What Is Go-Kart Racing and How It Works


Go-karting is an up and coming sport full of high-speed thrills and excitement. One of the best things about the sport is that young kids can start with a kart in the yard and progress to the heights or racing leagues worldwide. Are there things about go-karting that the regular public doesn’t know?

Go-kart racing is one of the fastest-growing motorsports in the United States. It bulks up the lawnmower powered carts of youth and supercharges them with super-fast engines that are light and powerful. With the more powerful engines, they can reach speeds that require the best reflexes and training to make it to the top.

Karting is the breeding ground for Formula 1, and NASCAR drivers and the superkarts that have recently burst onto the scene can reach speeds of 100 miles per hour.

Don’t let that scare you off!

Read on and learn what it takes to get out on the track and learn all there is to know about go-karting and how it works.

How to Choose a Go-Kart

When it comes down to picking which kind of kart you need, there are a few things to consider before jumping in and taking off. If the go-kart is for young kids, there should be some extra body attachments and soft surfaces. Racers are going to have faster engines and more efficient parts for more extended periods of use.

If you need help buying go-kart, read our Go-Kart Buyers Guide.

Who is Going to Use the Go-Kart?

Who will be using the go-kart is one of the first questions that must be asked before shopping. You’d be surprised how much money is going into the adult kart industry. Even Lamborghini and Tesla are making high-performance models that can be used for racing or playing. Kids will need something smaller with less horsepower.

A Go-Kart Engine is the Most Exciting Piece of the Machine

The engine type is going to be one of the biggest problems with karting. There are the normal 2-stroke and 4-stroke engines that are associated with go-karts. There’s also a massive move towards electric karts. These karts work better indoors, and several shopping complexes and malls are allowing karting inside.

Does the Kart Fit Your Budget?

It should come as no surprise that go-karting, at its highest levels, is going to take some extreme maintenance while your average kid’s kart will need to be checked out every season to make sure there are no significant faults or problems. This maintenance is valuable for the life of the machine and shouldn’t be ignored.

Karting is so much fun that, honestly, the money and time spent might not seem like a big deal to some people. Don’t mistake the tiny cars for lack of intensity. The karts on the circuit will be well maintained and driven by amateur drivers hungry for glory and life inside the racing circuit.

Go-Karting for Kids or Adults is All About the Kart

No matter what you want to use your kart for, one thing is for sure; you have plenty of options. Companies across the spectrum have bought into the karting game and are spending serious money to bring excellent products to the market. The things that make a go-kart stand out above others are plastic upgrades, like fenders, around the kart.

The most common parts of a go-kart are:

  • Frame
  • Steering
  • Chassis
  • Seat
  • Engine
  • Tires

When assembled, the pieces will combine to create a machine that is hours of fun and will engage the younger crowd to no end. If you are unfamiliar with working on machines installing or upgrading, your kart could require a mechanic’s help. This could drive up the machine’s cost and upkeep and provide the safest option for the family.

A Frame is an Exoskeleton That Protects the Rider

When people hear frames, they must think of the shape of the kart, and that is correct. However, the frame is a set of steel or another metal tubing that protects the kart.

These are often braced with metal shims or welded to pieces of the chassis. The metal is too heavy in the higher racing levels, and some teams skip the frame altogether.

The main types of frame for go-karts are:

  • Offset – An offset frame will be the type of frame used in figure-eight races. It moves the driver or engine to the middle of the kart, creating a pronounced curve in the kart. This makes it more durable for cornering and improves the handling of the kart. This is an advanced model frame and not something for kids.
  • Straight – A straight frame has the shape that most of us know from older go-karts. It has a straight axle on the front and rear with a set of connecting tubes. The driver and rider sit in the middle with the engine directly behind. These are the most popular 2-stroke engine models, and they are easy to find and repair.
  • Caged – The newer go-kart model you see in sporting goods stores and cycle shops worldwide has a caged frame. The cage encases the driving and motor area of the kart. It is designed for maximum protection and is often covered with foam to give even more protection to the rider.
  • Open – The most dangerous type of frame is the open frame. It is just like it sounds, a frame that doesn’t protect the rider from rollovers. These are the types of karts you see on the superkart series. They will go frameless to save weight and make their machine faster than the other karts.

The frame is the thing that defines the shape of the kart. Some are elaborate pieces that are designed for protection. Others are cast aside in search of better acceleration and cornering. If buying for children, choose something that allows them to be safe while pushing the edge and enjoying themselves to the fullest.

Here is a great article detailing how to chose go-kart frame.

Steering is More Than Just a Place to Rest Your Hands

Like every other type of component for a kart, a steering wheel can be easily found and installed. They come in several different shapes and from as many kinds of material as you can imagine.

The most popular are carbon fiber with a rectangle shape that allows the driver to keep their hands on the wheel at all times.

It would be nice to think that steering is as simple as a shape and material, but it isn’t. The steering determines how the kart handles and how well it responds to the steering wheel’s directions.

The metal attachments to the axles are what makes it work so well. Like most things, you get what you pay for, so be ready to spend for quality.

Keep in mind that go-karts often do not have power steering. When you are driving, make sure to have the hands on the wheel at all times. It is crucial to your safety and others.

The kart will move sharply when tension is removed from the steering wheel, and ramming a spectator or competitor would be tough on the driver. 

A Go-Kart Chassis Should Handle Bumps and Corners Like a Champ

The chassis is one of the essential pieces of the kart. There are two parts to the chassis, and each is critical to how the go-kart will function during turns and on rough terrain. The brakes are also attached to the chassis, and on the high-end karts, a layer of fiberglass or rigid plastic form fenders and spoilers. 

The parts of the chassis are:

  • Platform – The platform of a go-kart is a metal layer in which all the other layers are attached. The plastic pieces and the brakes are some of the things that will have their home on the platform. The most important thing on the platform is going to be the seat. It will be attached to the flooring and should have a stable connection before racing.
  • Body kit – Some karts will have a hard plastic or fiberglass body that mounts on to the chassis. These body kits can be as elaborate as to cover the entire kart or just particular sections that get more wear than other parts. They could also be used to aid in drafting or to make the kart more aerodynamic.

The chassis is the backbone of the go-kart. They are important because there is no suspension. That means when you turn, the chassis has to flex to allow for a smooth turn.

It also supports the brakes, which add a lot of friction and torsion to the chassis. Keep connections to other components clean to prevent possible fatal flaws in the machine.

A Seat Should Be Comfortable and Sturdy Enough for Fast Turns

The chassis should be a sturdy and comfortable seat for the driver or driver and rider, along with the other significant components. Most seats are built to fit into existing body styles but can be bought in a one-size-fits-all if needed. There won’t be much to the seat as there isn’t room on the chassis. Choosing form over function would be a mistake.

The most common type of seat in a go-kart will be the bucket seat that we see in regular cars. They do this for several reasons, mainly because the chair envelops the rider, and it will keep them from being thrown from the kart during a high-speed turn or drop.

Going for a carbon fiber seat will save weight and protect the drive much better than the original.

Some things to consider when buying a seat for your go-kart are:

  • A number of seats – How many people are going to be riding in the kart? If it is a racer, you should shoot for one seat, and if it is for kids, then having the standard side-by-side seats will be your best bet. No matter how many people are riding, make sure that they are safe and secure. Don’t forget your seatbelts!
  • The driver’s weight is more for the racing kart but should be looked at for any kart. How much weight will it be holding? Some seats come with a small metal box that gives the rider a few clearance inches from the chassis floor. Clearance is useful for seeing the track but insufficient for aerodynamics. Find a happy balance.
  • Choose your size seat – Often, the driver will want to find a seat that is too large for them. Buying a too large seat fails for the driver by not keeping them snug and secure during movement. Another way they fail is that they can add unnecessary weight to the kart. In karting, weight is everything. Fastkartsupply.com has a great table to help you chose the right go-kart seat.

When you think about sitting in your go-kart, think about safety first. Being wedged into the seat means that it is harder for you to be dislodged when you crash or take a turn too fast.

The curved edges of the seat will protect the rider and are designed this way on purpose. Remember that moving the hands and forearms are all that is needed.

Nothing is as Important to Kart Racing as a Go-Kart Engine

Let’s face facts. The best thing about kart racing is that anyone can walk up and get into a kart and go mind-numbingly fast. The engine in a go-kart can be gas or electric in either 2-stroke or 4-stroke. Usually, the 2-stroke pull-start gas engine is what is used at the local go-kart track. Some places have high-speed electric karting indoors.

When it comes to buying an engine to add to your kart, you will be surprised by all the options and features available to the buyer. As you spend more money, you begin to see uncommon things, like electric ignition systems and digital dash clusters. Most impressive at this price point is how efficient the engines are, no matter what fuel they use.

The most common types of go-kart engine are:

  • 2-Stroke – A 2-stroke engine is the most common gas engine on a go-kart. They range in power from 5 – 20 horsepower and have top speeds of over 40 miles per hour. Like an old lawnmower, they usually pull-start and have a decent life of about ten years, if maintained properly.
  • 4-Stroke – A 4-stroke engine is going to make for a serious go-kart. You usually see these engines on larger motorcycles and boats. They have some serious power, ranging from around eight horsepower to just under 50. These engines will be a bit larger and louder while using about the same amount of fuel.
  • Electric – Some of the first electric-powered vehicles were go-karts. Their lightweight and easy to access parts made them a proving ground for low-budget designers looking to sell their designs to larger companies. Now that big boy companies like Tesla and Lamborghini have hit the market, and the electric engine can only improve.

If you want to make a kart fast, all you have to do is go hog wild on the engine and its parts. They come in lightweight metals that are highly resistant to heat and give the go-kart an unnatural speed and agility. Money spent on a go-kart engine reaps its rewards with thrills and high-speed chills.

If you need help choosing the right go-kart engine, we are here to help. Here you can find out what the best engine for a go-kart is.

Tires Are Where the Go-Kart Will Grip and Maintain Its Hold on the Road

Tires for karts are just like every other piece on the machine, easy to find and expensive for the best models. It is essential to have excellent tires because the go-kart doesn’t turn in the same way your automobile does.

The extra tire grip, or lack of depending on the racer, helps the kart stay in a straight line, which is key to going fast.

Kart tires come in regular sizes for go-karts but can be oversized for larger off-road karts of buggies. It would help if you chose a tire that is suited for your driving.

If you are into a go-kart drifting, having less tread on the tire means that you are more likely to get the end of the kart swung out wide and have a looping and quick drift.

When buying go-kart tires, there are some things to consider:

  • Size – Tire size is critical to each type of kart. A larger tire is needed for driving on the grass and in the sand, while a slick tire works best on a track designed for racing or drifting. Choose something that fits the size of the machine and doesn’t overpower the rest of the equipment.
  • Tread – The tread on the tires is just as important as the size. When you are picking a tire, remember what the kart is going to be used for. Buy something that will help the driver navigate the terrain or increase time while racing on the track.

Tires are some critical pieces of the puzzle when it comes to go-karting. They maintain traction on the road and help the car to rebound from jostling by other drivers. Tires can be expensive if the proper type isn’t purchased. Focus on size and tread before moving on to any additional features you might be looking for in a tire.

Conclusion

Go-karting is becoming a serious hotspot for young drivers looking to make their way into Formula 1 or NASCAR. The karts aren’t much different from those you grew up using, but the higher-end karts can cost serious money to own and race. High-enders are serious machines that can reach over 100 miles per hour and are great for racing.

One thing is for sure, go-karting isn’t going anywhere. Each year, more and more kart tracks find their way into resort towns and shopping malls. Karting is a high-speed winner takes all adrenaline rush that allows anyone with a kart and the ability to keep it on the track a chance to share in the glory. 

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