How to Make Go-Karts That Can Handle Anything

Do you have the need?

The need for speed?

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Who doesn’t love getting behind the wheel and just zooming off?

If you love power, speed, and feeling the wind in your hair, then you are the ideal candidate for a go-kart.

That’s right:

They may be little, but they are a lot of fun.

You may be surprised at how fast one of these karts can go.

It all really depends on how it is built.

And the best way to ensure you have a high-quality, ready to kick some butt go-kart is to build it yourself.

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It may seem a bit crazy to build a vehicle, but trust me, you can do it.

It really isn’t that difficult to learn how to make go-karts. And the sense of self-satisfaction you will get from building a kart from the ground up is well worth the time and effort.

You just need a little background information and assistance to get you started.

So, keep reading to dig into everything you need to know to build your own amazing, super cool go-kart.

Start From the Beginning

Here’s what you need to know:

Before getting into the nitty-gritty of building your kart, it can help to get some background.

Go-karts are kind of misunderstood. They were first pretty popular back in the 1950s.

It’s true:

Back then, they were something dads built with their kids in the garage.

They’d race in the backyard or on suburban streets.

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However, they quickly morphed into something way more serious.

By 1957, though, the International Kart Federation had put together official rules and regulations for go-kart racing due to how in demand they were.

Today, go-karting isn’t just for the kiddos.

Adults race them professionally.

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Seriously:

People spend thousands of dollars on building precision machines.

Today’s go-karts are certainly not the wood, peddle operated karts of the past.

If you want to race karts or even just build one for fun recreational use, you need to be ready to invest some time in the process.

After all, this is a powered vehicle that must run safely and properly.

Luckily, we’re here to help.

Let’s start by taking a look at the different parts of a go-kart.

All the Components of a Go Kart:

  • Frame
  • Engine
  • Suspension
  • Steering assembly
  • Clutch
  • Torque converter
  • Wheels and tires
  • Floor pan
  • Pedals
  • Brakes
  • Axels
  • Steering wheel
  • Tie rods
  • Seat bracket
  • Chain
  • Seat
  • Pitman arm
  • Electronic components

Putting it all together

Once you have all the parts you need, you can get started on the actual assembly.

Helpful tip: Buy or get a free go-kart plan.

It will make the process much easier because plans include instructions and parts lists.

  • Welding Equipment
  • drill
  • angle grinder
  • metal hole saw
  • wrenches
  • Allen keys
  • hammer
  • file
  • screwdrivers
  • square
  • clamps
  • vise

While there are many different design plans for go-karts, they all follow the same general assembly steps.

Here’s a step-by-step look at what you’ll need to do:

1. Build the frame

Your first step is creating the frame. This is the basis for your whole kart.

The wheels, motor, seat, and controls all attach to the frame at some point.

It essentially holds your kart together.

Watch the video below:

You need to ensure your frame is even and square.

Pro tip: Use magnets to help you align the metal in your frame to ensure straight angles.

If your frame is off, your whole vehicle will be off.

You should use a good quality steel to form your frame.

Remember this advice:

Pro tip: Always measure twice and cut once.

2. Install the steering assembly

Pro tip: Drill all holes in the frame as needed before assembling to make it easier

Now, you can move onto installing the steering components.

Watch below:

This will include the steering shaft, tie rods, and front axle.

3. Install front wheels

The installation of the steering assembly naturally leads to installing the front tires because your steering controls the front tire movement.

You need to put this all together to ensure it works properly before you move on.

Oh and don’t worry:

You can make adjustments at this time as well.

4. Install the rear axle and wheels

Now that you have the front done, you can move onto the back.

Check out the video below:

Get those wheels in place so you can double check the straightness of the frame.

5. Install motor and related components

Finally, you can get into the installation of the important stuff.

We’re talking about the power and the other components you will need to make this thing go.

Install the motor, the clutch, and the chain.

The video below explains it:

You will then hook up the brakes and install the pedals for the brakes and power.

Also, don’t forget:

Make sure to test and adjust as needed during this process.

6. Do any final touches

If you want, you can now add in a floorboard or at least a kickplate under the pedals.

You will also install the seat.

Are you a visual learner? Watch:

Make sure the seat includes a seat belt for safety.

Take this advice:

Pro tip: As you work, make sure you don’t weld too long in one spot as it may warp the metal.

You will then hook up the brakes and install the pedals for the brakes and power.

Also, don’t forget:

Make sure to test and adjust as needed during this process.

Getting the Things You Need

Okay.

You have a pretty good overview of how to put together a go-kart. If you work off a plan, it shouldn’t be too difficult of a process.

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However, before you do the actual build, you want to take some time choosing your parts.

You should know:

This is a case where the whole is only as good as the parts.

As cliché as that is, it is 100 percent true when it comes to building a go-kart.

If you use bad parts, you get a crappy go-kart.

There’s no way around it.

So, let’s look at some of the essential parts and how to figure out what to buy.

 

Engine

The engine is by far the most important part of your go-kart.

Really, it’s that simple:

It makes it go.

Get a bad engine and your kart is useless.

You have two main options: electric or gas.

It is probably best to go with gas in most cases.

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It is probably best to go with gas in most cases.

An electric motor is going to be the best choice if you will only drive indoors or you are building the kart for a kid who will just ride for fun in the backyard.

Gas gives you more power and versatility, which is why it is almost always the better choice.

Generally, you want a four-stroke engine.

Again, it will give you versatility and the best power.

It is super common to recycle an engine from some other powered vehicle or equipment.

In fact:

This will save you money.

It can be a good call if you know the motor is in good shape.

You can use motors from the following:

  • Motorcycles
  • Lawnmowers
  • Leaf blowers
  • Dirt bikes
  • Chainsaw
  • Moped
  • Generator

Keep in mind:

The engine size is important.

A smaller engine is lighter weight but it isn’t going to cut it for heavy use or a heavier driver. A mid-sized engine is where you want to aim in most cases. It’ll handle more of a load.

If you are serious about racing, though, go for a larger engine.

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It will do better under high performance situations. It is also better for off-roading and for a heavier driver.

Air or water cooled

Engines are either air-cooled or water-cooled.

Here’s the thing:

You are probably familiar with water-cooled since that is what your car uses.

It has a radiator and require fluid to keep the engine cool.

Air-cooled just uses the air as you drive.

Obviously, if you have an air-cooled motor, you can’t idle long or it will overheat.

Your best bet here is water-cooled.

It is less hassle overall.

Frame

You should use steel for the frame.

This is why:

It has to be strong and durable or your kart will fall apart.

You have two general options: pipe or square.

Pipe is harder to work with. 

make a gokart

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You can’t really bend it and welding it is tougher. However, it looks nicer.

Square is easier to work with. It is also cheaper, but it looks rougher.

You can use both types, putting the pipe in the more visible places.

Pro tip: Always double check frame welds to ensure a strong hold that will last through jostling.

By the way, you can buy a frame already made, but making your own gives you way more versatility.

Suspension

The suspension is a bit unique because you don’t have to have it.

Here’s what you need to know:

If you use bigger tires or if you drive on smoother courses, you can get by without a suspension.

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It essentially keeps your kart stable and makes for a smoother ride.

Steering

Your steering keeps the wheels aligned and gives you control.

That’s why you need to do this:

Take time to choose high-quality parts for your steering.

These parts get a lot of use. They can wear out quicker.

Specifically, pay attention to your choices in the pitman arm, spindles, tie rods, and steering shaft.

Helpful advice: Remember that a go-kart requires more precise steering than your regular vehicle, so quality is key here.

Brakes

You have four options in brakes.

Here’s what they are:

Scrub brakes can accommodate hand controls if you need those.

Band brakes are nice for dry courses, but they don’t work very good if they get wet.

Drum brakes are probably the best option when looking at performance and cost.

Disc brakes are the best performance option, but they can be expensive.

Seat

The seat mainly needs to be comfortable. Get what you want and what feels good to you.

Like the motor, you can take seats from other vehicles and equipment.

You should aim for a bucket seat, though.

No, really:

Otherwise, you may slide around a little.

Pro tip: Choose a leather seat. It won’t get as dirty and is much easier to clean.

Make sure whatever seat you use, it has a seatbelt that works.

Safety first!

You can use a standard three-point belt such as what is used in your average car, or you can get a five-point belt, which is like the ones used in race cars.

Chain and sprocket

When it comes to the drive assembly, keep in mind that a larger sprocket has better low-end power, but a smaller sprocket has a higher top speed.

In addition: You may need a torque converter with small sprockets.

A Word About Wheels

You probably noticed there was no talk about wheels and tires yet.

These are up there in importance with the engine.

You need to choose them carefully and treat them right.

Generally, you will choose slicker tires for track racing and larger tires with deep tread for off-roading.

Typically, your front tires will be smaller than your rear tires.

This helps with wear and handling. It also will affect the overall power and traction.

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Pro tip: If longevity is a concern, choose ribbed tires. They last the longest.

Do note that the wider the tire is the better grip it has.

Off-roading tires usually are knobby and they give the best grip.

That’s not all:

If you drive on an outdoor track, you also need to keep the weather in mind. Wet pavement is slippery, so get grooved tires that will grip when it is wet.

Another important thing is the sidewall. Soft sidewalls are not good for racing but are perfect for off-roading. You need that stiffer sidewall if you race so your care can take turns properly.

Aluminum or magnesium wheels

Here’s what you need to know:

When choosing wheels, you can get aluminum or magnesium.

Aluminum is the best choice for most people. You’ll find them affordable and performance is excellent.

On the other hand:

You can go with spun or cast aluminum. Spun is thin and does not retain as much heat. Cast is stronger and better for higher horsepower.

Magnesium is more expensive. However, these wheels are also stronger and lighter. If you are a serious racer, go with magnesium.

Pro tip: It’s best to have your wheels mounted by a professional with the proper equipment.

Changing a tire

If you need to change your tire on your own, start by removing all the air.

Watch the video below:

Break the bead. This may take time and strength.

Next, remove the tire.

Put the new tire on, making sure to set the bead properly.

You can then inflate, but remember you’ll need to balance them after.

Helpful advice: Balancing is essential. Unbalanced tires create a lot of vibration and make handling difficult and dangerous.

Here’s Some Advice

You have a lot of options when it comes to buying the parts for your go-kart.

However, you will benefit a lot from shopping around and making careful purchases.

One of the reasons to build your own go-kart is to have the ability to know exactly what parts are in it and to ensure they are high-quality. Don’t waste this perk by buying cheap parts.

When it comes to engines, look at the following top brands:

  • Briggs and Stratton
  • Honda
  • Tecumseh

As for the other parts, here are some of the brands worth investing in:

  • Coleman
  • Kandi
  • Razor
  • Motovox
  • Baja
  • Hammerhead
  • Yerf-Dog
  • Taotao
  • Predator
  • MotoTec
  • Coolster

Think About How You’ll Use It

When it comes to making sure that you build the right go-kart using the right parts, you have to think about how you will use the kart.

Racing and recreational karts are very different because how they are used is very different.

The same is true for indoor vs. outdoor use.

Indoor vs. outdoor

Racing and outdoor karts generally use a higher-powered gas engine.

Indoor karts need to use electric engines because of safety issues.

HEre’s the thing:

Outdoor tracks are very reliant on the weather. You may have a slick track at times. While indoor tracks are in a controlled environment where you won’t run into such issues.

An outdoor track is usually bigger, so you can hit top speeds. Indoor tracks are limited by space restrictions. You’ll usually stick to lower speeds.

An outdoor track can be versatile and varied, so you need more control over handling. Indoor tracks are very controlled in this aspect, too, so they don’t take a lot of handling skills.

Terrain

You also need to think about what type of terrain you will drive on.

A paced track has left and right turns. However, it is smooth. You will need to get the right tires to handle this track.

An oval track only has left turns, so this requires quite a bit of adjustment to your kart’s handling and steering. You need to maximize it for left turns. Do keep in mind, oval tracks can be paved, dirt, clay, or sand, so plan accordingly.

Finally, off-roading is a whole other beast.

You can have terrain that is incredibly rough. There may be rocks or hills. Pretty much anything goes.

Your kart needs a design and tires that work for off-roading. You can’t just take a race kart and drive it off-road.

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Back in the day, it was perfectly fine and common to ride a go-kart on the street. However, in today’s world, this is illegal. You cannot drive an unregistered vehicle on a road.

You also have to have a valid driver’s license, insurance, and proper safety gear to ride on the road.

If you want to make your go-kart street legal, you can very well do that, but be aware it isn’t easy and it can get expensive.

First, you have to make your go-kart safer.

This means you need headlights, turning signals, seat belts, a windshield, a horn, mirrors, a speedometer and an odometer.

You also need insurance and may have to have a slow vehicle sign.

You also need to understand your state laws.

Some states consider them similar to golf carts, while others do not consider them a motor vehicle. The classification will affect what you need to do to make it street legal.

In some states, you will have to get an inspection. You may also have to get a title for it and a VIN so you can register it as you would any other vehicle.

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Making It Last

So, you can take a lot of time to carefully choose parts and then meticulously build your kart.

That’s cool.

That’s great.

But…

As you use your kart, the parts wear.

You must maintain them.

This means regular maintenance.

A go-kart isn’t like a car either.

You can’t just take it to the shop once every six months and then go about your happy little way.

You will have some maintenance tasks to do every single time you ride.

Maintenance will keep your kart running properly, reduce excessive wear, and allow for better performance.

Here’s a checklist of go-kart maintenance tasks:

Pro Tip: Disconnect the spark plug before changing oil or when doing any engine maintenance.

  • Change oil every 20-25 hours of drive time.
  • Check oil before every ride.
  • Inspect and clean spark plug every few rides.
  • Replace spark plug once a year.
  • Lubricate chain every few rides.
  • Check chain for slack at least once a month and tighten when needed.
  • Oil clutch every ride.
  • Change air filter when dirty.
  • Drain gas if not using kart for a long time.
  • Clean engine of grease as needed.

Time for the Checkered Flag

So, friends, you know probably have much more knowledge about go-karts than when you started reading.

Hopefully, you have learned some helpful things that will allow you to build the go-kart of your dreams.

What are you waiting for?

Get out there and find a go-kart plan.

Buy your parts.

And get to work.

If you get started now, you could be driving around in your own fancy go-kart within a few days.

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Or maybe you’ll be racing around a track and beating the pants off of other drivers.

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Whatever your ambitions, make it happen!

And don’t forget to snap a pic of the finished kart and share it with us in the comments.

Janice Friedman
 

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