Should I leave my golf car charger plugged in all the time?


If only I had a nickel for every time I’ve been asked this question…

Interestingly, given that we are E-Z-GO dealers, I naturally assumed that the correct answer was the one given in the E-Z-GO Owner’s Manual.

But, I get the question so often from owner’s of golf cars, that I started to wonder why so many people thought they should leave their golf car charger plugged into their golf car all the time when not in use. So, I did a little research.

It turns out that there is good reason for the confusion. Each manufacturer seems to have seemingly contradicting guidance.

  • Club Car recommends that electric golf car chargers be left plugged in to the golf car during prolonged storage.
  • E-Z-GO recommends that electric golf car chargers remain unplugged from the golf car during prolonged storage.
  • Yamaha recommends completely removing the golf car batteries and storing them externally from the golf car.

I’ll address each manufacturer’s advice separately as outlined in their respective Owner’s Manuals, then give some additional advice given my experience.

Club Car

Club Car currently only offers new golf cars with either a 48V Lead Acid battery pack, or the Lithium. Historically, they offered a 36V golf car as well, as evidenced by the 1991 Club Car sitting on my lot that I just took in on trade.

However, since 48V vehicles are more common now, I found an Owner’s Manual for a 2007 Club Car Precedent 48V. This is what the manufacturer recommends:

Leave battery chargers plugged in during storage. The onboard computer will automatically activate the charger when necessary. If the battery charger is left plugged in during extended storage, the electrolyte should be checked monthly to ensure that proper level is maintained. AC power should also be checked periodically.

2007 Precedent Golf Car Owner’s Manual, Page 27

On page 28 the manual continues,

If charger cannot remain plugged in, or AC power will not be available during extended storage, disconnect the batteries for storage.

2007 Precedent Golf Car Owner’s Manual, Page 28

This is how I interpret the above instructions:

  • The Club Car’s On-Board Computer (OBC) is designed to detect low battery pack voltage and automatically start the charger to recharge the batteries.
  • The periodic recharging process will lower the electrolyte solution in the batteries, so the levels must be checked and distilled water added as necessary.
  • If AC power from the outlet to the charger is disrupted or turned off or otherwise unavailable – something bad happens?

One thing I’ve noticed during the winter in the upper half of the U.S. is that when the temperature drops, the self discharge rate on the batteries is very gradual.

This gradual discharge rate seems to effect the “automatic” detection of the OBC, whether on a Club Car, E-Z-GO, or Yamaha, so that the charger does not reliably restart the charging process when the batteries reach sufficiently low voltages.

Another issue I see with leaving the battery charger plugged in to the golf car, is that if the charger loses AC power from the outlet, the charger will activate and start pulling power from the golf car batteries.

I tested this recently on the older 1991 Club Car 36V. I unplugged the charger from the wall outlet then plugged the charger into the golf car. There was a noticeable “click” at the charger which means it was pulling power from the batteries.

Over time, this draw will drain the golf car batteries. I’m going to have to go on record as saying that any benefit to keeping your charger plugged into your golf car during prolong storage is negated by:

  • Having to check the water levels regularly – so you’re batteries don’t run dry.
  • Having to check AC power from the wall – so you’re batteries aren’t drained by the charger in case of a power disruption.

E-Z-GO

E-Z-GO currently offers a several 48V lead acid models, a couple of 72V lead acid vehicles with and without on-board chargers, and a few different ELiTE Lithium models with 3 options of battery pack size.

Similar to Club Car, they also made a 36V golf car. In order to compare similar vehicles I found an owners manual for a 48V TXT. Emphasis mine.

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. If power to the electrical source is disconnected or interrupted the battery charger will continue to check the charge on the battery pack, this will draw power from the battery pack and eventually drain the batteries if power is not restored in a timely manner.

Owner’s Guide TXT Fleet Electric, 633137, Issued 2013, Revised 2014. p.ii

Additionally, and somewhat contradictory, on page 42 of the same manual in the Maintenance -> Prolonged Storage section it continues:

For portable chargers, disconnect the charging plug from the vehicle receptacle. For on-board chargers, disconnect the charging harness from the batteries.

Owner’s Guide TXT Fleet Electric, 633137, Issued 2013, Revised 2014. p.42

Interpretation:

  • E-Z-GO indicates that you may leave your charger plugged in, but do so at your own risk.
  • If your golf car has an external, or portable charger, (which pretty much all the 48V golf cars have) you should disconnect the charging plug from the vehicle receptacle

Exceptions:

  • If you have a golf car, or utility vehicle with an on-board charger, and are planning to store the vehicle for an extended period of time you should disconnect the wiring harness from the batteries.
  • I also tested the new Lithium ELiTE charger by disconnecting the charger from the AC wall power, then connecting the charging plug into the vehicle receptacle. The charger gave no indication that it was pulling voltage from the golf car batteries. This also is a very similar charger to the 72V on-board charger.

Yamaha

The most extreme recommendation, and one which I view as a bit impractical for most owners is to remove the batteries from the golf car and store separately.

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).

Yamaha Owner’s / Operator’s Manual, YDRE 48V Golf Car, JW9-F8199-21, p. 9-1

The next paragraph really drives home the impracticality of this approach.

Have the batteries recharged every 60-90 days to keep them fully charged. The batteries must be kept fully charged to avoid damage.

Yamaha Owner’s / Operator’s Manual, YDRE 48V Golf Car, JW9-F8199-21, p. 9-1

Interpretation:

So you need to charge the batteries, then remove them. 60-90 days later re-install them to recharge, then remove them again?

I understand why they are recommending the removal of the batteries, to minimize any parasitic load that may accelerate the discharge rate of the batteries, but this approach seems extreme at best, and dangerous at worse.

Conclusion

In my opinion, the recommendation that E-Z-GO makes is the simplest and most practical.

  • Charge your golf car completely,
  • Unplug the charging plug from the vehicle receptacle when charging is complete.
  • Repeat every 20-30 days.

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