dash and wire it to your batteries. They come in either analog or digital.
- On-Board Chargers bolt to your cart, which means your charger goes wherever you go. No matter where you are you can just plug your charger into an outlet and charge your batteries. You don’t have to worry about getting home to charge your cart within a limited period of time.