Why do golf car batteries need water? 


The other day a customer called in to the office because their golf car batteries would not charge. After asking them a series of questions I came to the question “when was the last time you put water in your batteries?” they replied, “Uhm, never. “ 

Battery issues are by far the most common issue we get called about, and customers not knowing that they need to add water to their golf car batteries are one of the most common of the battery issues that come up. So, why do golf car batteries need water? 

During the normal operation or charging of your golf car, the batteries tend to warm up. When this happens, especially during the hot summer months, the water in the electrolyte solution will evaporate and escape through the vents in the caps. As the electrolyte level drops in the batteries, the lead plates can become exposed to the air and start to sulfate and become inactive. This is bad and drastically reduces the life of your battery. Let’s look into what you can do to prevent this from happening to your golf car batteries. 

How often should I check the water level in my golf car batteries? 

The biggest determining factor to answering this question is how much your golf car is used.  

During the spring, summer, and fall months, when your golf car is being used the most and it is hottest, it is generally a good idea to inspect the water levels in your batteries on, at least, a monthly basis. 

Golf cars that are used mainly for neighborhood and personal use might only need to be checked every other month. Golf cars that are used for golfing on a daily basis, or even a fleet golf car owned by a course, may need to be checked every other week.  

We service a golf course account that puts a high number of rounds on their golf car fleet each year and pays to have the batteries inspected and serviced every 2 weeks during the golfing season. 

When should I add water to my batteries? 

In this case I’m not talking about just adding water when the level seems low. This is more of a sequence question. Once you notice that your golf car batteries are low, you need to determine how low. Follow these guidelines: 

  1. Are the lead plates still completely submerged in the electrolyte solution? (no portion of the plate is above the solution) 
    • If Yes (completely covered) 
      • Are batteries fully charged? 
        • If Yes, add water to the appropriate level. 
        • If No, charge batteries first. 
    • If No, add just enough water to cover the plates and recharge batteries. 

Do not fill the batteries before charging. If the batteries are “topped off” before charging the process of charging the batteries will cause the electrolyte solution level to rise which can then leak from the caps of the battery causing both a mess of “battery acid” all over your garage floor, but losing some of the electrolyte solution will also weaken the battery and reduce your battery’s life. 

As long as the plates are not exposed, the general rule is: 

Charge first, then top off batteries.

What kind of water is safe for my golf car batteries? 

Okay, I’ve determined that my batteries need some water added to them and I’ve charged them. What kind of water should I use? 

The battery manufacturers recommend that you should only add distilled water to your golf car battery. De-ionized water is not preferred, but better than just straight tap water.  

Reverse osmosis filtered water should also be fine since the process strips the minerals from the water which is really what you’re trying to eliminate. 

As a last resort, tap water can be used, but not recommended. Although, it’s better to add tap water rather than having no water in the batteries.  So, to recap: 

Water (in order of preference) 

  1. Distilled water 
  2. Reverse Osmosis filtered water 
  3. De-ionized water 
  4. Filtered water 
  5. Tap water 
  6. Bottled water (least recommended since minerals are often added for taste) 

Again, any water is better than no water. 

How do I add water to my golf car battery? 

Adding water to golf car batteries isn’t complicated, but there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind when working with batteries. 

  • The batteries contain battery acid. 
  • The batteries can out-gas hydrogen-sulfide gas, which is flammable. 
  • Batteries can have high voltages and amperes. 

Safety: 

You should wear the following protective equipment. 

  • Safety glasses 
  • Protective clothes (or old clothes) 
  • Gloves 

Equipment 

  • Battery fill cannister, or 
  • Battery fill system & nozzle, or 
  • 1 Liter empty water bottle with a nozzle. 

Steps 

  1. Unplug the golf car charger from the golf car. 
  2. Add water to the fill canister, or empty water bottle. 
  3. Remove the caps on the batteries 
  4. Place nozzle of fill canister or water bottle over the battery cell opening. 
  5. Dispense water into the battery cell. 
  6. Proceed to the next cell in the battery. 
  7. When each battery is watered, replace the battery cap. 
  8. Continue until all batteries that need water are finished.
How much water should I add to my golf car batteries? 

If you inspect your batteries regularly you should not have to add much water on each occasion which will make the entire process faster. Generally, you only want to fill them until the solution is about ¼ inch above the lead plates.  

A common mistake people make when adding water is over-watering. Meaning they add too much water. If you fill the battery cell to the point where it is near the top, you’ve over filled it. If this happens, do not try to take any water out, just leave it and move on to the next cell or battery. Gradually, the water will evaporate out, but you may also find that the battery will have solution splash out onto the battery. 

Summary 

You should now know what it is important to ensure that the water levels in your golf car battery are important to the life of your battery (and wallet). 

You know how often to check your battery water levels, when to water your batteries, what kind of water you should use, the equipment & safety precautions, the steps to add water, and how much. If you’re not really a DIYer and don’t feel comfortable (or just plain don’t want to) watering your batteries, look up the location of your nearest golf car dealer. Good luck! 

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