New Owner - Lots of Questions Coming

I’m not very good at keeping long stories short, but I’ll try. My neighbor runs a paper products company. One of his customers runs a janitorial service and had several GEMs that they used to service a local university. My neighbor somehow ended up with one of them a few years back, replaced the batteries and played with it a bit. Once the novelty wore off, he gave it to a friend to use on his farm.

Fast forward to a week ago, I mentioned to him that I was looking for one and he says that the friend had some problems with the GEM and would gladly part with it. Last night, this ended up at my door:


I rolled it into the shop this morning and got my first good look. It has four Gp 31 AGM batteries - the two front batteries are missing. For some inexplicable reason, when this person had problems with the GEM, he started disassembling it. Fortunately, it doesn’t look like any wires have been cut. I just need to figure out where everything goes.

This should be a fun project. I live in a small town outside of Atlanta and this will be perfect for short trips running errands.


They all start this way in the beginning.
Hopefully you got all the pieces. It looks like you got most of them.

Include a few more pics of the hardware on the dash. I think I see you at least have the DC Converter wiring update.

Welcome to the forum! I’m fairly new as well and the folks here have been a great help in my learning and troubleshooting.

I’ll offer a few questions/ideas:

  1. As stated above a few more pictures would be helpful.

  2. Year of Gem?

  3. Looks like you may have the US batteries which are good. Can you see a date stamp on them to see how old they are? Check and fill will distilled water.

  4. Maybe start looking for other 2 batteries to replace so you are not buying a full set if the others are salvageable.

  5. Check tires. Might be original. Mine where and we’re toast. Had tread but cracked and rotted. I wanted cooler wheels anyway.

I have a 2002 with the short stake bed. Good luck. You’re in good hands here.

Looks a lot like the one my son spotted in St. Thomas V.I this week!

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Oh great, another 02-04 back from the dead.

Kill it with fire. And run away.

Garbage design those years. Colossal money pits and time wasters that ride like broken dump trucks on their best days. Junk brakes, bad steering, horrible suspension design, anemic motors, steering column prone to tearing loose, paint failures, windshields held in with double sided tape rather than mastic, and more.

Chop it up for scrap. The aluminum frame is worth more than the complete vehicle. Get a 06 or newer.


I’m with @JarJarJava. Part it out and look for an 06 or better. This is going to be a time and money pit.

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@JarJarJava @Erniea15 I know you mean well, but some cannot afford to upgrade to a new level. Its a golf cart not a smooth riding tesla. It’s going to be rough, and like anything old, it can be a money pit. But also spending 10K plus on a newer model isn’t affordable to many. I guess you were lucky. I know for me you both have been a huge help and i too am very familiar with your sentiment that you just again shared.

@Papafoxtrot if you love what you have and are willing to learn and put money into it, then go for it. I did and my wife loves it. We have a great time going into town. Is it perfect? Heck no! But we are basically the only ones like it on our roads. We get a lot of praise and smiles. Someday we may upgrade. We also have a few other classic projects…63 Willys Jeep, 66 VW bug, 73 Winnebago Brave, and a 83 Toyota 4x4. EVERY ONE of those have better newer models…, but i like the classics and so does my wife so to each their own.

@jonbbrew - Yes, they do mean well as they are not wrong. They offer their first hand advice and experience because they both have gone down that path(as others her also have).

This forum is a collective of some of the smartest people on the planet and have decades of experience in these little cars. Much of it has been earned by throwing buckets of money and time at an issue only to come up with mediocre results. Sometimes the advice is not exactly sugar coated and not what people are expecting.

In PF’s case, it doesn’t sound like he has any/much(?) financial interest in his cart yet. He has the opportunity to go any direction with this car. It very much depends on the intended use. It is now up to PF to do his research and decide what this car will be. As long as he jumps into this project knowing this it will be a great learning project and possibly a springboard to something better.


I’m speaking from experience when I say that vehicle is worth more as parts and scrap #1 aluminum.

As you pointed out some old vehicles have character, and some people like to run them. 00-04 are failure prone. Weak design and generally poorly maintained because no one understood them at the time. The EV was a relatively new concept at the time. Think about how many hybrids and EVs you saw on the road in y2k. Not many.

Replacement 20+ year old components are getting scarce and the ones in service are failing and the supply of good used ones is drying up. Furthermore, the old truck models are built a bit different than average passenger model from the era. The bed on the truck models is 1/4" aluminum plate, and the frame rails are large size heavy wall rectangular tubing that is doubled up in some areas. GVWR on the longback is 2300 lbs, minus 400 for batteries and a few hundred for tires, rims, gearbox and a motor you can toss around like a football. Over half the weight of the longbacks is grade #1 aluminum.

The old ones are money pits, we’ve all been there. And you will get there too eventually.

Not sure where you come up with the assertion that all newer ones are $10k+, because that’s just simply wrong. If you want a project, start with a slightly newer (06+) frame. Something that won’t fail and fall apart as fast as you fix it.

It’s ok for you to be a noob, we all were at one point, and the best way to move beyond that point is to try to spend the time to understand what is being said rather than immediately fixating on sarcasm or being upset that someone doesn’t give you the answer you want to hear.

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They are still licking wounds from sticking $10k in an addictive money pit.
So take it as a warning not to get addicted until you have a newer platform to start with.
We all had old Gems to learn on, and they are just as much fun to drive around.
Welcome to the forum and our resident comedian. :slight_smile:
Even “funny man” will help you. You just need to roll with the initiation punches.
Jr is one of the nicest members. (he hides it well though)
I would make him send you some cheese for the rude welcome!



…sad, funny and very true…

I think I spent about $6k after the $400 to buy it from the UCD bargain barn. That 02 flew with that mixed tech battery system you came up with, 350lbs of lead, 30 of lithium and a passenger in it and could hit 40+ for bursts when fully charged. I think I was doing around 32-35 when I snapped a drive axle in half and walked away from that money pit.

The '10 eL I bought from you which replaced it, has been completely reliable. I have had to fix almost nothing on there. The BMS and a wheel bearing are all I can recall. So like $500 in 3+ years as a daily driver

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I don’t regret it… I learned a ton about the cars. My 2016 just works so I don’t tinker on it as much! Just know what you’re getting into.

Cheese is delicious. I blame @JarJarJava for my most recent 5 lbs.

Btw - ive seen 2012 trucks that need batteries go for 2500 in socal. You could part that one you have now to make up most of the 2500.

Ok… So the disclaimers are out of the way, how can we help??

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Isn’t there a troubleshooting guide in one of the user or service manuals?

Since this was hacked on so much it’s going to be a step by step to figure out what’s working and what’s not and why. Obviously you have to start with 6 fully charged batteries and at this point you can use 2 still-good car batteries but charge each battery individually with a standard 12V car battery charger. Don’t worry about the onboard charger yet.

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That one shoujld be checked for frontend damage… Hood is a hack, head lights mixed(hack) and RF wheel looks to have toe-out while the LF is straight. But $1000 and a 2005 you’d spend time learning and get some of the advances GEM put in 2005 and later vehicles.

Yep. Suspension and steering on 05 and up is light years ahead of the 00-04s

The aluminum alone in the 02-04 would almost pay for the 05. Sell the zivan on ebay and that should cover the rest.

one jumper wire is all you need to go from the T3 to a T4 controller. Unload the T2 and T3 on eBay and should be able to buy a T4 easy. Or go balls deep jump straight to AC drive but that needs li-ion batteries for best performance and that can be spendy. If you want diy it can be less costly. An AC motor will hurl that tech down the road at 40+ even 50+ if you keep your 10.35 gears from the 02-04 to replace the 12.44

Seems like a lot of of 05 had the leftover anemic short GE5 from 04. But, I’ve seen a few with long GE5 motors. Could be retrofit. Sell both shorts and get a serviced motor from Rodney. Or maybe he’ll trade your two for his one.

DeltaQ charger, maybe lithium upgradeable, maybe not. Again, it probably works on the 05, so can be resold if you go down that road and it’s not upgradeable.

Hood hinge pins are basically in the same location on all the classic bodies, so if the op has a good hood, it’s just a few wire connections and a holesaw for the charge plug.

But, what would I know… I’m just an internet schmuck with opinions and no experience or facts. :laughing:

Wow, not quite the response that I was expecting, but actually makes me feel better about going the “free” route. Most of the GEMs that I see available are pre-05 and are still asking $5-6K. The few post 05 start above that range and go into 7 figures. This one is a 2002 and I’ve got nothing in it so far. Any real money will wait until after a title is located. No title will mean a short cut to the scrap route.

On the subject of money, I’m retired and live comfortably - not rich. The objective to me is the challenge of bringing this thing back from the dead and learning something along the way. If I’m successful, then I’ll play with it a bit, sell it and use the funds to upgrade. If I’m not, I’ll part it/scrap it and move on.

I got one of the batteries on a “smart” charger this afternoon. Showed up at 12.4V, but the charger display is stuck on 60%. We’ll see what that looks like in the morning. The batteries are Odyssey AGM GP31’s. Next door neighbor is checking to see if the culprit still has the other 2.

Took the hood off and it’s garbage, cracked with a piece missing and a crap fiberglass repair. No signs of damage to the subframe/frame up front. Just some corrosion. May be a little toe out, but not bad - tire wear looks symmetrical. The cell phone camera lens makes it look worse. Looks like the contactor was replaced. There was one sitting on the batteries, but there is one installed under the dash.

Fresh pic’s below.


Cool. It has the DC DC upgrade done. The zivan sticker is missing to indicate if it was upgraded, but there was something there so who knows.

Picture of the motor and the gearbox sticker with part number of you can find it.

Welcome to the (sometimes painful) always helpful forum. I’m a somewhat newbie (noob?) with an '03 that these guys helped educate me on the nature of the beast. I’m in the middle relationship with my cart (eyeing younger, perkier carts) and have had tons of fun both riding and repairing my beast (beast only refers to the suspension, brakes, steering and bodywork).
This is THE place to go to school on batterys (pile, pack, array), DC/DC chargers, motor controllers (can you say mosfit?) , contactors, gearboxes, TIG welder accelerator pedals, and motor identification and maintanance. All clarified with hyrogliphic schematics, diagrams and service manuals. Thanks for the edumocation guys! Total investment 2015-2022 approx. $5.5k

Don’t get me wrong, This will be a great learner car for you. When you eventually get it running you will either totally get into the concept or you will just chalk it up as a semi-useful toy and it will sit until you pass it on to the next guy. It really has to do with your environment. If your community supports LSV’s then you may even use it as your primary vehicle.

Just be careful of the 00-04 rabbit hole that the others are warning you about. The prices on these things have gone bonkers for some reason(even for the pre-04 cars). This could be due to those that have spent so much on them(wheels, paint, seats, brakes, motor, etc) and are trying to get some of that money out.

Keep an eye out. Every now and then a deal pops up.
I saw one for a 05 in the same model you have now for 1K. Someone must have snapped it up as I can’t find in any more.

Getting back to your project.
Some danger signs to look for on your car:
Look at the inside of all four brake drums to see if they are wet (leaky wheel cylinders).

Crawl under your car and examine your rear suspension. it is basically a ladder that is hinged at three points on the frame rail. I call it a swinging gate. It is very rigid and makes the car corner like a race car since it has no articulation. Unfortunately our world is not a flat race track and going up driveways at an angle, or uneven pavement flexes this so much that it eventually cracks the outboard welds where it attaches to the cross bar. Not only is this dangerous, but it makes your car wander down the road like a well employed hooker.

Depending on how your first 4 batteries work out, scrounge up two more of anything and wire them up just to see how much of your car wakes up.

Running a mismatched battery pack is not the best idea so don’t plan on going very far. This thought was just for initial test only.

You will also be able to check out your charger and some of the electrical systems.

Put the car on stands and see if it will run in place. Who knows how long that motor has been sitting? It wouldn’t be a bad thing to eventually have it serviced/checked out.

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