Off-Road Kart Suspension And How To Adjust It

Without properly adjusted suspension, your off-road kart will undoubtedly suffer in the areas of cornering, handling, and ride quality. However, this poses a question in itself. How does an individual go about adjusting their kart’s suspension?

While the thought of adjusting your kart’s suspension might seem intimidating at first glance, the process is not nearly as complicated as one might think. The steps to adjusting kart suspension are as follows:

  1. Confirm the Need for Adjustment
  2. Locate All Shock Absorber Locations (Front and Rear)
  3. Assess the Status of your Kart’s Camber
  4. Locate the Spring Tension Adjuster
  5. Locate the Proper Adjustment Tool for your Style of Shocks
  6. Turn the Shock Adjuster to Set the Shock Preload as Necessary
  7. Recheck Camber Adjustments
  8. Test Drive your Kart

Did you know that improper suspension adjustment can lead to unresponsive steering, premature tire wear, and a painful ride experience? What follows is a comprehensive guide to properly adjusting your kart’s suspension, while also avoiding frustrating and time-consuming mistakes, so keep reading!

1. Confirm The Need For Adjustment

The first step to solving any problem is realizing that you have a problem to fix in the first place. Before delving into the world of suspension adjustment, you must first assess the situation and decide what the root cause of your problem is.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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Are you experiencing a rough ride, premature tire wear, or wandering and unresponsive steering? If so, then you are likely correct in your assumption that your suspension might possibly be the root cause of your issues.

2. Find All Shock Absorber Locations (Front and Rear)

Your shock absorbers are the heart of your kart’s suspension system. These key components dictate ride quality, weight distribution that equates into handling, and camber on many models (which we will get to in a minute).

Your shocks are essentially tubular units that are encased by a coil spring. A shock typically connects the pivoting control arm to the rigid surface of the kart’s frame.

As the kart travels over uneven surfaces or dives into a turn, the shocks compress, assisting in stability and maneuverability. Many karts feature both front and rear shock absorbers. Look over your kart to both the front and rear, in order to locate these components.  

3. Assess The Status Of Your Kart’s Camber

In the majority of karts, the camber of your front tires is dictated by the spring preload, or tension, of your shock absorbers. This spring tension sets the length at which your shocks are extended.

Because your shocks attach the free traveling control arm unit to your kart’s rigid frame, the shock absorber’s length controls the angle at which your control arms are situated. This effectively controls the angle at which your tires contact the ground as well. This angle is known as camber.

Ideally, your camber should be set to allow the uppermost portion of your tires to sit at a slight outward angle. Before you make any adjustments to your kart’s suspension, it is advised to stand at the front of your kart and assess the status of your kart’s camber, as this directly influences the needed adjustment.

4. Locate The Spring Tension Adjuster

The next step in the adjustment process is to locate the shock’s adjusting lock. This typically comes in the form of a collar style unit, located at either the upper or lower end of the shock’s coil spring.

These collar style units are threaded onto the shock and are turned inward or outward to compress or release tension on the shock’s coil spring. The threading motion of this collar is the basis of the suspension adjustment process.

5. Locate The Proper Adjustment Tool For Your Style Of Shocks

Now that you have located the adjusting collars for your kart’s shocks, you must determine the tools needed to properly turn these components.

By selecting the proper tool for the adjustment process, you avoid causing damage to your kart’s shock absorbers. Different karts feature different style collars. Some have adjusters that feature a hole in which to situate a tool for gaining leverage. Others however, are hex shaped and require a specialized wrench.

The style of shock that is featured on your kart directly dictates the tool that is needed for the job.

If a shock features a hole in the adjuster surface, a screwdriver or similar tool can be used. The tip of the screwdriver is used to turn the collar as needed. If your kart has a hex style adjuster, the use of a specialized spanner wrench is advised. These wrenches can be purchased on the internet or in many motorcycle or ATV parts stores.

6. Turn The Shock Adjuster To Set The Shock Preload As Necessary

This is where a karting enthusiast gets down to business. It is time for actual adjustments to be made. As mentioned earlier in these steps, it is vital to have knowledge of your kart’s current camber prior to beginning the adjustment process.

If adjustments are being made for the purpose of correcting uneven tire wear or poor steering conditions, your observations in regards to camber should clue you in on the root cause of your issue.

An inward camber condition (upper most portion of the tires facing inward toward the chassis) will commonly lead to both of these issues. When a kart begins to exhibit inward camber, tires wear unevenly as certain portions of the tire contact the ground more prominently than others.

Likewise, when faced with an inward camber condition, uneven tire to ground contact can cause a change in handling characteristics.

When shocks age and wear, they naturally change in length. This is a common cause of an inward camber condition. When this is experienced, an individual must use the appropriate tool to turn the adjusting collar as necessary to modify the shock length.

It is advisable to slowly adjust each side a little at a time, taking frequent breaks to assess the changes made in camber. The adjustment is complete when the camber is restored to a slight outward state (uppermost portion of the tire pointed slightly away from the chassis).

If at any point, it is found that a suitable compromise between ride comfort and camber angle cannot be obtained by basic adjustment, it is considered a best practice to replace the worn shocks.

It is common for severely worn shocks to reach a point that they can no longer be properly adjusted. Oftentimes, these shocks have already received multiple adjustments during their lives.

On most models of karts, the rear shock adjustment is solely for the purpose of ride comfort. When adjusting rear shocks, attention should be given to ensuring that the rear of the kart’s ride height is set in an equal manner from side to side.

Much of a kart’s rear shock adjustment comes down to trial and error as well as personal preference. After initial adjustments are made and a test drive is conducted, fine-tuning can be done to give the desired effect in ride quality.

7. Recheck Camber Adjustments

Once you feel that the necessary suspension adjustments have been made, a final check of all camber adjustments must be made. This is vital to ride quality, as well as component life.

By standing in front of your kart and looking toward the wheel locations, you are better able to get a feel for how each tire contacts the ground. You will also want to ensure that the camber on both front wheel locations is adjusted evenly.

One tire should not appear to be contacting the ground at a different angle than its counterpart. If any issues become evident during this final inspection, fine-tuning adjustments to the shock lengths must be made.

8. Test Drive Your Kart

If you have made it to this point in the process, congratulations are in order. You have almost completed the suspension adjustment process on your kart. However, there is one last item of business to attend to.

 

 
 
 
 
 
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You need to drive your kart to ensure that everything is in order. As you test drive your kart, study the responsiveness of the kart’s steering and the comfort of the ride.

If all of the adjustments have been made correctly, your kart should handle efficiently, while also providing a comfortable ride. If at any point you notice any drivability issues, park your kart immediately, and look for the cause of your concern.

In Conclusion

Although overlooked as a vital part of kart maintenance by many, the upkeep of your kart’s suspension is vital to providing a safe and enjoyable driving experience.

With a little bit of determination and a Saturday afternoon of quality time spent giving your kart some much needed TLC, you too can have your suspension in like-new condition. By following the steps outlined in this article, you will be well on your way to mastery over your kart’s suspension system.