Consistent Battery Maintenance Is Key To Longevity And Performance

There’s something to be said about due diligence, especially when it comes to your golf car’s batteries. While many individuals and golf courses are content with simply charging batteries overnight, and checking water levels whenever they get around to it, others conform to a strict maintenance schedule that ultimately prevents numerous conditions that can lead to poor performance and ultimately, battery failure.

Run It Till It Dies

The downtime while your batteries are charging is often inconvenient and some golf car owners run the car until it’s nearly out of power or dead altogether. Batteries that experience frequent deep discharges (discharges of more than 50-percent of a battery’s rated capacity) will have dramatically shorter life than batteries with lower depth of discharge (DOD). The use of ‘opportunity charging’ or charging at every opportunity instead of waiting to recharge until batteries are fully discharged will dramatically increase battery life. (This should not take the place of fully charging regularly.)  If you need longer runtime between charges, consider switching to batteries with higher amp-hour capacity.  This may require switching to a different type of battery with a lower voltage per monoblock but higher capacity.

For example, a golf car with a 48-volt battery pack can use four 12-volt batteries, six 8-volt batteries or eight 6-volt batteries (if space is available).  While all provide the same 48-volt pack voltage, the eight 6-volt batteries provide the highest capacity and runtime. According to Fred Wehmeyer, Senior VP of Engineering at U.S. Battery Manufacturing, a battery that is routinely discharged to 40% DOD will last about 2.2 times longer than a battery that is discharged to 80% DOD. The initial cost for eight 6-volt batteries is higher than four 12-volt batteries; but considering how much longer they will last, the return on investment is much greater.

Water Whenever

Failing to consistently check water levels and add water to your batteries can also result in low capacity and eventual battery failure if left unchecked. Watering flooded lead-acid batteries is one of the most basic and important maintenance procedures. During battery charging, gases evolved from the decomposition of water results in water loss. This lost water must be replaced by regular water addition.  The rate of water loss can be even higher at elevated temperature and water levels must be checked more frequently. If water is not replaced regularly, the tops of the battery plates in each cell can become exposed to air and damaged to the point that capacity is reduced and battery life is shortened.  Electrolyte levels should always be maintained above the top of the plates by adding water before charging and after charging to about 1/8-inch below the bottom of the vent wells.  Final watering should be done after charging to prevent electrolyte overflow.

If you really hate watering batteries, consider a Single Point Watering System and a battery watering monitor. These often come in kits that are pre-made for specific golf cars and/or battery packs. Monitors such as U.S. Battery’s Sense Smart Valve works with SPWS systems and indicates via a dash or battery mounted LED when the batteries need water.

Summer’s Over; Park It Till Next Year

Improper battery storage is, unfortunately,  a common practice with resorts and RV owners. Storing your golf car with the battery pack in a discharged condition for a long period of time can lead to sulfation (a condition that leads to the development of large lead sulfate crystals that reduce the battery’s available capacity). Over time, this sulfation can reduce both the full charge capacity and overall life of the battery.

The battery pack should always be fully charged before the vehicle is put into long-term storage. In winter months, this also prevents the batteries from freezing. Maintaining the batteries at full charge will keep your batteries in good condition until the next time you use them.

Selecting The Right Single Point Watering System

Watering batteries is a necessary maintenance procedure to keep flooded lead-acid batteries performing at their best. But for those that dread the procedure because the batteries are difficult to get to or if they require removing the batteries simply to peer into the cells and check the water level, there’s a much easier way.

Many people are familiar with Single Point Watering Systems (SPWS). These can be a time and labor saver that makes it much easier to add water to flooded lead-acid batteries. These systems simply replace the battery cell caps with small valves that allow water to pour into each cell when they need it, and shut off when the level is correct.

While the process sounds simple enough, the types and kinds of systems can be confusing. For battery manufacturers like U.S. Battery, one of the leading manufacturers of flooded lead-acid batteries in the United States, they are big promoters of using SPWS. For those not knowing which type of SPWS to get, they offer some guidelines to help to make the right decision.

The company works with two major SPWS manufacturers, Battery Watering Technologies (BWT) and Flow-Rite. Both systems are excellent in providing easy ways to keep batteries and battery packs watered correctly, but they differ in their construction. the BTW system utilizes flexible hoses that are easily attached to the battery or battery pack and can be used with a gravity-feed water tank or siphon hose to direct water into the batteries. The BWT system is perfect for tight compartments where reaching the batteries may be difficult but because of the flexible tubing, it can accommodate changes to your batteries and system. For example, if you had an SPWS on a 48-volt system that uses eight 6V batteries, the BWT system could easily be used on a system that was switched out to which could be changed later to using four 12V batteries.

The Flow-Rite system is similar in that it attaches to the batteries in the same way, but it uses more durable-harder water manifolds that are made for specific applications and the number of batteries used in that application. Converting from eight to four batteries would require a new system of hoses, but because the Flow-Rite hoses are more durable, they have the advantage of being able to withstand more abuse in rugged or high-vibration applications. For vehicles and machinery that have very tight compartments and limited space where changing battery types is not an option, the Flow-Rite system could be a good long-term solution.

View images of step by step installations of both systems here: https://usbattery.com/products/watering-systems/

Sense Smart ValveThe best system will depend on your specific application but both systems can also benefit from an electrolyte sensor, which will indicate when it’s time to add water to your batteries. U.S. Battery offers its Sense Smart Valve, which fits into one of the battery pack’s cells, and features a sensor that indicates via an LED light that changes from green to red if your battery pack needs water. Because the sensor is built into an SPWS valve, it works with BWT systems and also has an available dashboard mountable indicator.

No matter which type of system is best for your application, using an SPWS is definitely a much easier way to water batteries, and in doing so, you’ll also prolong the life and performance of your battery pack, which will save you money in the long run. For more information on SPWS systems and flooded lead-acid batteries for your particular application, visit www.usbattery.com.