Whether you are taking up karting as a hobby, or you are aiming to go professional and win championships, everyone wants to make their own kart as fast as possible, while also doing it legally.
Our 6 tips to make your kart faster are:
- Change your chassis setup
- Change your handling setup
- Keep your kart clean and well maintained
- Be flexible in your setup
- Upgrade your kart
- Learn new driving techniques
Of course, you’ll want to keep everything within the rules in order to be able to participate in races, so we are only looking at how to make your kart faster according to the general rules of kart racing.
6 Tips To Make Your Kart Faster
1. Change Your Chassis Setup
Setup is the most important element of being fast, not only in karting but also in car racing too. We even see Formula 1 drivers sometimes struggle with their setups and lose quite a lot of time from using the wrong ones. The difference between a good setup and a bad setup could mean the difference between qualifying on pole or starting from the back.
The difference between a karting world champion and a driver that is struggling is not always related to the driver’s ability. A world champion will know exactly how they want their kart setup, and they know what works for them.
If you know your setups and you know how to get your kart working correctly, it could help you get the edge over that championship rival that you have been battling with all season, or it could help you get your first podium. No matter at what level you are racing, having the right setup is key.
Below we will cover some basic setup guides very briefly so that you know where to start. These will help you find the type of handling you need from your kart. Remember, no two drivers will like the exact same setup every time. You need to find what works for you!
The chassis can be a tricky thing to setup, especially for newcomers to the sport. It can be difficult to know where to start or what to even do in order to change the way the chassis works on a kart. There’s no dampers or springs to adjust like in a car, so it is very different.
In fact, a kart chassis is extremely primitive compared to that of a car. Its only ‘purpose’ is to flex as the kart turns around corners. This flexing motion allows the kart to corner much faster (relatively speaking) and with more agility than a car.
So, keeping that in mind, chassis setup is all about how much you want the chassis to flex. The goal is to get the inside rear wheel to lift during cornering which will help the kart to rotate (this is called jacking). There are various ways you can do this.
The rear axle comes in 3 different stiffness settings. They come in the form of soft, medium and hard, and some axles may also feature intermediates between those. Softer axles will offer less rear grip as the chassis will be flexing less (the load transfer shifts focus from the frame to the axle).
Stiffer axles on the other hand will give you more rear grip as the chassis will flex more. So, if you are struggling to get the kart turning mid corner you should consider a stiffer axle. Keep in mind that if the circuit is bumpy (common for street circuits), a softer axle will help to keep the kart more stable.
This may come as a surprise to many, but the seat is not just there for the driver’s comfort. The driver is the heaviest element of the vehicle and therefore has a huge effect on the weight transfer in a kart. Just like axles, seats have different stiffness settings.
The general rule is that if you are a driver on the lighter side (say less than 75kg) a hard seat is preferred. If you are a driver on the heavier side (75kg and over) then a softer seat is preferred.
Another factor to consider is that the faster the kart, the softer the seat needs to be. So, if you move up to the 125cc class, try to find a seat a level below the one you are currently using. This is because of the increased speed which needs a more liberated chassis.
With most championship contending karts having a sealed engine, it’s hard to actually set the engine up differently or to make huge changes to it. But karting engines are extremely sensitive and having the correct setup is crucial.
Gearing is the first and most important change you can make. This is as simple as taking off a sprocket and replacing it with a bigger or smaller one. The sprockets are labeled based on the number of teeth they have.
In general, fewer teeth on the sprocket (a smaller number) will give you faster acceleration and a slower top speed. Bigger sprockets will give you a higher top speed but slower acceleration out of corners. Essentially, you want to find the gearing where your engine hits the rev limit close to the end of the longest straight on the track.
Another testing technique that drivers like to use is to start off with extremely high gearing and keep dropping the sprockets lower and lower until your lap times start to become slower than before. You can then find which gearing setup is perfect for you.
Remember, karts are all about acceleration. A higher top speed isn’t always the best setting to go for. If you can make up the speed out of corners and on smaller straights your lap times will be faster than those with slower acceleration but higher top speeds.
Keep in mind that karts with shorter gear ratios (smaller sprockets and faster acceleration) tend to feel ‘tighter’ during cornering. If you like a kart that is responsive and quick, then shorter gear ratios will be better for you.
Jetting is probably the trickiest of all the setup elements. It’s also so sensitive that a small change in the weather conditions can throw the engine off completely and it will lose a lot of power. You’ll find that you need to constantly adjust the jetting on your engine in order to keep it up to speed.
Jetting is essentially where you adjust the air to fuel ratio in the engine. A rich mixture is when there is a higher concentration of fuel than air going into the engine. A lean mixture is when there is a higher concentration of air compared to fuel.
Adjusting the jetting in your engine will help to keep it running at peak performance at all times. You can find a useful chart online which shows which jetting should be used based on ambient temperature. There are also various apps available which are great too, but generally, it needs to be changed with every 10oF change in temperature.
If your engine is running too lean, you will notice that the engine makes a popping sound when you go down the straights. If this is the case, then you need to switch to a richer jet. This is caused by a lack of fuel (and too much air) in the engine.
If the engine is running too rich a fuel mixture, you will find that the kart bogs down coming out of corners. This is because there is an overflow of fuel running into the carburetor and there isn’t enough air available to combust it.
A quick way to adjust the fuel mixture of the kart is to adjust the needle. However, this only works for around 25% of the throttle. Beyond that it’s all about the jets. This means that it’s simply a quick fix, and not a solution.
However, you can still adjust the needle to tweak the engine slightly if there’s a small weather change. Adjusting it down makes the fuel mix richer, and adjusting the needle upwards makes the fuel mix leaner.
When the temperature increases, the air becomes less dense. This means less air is available for your engine to take in, so the mix automatically (if you do not adjust it) becomes richer. In this case you would need to counter it by setting your engine to a leaner setting so it can take in more air. It works the same way in reverse.
The higher the altitude you are at, the less dense the air becomes. This would be a similar situation as when the temperature increases. This is why engines (and our lungs) always work better at sea level. More air availability means engines run smoother and faster.
High humidity also decreases the density of the air due to moisture taking up space in the air. This is why we sometimes struggle to breathe in high humidity situations (think of a sauna). So again, higher humidity means you need to run your engine in leaner settings.
2. Change Your Handling Setup
Handling is much simpler to adjust than the chassis. Although both can affect the handling of the kart, these settings are much easier to deal with and have a huge effect on oversteer and understeer.
It’s recommended that you try these out and find which settings make you feel comfortable in the kart and which give you the fastest lap times (these might not be the same settings). You might feel comfortable on one setting but have faster laps on another.
Tire pressures are key to the overall handling of your kart. Your tires are the only point of contact between your kart and the tarmac, so it essentially translates what you as a driver are doing onto the road. Sometimes, correcting your kart’s handling can be as simple as adjusting the tire pressures.
We have covered this topic in depth in another article, but we are going to look at some general guidelines to help you solve any handling issues you may be experiencing. By adjusting the tire pressures, you can control how much grip each tire produces and for how long.
Generally, higher tire pressures will lead to higher top speeds, but it will also lower the levels of grip that the tires give you in cornering. Lower tire pressures will give you slower straight-line speed and higher grip. However, these generalizations do not take into account the specific dynamics of your kart, and thus you will need to do some experimentation to find out what works for you.
Always make sure you stay within the safety guidelines given by your tire manufacturer. Never exceed the tire pressure limits as this can cause tire failures.
You could also change the tires you use. For example, fitting larger tires can make your kart accelerate faster, but you’ll sacrifice top speed. This means you need to consider the side effects of every adjustment you make.
Camber And Caster
Camber and caster can be used to adjust the amount of grip you have through corners. To adjust the camber, you need to adjust the kingpin on the front axle. More camber means more grip and faster turn in. However, too much camber will lead to a nervous and twitchy kart at the entry of corners.
It’s recommended to run high caster settings in wet conditions to get as much grip as possible when you turn into corners, but you should test out how much caster you prefer. Some people prefer a super responsive kart, while others do not.
Too much caster is when the back of the kart slides on corner entry (in other words, there’s too much bite or oversteer). Too little caster is when the kart is understeering too much. Try to adjust the kingpin and see if it improves.
Camber is the angle at which the front wheels point. This can either give you more oversteer or understeer. However, adding too much camber can cause your tires to overheat and wear out faster, so you should make small adjustments at a time and see how it affects your lap times.
Front Track Width
The front track width is one of the easiest and most basic adjustments you can make on a kart. It simply involves removing the front wheels and adjusting the spacers on the wheel hubs.
There will be a number of spacers on the front wheel hubs, all in 5mm increments. You can easily increase your karts front track width by either placing more spacers inside the wheel hubs (kart side). Decreasing width involves doing the opposite, placing spacers on the outside of the wheel hub (tire side).
This is the easiest way to train a new driver to deal with oversteer and understeer because it’s quick and easy to adjust, and they will feel a clear difference between each setting. It’s important to do some testing to find what the driver prefers before a race weekend with all of these tips, but especially when adjusting things that affect the handling of the kart.
Widening the front track width will give more oversteer. So, if the driver is complaining about understeer going into a corner and the kart is struggling to turn in, widen the front track width by 5mm at a time (one spacer each side).
The opposite also applies, as if the kart is too sensitive and too twitchy going into corners then you need to narrow the front track width (one spacer each side). Keep adjusting it until the driver is happy with the front end of the kart.
Rear Track Width
The front of the kart is easy to adjust and can work wonders for improving the overall handling of the kart. However, there are some problems that this solution cannot fix. Sometimes we need to look at the rear of the kart as well.
Rear track width, in karting specifically, is not quite as straightforward as the front track width. The general rule is that narrower rear track width will give you more grip, as it allows the rear tires to bite harder into the circuit.
Not Always Straightforward
However, a rear track width that is too narrow will upset the kart and cause it to become unstable and challenging to drive. But in some cases, having a wider rear track width will actually give you more grip.
The correct rear width of a kart can vary depending on the circuit, the driving style and sometimes even the weather conditions. It’s recommended that you do some testing (starting on neutral settings) to find what works for you, and if you adjust the rear track width, only do so 5mm at a time.
Here are some guidelines for adjusting rear track width:
|Problem||Change To Track Width|
|Kart needs more rear bite||Reduce|
|Oversteer from corner exit||Reduce|
|Wet weather / slippery circuit||Reduce|
|Oversteer on corner entry||Increase|
|Understeer through entire corner||Increase|
|Rear of the kart bounces||Increase|
|Kart is jacking too severely (lifts inside wheels)||Increase|
Ride height is a setup feature that is really important not only in karting, but also in car racing too. The rules for ride height settings generally stay the same in all forms of motorsport, however they can be more exaggerated in faster cars.
In order to adjust the ride height of the kart you need to adjust the spacers on the front spindle (the stub axle), similar to how you would adjust the front track width. In order to lower the ride height, you have to raise the front spindle (spacer moves from top of spindle to bottom). Raising the ride height involves doing the opposite.
The Center Of Gravity
When adjusting the ride height in a kart, you are essentially adjusting the center of gravity. Lowering the chassis will give your kart a higher center of gravity and vice versa. In doing so, the kart will be less responsive on turn in, but through the rest of the corner the front end will have more grip.
The rear of the kart will also be flatter through the corner, making it more stable. This is because the center of gravity also moves backwards on the kart. However, this can affect your corner exit if the ride height is too low.
If the kart sits too flat during the exit of the corner, you will not have thejacking effect you need (when the inside tire lifts). This means your corner exit will be compromised and you may find the kart to be slower out of the corners.
Important At High Speeds
Once you get to higher speeds and bumpier circuits, ride height becomes more important as it needs to be high enough to stop the floor from scraping along the tarmac too much. This is not only uncomfortable, but it can also be dangerous for both you and the kart.
3. Keep Your Kart Clean And Well Maintained
Keeping your kart clean and properly maintained is key to pulling the ultimate performance out of the kart. Once you get into a rhythm with cleaning your kart it will be much easier, and it won’t feel like such a chore.
It’s important to clean as much as possible while you are out at the track. It will leave less to clean when you get home or back to the garage and make it much easier when race day comes around again. There are some important parts that need to be cleaned every day, and some every once in a while.
Keep your chassis as clean as possible. Make sure you wipe off any dirt or oil from the day’s testing or racing. The more it builds up the more difficult it becomes to clean. The same goes for the floor, seat, steering rods and the crash bumpers.
Try to clean as much as possible before and after you go out on circuit. Simply using a cloth and some warm water will help to get more of the dirt and oil off the kart. Keeping your kart clean may not always directly impact performance, but it helps to keep your kart properly maintained for its longevity, with worn and dirty parts eventually leading to lost time.
High Maintenance Parts
There are some parts that need some extra special care and attention on a kart. Most of these need to be cleaned either after every day of driving, or after a couple hours of driving.
The carburetor is the part that you will be cleaning the most. This needs to be done before or after each day of driving. This is a crucial part that plays a key role in your kart’s engine performance. Any old fuel, dirt or oil stuck in the carburetor will cause the engine to struggle.
As soon as you start doing this it will become a really quick and easy job. Firstly, unscrew the clamp that connects the carb to the engine. Next you will need to disconnect the throttle cable (the spring at the top of the carb). Remove the entire carburetor from the engine and begin to disassemble the unit.
Remove the 4 screws at the bottom of the unit, and then remove the jets inside the carb. Use a solvent spray (brake cleaner works well) to spray out any old fuel or dirt stuck in the jet seats (and the jets themselves).
You can now reassemble the carburetor by replacing the jets and placing the floats back in the same positions they were in before. Then clamp the carburetor back onto the engine, but make sure it is sitting upright and not skewed to either side.
The chain is essentially what is turning your kart’s wheels, so it’s important to maintain it and take good care of it. Something you can do before each session to ensure the condition of the chain remains at its best is to spray some chain lube on it just before heading out on track.
If you find some old dirt or oil stuck in the chain, it’s easy to clean. Simply remove the chain from the kart and lay it in a bowl of petrol or solvent spray for around half hour or so. Then, remove it from the petrol and use a cloth to wipe off any extra dirt.
Before we start on the maintenance of a spark plug, make sure you have the right spark plug in order to get the best performance out of your kart. The best plugs for karts are the NGK iridium plugs.
The spark plug in a kart can be extremely sensitive, and you may find that you will go through a couple of them during your time at the track. They should typically be cleaned every 5 hours of runtime.
However, it’s such a quick and easy job that you can do it every day to ensure maximum performance. Simply remove the spark plug from its socket and unscrew it from the engine. Then use a metal brush to clean it.
You may see some old oil and fuel left on the spark plug. This is normal. However, it can signify that the engine is running too rich a fuel mixture. Ideally the spark plug will need to be dry and have no dirt or fuel on it before you use the kart.
Make sure you don’t overlook cleaning the inside of the spark plug cover. Most drivers never do this, but if you look inside you might find some metal shavings. These shavings can cause current leakage from the spark plug which will detract from your engine performance.
Most drivers overlook the importance of clutch maintenance. However, because it is so close to the engine and the driven wheels, it can quickly become dirty and can pick up damage very easily. Driving with a broken clutch will heavily impact your performance.
The clutch should be checked and cleaned every two weeks or so, depending on how much driving you have done and if you have had any severe bumps or impacts recently. Cleaning the clutch can take a little longer than other parts as it requires the entire rear wheel to be removed.
Start off by removing the rear wheel. This is necessary as it gives you more room to work with. Next, remove the clutch casing. This is where you will see a lot of dirt and oil build up. Next, you need to remove the washer and the nut from the clutch and carefully remove it from the engine.
Cleaning Your Clutch
If the chain is too tight to remove the clutch, you will need to loosen the rear wheel hub on the axle and move the sprocket assembly closer together, which will loosen the chain. It’s important to only use brake cleaner to clean the clutch casing.
Use some grease on the clutch bushing in order to keep it lubricated and running smoothly. After this step you can reassemble the clutch and put everything back into place. Make sure your chain is correctly aligned so as to not damage the clutch or the sprocket.
The power valve is not necessarily a high maintenance part, but it needs to be checked and cleaned once every month or so to ensure there’s no dirt or oil inside it. However, it should be sealed quite well, and you will find that it usually remains clean on its own.
Your power valve can give your kart the correct amount of power if it is working properly. However, once it gets dirty or is not looked after well enough, you’ll see your kart’s performance levels dropping significantly.
The air filter or air box needs to be removed once a month in order to be cleaned out. It’s pretty quick and easy to do by unscrewing it and removing it from the engine. Once you have it opened up you will see a sponge on the inside.
You need to ensure that the sponge is in good condition. If it’s not you will need to replace it. You will also need to remove any debris or junk from the box itself and keep emptying it regularly. You want to have nice clean air feeding into the engine, so this needs to be kept clean.
The exhaust is a crucial part of the kart’s engine. While many think that it doesn’t actually have an effect on engine performance, a damaged exhaust will cost you a lot of speed. The extreme heat of the engine can sometimes burn holes in the exhaust.
Thus, it’s important to paint your exhaust regularly with heat resistant paint. This will add a layer of protection, and also help you to see where the weak spots are that need to be fixed up. Rust can normally show up clearly on a well-painted exhaust.
In addition to this, the matting inside the exhaust needs to be replaced every 10-15 hours of use. Normally the matting can last longer, however it is highly recommended that you check it just in case. If it’s still in good condition, you can try to get a few more hours out of it.
If you check the matting and it is clearly burnt and disintegrating, it’s time to replace it. When working with exhaust matting always wear protective gloves and glasses. The fiberglass matting can cause extreme skin irritation and even blindness if you get it in your eyes.
4. Be Flexible In Your Setup
In order to be fast, you need to be flexible. Even if you are racing in a local championship at the same circuit for an entire season, you need to know how to change your setup to be as fast as possible.
Adapting To The Conditions
Karts are so sensitive that the slightest change in temperature or even humidity can drastically affect their performance. If you can adapt to these weather cycles, you will be faster. You need to do as much research and testing as you can to adapt correctly.
In addition, if you are taking part in a traveling championship and are visiting different tracks, adapting is absolutely essential. Each circuit will require different set ups if you are to be the fastest. Perhaps one circuit is much bumpier than the next, and you will need to account for that, while the next circuit could be much smoother, so you can take a more rigid setup.
Being flexible in your set up options will not only help you in these variable conditions, but it can also swing a championship battle in your favor. If you can find the area where your rival struggles the most, you can gain extra time on them.
Or if you can identify where you lose the most time, you can set your car up in order to lose a little bit less time in that specific section and balance your lap times to go faster. Adapting your setup week in week out is key if you want to stay ahead of the competition.
5. Upgrade Your Kart
Upgrading older parts on your kart can significantly boost its performance. Over time some parts will begin to wear out and this will cause your kart to be slower than the others. If you want maximum performance, you not only need to take care of these parts but also upgrade them.
Choosing The Right Parts
For example, if you bought a second-hand kart and it’s a couple of years old, you may need to look at an engine overhaul in order to get a couple of extra horsepower out of it. Or you might look at replacing the axle (these can break after a long period of use), and finding one that has the stiffness which suits your driving style for example could help you go faster on the track.
The exhaust is another upgradable part. It can become rusted and broken over time and may need to be replaced with a new one. The seat can also pick up damage, but seats also just become stiff and brittle when they become older. You can then replace the seat with one that suits your driving style in terms of stiffness.
Finding which parts of your kart can be upgraded is essential if you want to get the most out of it. Knowing which areas are lacking, and what parts you should upgrade to, is vital if you want to get the edge over the other drivers on the track.
6. Learn New Driving Techniques
It’s not always up to the kart to go faster. The driver of course makes a huge difference to how fast the kart can go. It’s a team effort between man and machine. Therefore, you need to ensure that you are also always learning and improving, and there are various ways to do so.
Instructors can be the best way to go faster. Some drivers have too much pride to learn from others, but the truth is that even Lewis Hamilton, a 7-time F1 World Champion, doesn’t know everything. Pick up advice from whoever you can, and you might learn something new.
The great thing about instructors is that it is personalized for you. They can easily spot the mistakes you are making and help you to correct them. However, if we analyze our own driving, we don’t always see what we are doing wrong.
Instructors can sometimes be expensive to hire, so it can also be useful to ask some of your fellow drivers to help you out. Most will be happy to give you advice if you are really struggling with a particular corner or element of your setup.
Watch, Learn And Practice
Lewis Hamilton famously said that his father would go to each corner on the circuit and compare him to other drivers while he was out on track. He would tell Lewis where he had to brake later, turn in earlier or accelerate earlier.
This is a form of coaching of course, but you don’t necessarily need someone else to do it for you. If you are at the track for a day of testing, you can go around by yourself and analyze other drivers. Look out for the fastest driver and try to spot their braking points or how they approach the corners.
Watching and learning is never above you. Even as a 7-time Formula 1 World Champion, Lewis Hamilton says that he is still learning every single time he gets in his car. That is why he is such an incredible driver.
Other Ways To Learn
But aside from professional assistance or help from your fellow drivers, you can do a lot of learning on your own as well. Reading books on racing theory or checking out some YouTube channels that explain the racing fundamentals can be a great way to learn how to go faster. The important thing is to never stop learning.
Making your kart faster is all about attention to detail and taking good care of your kart. There’s no secret cheat to suddenly go faster. It’s all about setting up your kart correctly and maintaining it. You also need to be flexible in order to remain fast under all conditions and at different circuits.
You may also need to spend some money and upgrade a few parts when they become too worn out. However, don’t always focus on the kart itself, as you can always improve your driving ability as well.