How To Build A Go Kart: Our Comprehensive Guide

When building a go-kart, you might be stuck thinking, “where do I even start?” Looking on web pages and inside shops can get you part of the way to answering this question, but there are so many parts to navigate, it is hard to get all your answers in one place. Thankfully for you, we have come up with the ultimate guide on how to build a go kart. Building a go-kart is all about asking the right questions, and it’s here where you’ll get all the answers you’ve been waiting for. 

Making sure you’re asking the right questions and getting the right information can be the difference between crying kids and happy, go-kart cruising kids. It can also be the difference between spending a couple hundred dollars and a few thousand dollars.

This guide puts together the most essential topics and answers the important questions for building a go-kart. To get the most out of this guide, make sure you’re addressing every possible situation and paying attention to details. This will ensure for the ultimate go-kart experience.

If you’re in the business to build a go-kart to maximize fun and give a great past time for you and your children, keep on reading our all-inclusive guide.

Photo of a white go kart

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Probably the first thing that pops in your mind when you think how to build a go-kart is what it will look like. There are a few possibilities and types of go-karts to choose from, and it all depends on your needs and who will be riding it.

Before you decide how you want to design your go-kart, ask yourself, how many people will it carry? Is the primary driver an adult or a child? If the driver is a child, how can you make it small enough where they can ride with enough control?

Once you answer these questions, you can decide if you need a one-seater or two-seater go-kart. For adults with young children or older children with younger siblings, a two-seater go-kart is ideal so everyone can join in on the fun.

If there is just one primary rider, a one-seater go-kart will be enough. Keep in mind; it is unsafe to carry children on your lap when riding a go-kart. If you intend to build a one-seater go-kart and bring your children along with you, you should think again about the safety risk this imposes. 

As we continue down our list of things to think about when constructing your go-kart, keep in mind the “who” for every question. Go-karts that are heavy-duty, built to go fast, and great for adult rides impose extreme risks to smaller riders. 

​How to Power your Go-Kart

Getting your go-kart moving is perhaps the biggest concern people have when getting started to build, and for good reason! Make sure when considering how you’re going to power your go-kart, you keep in mind who is riding and where they’re riding.

Photo of a person riding a go kart

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There are several ways to power a go-kart. Gravity, pedal, gas, and electric methods are all possible when considering what works best for you. 

Gravity Power

Pedal Power

Electric Power

Gas Engine

​Types of Engines

Obviously, if you want your go-kart to go, you’re going to need a good engine. There are two types of engines to choose from when constructing your go-kart.

Photo of the cockpit of a go kart

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The first kind is an air-cooled engine. As in the name, this engine is cooled down by the surrounding air when the go-kart is moving.

The second type of engine is a water-cooled engine. This engine utilizes a radiator that uses fluid to cool off the engine when running.

An air-cooled engine is going to give you an easier installation experience with your go-kart. The engine is small, simple, and easy to install. However, these types of engines aren’t meant to be used in the same place for a long time. 

A water-cooled engine is great for a heavy duty go-kart. You can keep the engine running for a long period of time without overheating. The installation of a water-cooled engine, however, is not so simple. Make sure you are setting up this system properly, or you could be in trouble later on.

​Sources of Go-Kart Engines

People driving a go cart

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For keeping costs down, you probably don’t want to go out buying a brand new engine for something you might just be using as a toy for you or your children. Here is a list of engine sources you can reuse when constructing your go-kart:

Leaf-blower engine

Lawn-mower engine

Car engine

Motorcycle engine

​What Material To Use

Once you get an idea of what your go-kart is going to look like and how you’re going to power it, the next step is to collect all the parts you’re going to need. Having all the parts at once will make building your go-kart a whole lot easier than building some, then going back for more parts. 

Photo of a go kart's rear

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Here's an idea of the parts of a go-kart you will need to account for when purchasing supplies:

  • Engine
  • Kart Frame
  • Suspension
  • Steering Mechanism
  • Wheels
  • Brakes
  • Seat and seat belt
  • Clutch
  • Torque converter

Depending on how you power your go-kart, some of these items may not be needed.

Material for the Frame

Materials for the Wheels

Materials for Steering Wheel

Materials for the Brakes

Materials for Seats

Clutch or Torque Converter?

​Cost Analysis

Building a budget-friendly go-kart can be a bit of a hassle, but it is completely possible. By purchasing used parts instead of new ones, and scaling back on things you won’t use all the time, you’ll be able to keep your go-kart within your budget.

Person inside a black go kart

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Although used parts are tempting to buy, make sure the used parts you are buying are good enough to sustain your go-kart into the future, or you may be investing even more time and money fixing the old parts than you would have just bought a new part. 

A prime example of this is a smoking engine. Old engines tire out more easily and therefore, can result in smoking when you drive your go-kart fast or uphill. A quick fix is adding a little bit of oil or water to the engine, but this is only a temporary fix before you go-kart goes up in smoke again.

If the engine you’re using doesn’t seem reliable into the future, this can end up costing you a lot of money in engine modifications. 

Another thing to keep an eye out for when using used parts is rust on the joints. Rusted joints may seem like they’re not a big deal, but they actually can be a huge cause for concern. Using rusted joints can lead to stress fractures on your go-kart.

Instead of painting over the rust, buy new or gently used joints. You can cover your joints with a water-resistant paint, so they joints are severely less likely to rust over time. Also, keep your go-kart out of the sun for extended periods of time as this can also lead to rust.

Repairs can really add up, here’s an example of a time where it might have been better to spend a little more money up front:

Money spent on all materials: $500

Replace engine: $200

Repair bent axle: $80

Fix the frame/remove rust: $100

Repair the steering system: $100

Total cost of repairs: $480

Total price: $480 + $500 = $980

At this cost, you could have just spent the extra money to buy nice materials up front. Repairs can end up doubling the cost of your go-kart, or even more.

​Up Front Costs

Once you’ve analyzed which parts are best to buy new, gently used, or used, you can begin building your budget. Begin by writing down all your up-front costs before going to the auto shop, so you don’t get roped into buying things you don’t need.

We’ve compiled a list of the things you should absolutely consider buying when buying your go-kart. Try taking this list to various automotive shops and seeing what they quote you in your area. 

  • Seats or cushions
  • Wood backing for seats
  • A Restraint System
  • Engine Muffler
  • Header Pipe
  • Bottom Pan
  • 2 Pedals (if using pedal-power)
  • A steering wheel
  • A steering shaft
  • Rods and rod ends
  • Spindles
  • Engine (4 horsepower is a great place to start)
  • Axle
  • Bearings and bearing support (typical size ⅝”)
  • 2 small front tires
  • 2 larger back tires
  • Brakes and cables for brakes
  • Tire rims
  • Sprocket
  • Chains
  • Clutch - if needed with engine
  • Torque converter (optional)
  • Chassis tube
  • Engine plate
  • Primer
  • Paint

It’s estimated if you use these items, your total costs will bring you to around $750. If you’re using something other than a gas engine to power your go-kart, your costs could be significantly less as the engine accounts for about half of the total material cost.

Once you’ve received a quote from an automotive shop, the next step would be determining which materials you could buy used to cut down on costs. We’ve already pointed out the potential hazards of purchasing a used engine or frame, but if you’re using one that’s not too old and reliable, this could be a great way to keep costs down.

​Driving and Accidents

Photo of a white go cart on a

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Where you’re going to drive your go-kart is another very important point to consider before building any framework or purchasing any materials. Some people tend to get very carried away with the aesthetics and a fast engine, that they hesitate to consider where they’re actually going to be using this thing.

If you’re just going to be taking the go-kart around the driveway and into the cul-de-sac, there no need to spend hundreds of dollars on a fancy engine and a steel frame. Do you have a track where you can ride around and reach top speeds without worrying about other objects getting in your way? Then maybe it is best to invest a little more for things like a nice engine and a torque converter.

Keep in mind when building a go-kart that it is illegal to drive them in the road. If you intend to take this thing out into the street, you might want to think again before you end up with a huge fine equivalent to what you paid for the go-kart in the first place. 

​Accident Coverage

Although most people don’t want to face this reality, accidents are a legitimate concern for go-kart drivers. Make sure wherever you’re driving, it is safe, a big enough size, and free of obstacles like trees and garage doors.

Besides just running into obstacles or people, go-karts are dangerous because of how hot they get. With the tires and the axles spinning at such a high rate, it’s easy to catch fire. To avoid this, don’t build anything that goes outrageously fast and again, always keep in mind the “who” of who will be operating this vehicle.

For additional coverage from accidents, install good seat belts and reliable brakes. Without a seat belt, the driver could be projected forward and be launched from the vehicle in an accident. However, this could be a good thing if the go-kart is very heavy and can crush the driver in a potential accident.

When determining what precautions to take for potential accidents, take into account who will be driving, how heavy the vehicle is and where you’re going to be riding it. After thinking about all these things, you’ll be able to build a go-kart that you can drive without much concern.

​Tools, Equipment, and Workspace

People racing using go kart

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Before you get started on building your go-kart, you need to make sure you have all the tools that you’ll be needing readily available.

To make your go-kart building a positive experience, put a decent amount of effort into giving yourself a good workspace. Whether this is in your garage or an actual automotive shop, a good workspace can be the difference between a thrown-together go-kart, and one with a lot of effort and pride backing it.

One rule of thumb is to keep your workspace clean, and have all the necessary materials and tools laid out for easy access. Another good idea to set up a work schedule and plan. If you have one of these, it can also be motivating to put it on display in your workspace.

Here is a list of some of the equipment you will be needing when constructing your go-kart. To save on costs, borrow these materials from a friend if you don’t have them at your own disposal.

  • Ratchet set
  • Set of wrenches
  • Set of screwdrivers
  • Set of drivers
  • Pliers
  • Hand wrench
  • Electric drill
  • Hack saw
  • File
  • Grinder
  • Lots of nuts and bolts (make sure to keep these grade 5 and higher. Anything else can come off over time and lead to a dangerous go-kart accident)
  • Nylock nuts
  • Washers
  • Locking washers
  • Drywall screws
  • Different types of springs
  • Lots of nails
  • Balling wire
  • Duct tape

​Creating a Work Schedule

Both a schedule of how you’re going to complete your go-kart and a schedule of how often you will check up on maintenance of your go-kart is very important. 

Some people build a go-kart in as little as a day while some people use weeks. There are six main steps in building a go-kart. These are:

1.Creating a plan and gathering parts: This is self-expanatory. Set aside a time to design the look of your go-kart, get price quotes, and gather materials. 
2. Building the frame: Depending on what kind of material you’re using, this could be a long process or quite fast. If your frame requires welding different types of steel together, set aside more time for this.
3.Install steering system: Installing the steering system can also be a bit of a lengthy process with a lot of room for trial and error. Make sure the wheels were put in with the frame before moving onto this step.
4. Install the axle: This is a  process that shouldn’t take much time. This will mount the rear tires.
5.Install the engine: Depending on the engine you are using, this could take some time. Along with the engine, this is the step you would install a torque converter or clutch if needed.
6.Attach cables: The sixth and final step (unless you’re adding paint or other accessories) would be to attach the cables for brakes. Once finished, you have a fully functioning go-kart!

You can divide these steps into however many days you need to make a good work schedule for yourself. Hang it in your workspace to motivate you and show you a clear picture of what you would like to accomplish for the day.

​Building your Go-Kart

Now that we’ve discussed the first and most important step of building and designing a go-kart let’s get down to the physical work. 

Constructing your Frame

Installing a Steering System

Installing the Rear Axle

Installing the Engine

Installing Brake Cables

Other Features

Maintenance Schedules

Janice Friedman

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