Can You Charge A Golf Cart With A 12-Volt Charger? Don’t Try It Before Reading This Guide!

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can you charge a golf cart with a 12 volt charger

Don’t let a dead golf cart battery ruin your day. Can you charge a golf cart with a 12-volt charger? Find out now and get back on the course!

Is your golf cart charger not working? Are you frustrated and at a loss for what to do? If so, you might be considering using your trusty old 12 Volt battery charger to charge your battery. 

So, Can You Charge A Golf Cart With A 12-volt Charger? The answer is YES. 

It is possible, but there are several reasons why using a 12-volt charger on your Golf Cart batteries is a bad idea.

In this post, we’ll see why it isn’t the best idea and look at the circumstances in which it might be OK to use your 12-volt.  We’ll also take a look at the precautions you NEED to take if you decide to go down this route. 

And we’ll discuss further why – sometimes – your 12-volt charger might be your golf cart’s best buddy.

Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all chargers are equal – read on to find out more. 

Key Takeaways

  • Charging a golf cart with a 12-volt charger is possible but problematic
  • The process involves isolating battery pairs, charging each set, and equalizing batteries
  • Consider using a maintenance charger for long-term battery health

Can You Charge A Golf Cart With A 12-Volt Charger?

Technically, it is possible to charge a golf cart with a 12-volt charger, but it is not the best approach.

The best approach is to use the golf cart charger that came with your cart. But what if it isn’t working?

In most cases, your factory golf cart battery charger can’t detect any charge in the battery. This may be because you didn’t use the cart for a while.

Maybe over the cold season.

And the battery is so drained that the tiny charge within is not detectable.

In the olden days, this might not have been a problem. But in the 21st Century, chargers have microprocessors and sensors. And to kick off charging they need to sense voltage.

And if the voltage is below a certain threshold the charge won’t start.

Not ideal.

So what can we do to solve the problem, This is where your beat-up old 12-Volt charger comes into its own.

We can use it to put enough charge into the battery so that when you use your designated charger it will fire up.

Let’s see how.

Golf cart Battery Stack

Charging Golf Car Batteries With Your 12-Volt Charge

Before we start, I want you to know that there are risks involved every time you handle or work with batteries. They contain dangerous gases and acids that can be harmful if not handled right.

Choosing your Charger: When it comes to charging your Golf Cart batteries with a 12 Volt charger, we need to consider what charger we use.

It is fine to attempt to charge with your smart charger, but bear in mind that you may face the same problem. If the smart charger cannot detect the low voltage in the cart batteries it may not switch on.

That is why I recommend using a ‘dumb’ or ‘manual’ charger with an on / off switch. No need to worry about tricking the charger here, just switch it on, and off you go!

If you don’t have one, you can pick them up at affordable prices – they do still make them!

For instance, the NoOne 2A/10A Car Battery Charger, 6V and 12V is a battery charger and trickle charger that is NOT automatic. You can pick yours up here.

If you have any doubts, don’t attempt to work with the battery. Instead, consult a professional for help and advice.

Always wear appropriate PPE to protect your hands and eyes.

And before you start, make sure that the golf cart is switched OFF and in NEUTRAL.

That being said, let’s dive in!

Locate The Battery

First, we need to know the whereabouts of your golf cart’s battery. Most often this will be beneath the seat.

To find it, simply lift the seat up and, hey presto, there it is.

Now we’ve found the battery, we need to determine it’s voltage. This information is usually printed on the battery itself or can be found in your golf cart’s manual. 

As a rule of thumb, the battery is either a 36-volt or 48-volt configuration. This might seem a lot when compared to your car’s 12-volt battery. But remember that your car battery only needs to start the engine. The golf buggy needs to carry you and your partner, clubs, and equipment all the way around the course.

It needs serious juice.

So, rather than a large 36 or 48-volt battery, we have a configuration of smaller batteries. These are wired together in series to make the total.

Usually, but not always, the configurations are like this:

  • 36 Volt Configuration = 6 x 6-volt batteries
  • 48 Volt Configuration = 6 x 8-volt batteries

Let’s take a look at the procedure for charging the 36 Volt battery.

Golf cart 48V Battery Stack
48 Volt Golf Battery Under Seat

Check The Battery

There are a few things to check before we start.

Check The Water Level In The Battery

Golf cart batteries need the right amount of water to work well. Check the water level in each cell before charging the batteries.

Use distilled demineralized water to fill the cells if water levels are low. The lead plates inside the battery should be completely submerged. But be careful not to overfill them or use tap water, as it can harm battery life.

Check The Terminals Are Clean And Tight

Dirty or loose terminals can cause problems with charging. Remove the caps on the positive and negative terminals, and clean them with a soft brush. Use a socket wrench set to tighten the terminals if you need to.

Make Sure There Is No Corrosion

Corrosion on the battery terminals can affect charging. Check for any signs of corrosion. If there is corrosion, clean the terminals with a mix of baking soda and water. This solution removes rust and helps ensure proper charging.

It is important that the terminals and the clips have a good connection. This is why it is necessary to remove any dirt, debris, or corrosion.

Check For Damage Or Leaks

Inspect the batteries for any signs of damage or leaks. If the battery casing is cracked or damaged it’s going to be a replacement job.

Isolate The Battery Pairs

Here’s what to do

When you look at the battery you can see that they are in series, wired next to each other.

If you divide them into sets, you have three pairs of 6-volt batteries each adding up to 12 volts.

  • Set One: Battery 1 & 2
  • Set Two: Battery 3 & 4
  • Set Three: Battery 5 & 6

So we will charge each pair of 6-Volt batteries separately with our 12-Volt charger. This matches the voltages and enables charging.

Here’s how.

Charging a 12-volt battery is simple. Attach the positive charger alligator clip to the positive terminal. And the negative to the negative.

Now, remember we said that we are charging two 6-volt batteries simultaneously?

So we attach the positive battery charger clip to the positive terminal (+) of battery 1. And then attach the negative battery charger clip to the negative terminal (-) of battery 2. The circuit now envelopes both battery 1 and battery 2 at the same time. For all intents and purposes, we have turned our pair of 6-volt batteries into a 12-volt battery.

Now we must leave the charger to do its job for between 30 minutes and one hour.

We’re not trying to fully charge the battery. Rather, we are pushing enough power into the battery to make it detectable to your main golf cart charger.

If you like, use a voltmeter to keep an eye on the voltage to avoid overcharging the batteries. Once the voltage reaches around 12.8 to 13 volts, it’s safe to say that the battery pair is fully charged. Bear in mind, though, that for our needs, we don’t need to charge to the top.

Repeat For All 3 Sets

Now, repeat the process for the other two battery pairs. Remember to switch off the charger before connecting it to the next pair for safety.

Finally, charge the third pair of batteries following the same procedure. Make sure to double-check all connections and settings.

So, although charging a golf cart with a 12-volt charger takes extra time and effort, you can do it. But make sure you follow the necessary safety precautions and guidelines. This keeps your batteries in optimal condition.

Plug In Your Main Charger

Now we can plug the cart into its dedicated golf cart battery charger. It will now detect the charge that we put into our battery with the 12-Volt charger.

This final charge of the golf cart battery takes some time. Wait until the battery is fully charged.

The charger will kick off once it is finished. and we can turn our attention to our golf swings!

Equalize The Batteries

We need to equalize the batteries to maintain their health and prolong their life.

The Problem

When you charge battery sets in series, it is unlikely that we have been so precise that we charged each set the same. And, even when your golf cart charger takes the strain, it may not level them up. (but if it has an equalization function, it will!)

Unless your charger can give a balancing charge, we need to check our sets to see what voltage we pumped into them.

If we have, for instance, batteries reading at 6.72v, 6.5v, 6,89v, etc., it is a problem. We need every battery to be within 0.05v of each other.

Undercharged batteries will experience sulfation, which causes lasting damage in some cases. And overcharged batteries may leak hydrogen gas and underperform.

So, we need to solve the problem. What we need is a balancing/equalization charge.

A balancing charge is an intentional but controlled overcharge of the battery bank. The charge brings each cell in the battery up to a 10% higher charge than normal, thus synchronizing them.

There are two potential methods to equalize the charge on golf cart batteries: using the factory charger or connecting the batteries in parallel.

With Factory Charger

If your factory charger has an EQ function it’s easy street for you.

The manufacturer’s charger is tailored for your golf cart batteries. So it is hands down the best way to equalize the charge. First, turn off the golf cart and any accessories to remove all loads from the batteries.

Then, connect the battery charger to the cart. The charger will adjust the charge as needed to equalize the battery levels. Or else it may have an EQ setting for you to use.

Check the handbook for more info. This process can take several hours. Be patient and keep the charger connected throughout.

In Parallel

If you don’t have a charger with a balancing option, things start to get complex. There is another way to achieve parity using a 6-Volt charger. But it isn’t without hassle.

To balance the batteries, disconnect all batteries and connect them in parallel. Positive to positive and negative to negative. Then charge the whole bank with a 6-volt charger for 36 hours. This will equalize the charge for each battery and give them the saturation charge they need.

Unfortunately, though, your 12-volt charger won’t be much use in this scenario. 6-volt batteries in parallel need to be charged by a 6-volt charger. If you try it with your 12-volt charger, you risk damage to the batteries and the charger.

48 Volt Golf Cart Batteries

The procedure we just ran through was for a 36-volt setup.

But what if you have a 48-volt setup? The good news is that the process is similar.

Your 48-volt golf cart battery is a series of 8-volt batteries, rather than 6-volters.

You’ll need to divide the batteries into pairs of 8-volt batteries.

This will create three pairs of 16-volt batteries.

Then, use a 12-volt charger to charge each pair of 16-volt batteries separately. Follow the same steps we talked about for the 36-volt before.

The difference is that the 12-volt charger will only provide a partial charge to each 16-volt pair. This is because 12 volts is less than 16 volts.

But don’t fret, because that’s all we need for our purposes.

Then we simply complete the charge with our factory or dedicated charger.

How To Maintain Your Battery

Maintaining your golf cart battery ensures it functions with efficiency and lasts longer. Remember when I talked about the pre-charge checks you need to do? Well, it is the same as that, only done regularly.

So check water levels, clean and tighten the battery, and inspect for damage on a regular basis.

Here’s a possible maintenance schedule for your battery.

Maintenance TaskFrequency
Check water level and add distilled water as neededMonthly
Inspect battery terminals and cables, clean with a battery terminal cleaner if necessaryMonthly
Check battery voltage with a voltmeter and charge if voltage drops below 12.6 voltsMonthly
Charge the battery every 45-60 days to prevent sulfation and maintain chargeEvery 45-60 days
Perform an equalization charge to balance the cells and extend battery lifeEvery 6 months
Perform a load test to check battery capacity and performanceEvery 6 months
Fully charge the battery and disconnect it from the golf cart if not in use for an extended period of timeAs needed
Replace the battery if it is damaged or shows signs of leakageAs needed

Note: This is a sample maintenance schedule. Please refer to the manufacturer’s instructions and guidelines for specific maintenance requirements for your golf cart battery.

Consider A Maintenance Charger

A maintenance charger is a great investment for golf cart owners. They prolong the life of your golf cart’s batteries with a steady trickle of power to keep them topped. This means you can set and forget even in the off-season. With the right maintenance charger, you can cut the need for a 12-volt charger in a crisis – by cutting the crisis.

Keep it plugged in when you are not using the cart and it will keep your golf cart batteries full and ready to go always.

Schauer Golf Cart 48 Volt Battery Maintainer

The Schauer Golf Cart 48 Volt Battery Maintainer is a good solution to keep our golf cart batteries fully charged. It uses a slow charge mode at 3 amps to equalize all the cells in the battery pack.

It then switches to maintenance mode to keep the pack topped off.

The maintainer is small and you can install it on the cart, or use it as needed without installation. It is fully automatic and works for any type of lead-acid battery, including AGM and Gel batteries.

It is compatible with Fairplay, E-Z-Go, Club Car and Yamaha golf carts.

Shauer JAC0336MAN 36-volt Battery Maintainer

Shauer also makes the JAC0336MAN – which is a maintainer for 36-volt golf cart batteries.

It prevents sulfation during storage and It can be used on 10 to 300-amp-hour lead-acid batteries. It is fully automatic and can be left on the battery in maintaining/float mode and is current limiting.

It has a simple LED system – a red LED that indicates AC power on, a yellow LED that indicates maintaining at 2.5 amps, and a green LED that indicates maintaining mode at 1 amp or less.

The JAC0336MAN has the usual safety features and can be used for any type of lead-acid battery. So, conventional, maintenance-free, deep cycle, gelled-type, AGM, and valve-regulated batteries.

HTRC 36V and 48V Golf cart Charger

The HTRC 36V and 48V Golf Cart Charger is a smart charger designed for golf carts. It can be used with a variety of battery types, including lithium, LiFePO4, lead-acid AGM, gel, and SLA batteries.

With a trickle charge functionality, it can maintain the battery’s charge level over time, extending its lifespan. This charger is compatible with EZGO RXV & TXT golf carts and can charge and maintain batteries ranging from 20AH to 400AH.

Remember, your golf cart’s batteries deserve proper care and maintenance. A maintenance charger is the difference between a worry-free ride and getting stuck on the course. So, invest in a reliable charger and enjoy peace of mind knowing your batteries are well taken care of.

Why Can’t I Use A 12 Volt Charger All The Time

So what if your dedicated charger is not working and you don’t want to invest in a replacement? You may be asking whether you can keep your cart’s batteries charged all the time with your 12-volt charger. There are several reasons why this is a bad idea.

Insufficient Voltage

A 12-volt charger may not provide enough voltage to give a golf cart battery a full charge. Golf carts often use 6 or 8-volt batteries. A standard 12-volt charger works best with a 12-volt battery, end of story.

Manufacturers tailor their chargers to meet the needs of the battery. So it might not provide the voltage a golf cart battery needs. And you will always have that nagging feeling that you are making do with a bodge job.

Imbalance And Uneven Charging

As we have already seen, charging with a 12-volt charger can cause an imbalance in charge levels. Uneven charging means that some batteries in the series are more charged than others. This can impact performance and battery lifespan.

Better to charge your golf cart battery in series using a suitable charger. This ensures consistent charging for all batteries.

Safety Risks

Overcharging a battery can pose safety risks. Most 12-volt chargers we use for this procedure need to be the old type, without auto-shutoff.

So unless you watch the charging process very closely, you risk overcharging the battery.

And that’s a risky business.

Using a 12-volt charger w/o shutoff can lead to overcharge, causing the battery to produce hydrogen. This increases the risk of hydrogen ignition and battery damage.

So use the appropriate charger for your golf cart batteries EXCEPT when you need to dig yourself out of a bunker.

This ensures optimal performance and keeps your batteries safe and well-maintained.

Golf Cart Battery Hacks

There are a couple of sneaky things that we can do to make our lives a little easier

12-Volt Battery Hack

If you have a 12-Volt battery you can connect it up to the first pair of 6-Volt batteries in the series. Then you can use your regular charger to charge the cart. The voltage from the charged 12-volt battery may be enough to trick your main charger into action!

12-Volt Charger Hack

Connect the car charger to the first bank. Once that is hooked up and running you can try to plug the cart’s charger in. In some cases, it will come on straight away. You can then disconnect the bypassing charger. The normal charger will stay on and charge normally!

Before You Go…

Don’t let a dead golf cart battery catch you off guard and ruin your day on the course!

Take control of your golf cart’s battery life and read my article, ‘How Often Should I Charge My Golf Cart Batteries? Don’t Let a Dead Battery RUIN Your Game‘ I’ll talk about how often you should charge your batteries and avoid costly replacements.

Don’t miss out on this vital info!

Frequently Asked Questions

Here’s the FAQs

What is the best method to charge golf cart batteries?

The best method to charge golf cart batteries is to use a charger specifically designed for the battery voltage. This ensures proper charging and maximizes battery lifespan. Make sure the golf cart is turned off and the charger is compatible with the battery voltage.

How can you charge a 36V golf cart using a 12V charger?

Charging a 36V golf cart using a 12V charger is a complicated process and not recommended, as it can damage the batteries. The safest and most efficient method would involve using a charger with the correct voltage for the golf cart.

Is it possible to use a car charger for a golf trolley battery?

It is possible to use a car charger for a golf trolley battery, but only under certain circumstances and with great caution. A 12-volt charger can be used to charge golf cart batteries, but it might require extra steps or equipment for a proper charging process.

What are some tips for charging 6V golf cart batteries with a 12V charger?

Charging 6V golf cart batteries with a 12V charger is not recommended, as it can lead to overcharging and decreased battery life. Always use a charger specifically designed for the voltage of your golf cart batteries.

Can a regular battery charger be used for an electric golf cart?

A regular battery charger can be used for an electric golf cart but only if it’s compatible with the voltage of the golf cart batteries. Using an incompatible charger may lead to ineffective charging or damage the batteries.

Which 48V golf cart battery charger is the best?

The best 48V golf cart battery charger depends on the specific make and model of your golf cart, as well as personal preference. It’s important to choose a charger compatible with your golf cart battery and follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

Can I charge all the batteries at once, or will that not work?

Yes, you can charge all golf cart batteries at once when using a charger specifically designed for the voltage and type of batteries used in your golf cart.

When using a 12-volt charger to charge six 6-volt batteries, each battery will only receive a partial charge of 2 volts (2 x 6 = 12). To avoid this, it’s best to charge two batteries at a time. By doing so, each pair of batteries can charge to 12 volts, with each battery receiving a full charge of 6 volts (12 volts – 2 batteries x 6 volts each = 12 volts). Once all six batteries are charged two at a time, you’ll have around 36 volts, which is sufficient for your factory charger to work.

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Steve Brown


Steve is a gadget enthusiast who's always been intrigued by batteries. The founder and editor of Battery Chargers Info, he's assembled a group of like-minded experts to cover every facet of portable power His aim is to help you learn more about your favorite gadgets and their batteries so you can maximize both their performance and their life. Follow him on Twitter: @batterycharge1

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