It’s never fun when you’re driving your golf cart around and suddenly sense a burning smell coming from your golf cart. While it’s possible that oil, gas, or something on your engine is to blame, it’s more than likely your battery cables melting.
Golf cart battery cables melt when there’s too much current and electricity flowing through them. An excess of current and power will lead to overheating which then causes the battery cables and terminals to melt. Excess current is usually the result of loose or corroded battery cable connections.
While a loose or corroded battery cable connection is usually the reason for overheating, they aren’t the only possible culprits. For that reason, it’s important to put your troubleshooting skills to the test so that you can get to the bottom of your issue. Otherwise, overheating will continue even if you install new cables and batteries.
9 Reasons That Golf Cart Battery Cables Melt
It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that the reason your battery cables melted is that they were too hot. Overheating, in turn, is usually the result of a sudden surge or excess of current flowing through the battery cables. However, it’s important to figure out WHY your battery cables suddenly overheated. They were working fine a minute ago, so what caused them to suddenly heat up and start melting?
Loose Terminal Connection
The main reason that golf cart battery cables melt is that they aren’t tight enough. The cables get attached to the battery terminal with a nut. If the nut isn’t tight enough, it will result in a loose connection between the cable and the terminal or battery post.
The same thing happens with the electrical wiring in houses. If a wire that’s connected to an outlet or light isn’t tight enough, it will result in arcing. Arcing is where electricity is able to escape from the wire because of a loose or open connection. Arcing electricity essentially means that it’s set free and can travel wherever it wants to. In the case of a battery cable and terminal, it will often cause excessive heat and start melting the outside of the battery cable.
In the same way that a loose connection between the cable and a terminal can cause arcing and your golf cart battery cables to melt, so can corroded terminals. Corrosion will cause the same issue, in that the cable loosens fro the terminal and is free to arc.
To clean your battery, I have found this cleaner work wonders. I have tried scrubbing with a wire brush, and really didn’t want to spend the money on the specialized cleaner, but when I did it worked shockingly well.
After cleaning the terminals, coat them with a protectant to prevent further corrosion.
Bad or Missing Ground Strap
The purpose of a ground strap on a golf cart is to help it run, charge, and turn off. The ground strap connects the battery to the chassis or frame of the golf cart and is the foundation of your golf cart’s electrical wiring and system. When a ground strap is missing or gives out, any number of electrical problems can result, one of which is overheating.
Because the strap connects the battery to the chassis, overheating often starts with the battery cables. You’ll have to tighten or replace the ground strap if it’s missing to prevent overheating from continuing.
A Bad Starter (for gas golf carts)
While a bad starter is rarely the cause of melted battery cables, it’s a possibility. If the starter goes bad, it can draw excess power through the battery cables, which can overheat them and cause melting. As we said before, however, this is rarely the cause, so you should check other options first.
Cables Have Low Resistance
If your battery cables have low resistance, they will overheat more quickly than wires and cables with higher resistance. Low resistance cables essentially means they have a low resistance to heat and can’t absorb it. The older your battery cables are, the more likely it is that they don’t have the same level of resistance that they once did. Therefore, they’re more likely to overheat if you operate your golf cart for long periods of time.
The Cables are Too Long
In general, you want short cables so that power flows quickly from Point A to Point B. The longer your battery cables are, the longer it takes for power to flow and transfer. The result is that more stress gets put on your cables and cable ends and they’re more likely to overheat and melt.
Your Cables Aren’t the Right Size Causing your Golf Cart Battery Cables to Melt
Once again, this problem is the same for house wires, battery cables, and all other electrical wires. If they aren’t big or thick enough, they are likely to overheat and cause your golf carts battery cables to melt. However, you’re probably wondering why your golf cart is acting up now because you’ve had the same battery cables all along.
Initially and for short periods of time, small cables are able to handle the electrical needs of your golf cart battery. However, the longer you operate the cart and the more power your battery requires, the hotter the cable will get. Eventually, the heat becomes too much and the cable melts. The same concept holds true for cables that are too long or that have low resistance. They may work fine for a while, but the heat eventually becomes too much and they melt.
Stock battery cables can be sized ok for most applications, but once you add larger tires, rear seats, and extra weight you will find upgrading your battery cables will make a huge difference.
Battery cables and electrical wires are measured in gauges of thickness. In most cases, golf cart battery cables are either 2 or 4-gauge. If your cables don’t have this same thickness, you should replace them with new ones.
A Short Circuit
The final possible reason for your golf cart to have melted battery cables is because of a short circuit. Short circuits happen when two hot wires touch each other. So, if a bare wire within your golf cart happened to touch one of your battery cable’s bare ends, it will cause a short circuit and melt your cables. However, this problem is easy to spot because you should be able to see the wire that caused the short circuit because it will be melted as well.
One Bad Battery
Most electric golf carts have either 4, 6, or 8 batteries. If you have one bad or damaged battery it can cause a higher amp draw of current through the cables and cause one to melt. This article explains what to do if you do in fact have a bad battery.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are my golf cart battery terminals melting?
The only way that your golf cart battery terminals will melt is if there’s an overheating problem with the battery cables. Check for corrosion or a loose connection between the cables and the terminal.
Why is my golf cart battery charger getting hot?
Your golf cart charger gets hot because of the high degree of electricity that’s pouring from the charger to the golf cart battery. While a little heat is normal when a golf cart battery charger is connected to the battery for long periods of time, you should disconnect them if they get too hot to touch.
Why do golf cart batteries catch fire?
If your golf cart battery discharges too much hydrogen combined with melting battery cables, it can cause them to catch fire or explode.