How to Start Your Golf Cart (Even Without a Key)

how to start a golf cart

Nothing is worse than hopping on your golf cart on a Sunday morning all excited for a round of golf, only to find your golf cart not starting!

If you’re a golf cart owner, there will come a point where you find you and your cart stuck on the golf course.

There will come a day where you lose your golf cart key; yet still want to start your golf cart.

Fortunately for you, I have written this handy guide that outlines several methods of starting your golf cart; even without the key!


How to Start a Golf Cart

  1. Check for flat tires before you begin operating the vehicle. Also, make sure it has enough oil and gasoline.

  2. Decide if you want the vehicle to move forward or backward and switch the driver select lever accordingly.

  3. Put on the seatbelt. Although golf carts don’t usually go too fast (up to 35 MPH, it’s advised you put on the seatbelt if the vehicle comes with one.

  4. Golf carts, like most vehicles, are operated using a key. Insert the key in the cart’s keyhole and turn it to the right to start it.

  5. If you notice that the vehicle’s engine is cold, engage the choke knob by pulling it out. Hold it in the engaged position till the vehicle comes to life, then push the choke knob back.

  6. If you’re driving during the night time, ensure that the headlights are switched on.

  7. To get the golf cart moving, first disengage the parking brake. Place your feet on the accelerator and apply minimal force. Increase the acceleration gradually as the vehicle begins to move.

  8. The wider pedal next to the accelerator is the brake. Engage the brake if you want to slow down the cart or bring it to a complete stop.

  9. Before ending the trip, ensure that the golf cart is parked in a suitable place and that the parking brake is engaged.


Troubleshooting Startup Problems (Gas Golf Carts)

Golf carts that run on gas refuse to start up if you idle them away for long periods.

Gas becomes unstable when you store it away for long.
Once the last trip of the golf cart before winter is done, mix fuel stabilizer to the gas tank to stabilize the gas while the vehicle idles away. Now, without emptying the tank, try to run the vehicle to leave it with as little gas as possible.

To fire up certain four-cycle engines with almost no gas, you will have to remove all the air from the carburettor.

Before starting the vehicle, empty the old gas and replace it with new fuel.
The air filter of the golf cart can freeze through periods of idling.If you leave the air filter in your vehicle improperly sealed, tiny water droplets may seep in which will get frozen during harsh winter. This will keep your cart from turning on. To deal with this problem, discard the old filter and replace it with a new one.
The cart’s battery may die out when you put it away unused for a long time.To measure the battery’s response or performance, use a load tester on it. If the response is positive, you may manually charge it and get the motor running. If that’s not the case, discard the dead battery and replace it with a new one.


Troubleshooting Startup Problems (Electric Golf Carts)

Fixing Discharged Batteries

Solution 1: Batteries in the electric carts tend to automatically discharge during long periods of inactivity. The latest electronic models come with a kill switch that lets you switch off the electrical system of the golf cart when it’s not used for a long period.

To activate the switch, charge the batteries to 100 percent and remove the charger. Now turn on the kill switch. If you do not engage the switch, your batteries will drain at a faster rate owing to the charge used by the controller.

Solution 2: In the event of complete discharge of your batteries, your golf cart charger might not be able to recharge them. Newer chargers, like TXT EZGO’s power wise, will not work as soon as you plug them in.

  • Your battery will need to pick up a minimum of 31.5 volts before it starts working.

    This means, in case your batteries have drained below 31.5 volts, your automatic charger might not be able to revive them.

  • In such situations, you can opt for the older 36V manual charger with a timer knob. Unlike the automatic ones, these chargers will revive your batteries regardless of the voltage it carries.

  • All you will need are an adapter and heavy-duty alligator clips to give your battery the initial voltage.

  • Once you connect the charger, let it charge the batteries for a good 15 minutes before you can switch to your automatic charging device.

  • If the automatic charger is not able to pick up the needed voltage even after 15 minutes of charging with the manual charger, use the latter for a longer period until you can switch it back.

  • If you don’t have a 36V charger, you can substitute it for a 12V charger. These are devices that take longer to charge batteries.

  • You can charge two 6volts batteries simultaneously in a series connection for around 15 minutes and then repeat the same with your other two batteries.

  • Switch to your automatic charger to check if it picks up any voltage to begin charging. If it doesn’t, use the 12V charger for a longer time.


How to Jump-Start a Golf Cart

golf cart jump start method

If your golf cart battery dies in the middle of your trip you can try to jump-start the cart.

Steps to Jump Start a Golf Cart:

  1. Golf cart owners should keep in mind that golf course and road surfaces that you drive your cart often not even. Such uneven and jumpy tracks can mess up your ignition wires and displace them. This can cause your cart to stop in the middle of a run. This is a good place to first look when your golf cart dies suddenly.

  2. Your ignition wires should be linked to the solenoid. If you find rust on the wires, make sure to wear gloves before you wipe the rust off. Once you’re done placing the wires in their correct positions, test drive the cart to check if it runs.

  3. If the ignition wires aren’t the cause for the break down, check your battery. Turn off the cart’s motor. Wearing a pair of gloves is a good habit, should there be an acid spillage from the batteries.

  4. Check if the batteries’ connections are in place and tighten the connections using a wrench. Use a piece of cloth dipped in rubbing alcohol to rub off any corrosion found on the wires of the batteries.

  5. You’ll most probably find a spare battery in the emergency jump-start kit which can be used to turn on the motor. Make sure to charge the emergency battery should you need it at some other point of time.

  6. To attach the battery, connect the red clamp to the battery’s positive terminal and the black one to its negative terminal. Wait for a few minutes before you turn on the motor to test drive the cart. Once the motor starts, let the spare battery stay on for at least half an hour before you detach it.


How to Start a Golf Cart in Neutral

Your golf cart’s motor can be warmed up and kept ready-to-run without having to drive it. To start your cart in neutral or maintenance mode, follow these steps:

  1. Reach to the backside of the Forward/ Reverse switch of your golf cart.

  2. You’ll find a yellow cam with spring on the rear. Pull the cam out and rotate it to 180 degrees.

  3. This rotation will engage the micro switch which will allow you to fire up the motor in the neutral mode.

How to Start a Golf Cart after Winter

Golf carts can get jammed if you do not use them through the winter. Long periods of inactivity can cause problems to golf carts that run on gas as well as electricity. Different problems have different solutions.

Below are my favorite solutions that address golf cart start up problems caused by long term storage of both gas and electric carts:


How to Start a Golf Cart without a Key

Losing the keys to your golf cart can be troubling. Fortunately there are ways to get your cart running even without the key.

Alternative Methods

  1. Golf carts belonging to the same brand most often come with same/similar keys. You can try borrowing another golf cart owner’s key to solve the issue.

  2. Order a duplicate key from your local golf cart dealer. Though the key might take a while to reach you, this is an extremely viable option.

    This can also come handy if you have upgraded your ignition switch to a key-operated one. You can place an order for your upgraded key-specific ignition and up your cart’s security.

  3. If none of the above options are viable to you, you can try starting your cart with a screwdriver. A screwdriver can be a good replacement for your key.

    Quick Screwdriver Method:
  • Insert the tip of your screwdriver in the ignition switch’s slot.

  • Move the screwdriver up and down gently but firmly until you can turn the tool around the same way you would turn a key.

  • This should fire up the cart. Most golf carts don’t have an anti-theft feature in the ignition switch, but if they do, the screwdriver method might not turn out successful.

  • Another method would be hot-wiring which involves working the wires. Working the ignition switch’s connections almost always starts up the cart. The ignition switch facilitates the ignition process in the vehicle.


How to Start a Golf Cart with a Screwdriver

starting golf cart with screwdriver

A screwdriver can be a good replacement for a key when you’re trying to get your golf cart running.

Follow these steps to use a screwdriver to start your cart:

  1. In your golf cart, you can find the ignition switch seated next to the wheel.

  2. Blow air into the switch to make sure there are no foreign particles stuck in it.

  3. Turn on the power to the ignition before you insert the screwdriver into it.

  4. Now insert the tip of the screwdriver into the ignition switch. When you insert a key into most golf cart’s ignition switch, the key engages with the tumblers in the hole and turn it to unlock the switch.

    Here we’re trying to use the screwdriver in place of the key to engage the tumblers.

  5. Move the screwdriver up and down gently yet firmly to loosen the tumblers and unlock it. Stop pushing or moving when you feel undue resistance from the other end.


How to Start a Golf Cart with a Choke

A choke keeps the air from getting to the engine so that the fuel can. A choke is engaged to start up the engine when the fuel levels are low during the start of the day or cold mornings. It’s released when the engine stabilizes and is capable to function on its own.

Most golf cart chokes are designed like a knob or a button.

You can find the choke knob beneath the driver’s seat, towards the floor mat.

How to Engage the Choke on a Golf Cart:

  1. Locate the choke button/knob. Then turn your cart on.

  2. Place your foot on the accelerator pedal and apply force.

  3. While holding your foot down, engage the choke by pulling the knob out or pushing the button in.

  4. By doing this, you’re cutting down on the airflow to the engine while the engine takes in fuel.

  5. Press the accelerator pedal until the engine fires up.

  6. Release the choke once the engine fires up. This means that the engine has warmed up after getting the supply of fuel.

  7. Engage the choke only when the engine cools down and needs to be warmed again.


How to Hotwire Your Golf Cart

Hot-wiring is a sure-shot technique to get your golf cart started when you lose or misplace your cart’s key. When all else fails, you can always rely on this technique.

The logic behind this technique is simple. The ignition in your golf cart is nothing but a circuit. The switch on the ignition closes the circuit which in turn gets the ignition going.

By employing this method, you’re essentially jumping the circuit, hence turning it into a closed connection.

To execute this method, you will first need to locate the ignition switch. The ignition wires are most commonly located behind the driver’s seat. You can also confirm with your cart’s electric circuit diagram.

Preparing for hotwiring a golf cart:

  1. As there are several risks attached to this technique, it would be safe to turn off the ignition switch and turn on the golf cart’s main power switch.

  2. As mentioned above, you will mostly find the ignition wires behind the driver’s seat.

  3. You will see that two wires are connecting to your ignition switch. Disconnect these wires.

  4. Once disconnected, remove the insulation from the tip of the wires using pliers uncovering the metal wire inside.

  5. Keep the wires separated to avoid an electric shock.

  6. Make short intermittent contacts between both the metal wires to jump the ignition and send power to the engine.

  7. Observe caution and avoid making long contacts between the metal wires.

  8. The cart should fire up now. Once it does, tape the wires.


How To Hotwire a Golf Cart

  1. Switch off the power in your cart.

  2. Disengage both the wires that link up to your ignition switch.

  3. Once they are disconnected, separate the insulation from the wires and twist them both together.

  4. Use tape to keep them together.

  5. Now switch the power back on to get your cart running.


Safety Risks of Hot Wiring Your Golf Cart

Though hot-wiring is an effective method of starting your golf cart without a key, there are a few risks associated with the method:

  • Electric shocks are a possibility with this method.

  • Also, by opting for this method, you’re essentially decreasing the length of your ignition wires. This might prove problematic when you try to replace the switch later.

  • Tying up the right wires also matters a lot. If you tie up the wrong ones, you can damage the cart’s electrical circuit.

  • It’s not recommended to use this method frequently as it can stress out the wires and the batteries in the long run and shorten their lives.

  • This kind of tampering will not only burn a hole in your pocket but will also impact the warranty of such parts.

Is Your Golf Cart Still Not Starting?
Fix (Leaking Golf Cart Batteries)
Fix (Melting Golf Cart Batteries)


Ernie loves documenting interesting facts about golf.

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