Monday, June 17, 2024


You never want to buy something that has only a single source for parts.

The buggy broke the other night. We were on the way home and Mark hit the throttle and it took off - faster than it ever went before!  We were a little giddy at first, but when we stopped at a stop sign, it wouldn't start up again.   We pushed it to a parking lot (surprisingly little resistance!) and Mark walked home and got the car.

It was not a far walk - we do it (or used to do it before it got hot) nearly every day. He came back with the car and we had the "tow of shame" back home. Once home, I tested the system. The battery was making power (53 volts) and all the accessories (lights, horn, etc.) were working.  The BMS system (Battery Maintenance) is readable via app on my phone.  Charge was OK, voltage fine, temps fine as well.  I put the charger on it just to be sure.  The throttle potentiometer was putting out 0-5 KΩ like it should. The main power relay was working.  There was 53 volts in to the controller, but nothing coming out, even at full throttle.

I plugged in my controller programmer and there were no error codes but it showed motor voltage as zero at all throttle positions.  It also showed the "duty cycle" at zero regardless of throttle position (and it showed the throttle going from 0 to 100% and back as I worked the pedal). I am guessing it is the controller or possibly the motor.  The motor is only 30 years old and is rated for only 36 Volts.  I searched online and discovered these motors can (and do) run on 36 or 48V and series wound motors like this can be had all day long from various sources from $500 to $1000.  A place in Syracuse New York has a nice upgrade motor (11 HP!) that might bring our speed up to 25MPH and cost about $500.  They claim to be the only motor maker left in the USA (others are imported - guess where from?)..

But I suspect it is the "Curtis" solid-state controller that failed.  It varies motor speed by pulsing a solid-state relay based on the resistance of the throttle potentiometer.  These can be had all day long on eBay for about $120, so I ordered one and it should be here Monday.  If that doesn't fix it, I will break down and buy the motor from Syracuse.

This golf cart is rapidly becoming a ship of Theseus. And maybe I should have quit early on and bought something newer - like only 25 years old. There isn't much except the frame and transaxle that hasn't been replaced just yet.  Well maybe the springs.  I found a source for them online...

What makes these things somewhat affordable is that there is a plethora of parts available from a plurality of sources.  The EZ-GO Marathon may be outdated, but much of the hardware is the same as the later TXT models (with the series motor) so there are parts a-plenty.

You can rent golf carts here on the island and drive them around.  Red Bug Motors originally rented GEM electrics - once a division of Chrysler, now Bombardier.  They are nice buggies and all, but as I noted before, if you ever need service, the only place to get parts is from GEM electric through a local dealer.  I even tried to talk to a dealer out of my area to see if I could get better pricing - but was transferred to a local dealer.  Single-source for parts!

The stories I have heard about the GEM is that if the display panel goes bad, the entire thing shuts down and the panel is only available from the GEM dealer and costs a lot of money.  So you have no options other than to pay.   I wrote before about these Chinese-made carts sold at Lowe's (and elsewhere) that look cool and all, but where do you get parts for them if they break? 

Any piece of machinery is part of an underlying system of support, from consumable supplies to repair and replacement parts.  The IC engine car didn't take off until a network of service stations selling gas and providing repair service, was available,.  Before that, you had to buy gasoline at the pharmacy or hardware store and service was whatever your local blacksmith could conjure up.

A good supply of cheap parts is key. I can keep my old laptops running because no one else wants them and parts are cheap.  When they become rare and parts are expensive, well, the scheme no longer works and I will have to move on. Old cars at a certain age (15-20 years) can be a bargain as no one wants them and the dealers and wholesalers would just assume get rid of their inventory of parts before they become worthless.  After 20-30 years, parts become scarce and the cost curve goes up.

Today many automakers are trying to keep their parts and service proprietary such that only authorized dealers can work on the cars.  You want to add a built-in trailer brake controller to your F150, you can find the part online (as one friend did) for $50.  Ten minutes to install!  The dealer wants $70 to program the ECU to recognize the part - otherwise it won't work.  And this is true for many other electrical parts on a vehicle as well.  Fortunately, other than oil changes and new tires, the only repair I had had to make to mine was the sunroof "rails" which were like $150 online and took an hour to install.  Hope my luck keeps holding.

HP famously programmed its printers to only work with HP ink cartridges - inserting "copyrighted" code into a chip on the cartridge.  The only purpose of the chip was to assert IP rights to the cartridge.  As a (former) IP Attorney, that sort of shit makes my blood boil.

But, the market may speak, and already you can buy refillable inkjet printers (HP even sells one now - no doubt, they put nanochips in the ink /s) or other brands of cartridge printers that accept 3rd-party cartridges..  My old Canon B&W laser printer works like a Swiss Watch using 3rd party cartridges I buy on eBay.  But who prints anything anymore anyway?  All HP did with its nefarious schemes was to advance the death of printing.

There was a posting online where a Tesla owner claimed the "service center" charged him $2000 to fix the horn on his Tesla.  I suspect it was a faked "invoice" as it was awfully sparse in detail.  Nevertheless, one wonders where you can get your Tesla serviced other than the authorized service center.  Some owners have manged to "hack" repairs to their vehicles and exchange repair info online (as we did back in the day with BMWs and other "foreign" makes).  However, Tesla, like Apple, isn't taking this well and I have heard stories about warranties being voided or service centers refusing to work on cars that have had 3rd party repairs.  Apple was called out on this practice, no doubt Tesla would be as well, if these stories are true.

But again, maybe the market will decide - provided the market is an informed market. Most people buy HP inkjet printers not knowing about the cartridge scam.  They get frustrated that the cartridges don't last long and cost so much.  It is only after throwing a lot of money at HP that they learn the truth.  This is why we have (or used to have) laws about this sort of thing.

Similarly, a lot of people bought Teslas not realizing the CEO would lose his mind and turn into a right-wing nutjob.  Just kidding, but I suspect the earth-shoe wearing contingent is no longer keen on the brand.  And brands do have followings based on perceived social values - real or not.  Just ask Subaru - the official car of Lesbianism.  Ask any Lesbian - they will confirm this.

Speaking of Tesla and Musk, supposedly he finally got his $59Billion raise or bonus or whatever - at a time when the company is facing a price war in the EV marketplace and the initial enthusiasm for EVs is cooling off.  Is this just his last desperate cash-grab before the entire company collapses?  My gut instinct is yes.  He is ready to move on to brain implants, AI-bots and Mars colonies.  His interest in EVs is waning and the billions he was paid were not a guarantee he would devote more time to Tesla but a golden parachute on his way out the door.

I think we may see the horrifically over-valued price of Tesla shares - propped up, like Gamestop or AMC as a "meme stonk" by online incels - finally pop, particularly once Musk starts dumping stock to fund his next passing fancy or prop-up money-losing Twitter.  But we'll see.

If I was to buy an EV - and maybe in 5-10 years I would - I would want to buy something that has multiple options for both service and parts. And maybe in 5-10 years an aftermarket will exist to provide such service and parts.  But today?  EVs are still enough of a niche product that the aftermarket hasn't really caught up yet.  And manufacturers aren't helping matters much.

UPDATE: I installed the new controller and no joy.  It was then I realized the A2 (armature) wire was melted at the motor connection (and the bolt holding it on won't come off!).  Time for four-gauge wires and a motor upgrade, I guess.

I tested the motor with a jumper cable first and it worked!

So I spent an hour removing the nut which was welded in place and ran two older power wires in parallel.  I think in the fall I will spring for the upgraded motor and 4 ga wiring for the motor wires.

It's always something...

UPDATE: This may have been an example of operator error. I installed a new 4 gauge power cable to the A2 terminal but failed to provide enough slack in the cable.  As the axle moves up and down going over bumps (along with the motor) it tugged on the connection, loosening it. I think this caused arcing (we saw an intermittent drop in power on occasion) which welded through the connector, breaking the circuit.  The two new cables have a nice slack loop in them.

I still want to get a new motor and all new 4GA cables!  Next year!