Gas Golf Cart Won’t Work in Forward or Reverse? Here’s the Fix

Just like an electric golf cart, there is a myriad of things that can go wrong with gas-powered golf carts. While there are slightly fewer components involved, there are still enough individual pieces that can malfunction. A surprisingly common problem with gas-powered golf carts is that they fail to work in forward or reverse. 

Why Won’t My Gas Golf Cart Work in Forward or Reverse? 

Most of the time golf carts won’t work in forward or reverse due to the shift cable being broken, electrical issues, ignition switch issues, or a too low idle speed. There are also a varying amount of other reasons it will not work as well such as the transmission has gone out.

There are many reasons as to why your gas golf cart won’t work in forward or reverse. In this article, we’re going to look at some of the most common of those issues and how to fix them. We’ll also discuss whether or not you can fix the problem yourself or if your cart needs the help of a professional. Let’s dive in! 

1. Electrical Issues in the Engine 

What’s the Problem? 

While you might own a gas golf cart, there are still a number of electrical components that can malfunction. Here are a few of the main electrical problems that can occur with your gas golf cart. 

  • The ignition switch 
  • The kill switch
  • The forward/reverse switch

How to Fix It 

The ignition switch on your cart is known to have problems. Wires can become loose, or ground out which causes your golf cart to not fully operate.

The kill switch and its accompanying wiring are designed to direct electricity through the golf cart and shut the engine off when it is grounded out. If it’s malfunctioning, the golf cart may start, but when you move forward or backward it may raddle shut and shut the engine off. Sometimes, you won’t be able to do either one. 

The forward/reverse switch is self-explanatory. You move it to forward to move forward and you switch it to reverse to back up. If the switch is stuck or malfunctioning, you’ll need to replace it to continue. Even if the switch is functioning properly, you may have a shift cable that is stuck or broken.

Each of these three electrical problems is fairly involved and you shouldn’t attempt to do them yourself unless you have mechanical or electrical experience. It’s easy to make a problem worse when trying to fix it if you don’t know what you’re doing. 

2. Broken Shift Cable


Your golf cart may be stuck in either forward, reverse, or in neutral and will start and rev the motor, but it will either not go anywhere, or only go in forward or reverse.

How to Fix it

Remove the seat and move the shift lever. If the lever isn’t broken, look at your cable where it switches gears in the transmission. If this is not moving then you have a broken cable somewhere and will need a replacement. If it is moving, you may need to adjust the cable to enter the shift points between forward and reverse correctly. This can be done with two small wrenches.

3. Damaged Transmission


If your golf cart won’t go in forward or reverse, but your engine starts up and runs well, and you have checked your shift cable, your transmission could be to blame.

How to Fix it

This problem is where the professionals come in. If you have gone through all of the items on this list, as a last resort, you will need to take the cart to the dealer to determine if the transmission has gone out.

4. Exhaust Problems

What’s the Problem? 

Unlike electric golf carts, gas carts need a muffler system to expel fumes given off from the engine. These fumes contain carbon monoxide, oil, and gas residue given off by the engine and its components. When the residue builds up inside the muffler, there’s a chance that it can become clogged, resulting in engine problems. 

How to Fix It 

Fixing a clogged muffler isn’t difficult but it is time consuming. If the clog is bad enough, you may have to disconnect the entire piping system to clean it thoroughly enough. Once you have the system disconnected, undoing the clog is simple, but make sure to reattach everything just as you took it apart. 

It may not always be a clog from the exhaust gas, it could be a bee’s nest, rodent problem, or other item stuck in the exhaust system causing your engine to not run.

5. A Damaged Accelerator

What’s the Problem? 

Your accelerator is responsible for regulating the speed of your golf cart. When you want to speed up, the accelerator directs more gas toward the engine and produces more speed. There are also wires running to the accelerator that give it the ability to operate. 

How to Fix It 

If damage occurs to the wiring or cable to the accelerator, your cart will struggle to move forward or backward. Damaged wiring will sever the electrical connection necessary to operate and a stuck accelerator will result in too much or too little gas flow to the engine. Either way, you’ll likely need a mechanic to repair an accelerator problem. If the cable is broken, you may need to replace it so it revs properly.

6. Golf Cart Dies when shifted into Forward or Reverse but runs in Neutral


The golf cart runs smoothly in neutral, but when you shift to forward or reverse the golf cart dies.

How to fix it

When your engine dies when you apply load but no gas on the pedal, this means that your idle speed is set too low. Consult your owner’s manual to learn how to increase your idle speed on your engine. There will be a screw on your carburator to do this. This is one of the most common problems.

7. The Reverse Warning Buzzer is Disconnected. 

What’s the Problem? 

On both newer electric and gas golf carts, there’s almost always a warning buzzer or bell that sounds when you go into reverse mode. Depending on the age and style of your cart there will be different types of sounds that it makes. No matter what the warning signal sounds like, however, you should always be able to hear it when you’re in reverse. 

If you disable it it on certain carts, it will send an electric signal back to the speed controller or ECU and tell it not to run.

How to Fix It 

If you try to go into reverse and you don’t hear the warning buzzer, you’ll soon find that your cart fails to move in any direction. The reason for both of these issues is likely that the buzzer has gotten unplugged or disconnected. Most golf carts have a safety feature where the cart won’t move if the buzzer is disconnected. 

Therefore, all you have to do to remedy the situation is plug the buzzer back in and you should be good to go. The buzzer and plug should be located on the right side of the cart behind a switch panel. Remove the panel, plug the buzzer back in, and perform a test run by putting the cart in reverse. If the buzzer sounds then you’ll be off to the races in no time. 

8. Dirty Air Filter

What’s the Problem? 

Another similarity between golf carts and automobiles is that they have air filters. The air filter is designed to catch dust and dirt particles and keep them from infiltrating the engine which can cause serious problems. If, however, the air filter gets so dirty that it’s blocking the flow of air, your golf cart won’t have enough power to go forward or backward. 

How to Fix It 

To fix this problem, all you need to do is locate the air filter, and replace it with a new one. One of the signs that the air filter is the problem is that you’ll notice your engine start to run funny once it starts getting dirty. You should check your air filter every six months and replace it as needed. 

9. Spark Plug Issues

What’s the Problem? 

Your spark plugs are an extremely important component for a gas golf cart. You should have one or two of them that help your engine to start up and then operate normally. As your cart ages, however, your spark plugs are prone to rust, corroding, or simply giving out. You’ll need to replace your spark plug or plugs if they’re the problem causing your golf cart not to move. 

How to Fix It 

As with your air filter, you’ll have some warning signs if your spark plugs are the problem. For example, your golf cart will have trouble starting up and shifting from one gear to another if your spark plugs are acting up. You’ll notice laboring sounds when you try to accelerate and your vehicle might misfire when you start it up. 

It’s not overly difficult to replace a faulty spark plug and is a cheap way to rule out or find the solution to your problems.

10. Your Fuel Gauge is Off and you are Empty

What’s the Problem? 

The most common reason for your fuel gauge being off is that your fuel float tank isn’t working properly. There’s a small float that’s connected to the fuel gauge that floats up and down as the gasoline levels increase and decrease. If something happens to the float, it might get stuck in the full position and you run out of gas without even realizing it. 

If it’s stuck in the empty position, you might have a full tank of gas, but your golf cart won’t realize it. The float stuck in the empty position tricks your engine into thinking that gas is unavailable and it will shut down the engine. 

How to Fix It 

No matter which of the above problems is occurring, a simple jiggle of the float and fuel gauge should get things working again. 

11. A Dead or Low Battery 

What’s the Problem? 

The battery on your golf cart works the same way as the battery on your car. While gasoline and oil make the engine work and run, a battery is necessary for the initial startup, and voltage is needed to make it run. If the battery is dead, your engine won’t start up and your cart will definitely not move forward or backward. 

How to Fix It 

Fixing this problem is as easy as jumping your battery. You can use a battery charger or hook jumper cables from your battery to another vehicle and get your battery charged enough to start up. 

12. Malfunctioning Ignition Switch 

What’s the Problem? 

If the ignition switch is to blame, not only will your golf cart fail to move in any direction, there’s a chance that it won’t start up at all. If your cart doesn’t start up, the first thing you should check is the battery and the second thing is the ignition switch. 

How to Fix It 

The ignition switch is made up of a series of wires and interior components on the switch itself. A problem with any of these things will cause a problem with the ignition. The best way to check your ignition switch is to take an electrical tester and determine whether or not there is power flowing from the switch to the starter itself. 

The way to test this is to turn the golf cart off and place the ends of the electrical tester on different parts of the ignition switch. This includes the switch terminals and the individual wires in the switch. Turn the cart ignition to on and check to see if electricity is running everywhere that it needs to. Wherever there isn’t electricity is likely where the problem lies with your ignition switch.