5 Common Symptoms of a Bad Starter Generators (+How to Prevent)

The starter generator is responsible for helping the engine turn on and also charging the battery. Any issue within the starter generator can directly affect the golf cart’s performance. 

Some common symptoms of a bad starter generator are the cart not turning on or taking a long time to crank, grinding noise, and an overheating starter generator.

I still remember the day I was stuck in the middle of a road as my golf cart wouldn’t start. It eventually turned out that my starter generator blew over. Problems with starter generators are more common than you think. 

Symptoms Of A Bad Starter Generators
Symptoms Of A Bad Starter Generators

5 common symptoms of bad starter generator

Most of the symptoms associated with a problematic starter generator can also occur due to a deficient battery.

So it’s normal to get confused between these two. However, I’m sharing some common symptoms of a bad starter generator below. 

1. The cart won’t turn on

When my starter generator went bad, I mistook it for a bad battery. It’s tough to distinguish between these two if your cart doesn’t start when you rotate the key. 

I suggest you check if the lights of your cart are working. If the battery’s dead, the lights won’t work. But if the lights are working, the issues may be within the starter generator.

2. The cart takes time to crank

Another common symptom is the golf cart taking more time to crank than usual. My cart has been doing this, too, which got me confused between the battery and the starter. I took help from the lights again, and as they were on, I immediately went to check on the starter generator.

3. Starter generator overheats or lets out smoke

As I checked my starter generator, I found it pretty hot. A malfunctioning starter generator can get extremely hot to the point of letting out smoke. 

It can cause problems for the other linked parts of the cart as well, like the solenoid and voltage regulator. Therefore, if you have a starter generator that’s heating up, check and fix immediately.

4. The pulley became stiff and rusty

The pulley is an essential element of a golf cart that acts as a bridge between the starter generator and the central axle.

However, with time, the pulley can get rusty and stiff that can affect the starter generator as well.

So if you have a pulley that has become immobile or rusted, there’s a possibility that the starter generator has gone wrong as well. 

5. The cart is making noise

Another warning sign of a bad starter generator is noise from a running cart. It is more like a grinding noise, mainly occurring when the starter generator fails to engage properly or has worn out thoroughly. 

It’s more common in older carts that have been on the run for a long time. I suggest you immediately take action to solve this issue, as noise coming from the cart is never a good thing. Delaying can cause other severe damages.

How to prevent the starter generator from going bad?

This is a task that requires regular maintenance and proper knowledge about the components of a golf cart. Check out the following preventive measures that may help you. 

1. Check for damaged or loose connections

You can’t have any loose or damaged wire that can interfere with the starter generator’s performance causing it to go wrong or overheat.

I suggest you check the connection between the wires from time to time to avoid any issues with the starter generator. 

2. Check if the wires are attached to the correct terminals

The wires need to be fastened to the suitable terminals of the starter generator for it to work. There should be three types of wires – red, black, and green. 

It would be best if you guaranteed that the red wire attaches to the D+ terminal, the black one to the D- terminal, and the green one attaches to the DF terminal.

3. Check the voltage regulator

A lot of the time, the voltage regulator goes bad, causing the starter generator to go wrong or overheat.

If something feels wrong with the cart, check the voltage reading across the starter generator with a voltmeter. If the reading exceeds the standard voltage, you may require a new voltage regulator. 

4. Check on the pulley or belt

The pulley and belt together play a significant role in the smooth functioning of the starter generator. These parts can become stiff or unsteady over time.

Also, none of these should be too tight or too loose. You can check on the pulley and belt from time to time and fix if needed.


If you can ensure good health to all the components of your cart, you can enjoy the luxury of a golf cart for a long time. Check out these questions regarding the starter generator.

Can a bad starter generator overheat and let out smoke?

As scary as it may seem, a malfunctioning starter generator can overheat to the point that it can let out smoke.
It is a bounded space, and when it produces more electricity than needed, it overheats and, if unattended, can let out the smoke.

Can you replace your golf cart’s starter generator?

Replacing the starter generator may be necessary if it has gone bad to the point of no fix. You can do it yourself only if you feel confident. If not, it is better to take help from a professional. 

What are the primary responsibilities of a starter generator in a golf cart?

The starter generator is responsible for starting the cart, performing as a limited power supply, powering the lights, and charging the battery.
You can see how important all of these tasks are, which explains the importance of a good starter generator. 

Should a starter generator make any noise?

If in good health, a starter generator is not supposed to make any noise. So, if you’ve been hearing a grinding or whining noise whenever you start or run your cart, there’s a possibility that the starter generator needs to be checked and fixed. 


A perfectly working starter generator is crucial for a perfectly operating golf cart. A starter generator does not only help the engine to turn on but  can also charge the battery. So it’s important that you take good care of it. 

Nonetheless, many problems related to starting your cart can be the result of a bad battery as well. I would suggest you check on the symptoms carefully. 

If fixing or changing the starter components didn’t help, you may need to inspect the battery thoroughly for damage. In any case, consider taking help from an expert, as it can be confusing and frustrating.

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