How Do Go-Karts Work?

How Do Go-Karts Work

Go-Karting is one of the most exhilarating activities out there. Whether you’re a first-timer, a weekend warrior, or an experienced professional race car driver, it’s always fun. Even NASCAR and almost every Formula 1 driver get their start in go-karts! And with how affordable they are to rent or buy, there’s no reason not to give it a spin.

But what exactly is going on under the hood? How does a go-kart work? Believe it or not, it’s not as complicated as it looks. Some parts may seem complex, but understanding them isn’t too hard. To keep things simple, I will break it down for you. Here’s what goes into making a go-kart run:

  • Engine: This is the heart of the go-kart. It powers the vehicle and gives it its speed and acceleration.
  • Braking System: Go-karts typically have disc brakes mounted on the rear axle, slows the kart down when pressed.

So there you have it – all there is to know about a go-kart and how it works. Well… there may be a bit more to it, but that’s why I am here to explain it all in detail. Let’s get after it.

Basic Go-Kart Parts

Ready to take your go-karts for a spin? Let’s take a look at the individual parts that make them up. We won’t get too technical, but here are 6 of the most important components and how they work together:

1. Seats

Go-karts usually come with bucket seats that wrap around you snugly. This prevents you from getting thrown out when taking sharp turns at high speeds. But if comfort is more important, recreational and off-road karts may provide padded seating. Racing go-karts, though, prioritize weight over cushioning, so they often use lightweight plastic or fiberglass instead.

2. Tires

Tire size varies, with 10” to 11” tall tires being common and 5” to 8” wide ones in the back since most weight is there. Low centers of gravity are key to stability, so narrower tires are used up front. There are three main types of tires: slicks (for dry conditions – soft for grip, hard for longevity), wets (rain tires with grooves for maximum grip), and special ones for dirt tracks or recreation. Concession karts tend to have larger tires for smoother rides.

Related Article: How to Read Go-Kart Tire Sizes and Understanding Tire Differences

3. Steering

Having the right steering wheel is essential if you’re looking for a smooth ride. Go-kart steering wheels usually measure 10? to 12? in diameter and are made of aluminum. For maximum comfort, look for neoprene wrapping with molded finger grip grooves. Don’t forget that go-karts don’t have power steering, so you’ll need to grip the wheel – especially during hard turns tightly! Here are three key points to consider when choosing your go-kart steering wheel:

  • Look for comfort features such as neoprene wrapping and ergonomic grips.
  • Make sure the mounting holes match up to the steering shaft or column.
  • Remember that go-karts don’t have power steering, so it pays to choose one that offers good handling.

4. Engine

Whether racing or cruising, go-karts come with either gasoline or electric motors. Let’s take a look at each option.

Gasoline engines come in two-strokes (up to 18,000 rpm) or four-strokes (up to 11,000 rpm). The two-stroke engine is more popular for racing, but the four-stroke runs smoother and quieter. To get the best performance from your gas-powered go-kart, check out this guide on the best engines.

On the flip side, electric motors offer quicker acceleration and improved weight distribution; they can be reversed. Unfortunately, their ranges tend to be shorter, and they only last about 20 minutes before needing recharging. If you prefer an electric motor, here’s a rundown of the best options.

Related Article: Top 8 Best Go-Kart Engines You Can Depend On!

5. Chassis

The chassis of a go-kart is like the foundation of a building – it’s essential to keeping everything together! It consists of two parts, the frame, and the body kit. The frame is made from metal to provide a sturdy structure to which all components are mounted. Meanwhile, the body kit protects this foundation with bumpers, panels, and spoilers made of hard plastic or fiberglass – almost like armor for your kart.

Three Reasons Why You Need a Frame:

  • Protects the bodywork from damage
  • It avoids wheel collisions which can cause flipping or ejection from the track.
  • Adds weight to the kart (which may be an advantage or disadvantage depending on what kind of race you’re doing)

6. Frame

The outer metal ‘cage’ around a kart is known as the guard frame. It serves multiple purposes, such as protecting the bodywork, averting wheel collisions and potentially causing flips, and adding some heft to the kart. However, having this extra weight may sound like a hindrance; professional racers often opt for frames to gain more speed and acceleration.

So, How Does a Go-Kart Work?

Let me break it down for ya. I’ll explain the basics of what makes these little machines go. We’ve got an engine to make them move, pistons to help out, steering and accelerating components, and brakes to bring them back down to earth.

  • Engine: This powerhouse gets everything going – gasoline or electric depending on your model. It’s mounted on top of the frame and sends power to the drive shaft, which drives the rear axle so you can get moving.
  • Pistons: Pistons are like tiny arms inside the engine cylinders, pushing and pulling as they rotate the crankshaft. This rotates the axle and turns the wheels, giving you acceleration.
  • Steering: The steering wheel is attached to the shaft, and two tie rods branch off from there (one left, one right). They connect to spindles held together by a kingpin bolt, allowing you to turn left and right when you twist the wheel.
  • Accelerating: A throttle cable connects the accelerator pedal (gas pedal) to the engine to regulate how much fuel goes into the combustion chamber. Electric models have an electronic controller instead of a cable.
  • Braking: Your braking system has a master cylinder full of brake fluid. When you press the pedal, fluid moves through lines connected to calipers that contain brake pads. Friction builds up between the rotor and the pads when you press the pedal, slowing you down.


While it may appear complex, understanding the basic components of a go-kart is relatively simple. The engine, braking system, tires, steering, chassis, and frame work together to make a go-kart run.

Moreover, choosing the right equipment, such as a comfortable seat and a suitable steering wheel, can significantly improve your experience. Whether you are a beginner or a professional racer, go-karting provides an exciting experience with speed, acceleration, and maneuverability. So, why not give go-karting a go?


Goran, an experienced go-kart racer, fuels with his passion and expertise. He offers valuable insights and tips for fellow enthusiasts, fostering the growth of the go-kart community. Join Goran at and immerse yourself in this exhilarating sport.

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