A golf carts drive system is just a big electrical circuit. You have a bank of batteries, a motor, a controller, solenoid and the cables that connect it all together. (this is a simplified explanation as there are some more minor switches and components that aren't pertinent to this explanation) Basically, you push a switch to forward and press the accelerator and off you go. In order to convert all that potential power in the batteries into motion, the voltage has to travel through the cables ultimately to the motor. If you install a brand new battery pack, but leave the crumby old cables in there, it's like driving a supercar down a pot hole riddled dirt road......sure it'll do it, but it won't be fun and you'll probably damage something leading to costly repairs. The cables are the foundation of your carts system....the highway that all that potential power must travel down to get you moving. You can have all the power in the world but if it can't get transferred to where you need it to be, it's worthless. Upgrading your cables to a larger size is like adding a lane to an interstate. It frees up more space for more traffic to flow faster.....and in your cart, it allows more power to travel to your motor with less friction and thus less heat. Heat is your enemy number one. Excessive heat causes battery post to expand and contract, which loosens connections which in turn lead to arcing contacts which lead to battery post meltdowns. This means you just threw away $100+ on a battery. When you have a 4awg or 2awg cable set, the amount of heat generated is greatly reduced and the chance of a meltdown is reduced with it. Now, there is still a need for basic maintenance which includes checking battery water, checking cables are tight and making sure there isn't any corrosion building up. We have carts out there that are running our 2awg kits that can run 40+mph that don't overheat, so you can rest assured your cart will operate at it's maximum efficiency with our kit.
And another benefit to our kits that was found after a couple years in the business is that the 2awg kits are so strong, if you should happen to roll your cart and the factory battery holds downs fail (which happens a lot, they aren't designed for rollovers but instead for simply keeping them from rattling) the battery cables have been shown to hold a pack together and keep them from flying out. This saves the batteries from potential damage, the area of the accident from environmental issues from acid leaks, and the driver and passenger from potential injury due to flying debris. Check out our FAQ section to see a photo of a customer's cart that rolled over and the battery pack was held together just by the cable kit!
What to look for in cables
There are a lot of companies out there selling inferior cables. They sell them cheap so people tend to buy them more often than not because they don't know any better. Here I'm going to show you what NOT to buy.
First up, here is a picture of a basic cable that comes from the factory on a Club Car. You'll notice it's rather thin (it is 6 gauge) and is manufactured as inexpensively as possible. There is no heat shrink to protect the joint which is soldered and crimped. The second and third photos show a cutaway of the cable interior.
Next up are two picture of some of the most commonly used replacement cables that we see come into the shop with problems. These are automotive cables that you would find in any automotive parts store, like a Pep Boys, AutoZone, Advance Auto etc etc. Photo one is what they look like, photo two is a cutaway showing the internal structure. They are absolutely 100% not for golf carts. Using these cables will lead to a meltdown at some point. You might get away with it for a few weeks, months or even years but sooner or later it will happen. Automotive cables are designed to give one mammoth hit of power required to start a car, and that's it. So they have about 20 strands of 14-16 gauge wire in them. Once a car starts, those cables don't carry a load. The wire on your car's alternator has cable that is more like our cart cables and welding cable, designed for a constant heavy load. When used on a cart, they are forced to carry a constant load and varying amperage that overheats them. Once they overheat, the insulation will start to deform and and when they can't handle anymore load, the end overheats and melts the lead post on the battery. In a worst case scenario, this can cause fires and/or a battery explosion. I have included a few photos of a cart we repaired that had auto style cables that caught fire for reference. The third picture is the seat bottom, and you can see that if you had been sitting on it when the failure occured it would not have been a very good day for your rear end. The fourth picture shows that not only did the battery that failed have to be replaced, but it also took out the adjoining battery. There was some extensive wiring damage to the controller area and main harness as well. All so someone could save a few bucks on a cheap cable. If someone tries to sell you these, say no and immediately go somewhere else because they are shysters, cheats or crooks.
Here I am showing you the cable we use to make our custom cables. This is welding cable. We don't make 6 gauge because in reality, the 6 gauge used by the manufacturers is the absolute smallest, minimum required size cable to do the job. Paying to replace stock cables with stock cables is throwing money away when upgraded cables can be had for nearly the same price in most cases. The branding of cable may vary, but generally it will be Excelene, Flexaprene or Infiniflex.
Our 2 gauge cable specs are;
600 Volt Welding Cable with 644 strands of 30 gauge copper wire
Our 4 gauge cable specs are;
600 Volt Welding Cable with 385 strands of 30 gauge copper wire
The largest cable we carry is generally 2 gauge, however we have on very rare occasion done 1 gauge. If anyone tells you that you need anything bigger than 2 gauge, it simply isn't true. (unless you are running a dragster cart with a few thousand amps of power) Anything bigger than 2 gauge is not very flexible and not conducive to use in a cart system, and quite frankly is overkill. This is also true for any "aught" gauge cable. Aught gauge cable will read like 1/0 or 2/0, whereas the cable you need will read 2AWG or 4 AWG. Below are a few photos of the Welding cable we use.
Finally, a brief discussion of Chinese cable. For a lack of better description, it's trash. Especially the factory cable that comes in Star and Zone brand carts. (and all other Chinese manufactured carts for that matter) The cable they manufacture and use is not up to standard. They use excessively thick shielding and undersized cable. The photo below is an example of this, and this cable was removed from a Star cart. The Chinese cable is on the top, and for reference I have put a piece of our 2 gauge cable below it to show exactly how substandard it really is. You can see that for one, the amount of copper cable is not 2awg as it is said to be. Two, you can see that the copper wire internal isn't even centered, with the insulation being thicker at the top and right than it is on the bottom and left. I have replaced more Chinese cable than I care to remember, and many times it has failed because it has dry rotted and the shielding has cracked exposing the copper internals to corrosion. This is exacerbated by the fact that the shielding is so thin in places. If you have a Star or Zone or any Chinese made cart, I "highly" suggest you replace all the load carrying cables in your cart. If you are looking at a new set of cables and you see they are manufactured in China, beware the product.