That combo of a firing sound and a strong gasoline smell isn’t my favorite either! Yet, I view backfires as a blessing in disguise. It’s like your cart is sending out an SOS for you to see what’s going on under those seats.
In this blog, I’ll answer the famous query, “Why does my golf cart backfire?” I’ll also give you some pointers on how to fix and keep those firing sounds at bay, so let’s get started!
Why Does My Golf Cart Backfire?
There are several reasons for your golf cart to backfire, but thankfully, we can identify most of them. I’ll go over three of the most common causes in depth to help you understand why your cart malfunctioned:
1. Misaligned Accelerator Cable
One of the most frequent reasons for a backfire is a misaligned accelerator cable, also known as the throttle cable. When this happens, the carburetor’s built-in throttle plate partially closes rather than completely.
To put it simply, the throttle plate is an accelerator pump that regulates the amount of fuel that enters the engine. When it’s not properly closed, fuel spills into the engine cylinder before you turn on the ignition system.
Normally, when the microswitch clicks, which is responsible for ignition, a small amount of fuel ignites to provide a spark for combustion. However, when the throttle plate is open, more fuel is burnt, resulting in a greater explosion known as backfiring.
2. Issue With the Carburetor
To begin, a carburetor is what assesses the amount of gas and air that enters the engine cylinders. As the level of combustion changes, the amount of fuel that enters is adjusted to maintain a proper balance.
Whereas, the carburetor jet is a brass connection with a hole in it that links the carburetor (fuel supply) to the venturi (air supply). The fuel travels through this hole to mix with the air before entering the combustion chamber (cylinder) to feed the engine.
Thus, when the carburetor or the carb jet needs adjustments, the air/fuel mix becomes unbalanced, with too much or too little gas. This is the second possibility of why your golf car backfires.
On a side note, if your cart backfires with significant exhaust emissions and a strong gas odor, the mixture is most likely rich in fuel.
3. Carbon Buildup
Carbon can accumulate in two areas of your cart and cause a backfire. The two potential carbon buildup sites are:
1. Pistons and Valves
Carbon building on the pistons and valves is most common in older golf carts that have been operating for a long time.
Simply put, pistons help with internal combustion. Whereas, a valve is a mechanical component that opens and shuts to allow air to enter the engine cylinder and expel exhaust gasses. When both get coated with carbon, resulting from combustion, they can trigger an ignition, ending in a backfire.
2. Spark Plugs
Spark plugs, as the name suggests, are in charge of starting the spark that ignites the air/fuel mixture. Basically, they initiate the combustion process to generate power.
When these plugs become covered with carbon, they lose their ability to transfer the proper amount of electricity. Over time, this can cause your cart to start backfiring irregularly.
How Do I Get My Golf Cart to Stop Backfiring?
To get your golf cart to stop backfiring, you must first identify the source of the problem. I’ll walk you through the sequence of tests you’ll need to run and how to troubleshoot any issues that arise.
Test 1: Examine the Throttle Cable
This is one of the easiest checks and fixes. Here’s what you need to do:
- Remove the front seat row and turn off the ignition
- Gently press the accelerator pedal until you hear the microswitch click
- While pressing the pedal, check to see if the throttle plate moves before or after the click
If the throttle plate moves before the microswitch clicks, the throttle cable needs to be adjusted. The following is how to adjust a throttle cable:
- Loosen the throttle screw
- Close the throttle plate before retightening the screw
- Make sure that the cable is connected on both sides (top and bottom), and that’s it!
Test 2: Check the Carburetor
If the problem wasn’t caused by the throttle cable, it’s now time to inspect the carburetor! All you can do here is:
- Find the air/fuel mixture screw, which is usually located at the bottom of the carburetor
- Loosen it completely with a screwdriver, then screw it back in
- Take it out in one and a half turns, and voila, the mixture should be balanced!
Note: The shape of this screw varies from engine to engine, so if you’re unfamiliar with it, I recommend looking it up first. Moreover, the air/fuel mixture settings can vary, so check the manual before proceeding with the steps above.
Test 3: Look for Carbon Accumulation
Check for carbon buildup in the sites I previously mentioned. If you find any carbon-coated parts, I suggest you take the cart to a professional.
To clarify, you’ll need a scraping tool to remove this coat. If you’re not careful enough, you might end up doing more harm than good by damaging the engine.
3 Ways to Keep Your Golf Cart From Backfiring
I know you don’t want to deal with the hassle of a cart that backfires. So, here are three simple ways to reduce the likelihood of it occurring:
1. Perform Routine Inspections and Maintenance
Having your golf cart serviced by a professional once a year prevents a slew of problems, not just backfiring. At his shop, he’ll be able to spot parts that need to be replaced before they cause that firing sound, such as:
- Spark plugs
- Fuel filter
It’d be great if you could perform some basic checks in between maintenance appointments. Check for leaks, worn-out mechanical parts, engine oil levels, etc.
2. Use High-Quality Gas
I can’t stress enough how important it is to feed your engine high-quality gas. It’ll help keep engine parts lubricated and is unlikely to leave residue in the engine cylinder.
A low-quality fuel, on the other hand, has the opposite effect which makes your cart prone to backfires.
3. Grease Electrical Connections
Greasing the electrical connections in a golf cart is just as important as it is in a car. This will protect them from corrosion, which could’ve easily resulted in a backfire.
The type that is commonly used is called Dielectric grease. You see, it not only protects against corrosion but also improves the electrical flow between them.
Why does my golf cart backfire? You now have lots of suspects to investigate! Take your time determining the cause of the backfire before taking your golf cart back on the course.
Most importantly, regular check-ups significantly decrease the risk of malfunctions, so don’t skip them!