With go-karts being pretty stripped-back pieces of equipment, it’s difficult to know exactly what is included on them. If you’re new to the world of karting, you might be wondering whether go-karts have suspension systems.
Go-karts do not have suspension systems like those found on cars, but their chassis has enough flexibility to provide suspension, but it must also be rigid enough to withstand cornering. Chassis stiffness can be adjusted with torsion bars. A kart’s tires technically function as suspension too.
Not having suspension on a motorized vehicle might seem strange, but it’s all part of how go-karting has stayed so popular over many years. We go into more detail about everything you need to know about go-karts and suspension below.
How To Adjust Suspension On A Kart
Originally, suspension wasn’t deemed necessary on a kart because it would add too much weight to the frame of what was supposed to be a lightweight vehicle. As karts have evolved over the years, the chassis itself plus a few other key components have become the key to unlocking how its suspension ‘system’ functions.
If you’re familiar with karts, you’ll notice that the base of it is made up of tubing. This material will come in different sizes depending on the size of the kart overall, but most adult karts will be made of 30 mm or 32 mm tubing.
The lesser size of tubing is considered better for a more flexible kart, essentially meaning that its suspension and ability to go over curbs is better than a stiffer variety, and it’s more lightweight. The larger size of tubing will make the whole rig stiffer without as much give, and this can offer the driver better handling and better grip on the track.
Both sizes of tubing I mentioned are perfectly acceptable for go-karts, and it’s all down to driver preference as to what they want their kart to feel like. No tubing size is better than the other, as it just provides a different style of racing.
Axles & Spindles
The axle is simply a rod that connects the rear wheels together. As of late there have been a lot of regulations put in place by kart authorities that dictate a standardized axle rigidity in order to account for driver safety. Nevertheless, an axle will be more flexible dependent on the material and chemical composition it is made of.
A stiff go-kart axle will provide more rear grip through corners because it forces the wheels to stay in contact with the track as opposed to allowing them to lift. A soft axle will reduce grip and give the kart more overall flex.
Every kart chassis will be different, however, and newer designs are getting progressively more flexible as standard, so it’s always worth talking to a kart dealership or the manufacturer to discuss how to achieve various effects.
Spindles, which pair with wheel hubs, don’t offer such a wide variety of effects, but you can switch out for different sizes to achieve slightly different results. The longer the spindle, the more front grip you tend to get. And by the same token, a shorter spindle in a wheel hub will lessen front grip.
Another way to manipulate your kart’s suspension in a number of ways is how you position your seat in the kart. A driver’s body is oftentimes their greatest weapon, both in terms of feeling how the kart handles, and actually handling the kart in different ways.
Central seat positioning is standard in go-karts, but some drivers opt to mount it askew to different sides depending on how the corners unfold at a specific track. A higher seat position will give the kart more flex, and a lower seat position will stiffen the chassis.
The Importance Of The Driver
Even if your seat is mounted at its highest, you as the driver will still be very close to the ground. This design is intentional as well as a means to make the most of a kart’s basic composition. It allows the driver to use their own weight to make shifts in the kart, and this is why you’ll see a lot of kart drivers actually leaning into corners and even tucking their head down on straights.
The bottom line is that we’re the heaviest part of that kart! It’s important to use your body wisely while racing, no matter how many different ways you’ve implemented suspension-altering tactics such as axle stiffness, spindle size or seat position.
Can Tires Make A Difference In Go-Kart Suspension?
Tires can make a difference to your go-kart’s suspension, as the tires on a go-kart are what is keeping the frame suspended from the ground, and they have to be inflated to a certain pressure in order to keep the tubing underneath intact.
There isn’t a concrete tire pressure you should be using, but simply a range that is dependent on track conditions. At times, if I felt that my kart was bouncing too much to the point of reducing my handling, a quick top-up of air pressure would stop the issue and essentially act as stiffened suspension.
Make Small Adjustments
As ever, when making changes to your kart, always make sure to make gradual adjustments. If you change everything all at once, you’ll probably find that the end result is too far past what you were wanting to achieve.
Say for example that your kart is too stiff and you’re getting too much grip, to the point that it’s hopping through corners. To combat the issue, you switch out your rear axle for something softer and shorter with smaller spindles, you raise the seat and also release some tire pressure.
I can guarantee that you’ll now have a go-kart that is far too flexible and you’ll be missing out on grip where you need it! Choose one component to tweak, give it a test, and if it isn’t resolved, try something else. Applying all of the ways to adjust your suspension all at once isn’t going to end well!
KEY POINTS• Go-karts don’t have traditional suspension systems
• Their suspension is made up of the chassis, axle, spindles, and tires
• You should only change one aspect of your suspension at a time to tweak the kart’s handling
Do Go-Karts Have Torsion Bars?
Some go-karts do come with torsion bars, but not all of them do. A torsion bar is designed to add extra rigidity to your go-kart and therefore provide more grip, specifically to the front due to how torsion bars are installed. Torsion bars can be made of different materials.
Each material will have a different effectiveness in increasing rigidity. For example, a nylon bar isn’t as stiff as an aluminum one, so the aluminum one will add more rigidity to the kart frame than the nylon one.
Although this change is primarily felt in the front of the kart, the rear will also feel the same effects to some degree. So, it’s important to only add torsion bars of lower rigidity and work your way up if you’re really struggling with front-end grip and too much flex. Running with a stiffened steel compound torsion bar might throw out your whole kart’s alignment!
Go-karts don’t have suspension systems in the traditional sense, as they don’t have any springs or shock absorbers. Their suspension is made up of the chassis, which can flex, the axle and spindles, and the tires. Some karts may also have torsion bars.
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