Does A Golf Cart Engine Run Backwards to go in Reverse?

Golf cart engines come in different types and are made by different brands, many people might wonder if golf carts operating in reverse is a standard feature and whether it’s because golf cart engines can run backward. Let’s explore these questions below: 

Golf carts have reverse as a standard function. On a gas cart when you flip the reverse lever, the engine does not run backwards to go in reverse, but a series of gears will change the direction. In an electric golf cart, flipping the reverse switch will cause the motor to run backwards for reverse.

While operating a golf cart in reverse is simple, there are some safety precautions one needs to take when doing so. Furthermore, the different golf cart engine types will be explored in greater detail to understand how to operate them both:

Can All Golf Cart Engine Types Run In Reverse? 

There are two types of golf carts, gasoline golf carts and electric golf carts.

Gasoline Golf Cart Engines

Gasoline golf carts work like regular motor vehicles as they have a small combustion engine that runs on gasoline. However, unlike a standard motor vehicle, gasoline golf carts do not allow their engine to run continuously when you turn on the ignition. 

Instead, unlike regular motor vehicles that run indefinitely once you turn the key of the ignition, gasoline golf carts only start their engines when pressure is applied to the gas pedal, whereas after it shuts off when you release your foot from the gas pedal. 

This feature allows gasoline golf carts to save fuel, reduces emissions, and helps reduce the noise of multiple golf carts idling on a golf course. Consequently, this feature applies to gasoline golf carts operating in forward drive and reverse.

To operate reverse on a gas golf cart, you will need to move the shift lever to reverse. This will change a set of gears that will allow the golf cart to switch direction. The engine will still turn the correct direction, not backwards.

Electric Golf Carts 

The second and most common type of golf cart/golf cart engine is the electric golf cart. Electric golf carts use batteries that store electricity to power a small electric motor. Electric golf carts usually run on batteries charged via wall plugs or solar panels fastened to the roof of golf carts. 

Like gasoline golf carts, electric golf carts engage their motors once the driver puts pressure on the pedal. Meaning that electric golf carts can also operate in forward drive and reverse. 

Unlike gas carts, electric golf carts will change the motor direction when operating in reverse.

How Does The Reverse Function Of A Golf Cart Work? 

Regardless of the golf cart you drive, it should have reverse functionality, but how does the reverse function in a golf cart work? 

Unlike manual vehicles that require a manual gear shift into reverse, most golf carts operate similarly to automatic cars. Namely, pulling a lever or pressing a lever that engages the gears of the golf cart engine, allowing you to drive in reverse. 

Although each golf cart differs in its design, the reverse switch is accompanied by a lever either to the right or left-hand side underneath the driver’s seat.

How Do You Drive A Golf Cart In Reverse?

Driving a golf cart in reverse is a reasonably simple procedure. Simply turn on the engine, flip the reverse and/or activate the reverse lever under the driver seat, and then use the gas pedal to engage the reverse function. 

When reversing a golf cart, be aware that most models will make a beeping or buzzing sound (similar to when a truck reverses); not only does this let you know that the golf cart is in reverse, but it will also alert people around you that the golf cart is in reverse. 

You should manually check your sides and behind you for safety reasons while putting a golf cart in reverse.

Not all golf carts have the safety features of typical motor vehicles when reversing, such as side mirrors, a rearview mirror, sensors, and/or a rear camera on the dashboard. 

Furthermore, golf carts often operate with more power and speed when put into reverse, while electric golf carts generally have rapid acceleration. Consequently, you should be gentle on the gas pedal when putting a golf cart in reverse to not accidentally reverse into something! 

Finally, since golf carts do not have doors and have minimal covering, ensure all passengers are informed when you put a golf cart into reverse and that all equipment is fastened securely. Not doing so could lead to passengers or golf equipment falling out of the cart at high speed. 

Reversing is particularly problematic for golf equipment. Because golf equipment is usually stored in the rear of the golf cart, should it fall off while you are in reverse, you run the risk of reversing over expensive equipment with the golf cart!

Story time: My first job was at a private golf course. Our service golf carts had loud buzzers when in reverse to alert people that it was in reverse as it is natural to hop in the cart and floor it to disengage the e brake and get going.

We received several complaints about the noise and buzzers were removed. At lunch we would park our carts next to our cars, grab lunch and eat it in the shop. One day someone parked their cart near my car, grabbed their lunch, and someone else got in it, floored it without knowing it was in reverse and long story short I had a huge dent in the quarter panel from the cart.

The next week all the buzzers were reactivated on the carts. This is not only a safety feature for people, but for property and hazards around them.

How Dangerous Is Operating A Golf Cart in Reverse? 

While it may seem odd to highlight numerous safety precautions when operating something as simple as a golf cart, there are instances when an injury can arise despite its low speed and power. 

Golf cart injuries are on the rise due to golfers not taking the necessary safety precautions. The Center for Injury Research and Policy found that golf cart injuries between 1990 and 2000 injuries rose by approximately 132 percent! 

Furthermore, ongoing data capturing post-2010 found that the most common golf cart injuries involved damage to soft tissue like fractures, bruises, and lacerations.  

While it’s unknown how many of these injuries were due to golf carts driving forward or in reverse. Driving a golf cart in reverse is more challenging and involves more power, meaning extra safety precautions must be taken.

How Do You Reverse A Golf Cart If It Doesn’t Start? 

If a golf cart is unable to start or engage its motor, you can still maneuver the golf cart forwards and backward by pushing it. 

This is because golf carts come with “free wheel” technology that allows a driver to move the wheels with the steering wheel while other people are pushing a golf cart forwards or backward. 

When doing so, just make sure that the brakes of the golf cart still work, as going down a hill means that momentum will take the golf cart, making it difficult to operate safely.


In conclusion, golf cart engines allow golf carts to operate in reverse thanks to the functionality of gears running in reverse, not the engine operating backward.