Go-karts have been a fun past time for many years. It can be an activity for the whole family or, for those who like a challenge, you can even race. Go-kart racing is not as dangerous as you may think, and with a decent chunk of change, anyone can race. Go-kart racing should not be taken too lightly though, after all, your child will be driving a gas-powered machine.
Go-kart racing and research go hand in hand. Having a guide to follow along to make sure your child, and other kids on the track, are safe is the most important thing you could do for them. With this guide, not only will you be safer, but you will have a better understanding of what to expect.
This guide will help you not only know what to expect, but you will know what right and wrong safety-wise is. Safety is the biggest concern. You can not just toss your kid in a go-kart and send them out onto the racetrack. You will also learn how to discern if tracks are up to the safety standards. With this guide, you will be on your way to cheering your kid on at their races.
Steps to Take Before Racing Go-Karts
If you or your child want to race go-karts, chances are you already have a good idea where to start. However, if you are new to the go-kart racing world, let’s go over some beginner steps.
- You need to decide if your child will race recreationally or competitively. Recreational is good for those just starting in the racing world. There may still be prizes, and the competition may not be as stiff, but it can more enjoyable compared to the more intense races.
- Make sure that you buy all of the go-kart safety equipment your child needs. This should be the first thing you do when you consider enrolling your child in go-kart racing. If you get a go-kart first, it could be tempting to let them take off without the appropriate protective gear.
- Start shopping for karts. There are many out there, and some tracks will allow you to rent one for the race. If money is tight, that is an option, but it can be beneficial for your kid to have a personal go-kart. This way, they can know the ins and outs of their own cart.
Along your journey toward getting your child into the go-kart world, you will meet many people who can tell you about their personal experience, advise about places to practice, race, and even give some tips on getting the best time when racing go-karts.
Is There Special Protective Gear That’s Needed?
Before you even think about buying the actual racing go-kart, you need to have all the proper protective gear. You can spend a ton of money on a go-kart loaded with all the bells and whistles, but without protective gear, your child will not be safe.
There are quite a few pieces of gear that are required and some others that are optional:
- Abrasion & Fire-Resistant Racing Suit – Some parents may put their child in thick jeans with a racing jacket. This is not advised. If you are already spending a decent amount of money to race, don’t skimp on buying a full racing suit. It will be much safer.
- Abrasion Resistant Racing Gloves – Racing gloves can be any racing gloves, but there are actual go-kart racing gloves. A glove’s purpose is to protect your child’s skin from getting road rash. There are many different materials for gloves. It is just each person’s preference as to which material will work best.
- Chest Protection – Somewhat like a rib protector (which is discussed further down the list), it gives added protection to your child’s core.
- Full Face Crash Helmet – Unless you know where the helmet came from and that it was not in any wrecks, buying new is always better. You cant see a lot of damage on used helmets, and you would not find out about the damage until it was too late.
- Neck Brace – Racing neck brace may seem not as important as the other protective gear, but if you imagine the kart getting hit quickly and the child’s head flinging back and forth, potentially causing whiplash. A neck brace will help to prevent that. It will also help prevent a potential spinal injury by keeping the head and neck safe during a wreck.
- Racing Shoes Or Boots – These are typically fire-resistant and resist abrasions. The boots go up the ankle to provide added protection from ankle injuries such as burns and twists.
- Racing Socks – While there are thick socks everywhere, racing ones are flame retardant.
- Rib Protector – Some people don’t like to wear these, but they are recommended, and most tracks will require them. They are added protection to make sure your child’s ribs don’t get injured. Once again, this is just extra protection but worth it.
- Wet Weather Over Suit – For those who may need to race in the rain (where permitted and when the track rules it safe), even a sprinkle can cause your child to become damp, which can be uncomfortable and dangerous if it’s a frigid night.
Before even stepping foot in the go-kart, your child should be fully geared up. Even if they complain, it really is much safer, and being annoyed with a lot of gear is better than a severe injury or death. Most places will not allow your child to race if they don’t have all the appropriate gear.
For the tracks that look the other way? Run fast and far from those places.
Is Go-Karting Safe?
As with almost every competitive sport, there is always a risk. Depending on what class your child races in will increase the danger. The smaller kids who don’t go higher speeds are far less likely to be injured. The kids that are racing at full speed could get injured.
That being said, if your child has all of the proper gear, a well-put-together go-kart and a track that adheres to all the guidelines is the best way to keep everyone safe. If your child has any medical conditions where a bump could do more damage, then you should probably speak to their pediatrician before racing.
It can be safe, but there is always a reason to be prepared for situations that may happen because accidents do happen. Prevention and preparation are what will create the safest race. It is up to each parent and child to decide if they think their child is ready and will race as safely as possible.
What Ages Can Race?
Most places require the child to be at least six years old and 48 inches tall. These standards are given for a reason. That height is needed to reach everything safely in the go-kart. However, age is a general rule based on the mental level of a six-year-old. The expectation is that they will be more likely to respond correctly to danger than a four-year-old.
Then the age just goes up to any age that wants to race. Each child is different, though. If your child refuses to follow directions, it could lead them to cause an accident or wreck themselves. Even some nine-year-olds may not be ready to race. This is all up to each parents’ discretion.
Is There a Weight or Height Limit for Go-Kart Racing?
There is not necessarily a weight to height limit with go-kart racing, even for adults. You can run into a few issues, though. A very tall child or adult can have trouble finding a go-kart that fits their class while still fitting their body.
A heavier child or adult will need to make up for the decreased lap time due to the weight more than the other racers. Some heavier adults have even needed to lose weight to keep up with opponents. The go-karts are such a small vehicle that even an extra 20 -30 lbs can substantially change your lap time.
A bigger seat and slightly modified kart (taking the kart’s weight or adding as much power as allowed in their specific class) can easily be done and help you race right along with your competitors.
What are the Different Classes & the Age Levels?
There are many different classes to go-kart racing and quite a few for just children. Each class difference is based on the driver’s age, engine, and the weight of the go-kart and driver combined. Those different classes are:
|Class Name||Age & Weight Range||Engine Type/Power|
|Kid Karts or Baby Karts||5 – 7 years old||50cc – 2 stroke engines|
|Cadet – MicroMax||8 – 10 years old||60cc 2 stroke engine|
|Cadet – MiniMax||10 – 13 years old||60cc 2 stroke engine with factory header removed|
|Junior Class||12 – 15 years old||125cc 2 stroke engine|
|Senior Class||15 years and up||12cc 2 stroke engine with restricted exhaust removed|
To learn more about different go-kart racing classes, read A Beginners Guide to Go-Kart Racing.
How Fast do the Different Classes Go?
Each class ups the speed a little bit as the child grows in age and ability. From the young five-year old’s up to adults, each class will get quicker, and the weight will go up.
- Kid Karts or Baby Karts Class – These use a 50cc two-stroke engine close to what you would find in a chainsaw or lawn equipment. They can reach speeds of 30 mph. If the racers are experienced, some tracks will increase the speed to 40mph.
- Cadet Class – Micromax – This class within a class race with a 60cc two-stroke engine.
- Cadet Class – MiniMax – This older child class within the cadet class uses the same engine but has the factory 16mm header taken off to increase the speed slightly.
- Junior Class – The junior class uses a 125cc two-stroke engine and can reach speeds of 65 mph.
- Senior Class – The senior class uses the same 125cc engine as the junior class only with the restricted exhaust removed to increase speed.
After the senior class, the next class is for those that are 30 and up. If a 16-year-old or older exceeds the weight in their senior class, they can typically be bumped up to the Master’s class with the 30 and ups.
Finding the Right Go-Kart
There is a difference between go-karts that you find at many stores compared to a racing go-kart. There are a few different types of racing go-karts:
- Sprint go-karts – These are the most common type of racing go-kart. They are speedy and can easily drive on many different types of tracks.
- Oval go-karts – These are not quite as popular as sprint cars. These types of karts are more for tracks with tight turns in one direction.
- Enduro go-karts – These are the smallest and fastest go-karts when it comes to racing. The way your driver sits in the kart may not be ideal for many people and young children. To drive these karts, you need to lay down almost all the way. They also can sometimes have two engines for even better speed.
There are hundreds of go-karts to choose from out there. Some people even have fully built a one-of-a-kind go-kart. Either way, you decide you will be able to find a go-kart that fits your child’s class, size, and age.
What Items Need to be Purchased Before Racing?
There are many things that you will need to buy before your child dives into racing. Racing go-karts can easily set you back anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 just for the go-kart itself. The cost adds up when you start to add in all the extras, protective gear, not to mention all the other items that are needed. Some of which are:
- Air compressor
- Disposable gloves
- Easy up canopy
- Electrical tape
- Fire extinguisher
- First aid kit
- Fuel container
- Kart stands for easier access to work on the go-kart
- Oil pan
- Rubber hammer
- Tire gauge
- Torque wrench
- Trailer to store all the tools and go-kart. Much easier than loading up all the parts in your vehicle or back of your truck. If you have an actual enclosed trailer specifically for go-karts, you can easily take off to races.
There are many more little odds and ends that can be purchased to make the racing day a little easier.
Practice, Practice, Practice
As with anything in life that you want to become great at, you practice. Practice, even in your backyard, can benefit your child. There are some places you can locally take your child to practice on a track too. You can’t just send your child out on to the track on race day without any knowledge of what to do.
Starting the Engine
This can be a somewhat difficult job, depending on what type of go-kart you have. Some have a pull start like a lawnmower, which would be too much for a younger kid. In contrast, some have a more modern switch or button.
Turning Engine Off & Hitting Kill Switch
Most go-karts used for racing have a kill switch. This is a great addition to have. If your go-kart doesn’t have one, you should talk to a mechanic that could put one on for you. Practicing hitting the kill switch in different positions can also be helpful. This is a critical step to teach your child, so she has the muscle memory of how to do it when she’s in an emergency.
A kill switch will stop all power to the engine when a problem comes up. There are many reasons why your child would need to hit the kill switch. Here are a few:
- The gas pedal becomes stuck.
- Gas is leaking while racing; fumes and sparks can create a fire easily.
- The go-kart is flipped on its side or upside down.
- Your child is unable to reach the ignition switch for any reason.
Getting In & Out Correctly
This may seem a little silly, but some kids’ go-karts are pretty awkward to get in and out of; really, most of them can be. The last thing you want is your child to have an accident by:
- Damaging The Kart – Putting weight on the part of the go-kart that they shouldn’t. If they push off from the wrong spot, they could mess up a lot of things. Dislodge things, weaken, loosen. All of which is not a good thing to find out it’s damaged when they are in the middle of the race.
- Injury – Climbing out of a hot go-kart and accidentally burning themselves on parts of the engine. They could also slip if they put weight on something that may have some give to it. Practicing jumping in and out will greatly benefit you and your child.
Even sitting in a turned-off kart and steering to get a feel for how it works is beneficial for the younger kids. Well before a race, your child needs to have practice turning on an actual track. Left and right turns need practice depending on what type of track your child will be racing.
Most of the younger kids’ “races” are more of a practice type of event anyway. It would help if you still had your child practice before being on track with other kids driving at 30 mph without knowing how hard it is to turn or even when they should start the turn.
Using the Pedals Correctly
This can be a little tricky to teach the young ones, but with a lot of practice, your child will easily get the hang of the pedals. Don’t forget to teach when to hit the gas, when to hit the break, and how to apply little pressure, so they aren’t jerking themselves back and forth or break checking themselves.
After they have that down, start helping them learn when to let off the brake and/or apply gas during turns.
Teaching Your Child Safety
Just like practicing how to race, you need to practice what to do if your child wrecks, someone else wrecks, or if there is a fire. It is almost a certainty that one or all three of these things will happen at some point. Don’t let this alarm you. A large fire would be rare; even smaller fires on a kart are not extremely common.
Wrecks are very common. While for the older kids who drive faster karts, wrecks can result in bad injuries, the younger kids are more like a bad bumper car hit. Teaching them how to react and not panic is the best tool you can give them. They could put themselves in more danger by trying to get out of their cart.
Teaching your kids about go-kart accidents and how to prevent them is a crucial element of go-kart racing education.
While every kid, wreck, and case are different, there are some different situations you should go over with your child, so they know what to do when the problem arises, such as:
- When your child is directly involved in a wreck
- A wreck happens anywhere on the track
- A fire starts on their go-kart
- The caution flag is thrown
- Someone is on track (sometimes people can wander on the track for no reason, it’s rare, but your child can never be over-prepared)
Never Jump out of The Kart During the Race
When kids race, there are crew members and track officials very close by. Tracks typically are not too long/big for the little ones. If needed, an official will be able to get to the injured child. They can assess the situation from afar and determine if the child needs immediate help.
In most cases, it is safe for everyone after the caution flag is thrown, and the drivers slow/stop. This is why the racer should always stay put until someone comes to them. The officials and crew members will know exactly what to do in every situation. Parents, family, and friends are never advised to run out on to the track. It could create a bigger problem and be confusing for track officials.
There could also be an injury to the child if they unbuckle and start to climb out. They could be hit in the middle of climbing out. They could also be hit as they are standing on the track. A simple wreck could turn into a much more tragic event.
Your child needs to learn to remain buckled in and keep their helmet on until told otherwise. This small but important procedure saves lives.
What To Do in Case of a Fire
Teaching your kids fire safety protocol and racing go hand in hand. Your child should have practice drills on what to do if a fire starts on certain parts of the go-kart during a race. Even if a small fire starts on your child’s go-kart, they need to remain calm, stop the kart, and then get out. They should learn how to stop, drop, and roll if they were to be on fire.
Practicing situations that are scary and dangerous help your mind to be more prepared in that situation. If you go over it 100 times and it never happens, it’s fine. If you don’t practice and a situation happens, your child can freeze. Sometimes seconds matter when something happens when a driver has been going anywhere from 30mph to over 60 mph.
Do You Pay to Enter Go-Kart Races?
In most races where there is a monetary prize, there will be a fee to race. Some events have items donated, or the winner will only get a trophy. Keep in mind, if there is a small prize, the entry fee may be less, whereas a large prize payout typically means a higher entry fee.
Some younger kid races are more of a practice type of race, so there may be a fee to use the track, but no monetary prizes are handed out. It may seem unfair, but the track has quite a few costs to worry about, from electricity and insurance to salaries and upkeep.
Depending on the area where you live, the class you are racing in, and how many racers will be racing can determine the cost to race in certain places.
Do You Win Anything When Go-Kart Racing?
As mentioned above, your child can easily win prizes, money, and trophies. The better the track, the bigger their prize. Most races only have a payout for the top three winners. As you might expect, if your child does not place/win a prize, you do not get your entry fee reimbursed.
If your child is in the Kid Kart Class, they usually do not award prizes (as mentioned above). It is, however, great practice for when they move up to a new class.
Prizes can be anywhere from:
- Thousands of dollars
- And more
Before signing up to race the event, you will know the cost of entry and exactly what the prizes are for each race.
Some kids and adults can actually make a decent amount of money racing; the better you do, the more you win, meaning you can put more into your cart.
Your Child & Go-Kart Racing
There are kids of all ages who race from around four years old up to adults. The speed will start low and slowly increase with your child’s age and ability. It is up to you to decide if go-kart racing will be the right choice for your child. Go-karting should not be taken lightly for two reasons: safety and cost.
Hopefully, this guide has helped you decide to start the process of becoming a part of the go-kart racing world.