Troubleshooting a Go-Kart – The Ultimate Guide


Like any machine, go-karts can break down and leave you in frustration. Most issues you will encounter are minor problems. Sometimes though, you may encounter some significant issues. Knowing how to troubleshoot your go-kart problems correctly is key to getting back on track as soon as possible.

Today I am going to talk about some common issues and the best way to identify and fix them so that you can go back on track as soon as possible.

Technical problems we are going to discuss are:

  • If the engine does not start – fuel levels, spark plug, kill switch, and choke.
  • If the engine idles incorrectly – the air filter, throttle, clutch, and fuel.
  • If the brakes are not responsive – the brake fluid levels and brake pads.
  • If the go-kart will not accelerate – the drive system and drive chain.

Often, troubleshooting a go-kart can also be a fun learning experience. By doing your repairs on a go-kart, you gain a better understanding of how these entertaining vehicles work. Troubleshooting a go-kart is also a great way to understand better how to best operate the vehicles without harming them. 

Problem: Engine Will Not Run 

One of the most typical troubles with go-karts is also one of the most frustrating: a go-kart engine that will not start. Naturally, if the machine will not run, you cannot do anything with the go-kart. While this type of problem can be very annoying, the solutions are usually straight forward. 

Why Can’t I Get My Go-Kart to Start?

The most obvious sign that there is a problem with a go-kart engine is when the vehicle will not start at all. This can be due to several factors, but it is often related to fuel or electric issues. 

Some of the possible causes for a go-kart engine that will not start are:

  • Faulty spark plug
  • Lack of adequate fuel
  • Kill switch is engaged
  • Excessive choke flooding the engine
  • Faulty fuel line or hose

Fuel and Power Check

The first thing to check when you are troubleshooting a go-kart with an engine that will not start is to check that you have enough fuel and power for the go-kart. It may seem like it should not need to be said, but you should always check to make sure there is enough gas for the vehicle.

Sometimes people forget to refill the gas tank of a go-kart and are then stumped when they try to start the go-kart the next time! It is an honest mistake that can happen to anyone.

If you see that your go-kart is low on or completely out of gas, refill it. Try starting the go-kart again. No further troubleshooting should be needed if the go-kart starts at this point.

As with the gas, a go-kart must have a charged battery. Always make sure to check that there is a full charge on the go-kart’s battery. 

Ensure Fuel Reaches Carburetor 

Regardless of how much gas there is in the go-kart’s fuel tank, it will not matter if there is an issue preventing the fuel from reaching the carburetor. Inspect the fuel lines and hose to ensure no kinks or holes in the hose.

To determine if the carburetor is getting any fuel, follow these steps:

  • Grab a can of starting fluid
  • Spray a small amount of the starting fluid directly into the carburetor
  • Try to start the go-kart’s engine

The go-kart’s engine should start with the starting fluid now inside the carburetor. If the go-kart’s engine starts but dies when it runs out of the starting fluid, you know that the carburetor is not getting fuel. This may be from damage to the gas hose, in which case you should replace the lines. 

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Check the Spark Plug

After you have checked the go-kart fuel and power sources, the next step is to check the spark plug condition. You may find that the starting fluid failed to start the go-kart’s engine the first time you tried it. You can also try using the starting fluid after you check the spark plug.

Remove the spark plug and inspect it for wear or damage. You will most likely see that the spark plug is dirty or even clogged. Use carburetor cleaner and a small brush to remove the debris from the spark plug.

Return the spark plug to its position, and be sure to tighten all the wires connecting to it. Once again, try to start the go-kart’s engine. You will need to replace the spark plug altogether if the engine still does not start. 

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Inspect the Kill Switch and Ignition Switch

The engine of a go-kart will not start if the kill or stop switch is engaged. Check to see if the kill switch is on. If it is, turn this switch off. The kill switch will need to be replaced if it continues to become engaged on its own. 

The ignition switch for a go-kart’s engine can also become faulty. It is not especially common for the ignition switch to become defective, but it is increasingly likely if the go-kart is exposed to the weather for long periods.

To check if the ignition switch is working, you will have to use a battery tester to determine if the power is flowing. This can only be done after you take the ignition switch apart. Many people are not comfortable with checking the operation of an ignition switch. In those situations, you can easily have a mechanic test the switch instead.

The kill switch (also called an engine disconnect) may also be malfunctioning for two other reasons:

  • The plug that should be connected to the engine has become separated.
  • The wire’s end terminal has loosened away from the engine. 

It is a good idea to check all the kill switch connections are correctly pushed together. You should also ensure that all of the screws holding the wire’s end terminal to the engine’s case.

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Why Does My Go-Kart Start and Immediately Stop?

Sometimes, there is no difficulty in starting the engine, but then the go-kart shuts off and will not start again for a given period. This may be fixed by one of the methods already presented for engine problems. But there are a couple of other things to check for as well. 

Replace Coil

The coil for the fuel hose may be faulty due to wear and tear or improper assembly. This frequently causes the go-kart’s engine to stop and then refuse to start again. A defective coil is easily solved.

It would be best if you replaced the coil itself and the coil cap. While you do this, be sure to check for any dust or debris clogging the area. Clean it out if there is any residue. 

Check the Air Filters

Air filters in the engines of go-karts can cause issues if they get wet or clogged. An air filter can become clogged with water or dirt particles. When the air filter is clogged, the go-kart’s engine cannot draw in enough air to circulate throughout. This causes the engine to stop altogether.

You have to have an air filter or cleaner to run a go-kart’s engine safely. If the air filter is dirty or otherwise dusty, you need to either replace the air filter or thoroughly clean it. An air filter that has been neglected for a long time may not be possible to clean, in which case you will have to replace it with a brand-new air filter.

Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintaining your go-kart’s air filter. The instructions should include recommendations for:

  • How to clean the air filter
  • How often the air filter should be cleaned
  • How often you need to replace the air filter
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How Do You Choke a Go-Kart?

Go-kart engines have what is called choke controls. Choke controls are typical for carbureted machines of many kinds besides go-karts, such as many cars. Naturally, the choke for a go-kart engine will work all on its own, but there may be times where you have to engage the choke to start the machine manually.

Choke controls are used for fuel and air mixture systems that are common for go-kart engines. Typically, it would be best if you did not have to manually choke a go-kart engine unless it has not been started for a very long time. 

To choke a go-kart:

  • Locate the manual choke on your go-kart. It will usually be found near the upper end of the carburetor. 
  • Switch the manual choke control to the starting or engaged position. This changes the fuel and air mixture ratio so that more fuel and less air than there would usually be.
  • Try to start the go-kart again. You should use the choke method if you have tried to start the engine more than three times or if the go-kart has not been started in a long time. 

The extra push to get fuel flowing to the engine that occurs when you choke a go-kart should only be used when the motor cannot warm up like it usually would be able to. This means that you should not manually stop and restart the engine after it has successfully warmed up to its average temperatures for operating. 

Once the engine reaches its average temperature, the fuel flow will also normalize. At this point, the go-kart choke control must be moved back to its normal operating position slowly. The choke control has to be moved back slowly “as not to cause the engine to stall from too much fuel.” 

Problem: Go-Kart Idling Incorrectly

While it is a common issue for go-karts not to start correctly, there may also be issues keeping the go-kart’s engine idling properly. As with trouble starting a go-kart, problems with a go-kart’s idling can be a hassle but are usually easy to solve.

Note: Many of the troubleshooting methods for go-karts can apply to fixing many different types of problems. You may find that the procedures for fixing an engine that will not start can also fix other issues, such as idling, and vice versa. 

Why Won’t My Go-Kart Idle?

As we discussed a bit earlier, you may find that a go-kart will start but then stop, making it difficult to restart the engine without waiting for a given amount of time. We already discussed how this could be related to a clogged air filter, but other issues may be present. 

Ensure Gasoline Is Free of Water

Sometimes, you can get a go-kart engine to start, but it will only stop instead of idling. This sort of problem can occur if water has gotten into a go-kart’s fuel tank and mixed with the gasoline. 

Besides the idling issue, a sign that water has entered the fuel tank is present if water that beads on the fuel tank’s bottom. The only way to solve water mixing with gasoline in the fuel tank is to empty the tank. 

To empty the fuel tank properly:

  • Drain the gasoline from the fuel tank and the carburetor.
  • Refill the tank with pure gasoline once the old fuel has been drained. 
  • If you suspect a leak in your go-kart’s fuel tank or a fuel cap, you may need to test them before refilling the fuel. 

Instead of gasoline, use water in the empty fuel tank to see if the water seeps through the tank or the cap. If there is a leak of some kind, that should be fixed before you put new gasoline in the go-kart. 

Check the Spark Plug

You may have already checked the spark plug to ensure that it is clear of any dust, debris, or residue. While these issues can be a factor in a go-kart’s failure to idle, there may also be a problem with the spark plug’s wires.

When the spark plug itself or the wires connected to it are loose, the go-kart’s engine cannot idle properly. Check to make sure that the spark plug is securely in the correct position. Tighten all the wires connected to the spark plug to make sure that nothing is loose.

Keeping the spark plug and its related wires from loosening will ensure that the engine has a consistent power source. 

Why Does My Go-Kart Idle at the Wrong Times?

Another issue that you may encounter with a go-kart is not that the engine will not idle, but rather that the go-kart’s engine does not idle when it is supposed to. This may present itself through idling too slow or fast or not idling unless the engine is at a specific temperature. 

Replace the Throttle

A sign that your go-kart’s throttle shaft may need to be replaced is when the go-kart does not idle unless the engine has warmed up. Naturally, the throttle shaft is worn down over time, so this is more of a possibility for go-karts that have been used a lot. 

Check that the throttle shaft of the go-kart is not excessively worn. The throttle shaft must be replaced if it is too worn down. 

Adjust Idling Speed

You may also encounter a problem where your go-kart either idles too fast or too slow. The go-kart should have an adjustment screw that you can adjust to alter the engine’s idling speed. 

There are a couple of ways to adjust the idling speed of the go-kart:

  • If you have the owner or user manual for the specific type of go-kart you have, you can find out the correct RPM for your go-kart’s engine to idle at. 
  • You can consult a local mechanic to determine what idling speed is correct for your go-kart. 

A go-kart’s engine will face a shortened lifespan and durability if the engine idles too fast or too slow. It may not seem like the idling speed of a go-kart’s motor is all that important, but it can have serious adverse effects on the engine in the long term. 

Why Does My Go-Kart Move When It Idles?

The main point of a go-kart idling is to keep the engine running without the go-kart moving forward or in reverse. These sorts of issues that occur when the go-kart is idling can present themselves through the go-kart creeping along or seeming almost to jump forward. 

Naturally, there could be severe consequences if you are unable to keep a go-kart from idling correctly. 

Ensure the Throttle Is Not Stuck

One possible cause of a go-kart moving forward when its engine is in the idle position is that the throttle cable is not releasing correctly. The throttle cable should only be engaged when you want to accelerate the go-kart. That would not be done when the go-kart’s engine was set in the idling position. 

The throttle cable may be getting stuck and not releasing. If the throttle lever is not springing back to its off position when the engine is idling, then the go-kart may move forward slowly. Check that this is not happening and replace the throttle cable if the lever will not release properly. 

Assess the Clutch

The clutch is another factor that can impact how a go-kart engine idles:

  • Go-kart movement while the engine is idling may be a sign that the clutch is worn out.
  •  Alternatively, the clutch may be lacking adequate lubrication throughout its system.
  • The clutch in the go-kart may also be faulty due to a stretch spring. 

A spring within the clutch might have stretched out, primarily when the go-kart was frequently run for long periods at low revs

When the spring inside a go-kart’s clutch is stretched out, it must be replaced. You can usually replace the clutch spring with the help of just one other person. Otherwise, the clutch spring can be replaced by a mechanic. 

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Problem: Braking and Accelerating Abnormally

A final category of common problems with go-karts is difficulties with the brakes or acceleration of the go-kart. These types of issues often arise after the go-kart has been in use for a long time. This sort of trouble typically results from normal wear and tear over a long period of use. 

Why Are My Go-Kart Brakes Malfunctioning?

The brakes of a go-kart are inherently crucial to the safety of driving a go-kart with minimal risk. You must be able to effectively and quickly slow down or stop the go-kart when needed. Going-kart brakes become worn down as time goes on, so they should be regularly inspected, even before any issues arise. 

You may notice brake problems such as:

  • Difficulty in slowing down 
  • Difficulty in applying the brakes
  •  The go-kart’s brakes are making noises or seem to be grinding.

Replace the Brake Pads

A key indication that the brakes of your go-kart are going out is a grinding sound or feel. This grinding is a common sign that the brake pads need to be replaced. The brake pads must be thick enough to cushion the brakes adequately.

Failure to replace your go-kart’s brake pads will make it increasingly difficult for you to safely apply the brakes. It will eventually lead to the complete collapse of the brake system. 

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Check Brake Fluid Levels

Another related issue to problems with a go-kart’s brakes is a lack of hydraulic brake fluid. As the brake pads, hydraulic brake fluid is key to ensuring that the brakes do not become sticky or dysfunctional. 

As with the brake pads, it is normal for hydraulic brake fluid to need maintenance over time. This is an easy fix to problems with the brakes of a go-kart. 

Why Won’t My Go-Kart Accelerate?

On the opposite end, from brake problems, you may also encounter difficulties in accelerating a go-kart properly. Acceleration issues might include jerking movements, sluggish response, or failure to increase speeds to normal levels. 

Inspect the Drive System and Chain

Your first step in assessing a difficulty with a go-kart’s acceleration should be inspecting the vehicle’s drive system. Be sure to evaluate all of the drive system’s aspects. In a similar part of the go-kart, the drive chain must also be inspected.

A go-kart’s drive chain needs to be lubricated before every ride. While you lubricate the drive chain, you should also adjust the tightness of the drive chain. 

The proper adjustment of the drive chain is essential because:

  • When the drive chain is too loose, it can result in go-kart acceleration in a jerky fashion. 
  • If there is not enough tension, the drive chain can fall off.
  •  Simultaneously, you do not want the drive chain to be too tight, in which case the chain will get stuck. 
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Adjust the Throttle

When the throttle cable is faulty and causes the go-kart to move when it idles, the throttle cable must also be adjusted appropriately for the go-kart to accelerate correctly. You may have to adjust the throttle to get the go-kart to accelerate properly.

The easiest way to ensure that the acceleration will be smooth is to keep the throttle cable clean and without dust or debris. This is key to making sure that a malfunctioning throttle cable does not hamper the acceleration. 

Final Thoughts 

The biggest takeaway from this troubleshooting go-kart guide should be that many of the issues that occur with go-karts can be resolved by proper cleaning and inspection. Most problems that go-karts have are related to dirt or debris, hampering the operation of critical parts.

You should also see that many problems that happen to go-karts are easily identified without professional maintenance. Further, many of the common issues with go-karts have solutions that are easily accessible through online resources. 

With a little bit of time and energy, you can quickly troubleshoot and resolve the issues that you are having with your go-kart. Then you can get back to enjoying the fun of go-karts. 

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