Last Updated on November 17, 2023 by Chuck Wilson
The leaves are changing, the mornings are getting colder, the squirrels are busy raiding your bird feeders, and you can see the geese headed south. Yes, it’s that time of year. It’s time to tuck your golf cart in for a long winter’s nap.
So how to winterize your golf cart? Winterizing your cart is easy and can be done by performing a few necessary chores:
- Clean the Cart thoroughly.
- Tune it up.
- Air the tires to the proper pressure.
- Disconnect the battery after parking it where it will be staying.
- Cover it with a tarp or fitted cover.
Before you can start looking forward to next year… These steps are for electric carts and gas-powered vehicles in one combined article.
If you’re lucky enough to be in the climate that allows you to use your golf cart year-round, then none of this will matter to you. For those of us that will be dealing with sleet and snow and freezing temperatures, here’s how to prolong the life of your golf cart.
Inspection of Gas Powered Carts
Since we’re about to degrease and clean the engine, we will be checking the engine for trouble spots we will need to keep an eye on in the future. Once the engine is clean we won’t have any telltale oil leaks so we should make note of them now for future reference. If oil or wetness persists then you may have cause to worry.
Let’s take a look at the engine its components and all of the entire engine compartment and try to identify any trouble spots or leakage. Any oily areas on the engine could be a sign of a leaking seal that may need to be addressed before any real damage is done.
On 4 cycle engines check around the rocker arm cover and shaft seals for telltale black muddy spots. A small amount of oil and dirt is normal, but a lot of it could indicate a serious problem.
Check the seams on the engine crankcase as these usually have a paper gasket engine that is prone to sometimes leak. 2-cycle engines also have a split case, but the most usual place for leakage is between the cylinder and the crankcase. This area also has a paper gasket that can fail.
It is important to check the seal between the cylinder and the crankcase more closely because a failure of this seal can cause low-end (crankcase) pressure issues which will affect your fuel pump pressure. Golf cart fuel pumps operate from pulses of pressure from the crankcase, and any leakage between the cylinder and the crankcase will result in inconsistent pulses to operate the fuel pump diaphragm. Low fuel pump pressure will cause hard starting or unexpected interruptions during a normal run because fuel delivery will not be consistent.
First, Clean It Well
While the cart is outside, go ahead and move it to an area where the neutralized acid and grass and mud can be rinsed off without causing any damage to a painted driveway. Inspect the battery terminals for corrosion and if they need attention, use a solution of 1/4 cup of baking soda to one cup of water to scrub them clean. Let’s not disconnect any cables at this point.
Apply engine degreaser to all of the exposed engine parts including the frame. Allow it to sit for a few minutes so that it loosens all of the debris thoroughly. If you have a pressure washer, then great! If not, try to use a garden hose with a nozzle that can direct a thin hard stream of water to wash the engine.
Go ahead and use the hose to rinse it well and try to get as much of the debris off that you can right now. This way you won’t have to deal with it in the spring. It makes it a lot easier to perform the other tasks on the cart if you don’t have to deal with the oil and grease or battery corrosion. Be sure to clean all four sides of the battery and the frame, paying particular attention to grass and mud that can collect on the bottom side of the cart. These substances can also cause corrosion and rust.
If you’re a neat freak like me, your cart is already pretty clean and just covered with dust. If this is the case just use the battery acid neutralizer spray and rinse off the entire cart including the underside and engine components. Some of the steps we’re going to be taking, such as replacing filters and so forth, might cause dirt and grit to get into the internal components, and we wouldn’t want that to cause more problems.
While the cart is drying off, take advantage of the waiting time to address the filters: air filter, fuel filter, and the oil filter. If you don’t use your cart weekly, it may become difficult to remember the last time you serviced the engine. That’s why I get it all in while winterizing the cart and I don’t need to be concerned about it the rest of the year.
Tune It Up
Tune-up kits are fairly inexpensive, and I keep two or three on hand. Refer to how to tune up your ___ golf cart elsewhere on this site if you’ve never done this before. Replace the air filter first, to ensure your engine is getting all the air necessary. Hold off on replacing the fuel filter until after we’ve drained the tank.
Drain the oil from the crankcase. Remove the old oil filter and discard it. Fill the new oil filter with oil by pouring it directly into the open port. Using your finger, rub a thin layer of oil over the rubber gasket and screw the new filter on. Hand tighten it only and fill the crankcase back up with fresh oil. Regular 30 weight oil is fine unless you live in a colder climate, in which case you can use 10W30.
Be careful not to overfill the engine because excess oil will leak over into the air filter and from there into the combustion chamber. This will cause the engine to smoke and the plug to get fouled.
It’s now time to move it to where it’s going to be staying for the winter. Since you’re going to be disabling the motor you don’t want to have to push it to where it’s going.
Drain the gasoline from all lines including the fuel tank and the carburetor bowl. Any gasoline left in the cart will likely turn to varnish and gum up everything. If you have a shut-off valve go ahead and close it now, and if you don’t have one then you’ll need to leave the fuel line disconnected from the fuel tank. Start the engine and run it until it runs dry. Loosen the bottom screw on the carburetor bowl so that any remaining fuel drips out. Don’t forget to tighten it again when the last of the fuel is drained. Now we’re going to seal off the fuel tank to keep air out. Tighten the fuel cap securely and plug the vent on the fuel tank (using something like a golf tee for instance).
Remove the old spark plug and put a squirt or two of oil into the cylinder. Turn the engine by hand to evenly distribute the oil along the cylinder walls to keep it from getting corroded. Put the new spark plug in, check the condition of the oil, and change it if you need to.
The 12-volt starter battery is our next target, and we want to get it charged fully. After charging, disconnect the battery cable and apply the anti-corrosion protectant over the terminals. Batteries breathe out corrosive acid-filled vapors and these cling to terminals and other metal parts of the compartment. Anywhere you have a liquid-filled battery, you are going to have to deal with corrosion prevention.
Inspection of Electric Carts
First, try rinsing the batteries with plain water. If the corrosion is such that you can’t get it off with just water, use a battery acid neutralizer or use 1/4 cup of baking soda and 1 cup of water. Using a wire brush, go lightly over the terminals until you remove the major portion of it. Then rinse and follow with a towel-dry. While you’re working on the battery area, check the connections making sure that they’re tight. Any loose connections will surely build up corrosion over the winter. Finish up by lightly coating the terminal connections with spray protectant to prevent corrosion during hibernation.
After making sure all the terminals are clean and protected, charge the cart batteries completely. Believe it or not, a discharged battery can freeze with a freezing point around 20°F. A fully charged battery will withstand around -80°F. If the electrolyte freezes it will expand, cracking the sides of the battery. Charging the batteries can save a large amount of money and frustration.
After charging, check the water levels in all the battery cells and add distilled water if needed. Turn the key off, remove it, and set the forward-reverse switch to neutral.
IMPORTANT!! If you have a regenerative braking system, set the tow/run switch to tow. This disables the regenerative braking system and disconnects it from the batteries. If you don’t do this, the constant load will discharge the batteries quickly and they will be vulnerable to freezing. Even if your cart is stored where it isn’t in freezing temperatures, the batteries will “sulfate” if left in a discharged state too long.
If you do not have the regenerative braking system, put the F/R switch in Neutral and turn off the key. Be sure to check the water levels monthly.
If A/C is not available or the charger cannot be connected while storing, disconnect the connections to the battery.
Do not put the parking brake on as this will stretch the cables over a long period of time. Chock the wheels instead, using standard wheel chocks or a piece of 2 x 4.
Check the tire pressures and bring them up to spec. This prevents the tires from developing a flat spot and maintains a nice round shape. If your carts tires are prone to slow leaks, spend the time to put the cart up on jacks to prevent these flat spots.
At this point, it wouldn’t hurt to throw a cover over the cart to keep the dust off of your vehicle so you can hit the trails running at the first sign of the robins of spring. Goodnight, old friend.
But Wait! There’s More…
What? You’ve decided not to put it into storage but to use it all winter? Great idea! So let’s talk about winter-proofing your golf cart rather than putting it into hibernation.
Uses In The Winter
If you raise or board horses or have any kind of a farm-centered environment, your cart/ATV will be invaluable for getting work done. You can still travel from point to point in your neighborhood without taking out the family car and in business locations such as parts yards, greenhouses, lumber yards, etc. Your cart is a hauling workhorse you need to keep protected from the elements.
While you would not want to be running off-road or snow tires on a golf course, having a set of these to swap out in the wintertime is a great idea. Our recommendations for the size and type of tires you need can be found on our resource page. Having Winter ready tires is a big plus when negotiating snowy trails and streets.
Winter tires are wider and have more tread to grip the road surface which gives more control and less slipping on ice. They are also made of a thicker rubber which gives you more surface contact providing a more sure-footed journey.
Selecting the tread for your tires
There are three types of treads to consider: all-terrain tires, knobby tires, and snow tires.
There are three types of treads to consider: all-terrain tires, knobby tires, and snow tires.
All-terrain tires are a halfway medium between standard golf cart tires and knobby off-road tires. A standard golf cart tire has a turf or rib tread and is designed to be gentle on the golf course surface but it won’t work for snow or ice. Knobby tires are designed to go off-road but they will tear up the golf course. The all-terrain tires are a mix of the two, allowing the directional tread pattern and surface gripping knobs.
Knobby tires come in a variety of tread patterns and are generally for off-road use only. They are better suited for rainy locales or muddy terrains.
Snow tires come with paddles and/or knobs to provide for traction in high snowfall areas.
These are the ultimate accessory for getting around in the ice and snow. Slip a pair of these on your tires and get going. There is a wide range of Snow Chains available, and I would always recommend getting the Chain Rubber Tightener to prevent slippage between the chain and tire.
There are two types of heater for your golf cart: Electric and Propane. The electric heater isn’t as efficient at warming up the cart as the propane but has the advantage of being smaller in size. One of the disadvantages is that if you’re driving a gasoline-powered golf cart it will drain your battery pretty quickly.
The propane-powered heater does a quick job of warming up the interior of the cart but requires ventilation. It is fueled by a small propane tank and the entire assembly needs to be secured in one place.
Provided your cart has a roof and a proper frame that will allow you to add an enclosure, this is an absolute must-have. Whether it is raining, snowing, or just plain COLD, the enclosure will be your first line of defense against the elements. Inside the enclosed cabin you can heat the air and travel the courses in relative comfort.
Yes, it really says snow plows. There is a line of adaptable snow blades available to fit Club Car, EZGo, Cushman, etc. in 49” and 64” sizes. When you pair this product with a set of good gripping tires, you will quickly become the most popular resident in the neighborhood.
Using Gasoline-operated carts
You should check the battery for loose connections and corrosion. Cranking power is especially affected by colder temperatures and you need to make sure your battery is working at its best before you head out. It might be a good idea to switch your oil to a synthetic to prevent viscosity changes that regular oils are prone to.
Jumping in and out of a warm garage can also cause condensation in the gas tank, which will freeze, so keep that tank topped off.
You’re going to be dealing with road salt which can lead to corrosion on your frame and vital engine chassis parts. A fast spray down with wd-40 will help prevent salt-laden moisture from sticking to metal parts, and if possible, you will want to rinse down the cart after every run.
The winter takes up a very large portion of the year, and your favorite toy shouldn’t spend that long stretch of time sitting idle. Add a few accessories and enjoy your cart year-round and you’ll be glad you did!