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Bad cable equals expensive battery replacement for Club Car EZGO Golf Cart

Updated on April 17, 2016
Pcunix profile image

I was born in 1948 and spent most of my career as a self employed computer trouble shooter for Unix systems.

I mentioned losing a battery in our Club Car EZGO electric golf cart at my "How to repair a broken battery terminal". That repair didn't last long; I soon had to buy a new battery.

I initially thought that the damage shown in the pictures below had come from accidentally leaving the battery cap loose. As it turns out, I was wrong about that.

Well, not entirely. Leaving the cap loose would have been a careless and unthinking act on my part. The actual cause was a different careless and unthinking act on my part, so while I was wrong in the specifics, the top level cause was dead on: it was my own dumb fault.


I'm kicking myself extra hard because I know better. I noticed this problem, knew it was a problem, but I didn't act on it instantly. That cost me $148.00 and may end up costing me another $148.00 before I'm done.



Basic Electricity


Resistance in an electrical circuit causes heat. Everybody who has ever done even the most cursory study knows that. Heck, you might even know that if you never learned anything about electricity.

I certainly know it.

I know it very well, in fact. I've burned my fingers more than once building little electronic circuits and have smelled burnt resistors from my mistakes more times than I'd like to admit. Electrical resistance creates heat, that's basic. That's how electric heaters work, right?

Small current flows create a little heat, but even a 1.5 volt battery can heat up a thin wire enough to burn your finger. Six eight volt batteries wired together produce a good amount of electrical current and the amount of heat that current can generate if it hits resistance is quite impressive.

I initially thought this mess came from a loose cap
I initially thought this mess came from a loose cap


The original meltdown


The picture at right is the original meltdown and explosion that happened shortly after my post repair. Note that this was not the repaired post that blew; it was the other terminal.

As I said, because my discovery of this came when I heard a loud "bang" under my seat, I thought that perhaps I had left the battery cap loose after checking the water levels. Loose cap, hydrogen gas bubbles out, a tiny spark ignites it, flame melts lead and plastic, more gas, and "pop".

Nope. That's not what happened at all.

I had noticed this rust and had meant to order new cables
I had noticed this rust and had meant to order new cables
This is what it should look like, though even that one is rusting a little
This is what it should look like, though even that one is rusting a little


Rust isn't such a great conductor


As the second picture shows, one end of the cable for that battery had a good deal of rust.

I noticed that. I even made a mental note to get new cables. I even called the local auto parts store to see if they had short cables like this (they didn't).

I ignored it.

Which is totally stupid, yes. Rust is not a great conductor of electricity. At the very least I should have taken some steel wool or a file to this and cleaned it up to get some shiny metal. But I did not. I just tightened it down and forgot about it.

That wasn't a good decision.

Melting lead from a bad connection
Melting lead from a bad connection
I hope I can file that flat enough to make a solid connection - if not, that's $148 out the window. Click to see full size.
I hope I can file that flat enough to make a solid connection - if not, that's $148 out the window. Click to see full size.


With enough heat, the lead melts


So.. apply a nice 48 volt current through some unexpected resistance and you get heat. Enough heat to melt lead. That's what had happened to the original battery and it melted enough lead and burned enough plastic to open the battery right up as we can see in the pictures.

And now it was on its way to happening again. While driving down to get our mail, I smelled something burning and stopped. I flipped open the seat to see the batteries and touched the terminal. That burned the tip of my finger.  Just a little, I expected heat so I had touched it very lightly.

It had been raining, so I had a damp paper towel handy; I touched the terminal with that and it sizzled like water splashed on a frying pan. Hot, very, very hot.

I cooled it down with the wet towel, tightened up the nut (which was loose because of the lead melting underneath the cable) and drove it home, stopping frequently to cool it down and retighten.  



The end of a two year old cable
The end of a two year old cable
The rusted and broken end that caused this mess
The rusted and broken end that caused this mess


Salvage?


I don't know. I have ordered new cables ($25 plus shipping from Buggies Unlimited) but I'm not sure if I can file the lead down flat enough to get a good solid connection.

You can see in the photos at right that the cable was actually broken - rust, heat, who knows, but that wasn't helping any.

My tardiness in replacing these cables may cost me another $148.00 and that annoys me greatly. If I didn't know any better to start with, I'd just call it a life lesson leaned, but I DO know better, so this was completely unnecessary.

I'll be having a long talk with myself if I do have to buy another battery, that's for sure.

The cables on my car battery attach differently
The cables on my car battery attach differently
This seems like a better design to me
This seems like a better design to me


Auto battery cables are different


I've never seen an auto battery cable that wasn't a ring clamp as shown in the final pictures. I wonder why golf cart battery cables aren't done that way - it seems like a better design to me, less apt to loosen up and cause this sort of problem.

Oh well: it will be what it will be. I have ordered the new cables and hope not to have to buy another battery. It's getting on toward winter, so I'll be putting the cart away soon, but it has to be charged every few weeks to keep the batteries from freezing, so I need to have this all corrected before that.

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  • LillyGrillzit profile image

    Lori J Latimer 6 years ago from The River Valley, Arkansas

    Very informative Hub. Thank you for the wise advice.

  • Pcunix profile image
    Author

    Tony Lawrence 6 years ago from SE MA

    I was just at the Buggies Unlimited forum and did a search for "melted"

    A lot of people have done the same dumb thing, so I am not alone. They even sell a battery post refinisher!

  • SteveoMc profile image

    SteveoMc 6 years ago from Pacific NorthWest

    Resistance is no good. Unless, of course, you want to resist something. I have 'invented' a few solutions myself that went the wrong way. But, as an appliance repairman, you should have seen some of the solutions that I came across. One was a hot water tank and a dryer hooked to the same wire. The wire out of the tank had been stripped and a hook fashioned on the end, another wire from below had a hook as well and was the hot lead. To run the dryer, you had to take a pair of pliers and unhook the wires, run the dryer while that wire flopped around and then re-hook it up to run the the water heater. I told the owner that he was putting his kids in serious danger. He told me he knows because when that wire hit the pipe, his kids would get shocked while washing the dishes. I told him, I couldn't just walk away from the situation and I stayed and ran a new circuit for the water heater from the panel and put the wire in conduit. We then hooked the dryer up properly.

  • Pcunix profile image
    Author

    Tony Lawrence 6 years ago from SE MA

    Wow. What can you say to someone like that?

  • profile image

    Peter Enmore 6 years ago

    Why are you burning so many resistors?

  • Pcunix profile image
    Author

    Tony Lawrence 6 years ago from SE MA

    Three guesses. If one of them includes the word "stupid", you could be close.

  • ilitek profile image

    ilitek 5 years ago

    i learnt a good guide here.thanks.

  • profile image

    FredWilbur 2 years ago

    I want to thank you for the very informative post. It has helped me in diagnosing why I just burnt my fingers and what to do to fix it. I appreciate you being open and admitting that you are human. We all have made costly mistakes, by you sharing yours, you may have helped me avoiding destroying another battery by melting the post down.

  • Pcunix profile image
    Author

    Tony Lawrence 2 years ago from SE MA

    Happy to have helped.

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