Electric golf carts are iconic vehicles. The only downside? They need to be charged.
The best way to charge a golf cart battery is by using the golf cart charger. However, there are times when the golf cart charger may be unavailable. Or, if you’ve run you deep cycle battery system too low, the charger won’t even turn on (these chargers need to sense a minimum voltage from the batteries in order to work).
If you find yourself in this situation, you might wonder: “Can you charge a golf cart with a 12 volt charger?” Yes, you can, but it’s a complicated process. Your best and safest bet is always the golf cart battery charger, but if your batteries are completely dead or you only have an automotive 12v charger on hand, you’re in luck (sort of).
Today I’ll explain how to use a 12v battery charger to give your dead battery some juice.
Please note: Any time you work with a car battery / marine battery / golf cart battery, there is a risk involved. Please proceed with caution or reach out to a golf cart mechanic if you are unsure how to restore your battery charge safely.
How To Charge A Golf Cart with an Automotive Battery Charger
Your electric golf cart is most likely powered by a 6-volt or an 8-volt deep cycle battery series. This write-up will explain how to charge a 36 volt golf cart with an automotive charger.
Here’s what you need:
- Designed for 6-volt and 12-volt lead-acid automotive, marine, and deep-cycle batteries.
- Integrated thermal sensor alters the charge to eliminate over-charging in hot climates and under-charging in cold climates.
- Charge dead batteries - Charges batteries as low as 1-volt.
- Restore your battery - Automatically detects battery sulfation and acid stratification to restore lost battery performance.
- Compatible with all types of vehicles.
- Socket Wrench Set (in case any of the battery cables are loose)
Step 1 – Find (and understand) your batteries.
The first thing we need to do is get everything prepared.
Important! Make sure your cart is turned off. Make sure your cart is in neutral.
Find where the batteries are on your golf cart (usually under the seat) and expose them. If its easy enough to remove the seat, do that. It will make your life easier.
You may not be a voltage expert, but here’s what you need to know:
- A 36-volt golf cart has six, 6 volt batteries.
- You want to split those 6 batteries into 3 pairs.
- Each pair that you create will total 12 volts.
- A 12 volt car charger can charge each pair independently, since a pair equals 12 volts.
Step 2 – Isolate the battery pairs.
Use some painters tape or draw a quick sketch. Number your batteries from 1-6. This will help you keep track of which batteries you’ve charged.
- Batteries 1 & 2 = Pair 1
- Batteries 3 & 4 = Pair 2
- Batteries 5 & 6 = Pair 3
At this point, you’ve reduced the 36-volt golf cart (with a six 6v battery setup) to 12-volts (since you now have 3 pairs of 6-volt batteries). If your head hurts from the math, I completely understand. Just make sure you’re following these instructions carefully.
Step 3 – Connect your 12 volt battery charger.
Confirm that you have a 12v charger. Battery voltage matters.
Find your first pair of golf cart batteries that you isolated earlier. Attach the positive charging cable to the positive terminal on Battery 1. Attach the negative charging cable to the negative post on Battery 2.
Once you have Pair 1 connected to the charger, you can turn it on. You are now charging your first pair of batteries.
Check the charge of your battery pair using either the charger (if it has an indicator), or a voltmeter reader.
When the volts have reached 12-12.8, you can stop charging this first pair.
Turn off the charger (this is important).
If you’re confused about what needs to be done, check out this YouTube video.
Step 4 – Repeat the process.
You can now move repeat step 3. Move onto the second pair of batteries. Once those are charged, move onto Pair 3.
It’s that simple.
How Often Should You Charge a Golf Cart?
Electric golf carts are meant to be plugged in whenever they’re not in use. It’s true that overcharging your golf cart can cause damage to the battery, but this isn’t a problem if your cart has an automatic charger that turns off when it has fully charged.
Overcharging is only a problem when the charge goes past the capacity of the battery.
Ideally, you should be charging your golf cart every day with a golf cart charger. This keeps your batteries primed and ready for action.
How Do You Maintain Your Golf Cart Battery?
You should regularly be on the lookout for any leaks. If your battery is leaking, you need to find the source of that leak. In some cases, you may need to replace your golf car batteries. Make sure you’re wearing gloves during these inspections, as battery acid is very caustic.
The second thing you need to do is clean the battery of any debris that may have coated the box or terminals. Make sure the cart is off and in neutral. A quick clean and wipe-down will keep your battery running at high capacity.
You also want to monitor the water levels of the battery. Check these levels monthly. If the water level is looking low, you want to use distilled water to bring it back to the correct levels. The lead plates inside each battery should always be covered with distilled water to maintain battery life. There are automated water bottles that can sense when to stop pouring, so you don’t overfill the battery.
- Shuts off automatically when battery cell is at proper level, no over filling
- Features the double action fast flow valve tip that prevents after-drip
- Stops surface discharge caused by wet battery
- Tough, polyethylene construction
Ways To Stop Your Golf Cart From Dying
Some people may notice that their golf cart dies very fast after charging. If this is happening to you even though you are charging your battery nightly, the issue is probably to do with your cart’s battery water level.
If this sounds like your issue, you may need to check on your water levels more often. Use distilled water to bring your battery back to the correct levels.
We have an article on how far an electric golf cart will go on a single charge. If you’re not hitting those metrics, it’s possible that your batteries have reached the end of their useful life. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as replacing one dead golf cart battery. You usually need to replace the entire series.
Golf Cart Charger Replacements
I hope you appreciated our tutorial for the common question: Can you charge a golf cart with a 12 volt charger? Follow our step by step instructions to revitalize your batteries in a time of trouble. Ultimately, however, you want to be using a charger specifically designed for golf car batteries.
There are some great replacement options on Amazon. We’ve highlighted our favorites below.
- Crowfoot plug ("D" style also available)
- 16 feet of power cord
- Portable and lightweight construction