Signs Your Lead Acid Golf Cart Batteries Need to be Upgraded to Lithium

Posted May 28, 2020

With lithium battery prices having fallen 97 percent over the past three decades, golf cart users are increasingly switching to lithium batteries to avoid the maintenance headaches, reduced range, and more frequent replacement costs associated with lead acid batteries. But how do you know when your lead acid batteries have reached the end of their useful lives? Unfortunately, lead-acid golf cart batteries don't have an indicator light that lets you know exactly when they're about to fail. Below we cover the top three most common warning signs to pay attention to. We also provide insights from actual golf cart owners on the top reasons may be time to replace your golf cart batteries and upgrade to lithium batteries.

1. Reduced Power / Longevity

The number one way to tell that your lead acid golf cart batteries may need to be replaced is when they have significantly diminished longevity and power. While all batteries lose usable capacity over time, lead acid batteries lose capacity much faster than lithium batteries. If your golf cart has a reduced mileage range or ability to power up the same hills on your course, even after being fully charged, then you know you are losing battery capacity and power.

In order to test their capacity, you can fully charge the batteries and then discharge them to confirm that the capacity matches up closely with many of the battery’s specifications from the manufacturer. For example, you can determine the battery’s capacity based on how long it will hold a specific charge rating. Batteries are rated at different ampere, or amp, rates. The rating of 56 amps is a common rating on lead acid golf cart batteries. So, if you have a runtime of around 180 minutes or 170 minutes, you can compare how long the batteries run at a specific amp rating.

As a rule of thumb, your fully charged lead acid batteries should be able to get you through about two to three rounds of golf. On the other hand, InSight 48 volt lithium batteries will provide you with enough energy to last four to six rounds of golf.

Reasons To Upgrade your Golf Cart To Lithium

2. Visual Signs

If you find that your golf cart is struggling to make it through your usual rounds of golf, it’s important to inspect your lead acid batteries for visual deterioration. For example, cracked or bulging cases, discoloration, excessive leaking, and loose or broken terminals are a few telltale signs that your batteries need to be replaced soon. In some cases, you may also notice corrosion on the terminals. You can also take the caps off of your flooded batteries and look at the lead plates inside to see if there is any terminal corrosion. They will usually start to warp and look slightly wavy. Also, if the solution inside doesn't look clear anymore and starts to look cloudy, it means a lot of the paste is falling into the solution. This is another sign that the batteries are headed for, or have already reached, end of life.

One of the leading causes of early lead-acid battery death is poor maintenance. RELiON 48V InSight batteries require very little maintenance. No scrubbing corroded terminals, checking electrolyte levels, or adding distilled water. Not only is there less time spent maintaining InSight batteries they require less time to charge. A properly functioning lead acid battery could take 12-16 hours to fully charge. Comparatively, two InSight batteries take 5-7 hours to charge. Which brings us to our final point on when to replace your lead-acid batteries.

Beyond performance considerations, it’s necessary to replace damaged batteries relatively quickly in order to avoid chemical burns, fire risks, or other health and safety hazards that the batteries could pose. Due to the high maintenance lead acid batteries require, poor maintenance is one of the leading causes of lead acid battery deterioration. Fortunately, many of the warning signs can be seen visually on lead acid batteries.

3. Extended Charging Time

Over time, all batteries will have a reduced lifespan as well as slower charging times. However, if you begin to notice extensive charging times compared to when you first purchased the batteries, this is a key sign that your batteries need to be replaced soon. It’s important to first note that the majority of lead acid batteries will be damaged if discharged more than 50 percent. You are therefore already having to charge your lead acid batteries twice as often as lithium batteries simply due to the fact that lead acid batteries cannot be discharged very deeply. A properly functioning lead acid battery could also take 12 to 16 hours to fully charge, compared to two InSight 48 volt lithium batteries, which take only 5 to 7 hours to charge.

Given that, in perfect or original condition, you will already be having to spend an inordinate amount of time charging your lead acid batteries, you will certainly notice when your lead acid batteries require even further charging time as they approach their end of life. Try to take note of the charging time when you first purchased the lead acid batteries versus several years later.

To learn more about how to calculate your energy needs and find the optimal battery for your application and usage, visit our Lithium Battery Selector Tool.

RELiON InSight 48V lithium golf cart battery installed

Why Lithium Batteries Remain the Top Replacement Choice

If you have determined that your golf cart’s lead acid batteries are exhibiting the warning signs described above, consider choosing lithium batteries as their replacement. There are four main reasons why golf cart users continue to choose to upgrade to lithium. We spoke with a golfer and Navy veteran in Florida, Mike Shay, who recently replaced his lead acid batteries with lithium batteries,about why he decided to make the switch:

1. Easy Replacement Process

Mike: “The reason I chose RELiON lithium InSight batteries specifically was because of how easy they make it to replace old lead acid batteries. They’re the same size as traditional lead acid golf cart batteries, to the extent I can even use the same mounting. Also, the single RELiON InSight battery is 48V, versus the six 8V lead-acid batteries I would have needed to combine to reach that same voltage.”

2. Longest Lifespan

Mike: “Even the most well maintained lead acid deep cycle batteries will have a maximum life of about 1,000 cycles at 50 percent depth of discharge. By comparison, InSight lithium batteries have a minimum cycle life of 3,500 cycles at 80 percent depth of discharge. Lithium batteries therefore can last over three times as long and for well over a decade. When you look at the lifespan, not just the upfront price point, and factor in the additional two or three sets of replacement lead acid batteries you’d have to buy, the answer is clear. I actually already recommended the InSight lithium batteries to my neighbor who golfs often because, after upgrading my batteries, I now have about double the allowable distance I can travel before having to recharge compared to the lead-acid batteries that came with the cart.”

3. Lowest Maintenance

Mike: “After dealing with heavy, high maintenance lead acid batteries that you can only discharge halfway, I knew I wanted to upgrade to lithium batteries. For people who would rather enjoy time in their golf cart instead of spend time on maintenance, InSight lithium batteries are game-changers. They make your electric golf cart what it should be: simple, allowing you to just hop in and go. I also no longer have to water the batteries multiple times a month, which is just the cherry on top.”

4. Lightweight & Compact

Mike: “One of the best parts of switching to InSight lithium batteries is that they take up significantly less space, which was key since I wouldn’t have had anywhere to place the additional electronics if I had kept the lead acid battery bank. They also removed about 300 pounds from my cart. In the end, I was able to increase the cart’s speed from about 12 miles per hour to 38 miles per hour, I can accelerate more quickly and do wheelies, and have a much more robust sound system. If I want to add on even more electronic devices, I still have more space on the cart thanks to how energy-dense the RELiON lithium batteries are.”

If you need help choosing the right lithium batteries for your golf cart upgrade, get in touch with an expert at RELiON today.