A solenoid is one of the main components of a golf cart that allows it to move.
It is present in every type of golf cart, be it an electric one or a gas one.
All golf carts need a functional solenoid in order to work properly or else they will be of no use as they will not be able to take you anywhere.
In this article, we talk about the most common issues in a solenoid and the symptoms that can indicate a possible case of a bad solenoid in your golf cart.
Let’s take a look at more about what is a solenoid, what it does, where you can find it, and troubleshooting a bad solenoid.
What Is a Solenoid?
It is a coil of wire that is used as an electromagnet.
The purpose of a solenoid or any device that makes use of a solenoid is to create linear motion by using magnetic field.
A solenoid is capable of creating a magnetic field with the help of electric current.
One of the most common applications of a solenoid is to power a switch, like a starter used in automobiles.
In a gas golf cart, a solenoid can act as the ignition and in an electric golf cart, it acts as the electrical motor power circuit.
Basically, solenoids serve as the go switch, which is essential to any golf cart’s operation.
Solenoids in Golf Carts
Solenoids are among the first few components of a golf cart that are prone to failure because of their functionality.
They turn the cart on and off and help them move, which can be very exhausting, hence resulting in failure more often than any other component.
But how does a solenoid make your golf cart move?
In an electric golf cart, the inductive throttle sensor sends a signal when the race pedal is pushed down, which then activates the speed controller and solenoid.
In layman’s terms, when you press down the accelerator in your golf cart, you are indirectly sending a signal to the solenoid, which then turns on along with the speed controller.
After that, the low side of the solenoid creates a low-powered circuit, which is responsible for activating the steel rod in the solenoid.
Once the steel rod is activated, it creates a circuit between the speed controlling systems and the motor in the golf cart.
When the accelerator is released, the solenoid turns off after a while, which saves your cart’s battery.
Solenoids in gas golf carts work almost in the same fashion.
The only difference is that instead of an inductive throttle sensor, a gas golf cart has a micro switch that is activated when the accelerator is pressed.
This micro switch is responsible for sending low power to the solenoid, which creates a circuit between the starter and the motor in the golf cart and gets you moving.
Where Are Solenoids Located?
Before you can get to diagnosing and fixing the solenoid, you need to know where it’s located.
Solenoids are usually located under the seat and are connected with four wires.
The four wires or posts are called terminals.
Usually, there are two large ones and two small terminals.
When the battery voltage or power is sent to the two small terminals, it activates the solenoid, which is responsible for connecting the two large terminals.
Solenoids need to be replaced when the large terminals malfunction mostly due to exhaustion.
Causes of Common Solenoid Failures
There are a lot of things that can go bad with solenoids, which ultimately affects the working of your golf cart.
Following are some of the most common solenoid failures:
- The high amps produced can cause arcing on the plate interface that is inside the solenoid. As a result, the plate or stud connection can deteriorate over time and sometimes to the point where it can completely break down. This can be seen when the solenoid clicks and sometimes works, and sometimes it does not work at all, which hints at complete failure in the near future.
- A solenoid can also stop working when the power or battery voltage is not enough to activate the solenoid. Solenoids need a certain voltage to function properly. If they do not get the required voltage, they will not work.
- Another reason why solenoids stop working is that the energizing current is unable to reach the coil. This can happen when the micro or limit switches and/or the key switch (which can be found on the accelerator linkage and F&R switch) have failed or if the wires linking them have broken. This failure can prevent the current from reaching the solenoid because the current has to go through the switches in order to get to the coil.
- Another type of solenoid failure includes the studs and internal plates of the solenoid freezing. The solenoid still seems to work okay, but when the shifter is in R or F, the car starts to move on its own. This condition is often referred to as a ‘sticky solenoid,’ which can be potentially dangerous if not repaired on time. This condition can cause the resistor coils to glow red. If your golf cart has this condition, you should put the car in neutral whenever you stop and get the condition fixed as soon as possible.
Symptoms of a Bad Golf Cart Solenoid
Keep in mind that you do not necessarily need to experience all symptoms to realize the solenoid in your golf cart is not working.
You may experience one or two at first, which indicates there is something wrong with the coil, wires or the switch.
If these symptoms remain unrecognized or untreated, they can lead to serious damage.
I have listed some of the common symptoms of worn-out and/or damaged solenoid in golf carts.
If you encounter any one of these, get your golf cart to a professional and have it looked at.
Cart Will Not Start
One of the most apparent and obvious signs that indicate a possible solenoid failure is your golf cart not starting when you try to engage the ignition process.
Once you press the accelerator and turn the ignition switch on, it should send a signal to activate the solenoid and get the vehicle started.
If the cart does not start, there is a possible solenoid failure.
Starter Will Not Disengage
Starters are responsible for activating the flywheel.
Once the flywheel gets to work, the starter is supposed to disengage.
If the starter remains operational even after the engine has been turned on, that means the main contacts have welded together and failed to release.
When this occurs, the solenoid will get stuck and the flywheel, starter, solenoid, and circuit will be damaged eventually.
Irregular Operation of Starter
A solenoid, just like any other switch, is prone to overheating that can lead to a sporadic or irregular operation of the starter.
The irregular operation can also be due to broken or loose wiring of the switches or accumulated dirt and debris.
When a solenoid gets the required voltage, it activates the starter by sending the full electrical current.
However, when the battery is low on amps and does not provide enough voltage to the solenoid, it will fail to activate the starter.
However, this can also happen with a damaged solenoid.
When you try to engage the ignition process or try to turn on your golf cart with a damaged solenoid, it will cause the starter to make clicking sounds.
These clicking sounds indicate possible solenoid damage.
Example of Troubleshooting a Golf Cart Solenoid Problem
Symptoms in a Gas Golf Cart
If you have a gas golf cart and are wondering whether the solenoid in your cart has gone bad or not, look for the aforementioned as well as the following symptoms.
Starter Failing to Disengage
When driving a gas golf cart with a damaged solenoid, the larger contacts may fail to release.
When this happens, the starter keeps on operating, even when the ignition switch is turned off.
When the spring (which is responsible for pulling the pinion gear back to its resting position) gets too worn out because of an overheated solenoid, it will not properly pull the pinion back to the neutral position.
This will also result in the starter failing to disengage.
Starter Failing to Engage
Another common symptom in gas golf carts when the solenoid has been damaged is that the starter does not engage and starts producing continuous clicking sounds.
The cart will not move even when you hear these sounds, which hints at possible damage to the solenoid.
Symptoms in an Electric Golf Cart
If you have an electric golf cart, you may deal with fewer symptom than gas golf carts, but that is not to say that electric golf carts will not run into problems at all.
Look for the following symptoms for a bad solenoid in electric golf carts:
Lack of Clicking Sounds
One of the most common symptoms in an electric cart is the lack of clicking sounds.
This happens when the solenoid fails to provide electric current to the speed controlling system after the ignition is turned on.
Under normal circumstances, upon turning the ignition switch on and off, the solenoid clicks.
However, a worn-out or damaged solenoid will not do so.
How to Test for a Bad Solenoid
You can test for a bad solenoid in your golf cart quite easily, especially if you like to do everything by yourself.
I have listed below the tools and steps required for the test.
You will need to have the following items to test your solenoid:
- Safety glasses
- Electrical tape
- Voltmeter or multimeter
- ½-inch wrench
- Wear your safety glasses and gloves.
- Using the ½-inch wrench, disconnect the cables from the 2 larger terminals of the solenoid from the starter if you have a gas golf cart or from the controller if you have an electric golf cart.
- After that, use the electrical tape to seal the ends of the cable and keep them separate so that they do not form a circuit upon an accidental contact.
- Make sure the cart direction switch is in the neutral position and the key is off.
- Set your multimeter or voltmeter to ohms and put each probe on each large terminal. There should be zero reading.
- Now, turn the key on, put the cart direction switch in the forward position and press the accelerator. Keep an ear out for a clicking sound that will come from the solenoid.
- If you hear the click, use the multimeter or voltmeter and place the probes on the large terminals again. You should get a reading of 0 to 0.4 ohms. If you get a higher reading, that hints at faulty contacts of the solenoid, which should be replaced immediately.
- If you do not hear the click, set your multimeter or voltmeter to DC volts to a range of 200. Then, put the probes on the small terminals of the solenoid. After that, turn the key on, put the cart direction switch into the forward position and press the accelerator.
- If the multimeter or voltmeter gives zero reading, the solenoid is not the problem.
- If it shows full voltage with no click, the solenoid’s coil has failed, so the solenoid needs to be changed.
We have covered everything you need to know about solenoids in golf carts and the symptoms you need to be on the lookout for.
If you feel like your golf cart has a case of a bad solenoid, look for the above symptoms and test it by following the steps properly.