Battery fire shock for buggy owners

Batteries on motorised buggies have caused two dangerous incidents in Sydney within just one week.

In both incidents the car boot has caught fire, one causing thousands of dollars in damage.

Cliff Taylor, from New Brighton Golf Club, wrote to tell us he discovered smoke pouring from the boot of his car as he started to load his clubs.

“I packed my electric golf buggy to the rear of my boot then placed the battery along side, then placed my golf clubs in the same way as I had previously done,” Cliff said.

“The golf bag has an outside space to fit my putter, but somehow the shaft of the putter must have rested on the terminals.”

When Cliff returned to his garage he found two golf towels smoldering and the shaft of his putter glowing red hot.

“It had two holes burnt into the shaft and under its own weight, with the heat generated, had bent,” said Cliff.

Meanwhile, across town, Pam Lawson was about to start a round of golf at Avondale.

When she opened the boot of her Honda, flames leapt out at her.

“The battery was in flames,” said Pam.

“I tried to put it out with a towel, but it was too dangerous. Luckily, young Ben in the pro shop ran out with a fire extinguisher.”

Pam hadn’t been as lucky as Cliff. The fire brigade was needed to put out the flames, which had caused extensive damage to the car’s wiring and completely burned out the Honda’s boot.

“When they pulled the back seat down, it was still smoldering and about a minute away from going up,” she said.

“I don’t know what happened. My husband has been very methodically packing my car for 15 years. He always does it the same way, but something must have moved onto the battery’s terminals and caused friction.”

So what’s the cause of this spate of battery fires? Bad luck, according to veteran buggy repair man, Ron Hatch, from Battery Golf Buggies, in Middle Cove.

“These would have been the older-style batteries which have exposed terminals,” said Ron.

“Newer batteries have plugs on both the battery and buggy.

“As soon as something touches both terminals, simultaneously, it shorts the battery. The short causes heat and if there’s anything inflammable around it will go up.”

Ron said the newer-style batteries use plugs to prevent the problem.

“We always sell even our newer batteries in a bag for this reason. The older ones should never be left with the terminals exposed. In the old days people used to come in with their batteries in a bucket.”

Ron, who services about 3000 buggies a year, says that once metal rests on the terminals it can become white hot within a second or so. If there is anything flammable nearby, it’s a recipe for disaster.

“I had one chap who came in with four clubs melted together. I’d warned him not to leave his battery exposed so he wanted to let me know I was right,” Ron recalled.

According to Ron, the old batteries, which often came with longer lives, can be adapted.

“Anyone with clip batteries should change over to plugs. We do it all the time. It’s relatively inexpensive and could save a lot of heartache.”

Pam Lawson agrees.

“The NRMA man told me that these batteries should only ever be carried in a box with the a lid on.”

Unfortunately, an expensive lesson for both golfers.