How Do I Know if My Golf Cart Solenoid is Bad?

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The solenoid is one of those things about your golf cart which performs an important role in its overall efficiency.

Understanding its workings is key to its troubleshooting down the road.

Just like many things, a golf cart solenoid needs proper maintenance in order to avoid any hassle that can disrupt its functions and minimize breakdowns which can put a damper on your enjoyment.

You don’t have to worry so much because its issues shouldn’t catch you by surprise- there are telltale signs it is about to wear out on you and therefore you can still address them before they spoil all the fun.

What is a Solenoid?

Before we delve deeper into this vital part of a golf cart, let’s define first what a solenoid is.

Basically, a solenoid is an electromagnetic coil that converts electricity into a form of mechanical energy.

It has many applications, one of which of course is being a switch that connects the battery of your golf cart to the starter or motor, with the help of both the high and low power circuits.

This device is present in either gas or electric golf cart models, serving as an igniter for the former and a circuit power for the latter.

Simply put, your golf cart will not be able to take you anywhere without it.

How Does a Solenoid in a Golf Cart Work?

Whenever you put the pedal to the metal, you are activating not only your golf cart’s speed controls but also its solenoid.

That’s because the voltage is passed through it via its subparts, which are the steel plunger and a thin wire, allowing the flow of energy from the battery to the motor to create a linear motion.

During its operation, your solenoid turns somewhat inactive, which reduces the usage of your golf cart battery.

This applies to golf carts that are powered by electricity or gas, although there is a minor difference in terms of the activated device.

This would be the microswitch for gas-powered carts, which sends the solenoid into its low setting compared to electric golf carts that trigger a throttle sensor instead.

Where Can You Find the Solenoid on a Golf Cart?

Your golf cart solenoid is that small yet powerful device, which can be found below the rear seat compartment. It has a total of four-wire connections or terminals, big and small at two posts each.

The solenoid may well be one of the most crucial and utilized components of a golf cart since it has to perform frequently as the number of times you power it on. It will work on the principle of attracting and repelling material that is sensitive to a magnetic field.

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This means that whenever you hit a grassy land on a sunny day, you would have at least made a stop-and-go motion more than a thousand times.

Over one thousand times – that’s how much you are beating up your solenoid in just a single use!

With this regular utilization, its mechanism can often go bad as well and require periodic upkeep and servicing. It’s not unusual for the big terminals to give out sooner or later, prompting a solenoid replacement.

What are Common Problems with a Golf Cart Solenoid?

We now know that a golf cart solenoid can be just as spent as the vehicle itself depending on use, so it’s to be expected that it will encounter problems along the way.

Here are the most common issues you will face with the solenoid of your golf cart:

Deterioration of the Plate

This can be due to the high amperage generated while the solenoid is in use, which may cause curving of the plate over time. This will likely produce a clicking sound or intermittent operation of the solenoid.

Insufficient Battery Voltage

The voltage may fluctuate due to a low battery such that it will not be enough to reach the terminals. This will then cause the solenoid to fail.

Busted Wires and Micro Switch Failure

Your solenoid will fail to operate when the current could not get through the coil because the connecting wires are either broken or the switches themselves have a problem.

Frozen Studs and Plates

You know this is the case when your car still moves by itself, even if your shifter is in F or R.

Your solenoid is not exactly inoperable but it is irregular just the same and is rather experiencing a sticky situation!

This issue should be immediately attended to otherwise, it will give rise to even more critical problems such as a flaming resistor coil.

When this happens, placing your shifter in a neutral position will be your temporary fix until you can get it to your mechanic, or seek the services of a pro.

Quick Signs the Solenoid of your Golf Cart is Bad

We have come to the part where we will give you several scenarios that indicate a bad trolley solenoid. Please note that you only have to experience at least one symptom to let you know that it has failed.

Your Cart Will Not Start

Right off the bat, something must be wrong with your solenoid if your golf cart won’t fire up. After all, a solenoid is triggered every time you power on your vehicle while holding down its accelerator, that is, if it has no issues.

The frequent use makes your solenoid susceptible to overheating. Hence, you will experience sporadic operation after a while – it works one time, but fails the next.

If starting your vehicle becomes unreliable, this could also be caused by loose wires or dirty interiors.

Your Starter Does Not Deactivate

Under normal circumstances, your golf cart starter disengages once it sparks the flywheel – a part that is located at the rear of a crankshaft.

The flywheel takes on the task of stabilizing the power surge from the engine while it rotates. When the starter continues to hold on, it will not only damage the flywheel, but the adjacent components as well such as the circuit and solenoid altogether.

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For gas-powered carts, the bigger terminals alongside the starter remain in operation even when the microswitch is not powered on. In fact, you may also experience a starter that wouldn’t even initialize at all.

The Golf Cart Has a Clicking Sound

As mentioned earlier, low amperage and insufficient voltage will cause a clicking sound. But when the solenoid is already damaged in the first place, it will also give off those clicks when you try to start your cart.

You will have this same effect with gas models, the starter of which fails to engage from the get-go. In any case, you got it bad with your solenoid.

In electric golf carts on the other hand, it’s the exact opposite.

It is when you do not hear clicks when engaging your starter indicates your solenoid is going through a rough patch.

This is because there’s no electric current being passed through to the speed controller, which would in turn create a click sound when there is an attempt to start your vehicle.

Checking the Current State of Your Golf Cart Solenoid

While your solenoid may be exhibiting symptoms of being crappy, you can also employ testing yourself.

For this purpose, you will need to have the following tools: gloves, safety goggles, electrical tape, a half-inch wrench and a voltmeter.

Here are the steps to test if you have a bad solenoid (or how bad it really is):

  • Begin by wearing your protective gear such as safety goggles and gloves.
  • Detach the wires from the big solenoid terminals using a wrench.
  • Seal the wire ends with electrical tape and allow them to stay one space apart from the other. This will prevent circuit formation when they touch accidentally.
  • Place your cart switch in the neutral position while the key remains off.
  • Probe the solenoid terminals with your voltmeter, or multimeter as an alternative. They should register a zero reading at this point.
  • Switch on with your key and place your shifter in F or forward – step on your accelerator and note any resulting click sounds.
  • Get another reading on your big terminals if there is clicking. If it indicates more than 0.4 ohms, your solenoid has failing contacts and must be replaced at the soonest.
  • In case there is no click at all, adjust your measuring device to 200 volts and check the small terminals this time. If they give off a zero reading, you have a problem other than your solenoid.
  • If a full voltage registers without any clicking sound, your coil is toast, therefore, your solenoid calls for a replacement.

So yes, your golf cart cannot perform without its solenoid.

While it is prone to exhaustion, knowing when your solenoid has gone bad with DIY checks and timely inspections as suggested in this article will help you catch problems in their early stages.

Thus avoiding major and more expensive repairs or replacements. This will also prevent the domino effect of damages to other important components of your golf cart.