Unique Go Kart Engines You May Already Own

Sure, you can roll with your go kart’s 5.5 horsepower electric, or your 8 horsepower Predator, and no one is going to give you stuff about it. But somewhere, deep down, you’ll know you can do better. You’ll know it isn’t “the one.” You’ll pine for something more powerful, something more exotic, something more you. What you need is something with a mighty go kart engine.

Go kart engines

Install Your Go Kart Engine

Oh yeah. Why settle for junior varsity when you can rock a go kart with a motorcycle engine. That’s right, you can take all the power of a chopper and toss it right into your racing rig.

Now, Tim Taylor fantasies aside, a motorcycle engine can actually be an affordable option, depending on where you buy, and you’ll have no problem buying the right engine for what you need. Also, it’s not nearly the engineering project you may fear – it can be done with the tools you probably already have.

The Right Engine Range

A 2 or 4 stroke 300-400 cc engine is going to be about the range you want to stay in, though more daring racers may push up to a 500cc. Anything more powerful is probably not going to work with a standard go kart frame.

You’ll have to take out the go kart engine, the drive chain, the transmission, the whole setup. Keep those mount points and the linkage, though, because you’re going to need them.

Planning is Everything

Planning is going to be your savior here – you’re going to have to construct a new mount with tube steel, so make sure to measure out exactly where it’s going to marry up with the old frame. Some weld the new mounts in, others use bolts, that’s going to depend on the tools you have and your own comfort level.

But that’s only the beginning. Check online, too, for more complete, step-by-step directions. Even walkthrough videos can help anyone from a novice mechanic upgrade to one with a go kart engine.

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Let it Snowmobile

For an even more exotic build, you could try putting a snowmobile engine on your go kart. This guy right here puts a 570cc snowmobile engine in his go kart, and it is a real sight to behold.

But why, you ask, would you make a snowmobile engine into a go kart engine? Well, to paraphrase the famous explorer George Mallory when asked why he would dare climb Mount Everest. “Because it’s there.” It’s really not too different from mounting a motorcycle engine, too. And depending on how fast you want to go, it can be an affordable option. It’s not uncommon to find a used snowmobile engine for just a couple hundred bucks. And if you’re looking to build your own custom kart it’s an easy-to-work-with centerpiece. Plus, with an automatic transmission, you’re not going to be fiddling with mounting a clutch and a shifter.

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Tips to Remember

There are a few quick tips you’ll want to remember when picking your snowmobile engine. While a fan-cooled motor is going to be lighter, a liquid-cooled motor will save you from overheating in warmer climates. Also, it might be wise to mount the brake on the rear axle. This will provide you with some latch-ditch stopping power should the chain fail.

Mowing Down the Opposition

Why stop at robbing engines from classic conveyances when you can look to your own average suburban garage? Though there can be some hurdles involved, a lawn mower engine, either push or riding, can be grafted to a go kart frame.

The Frame Problem

You’d think the trouble would come from power, but you’d be wrong. The real problem is that lawnmowers use a vertical shaft engine. On the other hand, most go kart frames are designed with a horizontal shaft in mind. However, though they are harder to find, there are go kart frames suitable for a vertical shaft engine. Or, if you like, there are tutorials that will allow you to convert vertical horizontal without too much fuss.

If you can’t be bothered with either of those, you can also construct your own frame that works with a lawnmower engine for a relatively low price.

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Don’t be Limited by Tradition

What else can work in a go kart frame? Obviously, we have motorcycles, snowmobiles, and lawnmowers, but anything with a drive shaft could be an option to consider. People have even used electric golf cart motors in their go karts.

The takeaway from all of this is that building your own go kart can be a heck of a good time. What go kart engine you end up strapping to your machine isn’t as important as the time spent building it. The satisfaction of creating a racing vehicle with your own two hands is also incomparable.

It doesn’t matter if you’re doing it because it’s affordable, or because you’re curious, or just because you can. Put in the work and snowmobile, motorcycle, or lawn mower engine can do just fine on your go kart.

Melissa Gibson

Melissa has been a technology writer for the last five years. She lives in New York City and during her vacation, you will find her riding scooters, reading books and hiking mountains.

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