Should I leave my golf cart plugged in all the time?

Based on the instructions from golf cart manufacturers (and my personal experience with golf carts), I would argue that yes, you should leave your golf cart plugged in all the time.

Why, you ask? If you are using the golf cart battery charger that came with your cart, then it is designed to optimize the life of your batteries.

Does everyone agree on this take? No, in fact, there are two distinct approaches on how to maintain and charge golf cart batteries.

I’m going to cover both suggested approaches to improving battery life. This will allow you to make a decision for yourself.

The Case for Always Charging Your Golf Cart Batteries

The Position

Whether you’re using your cart daily or setting it aside for prolonged storage, you should keep it on a golf cart charger when the cart isn’t being used.

The Logic

An electric golf cart utilizes a special automatic charger that the manufacturer designed for one purpose — to keep your battery charge where it needs to be.

This automatic battery charger won’t overcharge your battery (contrary to some urban myths). Instead, it will set you up to hit the ground running (or rolling) with a fully charged battery system.

Evidence to Support the Case

There are basically three golf cart manufacturers that rule the marketplace: Club Car, E-Z-Go, and Yamaha. This is one of the reasons why golf carts are so expensive.

If you’re trying to address the question “Should I leave my golf cart plugged in all the time,” then it makes sense to consult the experts.

Here’s what they have to say:

Club Car

Club Car used to offer a 36v golf car (I owned one of these). Many of their current carts have a 48v lead acid battery pack.

Regardless of which model you own, you should take this advice from a Club Car Precedent owner’s manual:

Leave battery chargers plugged in during storage. The onboard computer will automatically activate the charger when necessary.

Ready for winter storage? Plug in your cart.

E-Z-Go

E-Z-Go offers a variety of golf car models to choose from with varying voltage. They even offer a series of carts powered by a lithium ion battery pack.

Cart owners can explore their documentation or check with their local golf cart dealer for battery maintenance advice specific to their model.

Here is a word of advice from an E-Z-Go TXT owner’s manual:

The battery charger may be left connected to the vehicle to maintain a full charge on the batteries, provided the charger is plugged into an active electrical source.

Yamaha

Yamaha is the only weirdo in this group.

Obviously if you’re using your electric golf cart on a regular basis, you should stick with the normal charging process.

However, if you’re planning a prolonged storage, Yamaha wants you to:

Remove the batteries from the golf car and store them in a cool, dry place that stays between 0°C (32°F) and 30°C (90°F).

That’s not convenient or practical, but it gets even better…

Yamaha wants you to make sure that your batteries are kept fully charged (even when they are disconnected from the cart). To accomplish this, they want you to recharge your disconnected batteries every 60-90 days (with a trickle charger, I assume?).

This charging process is inconvenient to say the least.

A Few Important Notes

As I said from the get-go, you should leave your golf cart plugged in all the time (or as often as possible).

However, there are three important caveats.

1. Make sure you are using the charger that came with your golf cart (or an OEM replacement). A golf cart battery is different than a car battery, so the charger for electric golf carts is specific to each make and model.

2. Make sure your charger will stay connected to AC power throughout the charging process. If you store your cart in a location where power goes out regularly, this can be a problem. More on that in the Counterargument section.

3. You must keep the electrolyte solution in your batteries at the proper levels. As the batteries discharge and recharge, fluid levels will drop, so make sure you keep distilled water on hand and add it as needed.

I believe that leaving your cart plugged in is that best approach, but the three notes above are really important.

Counterargument: The Case Against Always Charging Your Golf Cart Batteries

As a mentioned before, there is some debate around the best charging process for an electric golf cart.

It would be unfair for me to ignore those arguments altogether. After all, a golf cart battery replacement is an expensive investment, so one should pursue all the facts before making a decision.

The Position

Leaving your batteries plugged in all the time can actually be detrimental to the life of the batteries.

The Logic

Batteries are designed to charge and discharge, so maintaining a state of full charge isn’t good for long term health.

Evidence to Support the Case

Yamaha’s unique advice for long term storage (cited above) seems to hint that both older batteries and newer batteries benefit from a full charging every 60-90 days.

It logically follows that these lead acid batteries (or even a lithium battery) may not benefit from being fully charged every day.

Another problem is AC power. If you have your cart sitting on the charger and the power goes out, the charger may actually begin to drain the power from your batteries rather than boost it. This isn’t a big deal if power is out for a few hours, but if the cart goes without electricity for a few days, it could damage the batteries.

A final issue with the “always charge it approach” is need to check water levels in the batteries. When a cart stays on the charger, electrolyte levels will drop. Owners need to make sure that they keep adding distilled water to keep the battery cell covered.

If you aren’t charging the cart all day, every day, these levels should stay in a safe place.

A Few Important Notes

Those that argue this case would say that you should unplug the cart from the charger once it is fully charged. That makes sense.

However, opponents would argue that if you plan on storing your cart long-term, you need to make sure you batteries are never fully discharged.

A fully discharged set of batteries could be a much bigger problem than batteries that are charged regularly.

So What’s the Best Way to Charge My Golf Cart?

I’ve given you both arguments so you can make a decision for yourself. My recommendation would be to leave your cart plugged in all of the time — as long you pay attention to the three caveats I listed earlier.

We can all agree that a new set of Trojan golf cart batteries is not the most enjoyable way to spend $1,400, so choose the charging approach that you think makes the most sense and stick to it!

Or, pursue option 3: Go buy a gas golf cart 😉

Other Battery Charging Questions

Should golf cart batteries be charged after every use?

Yes, and that’s all you need to know. Get your batteries back to a full charge after they’ve been used.

Can you leave your golf cart plugged in all winter?

Yes, and I am of the opinion that you should. There is some debate about the best approach to long term storage. Read the rest of the article above to understand both sides of the discussion.

What is the maximum time you can leave a cart unplugged without damaging your batteries?

It depends on the health of the batteries, but it’s safe to assume a discharge rate of about 2% per day. Using that guideline, you can probably leave your cart unplugged for 42 days or 6 weeks without damaging the batteries. Make sure they are fully charged first and that the electrolyte levels are covering the cells of each battery before you leave them for that long.

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