How to Make Your Go Kart Street Legal
This is a huge question for most go kart enthusiasts: Is it legal to drive an ordinary go kart on an open road in the U.S?
Unfortunately, the short answer is no. You can only operate your go kart on private property with permission. However, the long answer is it depends.
If you really want to experience the thrill of riding on the open road, prepare to jump through some legal hoops. That’s because there are several conditions that your go kart must meet to be roadworthy.
Once it is considered roadworthy and safe to use, you can treat it like any other vehicle. Here are some basic things you need to do to make your go kart legal.
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Steps for Making a Go Kart Street Legal
The steps below are generalized, for most states. However, you must check with your local department of motor vehicles to get the most up-to-date state and local rules for street legal go karts.
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1. First Things First, Make it Roadworthy
Before any vehicle is allowed on the road in the U.S, it must meet a number of traffic requirements including:
- Horn: Your go-kart’s horn must be audible over 200 feet.
- Engine hood: You can’t drive around town with an exposed engine – it needs to be properly covered by a hood.
- Windshield: Even though it’s a little difficult to install a windshield on a go-kart, it must have one to be considered legal. Something like this simple motorcylcle windsheild is a good place to start.
- Mirrors: You’ll need side and rear-view mirrors to see who’s behind you. The law requires you to have at least two mirrors on your car.
- Steering wheel: You may want to go slow on making your wheel too fancy. Apparently, it should have the size and looks of a regular steering wheel.
- Brakes: This is an obvious necessity that will save you from you speeding accidents.
- Seat belts: Just like any other vehicle, your go-karts will need seat belts to be allowed on the road.
- Tires: Your go karts should have standard go kart tires. So, don’t think of installing customized oversized tires – they will get your ride disqualified.
- Mufflers and exhaust: These components will help control noise and air pollution so that you are not a nuisance to others.
- Lights: Just like all other cars, go karts should have front and rear lights to use the public roads.
- Reflectors: It also needs to have both side and rear reflectors.
- Bumpers: In some states, your go kart will need a bumper as a standard safety requirement.
Chances are, your ordinary go kart will not meet all these requirements without a massive overhaul. But if you somehow manage to install all these features, then you are ready for the next step.
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2. Pass the Speed Test at a DMV
Before you get behind the wheel for a speed test, your vehicle will be inspected to ensure that it meets the various roadworthiness standards.
After passing the inspection, it’s time to test your street worthy go kart on the tracks! But this is not the exciting type of speed tests you see on TV where super-speeds are preferred.
Rather, it’s a test to ensure that your buggy cannot go faster than 25 miles per hour. This is to ensure that you are not a threat to yourself and the other road users.
If your go kart passes the speed test, congratulations! At this point, you can almost call it a street legal go kart. Just one more thing…
3. Register Your Go Kart
If you passed the speed test, you can register your go-kart as a Low-Speed Vehicle (LSV) at your local DMV office.
LSVs are considered an independent class of automobiles. As such, their rules are less strict compared to normal vehicles. For example, LSV vehicles are not required by the law to have windshield wipers.
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There are several requirements for registering a go kart as an LSV. For starters, your vehicle must have four wheels and have a maximum speed of 25 mph. Besides, the gross vehicle weight should not exceed 3000 pounds.
If you fail to meet any one of these requirements, you can always register your go-kart as a regular vehicle. However, the traffic laws and regulations will be a little bit tougher on you.
Time to Hit the Open Road!
Having successfully navigated all the legal minefields, it’s time to take a ride in your street legal go-kart. But before you get behind the wheel, be sure to place a reflective triangle on the back of your kart. It alerts other road users that you are on a slow speed vehicle.
Also, don’t forget to get your new roadworthy buggy insured. You didn’t go through all the trouble of making it legal just to lose it all again, did you?
Enjoy your ride!