How to Select Go Kart Engines Step by Step Guideline

If you want to build a gas-powered go kart, the primary requirement you need to have is a working and reliable go kart engines. There are many options to choose from, but if you have no idea what kind of go-kart engine to get, our guide will help you.

Go kart racing is a great way to have fun. But, in order to participate, you’ll need to have the right engine that will fit your recreational or racing needs. Since you’re building your own racing machine, you have the luxury of choosing the custom parts. You don’t want to settle for a cheap go kart engine that may be unreliable and cause you issues. So let us help you learn more about go kart racing engines.

What Engines Can You Use for a Homemade Go Kart?

One of the best things about building a go-kart is you can use pretty much any of engine available. Motorcycle engines, scooter engines, and lawn mower engines will all work. Some custom racing go kart engines are made with a 450cc parallel twin engines from a motorcycle. However, many builders and recreational racers suggest getting a single cylinder engine. These engines are substantially narrower, which is good for fast and tight race tracks.

Lawnmower engines usually have around 6.5 horsepower and only have one gear which is good for starters. A 450cc dirt bike engine on the other hand generally produces up to 60 horsepower and has a 5 or 6-speed gearbox. The engine size is up to you, and how much power you want when racing.

The Brands of Go Kart Engines 

There are several popular engine brands, engine parts and performance parts for gas-powered go-karts. Briggs and Stratton is one of biggest names for go-kart engines and is a great choice when building one. They can be a bit pricey but are still a favorite for many kart builders.

Other popular racing engine brands are Honda and Tecumseh. Many choose the Honda 4 stroke go kart engine because of its reliability. They are great for go-karts that can be temperamental.

Tecumseh and Briggs’s internals are not that much different because they all have the same layout. They have the same kind of lifter mechanisms but different connecting rods.

The Tecumseh used bolts that are held in with knurled heads and are designed to bite into the aluminum connecting rod material. You have to be very specific in how you crank down those bolts; otherwise, the engine will seize when heat and vibration come into the equation. You can only crank the bolts to 9 foot-pounds, which is the torque for Tecumseh engines.

When you search for kart engines, it is always wise to know how much power and torque you need for your custom build. You can ask any reputable kart shop for advice.

Horsepower Needs for Go Kart Engines

If you are building a go kart the first thing that comes to mind for most people is the faster the better. Well, that ends up being more of a want than a need. If you want to go that route, that is very well your choice.

Take into consideration though the go kart you are using and who will be driving that go kart. Safety needs to be at the top of the list, especially if you will be letting younger people or other people drive your go kart. Choosing the correct go kart engine is important for safety reasons.

  • A small displacement engine will produce 3HP which is excellent for a small or light build go-kart. And since it’s a small displacement engine, power and torque will also be limited and need someone lighter to drive the go-kart. This type of engine is the best fit for younger drivers.
  • A good middle ground engine will have 5HP and, the most common is the classic Briggs & Stratton engine. It is known for being the most used one in go-karting. It has a 60 tooth sprocket that will give you a decent speed of approximately 20mph.
  • Another option is a large engine rating at 6.5 HP and above. Typically these are high performance go kart engines that are commonly used for off road go karts, or situations you may be looking for more torque. The off road go kart engines is well suited for a heavier go-kart, or something requiring larger tires.

Horsepower Needs for Go Kart Engines

  • Horizontal mount engine – this is the easiest to install and the most cost efficient since the horizontal engine position provides more power output and balance than a vertical type mount. Replacement parts and horizontal replacement engines are also easy to find if needed.
  • Vertical mount engine – vertical mounts are still good engines although most karters choose horizontal mounts due to the shaft position. Also, you may need to to do some frame and engine modification when using one; thus you will spend more money when building your go kart.

Go Kart Engine Maintenance

  • Oil: Depending on usage, have an oil change every 20 hours of riding time, or once a year. Most go-kart engines should use 5w30 or 10w30 ‘energy conserving’ oil. Use a fully synthetic oil for more engine and heat protection.
  • Air Filter: Clean or change the air filter when its loaded up with dirt, or as often as you change the oil. Most air filters come with a foam pre-filter that can be cleaned using water or a degreaser.
  • Gas: Most industrial engines required regular unleaded fuel and contained 10% ethanol. Gas will turn to varnish over time, which will gum up or block your fuel delivery systems like fuel lines and carburetor. Adding a fuel stabilizer will usually let you store your kart with old gas for months. Or better yet, drain the gasoline out of your go kart if you will not use it for months or even years.
  • Clean: If your engine is covered in grease, use an engine degreaser, let it soak, then wash it down with a brush and hose. If your engine is not running, chances are you have a dirty carb and clean it with an aerosol carb cleaner.

Final Thoughts

The final decision for getting the go-kart engine will still be yours. Your choice will depend on your go karting needs and should fit and work with you best. Do your research, ask some experienced go karting people, read articles and reviews to know more about engines and the type of engines you want. Yes, there will be some errors when building your go-kart, and it’s a good thing because you will learn something from it. But try to limit the mistakes because it may cost you money you may come out of the budget.

However, it can be a fun time for single or family fun. Make sure that you maintain your go kart engines properly, and a good go kart engine can last for quite some time. Make sure you get the right engine for the frame weight and size that you will be using it with. If it is light and the operator is light, if it is big and heavy you will need more power. Or even using larger tires on your go kart.

Then, of course, you would get a larger engine in those situations. So all that is pretty much common sense. Safety is always at the top, so make sure to take safety measures where ever you can. Knowing proper safety is in place in most cases can make things more fun. Since there are not as many worries as there would be otherwise. Today there are really some great advancements in safety equipment.

As well as items for your go kart build, so go ahead have fun with it. If you have kids, it’s a great hobby to pass on to the younger generation so they may pass it on too. That’s all for today, I would love to hear any comments or questions that you have about selecting go kart engines.

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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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Heath - 5 years ago

Thanks for the info! I have 4 daughters, 15,14,11, & 4. We are going to get a kit and start cruzing!


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