There are few things more frustrating than when you’re planning to go golfing, but your golf cart won’t start. You’re not a mechanic, so you have no idea what’s happening. You just know that you’re irritated with your golf cart, but you have no clue where to start looking for the source of trouble.
Your golf cart solenoid may be bad if your golf cart isn’t starting up or isn’t running as it should. The solenoid in golf carts plays a major role in how they operate. Because they’re so important and serve many different purposes, there’s a lot that can go wrong with them.
If you suspect that the solenoid on your golf cart is bad and want to know how to tell for sure, you’ve come to the right place. This article will go through the signs and symptoms of a bad solenoid, how to test it, and what to do if it has gone bad.
What is Solenoid and What Does It Do on a Golf Cart?
Before you can start troubleshooting and fixing your golf cart solenoid, you should first understand what it is and what it does. Simply put, the solenoid is one of the most important components of your golf cart. It won’t be able to start or function properly without one that’s working and in decent shape.
The solenoid on your golf cart is a large bundle of wires that get wrapped into a coil. This coil of wires is stored in a circular tube that’s usually black and has two large terminals and two small terminals on top of it. These wires connect to the top of your golf cart battery and various other places and have the ability to take electrical energy and convert it into mechanical energy. It’s similar to an electromagnet in how it operates, but it’s important to understand that it isn’t one.
The science behind how exactly a solenoid does its job is confusing, to say the least. Suffice it to say, however, that the solenoids’ job is to take power generated by your battery to various parts of the golf cart. It helps your golf cart start up initially, helps feed your generator, and helps to sustain the traction motor. If any of these components don’t get the power they need from the solenoid, you’re in for big problems.
Symptoms of a Bad Golf Cart Solenoid
Golf Cart Won’t Start.
The first and most obvious sign that your solenoid is bad is that your golf cart refuses to start. The solenoid’s main job is to take electricity from the battery and deliver it to the starter so that it has power to turn your golf cart on. However, if the solenoid is bad, your battery will generate power, but the solenoid won’t be able to take it to the starter. This problem can happen for both gas carts and electric ones.
Starter Won’t Disengage
The second sign that your solenoid is bad is if your golf cart starts up, but the contacts on the starter don’t disengage. When all is working well, the contacts come together, start the golf cart, and release from one another. If the solenoid is bad, however, it can cause the contacts to stick together even after the golf cart is running or has been turned off. When this happens, it could cause serious damage to your flywheel, the starter, or the wiring in the starter and solenoid.
While the solenoid is often to blame for this problem, it could also be from broken down contact springs or faulty wiring. Each contact has a gear with a spring on it that pulls the contacts back to their sitting state when they aren’t engaged to start the engine. If these springs or the wiring on the starter or solenoid get damaged, it will cause the starter contacts to remain constantly engaged.
The Golf Cart Doesn’t Always Start.
A sign that your solenoid is on its way but hasn’t completely given up the ghost yet is that your golf cart sometimes starts and sometimes doesn’t.
You Don’t Hear a Click When Accelerating.
If you have an electric golf cart rather than a gas one, the solenoid is a big player in helping it operate. Typically, when you press the accelerator down on an electric cart, you’ll hear a clicking noise, which is the solenoid providing electricity to the accelerator. However, if the solenoid is going bad, you won’t hear this telltale clicking noise. You should have the solenoid checked immediately, as this is often a precursor to your golf cart failing to start.
Where is the Solenoid on My Golf Cart?
If you suspect the solenoid is going bad and want to test it, the first thing you’ll have to do is locate it. On most golf carts, the solenoid is located under the front seat of the cart on the driver’s side. It’s a coil of wires and is usually sitting on top of the golf cart’s battery.
If they’re not on top of the battery, you should be able to follow the bundle of wires attached to the battery on one end and connected to the solenoid on the other. The solenoid will usually get connected to either the starter or the alternator on gas carts or on the back wall behind the motor on electric carts.
Regardless of the type of golf cart you have, start by raising the seat and tracing the bundle of wires from the battery to their origin. By doing this, you should always be able to locate the solenoid.
How do I Test a Golf Cart Solenoid?
Once you’ve located the solenoid, here’s what you need to do to test it and confirm your suspicions.
- Start by gathering together the tools and supplies you’ll need. This includes a voltmeter or multimeter, two ½” wrenches, electrical tape, and gloves.
- Once you have your tools gathered together, you’re ready to begin the testing process.
- Lift the seat up on your golf cart and locate the solenoid.
- Remove the two large cables that attach to the solenoid terminals. They should run from the solenoid to the starter or controller, depending on the type of golf cart you have.
- Cover the cable ends with tape and makes sure they can’t make contact with one another.
- Make sure that the cart switch is turned off and the golf cart is Neutral.
- Take your multimeter or voltmeter and switch the setting to Ohms.
- Your electrical tester will have two long probes on it. Insert one into either terminal on your solenoid where you just disconnected the cables from.
- The reading on your multimeter should be zero, and you can proceed to the next step. If it reads anything other than zero, it means that your starter is constantly engaged, and the solenoid has gone bad.
- Next, turn the golf cart switch or key to the ON position, put the golf cart in Drive or Forward, and gently press the accelerator.
- You should hear a single click when you press the accelerator, accompanied by an ohm reading of between 0 and 0.4 on your electrical tester.
- If the reading is higher than 0.4, your solenoid is bad, and you need to replace it.
- If you didn’t hear a clicking noise when you performed step 11, you should perform step 12 but also do further testing.
- Take your electrical tester and switch the setting to DC volts on the 200 scale.
- Remove the probes from the two larger terminals and press them against the two smaller terminals on the solenoid.
- Repeat step 10 with the golf cart turned on and in the Drive position.
- If your tester shows a full battery after pressing the accelerator even though there isn’t a clicking noise, it means there’s a problem with the coil inside the solenoid is ruined, and you should replace it.
- If, however, your tester is reading as zero, your problem lies somewhere else on the golf cart.
How do You Fix a Golf Cart Solenoid?
If you’re certain that a bad solenoid is the source of your golf cart problems, your next course of action is to replace it. Replacing a golf cart solenoid is fairly straightforward, and you’re basically halfway done if you already have the cables disconnected from the terminals. All that’s left to do is detach any other wires connected to the solenoid and remove it.
The most important thing during the replacement process is that you purchase a new solenoid that’s compatible with your golf cart. Make sure that the voltage of the new solenoid is the same as the old one and that it’s compatible with the make and model of your golf cart. A new solenoid typically only costs between $20 and $70.
Once you have the new solenoid, mount it in place of the old one, and reattach any wire connections exactly as they were on the bad solenoid. You should then start your golf cart up and take it for a test run to make sure the solenoid is working properly.
How do You Bypass the Solenoid on a Golf Cart?
In very rare cases, you may have to bypass the solenoid when your testing it to see if it’s bad. However, bypassing the solenoid should only be done as a last-ditch effort when you’re troubleshooting the wiring in your golf cart. To bypass the solenoid, simply take the two cables attached to the large terminals on the solenoid, and press them together.
If you don’t want to press the cables directly together, you can opt to use a jumper and attach it to either end. Remember, you should only do this for testing purposes and should never attempt to operate your golf cart with the starter cables attached in this way.