Preparing Golf Car Fleet for Winter/Extended Storage
Consequences of not taking the time to prepare a golf car for the off-season often are not felt for months. But while courses in cold-weather climates are closed, or cars are being stored for an extended period, trouble can be brewing for vehicles that weren’t properly prepped for a long period of inactivity.
“It’s not uncommon for us to receive calls from courses that are due to open in a week or two, but they’ve discovered their cars won’t run and they’re in a panic,” says Steve Nissen, manager of product engineering for Club Car. “Most of the time, the problem could have been avoided with some pretty simple preventive maintenance before the cars were stored.”
Season-opening surprises can come in the form of dead batteries, ruined cart barn floors and fouled carburetors.
Club Car's technical services and engineering staff have developed a checklist of precautionary steps that courses should take before locking up the cart barn or leaving their fleet exposed under a blanket of snow for the winter. For electric vehicles, making sure a car's lead-acid batteries are ready for the off-season is a priority. "Batteries are the most critical component of electric cars, and they're also the most expensive," says Nissen.
For electric cars:
- Turn the key switch to the "off" position, remove the key and leave the forward/reverse switch in the "neutral" position during storage. Then place the tow/run switch in the "tow" position. Note: since the battery warning light does not illuminate with the key in the "off" position and the tow switch in "tow," do not use the warning light as an indication of the batteries' charge state.
- Clean the battery packs, tops and terminals using a battery acid neutralizer (1 cup of baking soda per 1 gallon of water). Check, clean, tighten, and treat battery terminal connections with a battery terminal protector spray. Tighten all battery cable connections.
- Check the water levels in each battery cell. If water is required, fill the cells to cover the plates, charge the set and then use distilled water to top off each cell at least 1/2 inch above the plates or to the level indicator.
- Leave battery chargers plugged in during storage. If cars are equipped with an onboard computer, the OBC will automatically activate the charger when needed.
- If the battery charger is left plugged in during extended storage, check the electrolyte level and the charger function at least once a month to ensure that proper operation is maintained. To check charger function, disconnect the DC cord (stationary charger) from the vehicle or the AC cord (onboard charger) from the power source and wait five seconds before reconnecting. The charger is functioning properly if the ammeter indicates current.
- If AC power is off for seven days or more, the OBC will not function or charge the vehicle again until it has been restarted. To restart the computer, make sure AC power has been restored, disconnect the DC cord (stationary charger) from the vehicle or the AC cord (onboard charger) from the power source, wait five seconds and reconnect.
- Be sure to check the batteries and charger monthly to maintain the correct water level in the batteries and to ensure the charger is operating correctly during storage.
- Disconnect the batteries for the storage period if any of the following conditions exist: the charger cannot remain plugged in continuously, AC power will not be available during extended storage, or if electrolyte levels will not be maintained.
- Check tire pressure and inflate to 18 to 20 PSI, or as called for in the owner's manual.
- Perform all semiannual lubrications.
- Thoroughly clean the front and rear body, seats, battery compartment and underside of vehicle.
- Make sure the facility has adequate outside ventilation.
- Do not engage the park brake, but secure the car from rolling.
For gas-powered cars with internal combustion engines:
- Place the forward/reverse handle in the "neutral" position and the neutral lockout cam in the "maintenance" position.
- Turn the fuel shut-off valve to the closed ("off") position, turn the key switch to "on" position and run the engine until fuel remaining in the carburetor and fuel lines is depleted and the engine stalls. Turn the key switch to the "off" position and remove the key. Return the neutral lockout cam to the "operate" position.
- Loosen but do not remove the carburetor drain screw and drain remaining fuel into a clean container. Pour the fuel from the container into the vehicle's fuel tank and tighten the carburetor drain screw.
- Disconnect the fuel vent line from the fuel tank vent barb. Use a slip-on vinyl cap to plug the fuel tank vent nipple so it is air tight.
- Disconnect the battery cables, starting with the negative cable.
- Check tire pressure and inflate to PSI as called for in the owner's manual.
- Perform all semiannual lubrications.
- Clean the battery using a battery acid neutralizer (1 cup of baking soda per 1 gallon of water). Check, clean and treat battery terminal connections with a battery terminal protector spray.
- Remove the spark plug and pour 1/2 ounce of SAE 10 weight oil into the engine through the spark plug hole. Rotate the engine crankshaft by hand several times and then install the spark plug.
- Do not engage the park brake, but secure your car from rolling.
For more information on extended storage or overall golf car maintenance, consult your owner's manual.