Golf Cart Lights- Your Questions Answered!
Understanding Golf Cart Lights
Golf carts have quickly become an essential means of transportation for large parts of the U.S population. More and more neighborhoods are becoming golf cart friendly, and new golf course communities are popping up everywhere. With so many new avenues for people to purchase and enjoy golf carts, many wonder about adding lights to their golf cart. There are a lot of questions that can be asked- What kind of golf cart lights are there? What do I need if I want my golf cart to be street legal? Are golf cart lights challenging to install? And many more. Hopefully, by the time you get to this article's end, you should have all those questions answered, allowing you to make a more informed choice regarding golf cart lights. Let's jump right in!
Golf Cart Lights- Essential For Safety
Before we get into what you can purchase, let's address one of the main reasons you should install golf cart lights. Golf cart lights are essential for safely using and maneuvering your golf cart during low visibility. Before you quickly gloss over "golf cart safety," consider that from 2007 to 2017, 156,040 people ended up in the emergency room for golf cart-related injuries. Even insurance agencies write about golf cart safety as an important topic. It stands to reason that if you want to use your golf cart safely, adding lights is a wise choice. Now that you know how important it is, let's consider your options.
Golf Cart Lighting Options
Basic Light Kits
Regarding golf cart light options- there are two main categories for you to keep in mind: basic and street legal (deluxe) kits. Categorizing lights in these two categories helps you, as the cart owner, think through how you most often use your cart and what you hope to accomplish by adding lights. Let's start with basic light kits. Basic light kits (they can be called lots of different names, we use "basic" to keep things simple) provide reliable lighting for your cart without many additional add-ons or functions. These light kits are typically provisioned for headlights and running lights only. As a result, when you turn on your lights, your headlights and taillights will engage, but you won't be able to control your lights outside of on/off. So what are the benefits of basic light kits, and who should buy them? Basic lights kits are beneficial for two primary reasons- they are cheaper and more straightforward. Basic kits will provide you with headlights and taillights and a simple wiring system for you to run in your cart. With basic kits, you don't get additional items to have to install or connect, so all you have to do is attach your lights, run your wiring, connect to power and get going. These kits are great for cart owners who don't need to signal other drivers or are not planning on using their cart on roadways or other crowded areas. The customers who purchase basic kits are typically driving around their personal property (farms, camps, etc.), at campgrounds, or in small neighborhoods. They need to see clearly at night but don't need much else.
Street Legal (Deluxe) Light Kits
Considering we just finished explaining the benefits and uses of basic kits, it's not difficult to guess what the benefits of a deluxe kit are. Deluxe kits turn your golf cart into a small, fully functioning vehicle. Think of everything (or most things) that you can do with your car. In addition to headlights and taillights, street-legal kits give you turn signals, brake lights, and a horn. This way, you can adequately signal other drivers, whether they are in a golf cart or a car. If you are planning on taking your cart to your local DMV to get registered and plated, more often than not, you will need to have a deluxe kit installed. The main benefits of deluxe kits are that they give you greater safety and flexibility. Using turn signals, brakes, and a horn dramatically increases your ability to "communicate" with other drivers or pedestrians, making your golf cart much safer. Adding the additional components to your cart will also give you a more comprehensive range of options on where you can drive your cart. If you have a street-legal light kit installed but don't use your horn or turn signals that often, no harm, no foul. However, if you have a basic kit installed and want to be able to use a horn or turn signals, you will be limited. Street-legal light kits are great for cart owners who operate their carts in neighborhoods, golf course communities, or other areas where having the ability to communicate your driving actions is essential.
Halogen vs LED
Golf cart lights usually come in two options- halogen or LED. Halogen (incandescent) lighting was more common back when lights first started getting manufactured for golf carts, but that has quickly changed, and LED lights have become the standard. LED lights are popular for a reason (actually a few!) For similar reasons as changing the lighting in your house, LED lights for your golf cart provide some significant benefits. First, LED lighting draws little power from your golf cart's batteries. When you compare incandescent lights to LED, LED lights will draw about 1/3 of the power. In fact, our deluxe lights will draw a maximum of 1.8-2 amps, compared to halogen lights which will be closer to 7-8 amps. What does this mean for you? You can use your golf cart lights (and your golf cart as a result) for more extended periods of time because your batteries will have more juice. In addition to power draw, LED lights are often brighter and provide greater visual contrast. Although some people don't like the bright, blue hue that can come from LED lights, there is no denying that they significantly impact how much and how far you can see.
Golf Cart Light Installation
Although we wouldn't classify installing lights on your golf cart as very difficult or requiring you to be super handy, a few steps will require some extra effort. One of the main things to be aware of is that installing lights on your golf cart will most likely require you to cut holes into your fiberglass body. Light kits will provide templates to make the job easier, but the right tools and a steady hand will be essential in this process. In addition to cutting holes into your body, you will have to run the wiring harness to connect everything. That means you will need to access the underside and inner portions of your cart, run the wiring along your cart's frame, and get everything to its necessary point of connection. As far as tools are concerned, you will need a Dremel tool or other tool to cut the fiberglass on your cart, zip ties (we provide some in our kits), and some screwdrivers.
Pro-Tip: It's best to block out at least 2-3 hours when installing your light kit. You may be able to get the job done faster, but it's best to leave yourself more time rather than less. In addition to blocking out some time, we suggest reading the instruction booklet from beginning to end before starting any actual work. Reading through the instructions will allow you to get a good idea of the job flow- understanding what you will need to do and in what order.
What about voltage reducers?
Voltage reducers are unique electrical components that take the output voltage of your golf cart's batteries (typically 36 or 48 volts) and reduce that voltage to a lower voltage (usually 12 volts). Reducing the voltage is often necessary to protect the accessory you are installing in your cart from the high output voltage of your batteries which most aftermarket accessory items can't take without getting damaged (most electrical golf cart accessories are rated for 12 volts). Many new light kits have a voltage reducer pre-installed, but not all of them do, so it's essential to read all the light kit details before buying. Shameless plug- our Instamatic™ FlexVolt™ lights operate on any voltage range between 12-48 volts without needing a reducer. What does that mean for you? Less money you need to spend and one less item you need to install!
If I buy a basic kit, can I upgrade to a street-legal kit?
Short answer: yes. Honest answer: Yes, but it will take some work. Most basic light kits come with a straightforward wiring harness that only has connections for headlights, taillights, and connecting to your battery or power source. As a result, there is no place to plug-in turn signals, a horn, brake light wiring, etc. More than likely, if you purchase a basic kit and want to upgrade to a street-legal kit, you will have to re-run a new wiring harness. Upgrading to a deluxe kit can certainly be done, we have customers do it often, but it's better to think through what light kit you want and buy that the first time.
If at this point, you have a better understanding of the available light kit options and what it will take to get them installed, we have accomplished our goal. Whether you own an EZGO, Club Car, or Yamaha cart, there are lights for you to install to make your golf cart more safe and more enjoyable. If you still have questions, don't hesitate to contact us. We would be glad to help!