On the golf course, your crew works with mowers, tractors, bunker rakes, and other utility vehicles. All of these vehicles have batteries, and just like on all devices, these batteries won’t last forever. Vehicle batteries usually last a few years, depending on how well they’re cared for. However, a minor mistake like leaving a key in the on position could cause the battery to die within a few hours. If the vehicle’s battery dies your crew may have to charge or service the vehicle’s battery. In this article, we’ll cover the proper procedures your crew should be taking to maintain a battery, as well as how to safely service or jump-start an engine.

Every golf facility is different. At yours, vehicle battery maintenance may be exclusively the job of a mechanic or the responsibility of crew members. Whatever your club’s policy on this is, reading the information in this blog is likely to prove useful because at some point you will definitely have to jump start a vehicle, help do this, or train your crew on how this is done. Remember to remind your crew that if they haven’t been specifically authorized and trained to deal with batteries, they shouldn’t be touching them.

How Vehicle Batteries Work 

First, if you or a crew member needs to jump or charge a battery, one should first understand the basics of how an automotive battery works. A standard battery is divided into six separate cells, providing about 2.1 volts per cell. The combined voltage of the cells equals 12.6 volts, but the voltage produced by the battery decreases as its charge decreases. The power inside of the battery is created through a chemical reaction that takes place as its positive and negative lead plates interact with the battery acid. This interaction causes a chemical reaction which then creates voltage. The voltage is released as power through the battery’s positive end and then returned through the battery’s negative terminal.

Voltage from the vehicle’s alternator should keep the battery charged. Batteries can usually last a few years if they are properly cared for. However, they may become depleted if any electrical parts of the vehicle are left turned on for an extended period of time while the vehicle’s engine is off. If the alternator is not charging the battery it will eventually die. In this instance, the vehicle’s engine won’t start the next time someone tries to run it, and it will need charged or jump-started.

Battery Maintenance

Battery maintenance is an important part of every vehicle’s maintenance procedures, however, crew members should only handle batteries if they have been trained to do so.

Corrosive by-products are the result of normal battery use, and they may form on battery terminals. It’s crucial that batteries and their terminals are kept clean and that any corrosion that forms on them gets cleaned off. Review this checklist with your crew to avoid injuries and damage to your equipment:

Maintenance Checklist

    • Make sure your batteries are clean!
      If a battery has any build-up or corrosion on its terminals, it should not be charged or jump-started. 
    • Wear the correct PPE when cleaning batteries on your golf course!
      When cleaning a battery, crew members should always wear protective gloves and eye protection, as well as any additional PPE required by your facility’s safety documentation. 
    • Only clean batteries in designated areas!
      Battery build-up can be cleaned with a garden hose or wire brushes, but it should only be done in designated areas.
    • Store your batteries correctly!
      Batteries should be stored out of the sunlight and in a cool place where the temperature does not drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
    • Batteries should be checked every two months and recharged if needed!
    • Replace cables if excessive corrosion has formed!
      Your crew should replace battery cables if excessive corrosion forms because corrosion may cause high resistance, which could lead to a starter operation failure.

What to do when a vehicle’s battery is depleted

If a vehicle’s battery is depleted and the vehicle won’t start, your crew will have to charge or jump-start the battery. A battery can be jump-started with either a booster pack or another vehicle’s battery.

It’s imperative to note that the procedure we are talking about applies to traditional lead-acid batteries only. Manufacturers are increasingly fitting new equipment with lithium (LiFePO4) batteries. These tend to be smaller in capacity (a lower AmpHour rating) and so discharge more quickly. A deeply discharged lithium battery needs to be recharged very carefully, but a high-voltage shock, like you get with a jump start, could cause severe damage, and even make it explode or catch fire. Recovering these types of batteries using a lithium-specific charger is the safest way to bring a ‘dead’ battery back to life. It starts off charging slowly, to avoid overheating, balancing the cells inside the battery in the process, and ensuring it is returned to peak condition.

To restart a lead acid battery, follow these steps:

  1. Safety comes first. Your crew should be familiarized with your club’s safety procedures, and only jump-start a vehicle if they are authorized to do so. Crew members should make sure they’re wearing eye, face, and hand protection, as well as any other PPE required by your golf course. Batteries contain sulphuric acid, which reacts with lead plates, creating a potentially explosive mixture of oxygen and hydrogen gas.

  2. When jump-starting a battery, crew members need to be very careful to protect themselves from the battery acid, and make sure that they are following the proper procedures to avoid any accidents. Make sure that any items that may cause a spark, or flame, including cigarettes, are kept far away from the battery.

  3. Before beginning the jump-starting process, ensure your crew has memorized these guidelines:
    • Make sure that the area you are in is well ventilated.
    • Don’t damage or remove vent caps.
    • Never let any tools come in contact with the battery terminals.
    • Never lean over the battery.
    • Refer to the owner’s manual for any information specific to that machine.
    • If possible, place a damp rag over the battery vent caps.

  4. A depleted battery can be jump-started with a booster pack in the following way: 
    • When jump-starting with a booster pack, crew members should first make sure it’s set in a location close enough to the vehicle so that its cables can easily reach the vehicle battery’s terminals.
    • Next, the crew member should connect the cables. They should always check the vehicle’s operator’s manual before anything, as specific procedures may vary.
    • It is very important that crew members connect the positive or red end of the booster pack’s cables to the positive terminal of the depleted battery.
    • Next, they should connect the negative or black cable to the negative post on the battery. If they accidentally connect the cables incorrectly, your crew will be notified by a warning light or alarm.
    • If this happens, they must remove the cables and then place them correctly. Starting an engine with incorrectly placed cables could cause serious damage.
    • There are different types of booster packs, some have on and off switches, and some don’t. If the booster pack your crew is using doesn’t have an on or off switch, it will begin energizing the clamps as soon as they are connected to the dead battery. If your booster pack does have an on and off switch, all your crew has to do is turn it on. Once turned on, it will begin energizing the clamps.
    • Crew members should confirm that the booster pack is charging, and then try to start the vehicle.
    • If the vehicle starts, your crew should leave it on the booster pack for a few minutes to give it enough time to charge the battery.
    • If the vehicle doesn’t start right away, they should wait 3 minutes before trying again. It’s very important that you don’t try to start the vehicle again immediately because this could cause the booster pack to overheat.
    • After waiting 3 minutes, your crew should try to start the vehicle again. If it doesn’t start on the second try, the battery may be completely depleted, and a booster pack won’t be able to charge it. Don’t try to start it again.
    • Whether the vehicle started or not, crew members should follow these exact procedures to remove the cables:
      • Remove the cables in the opposite order of how they were connected. The negative cable should come off first, and then the positive cable.
      • Once the cables have been removed, put them away on the side of the booster pack.
      • Make sure the booster pack is charged before it’s used again.
      • Always double-check that the booster pack is turned off before charging it.
      • Each vehicle should be checked after jump-starting it. Every golf course has a different protocol, so make sure your crew knows yours and follows it.

  5. A depleted battery can be jump-started with another vehicle in the following way:
    • Ensure your crew knows to always put on personal protective equipment before jump-starting a vehicle. Appropriate PPE includes hand, arm, face, and eye protection.
    • They will need jumper cables that have thick wires and clean clamps. 
    • The first step is to park the booster vehicle facing the front of the vehicle with the depleted battery. If crew members can’t park your booster vehicle in front, they should park it next to the vehicle, but make sure that they aren’t touching and they are close enough for the cables to reach.
    • Next, they must turn the ignition off on both vehicles, set the parking brakes, and put them in neutral or park. Your crew should ensure that both vehicles’ accessories are turned off. 
    • If possible, they should place a damp cloth on top of the battery’s terminals.
    • The next step will be clamping the cables onto the dead battery. 
    • Most vehicles in the United States have a negative ground, but some foreign vehicles have a positive ground. Crew members should determine whether the vehicle has positive or negative ground before clamping the cables. They should also ensure that the clamps and battery terminals are clean and clear of corrosion. If they are corroded they will need to be cleaned before jumping.
    • Then, your crew should clamp the positive or red jumper cable end to the positive battery terminal on the depleted vehicle. The positive terminal is labeled with a plus sign. Make sure they know to always double-check that the clamp is securely attached to the terminal. Then, they must connect the other end of the positive cable, which is also red, to the positive terminal of the booster vehicle’s battery.
    • Next, crew members have to connect the negative cable to the negative battery terminal on the booster car. The negative terminal is marked with a negative sign, and the negative cable is black.
    • Then, they must connect the other side of the negative cable to any unpainted bolt or metal surface on the dead battery’s engine. They should try to clamp it as far away from the dead battery as possible.
    • Once all connections are secure, your crew should then start the booster vehicle. They must allow the booster vehicle to idle for a few minutes before attempting to start the dead vehicle.
    • If the dead vehicle has an older battery, your crew may have to give it a few minutes to charge. If it’s a new battery and it died because accessories were left on, it will probably start immediately.
    • Once it starts, both vehicles should be left to idle for a few minutes.
    • If the vehicle doesn’t start, your crew should wait three more minutes and then try again. If it still doesn’t start, instruct them not to try again, as this may damage the starter.
    • The same as with a booster pack, the jumper cables should be removed in the reverse order that they were applied in. This means that if your crew clamped the positive cable first and then the negative cable, they should remove the negative cable and then the positive cable.

In any facility where there are vehicles, jump-starting batteries is going to be an inevitability. For the safety of your crew members and the long-term good condition of your equipment, it’s crucial that your crew is trained on the correct procedures for performing this task. To ensure that they are, sign up for a Golf Safety Training Video streaming membership today. This includes easy-to-follow videos in both English and Spanish that help your crew understand the correct safety procedures to follow for all the jobs on your golf course. Also included are attendance registers and quizzes, so you’ll always be OSHA compliant when the inspector comes knocking. Click this link today to find out more. 

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