There are lots of things to consider as a new go-kart owner, from maintenance to the costs involved. To make sure that other kart-owners starting their journey don’t fall into the same traps that I did, I’ve put together a list of tips I wish I knew when I owned my first go-kart.
6 essential tips for a new go-kart owner are:
- Invest in spare tools
- Consider kart trailers & transport
- Never overlook maintenance
- Put in the time to practice
- It’s better with friends
- Choose the best race gear
Below, I’ll go into each of these tips in more detail, covering everything you need to know as a beginner go-kart owner. I’ll also provide my top go-kart maintenance tips for beginners to bear in mind for their first kart.
6 Tips For The New Go-Kart Owner
1. Invest In Spare Tools
Perhaps the biggest difference between owning a kart and renting one is the fact that you’ll be taking crash courses in becoming your own mechanic, fixing issues or otherwise tweaking the kart using your own hands. Now, as you can probably guess from the theme of this tip, part of what comes with this is owning the right tools for the job.
The first thing you likely did after buying your kart was purchase sets of wrenches, sockets, hex keys, screwdrivers, snips, and a trusty measuring tape. I could go on, of course, but these are regarded as your ‘key’ tools for karts. Can you imagine how devastated you’d be if the wrench you needed to tighten that annoying rattle gave up on you?
No matter the quality of tools you buy, freak failures can happen for any number of reasons, and you don’t want to be that driver who missed a race because you didn’t bring the right tools or your tools failed while you were at the track.
Considering that you’ll likely be bringing a whole host of other things to races or practice sessions, making sure you have a duplicate of all your important tools definitely doesn’t hurt. Being prepared for the worst is always better than running the risk – even if hauling your toolboxes around is like a workout because of it!
2. Consider Kart Trailers & Transport
You’ve got your shiny new kart and you can’t wait to get going – but hold up for just a second. This kart will be stranded in your garage if you don’t have the means to transport it! And that means you need to be looking at the best ways to do this.
Everybody has different methods that work for them. Early kart ownership days are all about being practical and thinking of ways to fix issues without breaking the bank, especially if you want to run a racing career and need to look after every penny!
Thinking back to when I owned my first go-kart, my family and I were real ballers on a budget, to say the least. We didn’t have our own trailer and instead looked at alternative (cheaper) ways to get our rig to races. In an ideal world, I would recommend that everybody should buy a trailer for their kart to simply remove as much hassle from the process as possible.
However, you’re easily looking at $5,000 for even a pre-owned hook-up that’s enclosed all the way (think horse trailers). And that doesn’t include the costs of repurposing the trailer, because affordable trailers are rarely designed with go-karts in mind.
My dad was a regular at a lot of our local go-kart tracks, and these places had storage for their own rental karts. He was able to get our own storage spot for something crazy like $15 a day over race weekends, where the kart would be securely locked up with all of our tools and gear.
Every place will have its own set-up, and it definitely helped that my dad was friendly with everybody to call in favors and discounts, but this saved us a lot of transport costs. And how did we get the rig out to the tracks in the first place? That’s when rental trailers can be an absolute life-saver.
We’d only need it for the beginning of the weekend to take our kart there, and then at the end to take the kart home. While we were at the track itself, we pitched our old, tired marquee as our workspace and always had a blast – likely made better because of the money saved.
The point here is that you may be able to find a solution for your own setup by asking around and networking with those at the track. But regardless, one of the key things to consider as a newbie kart owner is how you’re going to get things to and from the race track!
3. Never Overlook Maintenance
I’ll go over my top beginner kart owner maintenance tips below, but first let’s mention some of the basics. When getting your rig ready for any kind of race or practice, it’s important to be prepared for any breakages or tire changes and gas fill-ups.
But before you even head out onto the track, you should perform three basic checks:
- Look at your kart’s oil levels
- Check every tire’s air pressure
- Inspect the air filter
Old oil can lose its viscosity, meaning that it won’t lubricate engine parts properly and may result in a ruined engine. Karts with a Briggs engine will have a square-headed bolt at the bottom that can be removed to let oil in the engine flow out, and after you’ve cleaned up the mess and sludge caused by old oil (lay out loads of tarp), you can replace the bolt and pour in the fresh stuff.
Proper kart tire pressure is essential for good handling. Pressures are finicky because it depends on the weather, race length, and driver weight. But in most cases, 10-13 psi is a good range to remember. Make sure to keep your tire pressure gauge handy at all times!
And lastly, a clean air filter is essential for keeping your engine healthy to help it last longer. Inspect it before every race or practice session to make sure that it isn’t clogged with dirt and debris, and pick up a haul of air filter cleaners to keep it in top shape!
4. Put In The Time To Practice
There is no better advice I can give new kart owners to improve your driving than that you need to practice – a lot!
Every track you visit will be different, in terms of layouts, corners, top speeds, and other nuances. There’s a reason kart races often take a whole weekend, much like other motorsports, because you really need to dedicate at least a day to simply practicing on the new turf.
Kart Adjustments & Practicing At Your Own Track
Not only that, but you’ll need to make adjustments to your kart to get the best performance out of it for that specific track. Tuning your engine or stiffening the chassis just that touch more can give you that edge you need to go faster on track, and you can’t get things right without driving the circuit for yourself and understanding what you need to do.
Aside from racing, simply practicing your own drive at a local track will drastically improve your karting skills. It’ll also allow you to let loose and enjoy the art of driving your own rig without having to worry about the pressures of racing!
Whenever we didn’t have a race weekend, my dad and I would attend free practice days at our favorite track. More than getting the kart just right, we were looking at how best we could improve as drivers. No matter how competitive you get in the karting world, never forget to let loose and have fun with your own kart!
5. It’s Better With Friends
Being the lone wolf at a race event might make you seem cool and untouchable, but it can become a limiting factor when disaster strikes. Even though you made a checklist for all your gear, you totally forgot your rib protector and now those bruised sides of yours are going to be in a world of hurt!
Wouldn’t it be great if you had a good buddy at the same race as you, who just so happened to have a spare rib protector vest for you to borrow?
The Social Aspect
And on a far more sociable note, it’s always nice to share in lap time excitement, new tire brands you found on the cheap, or otherwise sharing sandwiches during the afternoon break. Just because a field is competitive doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the company of others!
When I first started racing as an awkward kid, I was scared to talk to my fellow competitors for fear of being viewed as too much of a noob. Thankfully, my dad was a chatterbox and became friendly with the parents at race events, which led me to seek out my fellow racers for companionship.
The contacts you make during races can be all-around beneficial to your racing career, and it can make the tiring hours pass by a little easier when you have somebody to laugh off your rookie mistakes alongside. Plus, it helps to know someone at the track that might have some spare tools to borrow in case you forgot about the first tip on this list!
6. Choose The Best Race Gear
Admit it – you’ve definitely thought about stepping out of your car on race day kitted out with a tailored OMP race suit complete with matching gloves, boots, and helmet. That’s a fantasy all kart drivers share, trust me. I definitely dreamed of that as a young racer with my mismatching gear, that’s for sure!
But when you first start out, I’d definitely advise that you spend plenty of time researching the best gear in terms of its safety above all else.
Substance Over Style
Find yourself a suit with high flammability protection, gloves with nice padding on the palms to avoid blistering, boots with a thin sole to really feel how much gas you’re applying, and a helmet with impeccable protection records. This should 100% be your focus as opposed to getting a matching set of the most fashionable gear (that can come later).
Before we wrap up, let’s discuss some specific maintenance tips for beginner kart owners.
5 Maintenance Tips For New Kart Owners
1. Always Keep Your Kart Clean
This first tip might seem like an obvious one, but it’s overlooked far too often in the karting community. Most drivers think that keeping their kart clean is just so that it looks better. It’s true, your kart will look better with clean bumpers and stickers and a shiny chassis. But keeping your kart clean is about much more than looking good.
A clean kart will be better maintained, and it will allow you to spot any potential issues much sooner. Depending on the region you’re racing in, karts can kick up a lot of dust and dirt. If you’re racing in the Middle East it’s dust and sand, if you’re racing in Europe or the U.S. it might be mud and wet dust. There’s also likely to be a buildup of oil and sticky fluids on the chassis near the engine after a few sessions.
If your kart is dirty, you won’t be able to spot cracks in the chassis or any other kind of damage that you need to look out for. Cleaning your kart should therefore be part of your daily routine at the track. If you’re not driving or fixing something, you should be spending the time cleaning your kart!
2. Clean Your Carburetor Before Every Session
Cleaning the carburetor can be an annoying job for new kart owners, but it’s absolutely critical. In fact, the majority of engine issues (such as backfiring and bogging down) can be caused by a carburetor that is either not maintained properly or is set up incorrectly.
Your carburetor is responsible for mixing the fuel and air going into the engine. This process is incredibly sensitive, so much so that if you’re using the incorrect jetting settings in your kart’s engine you’ll notice a significant performance deficit. Even a slight change in the weather (temperature, humidity, or pressure) can impact the performance of your carburetor.
So, if you don’t clean your carburetor often enough, you’ll have a lot of trouble with engine performance. The carburetor can often build up with oil, dirt, and other foreign objects that block the fuel lines and the jets from doing their job as efficiently as possible. When this happens, there will be a noticeable drop in engine performance.
You’ll also notice backfiring and the engine bogging down coming out of slow corners. You need to make sure to clean your carburetor often. Cleaning the carb every day before you drive is the best practice to implement. You need to take the entire carb apart, spray it down with brake cleaner and then reassemble it once it has dried. For more information on how to do this, check out our full guide to cleaning your kart’s carburetor.
3. Don’t Overlook Cables & Pipes
Cables and pipes are the essential veins of your kart. If they become damaged you lose control over your kart. From the fuel cable to the brake cables, you need to make sure to check these every time you clean your kart and spend some time doing maintenance on it.
The cables and pipes on your kart will wear out over time. That’s why, if you’re buying a kart second-hand, it’s highly recommended that you check these parts before you hand over any cash. You should at least make sure that you’re ready to replace them at any time. If these parts become damaged, your kart won’t run (or brake) properly.
Having a spare fuel pipe with you at the track is always a good idea. It’s cheap, doesn’t take up much space, and can help you out if the pipe on your kart is damaged during practice. Cables and pipes will become hard and brittle over time, especially if they’re exposed to the elements a lot and if you spend a lot of time in your kart. If you look carefully at your fuel pipe, for example, you’ll start to see cracks forming in the tube.
You also need to make sure that all of these pipes and cables are tied down properly. All you need to do is use cable ties to fasten them down to your chassis. Any cables and pipes that are loose could potentially be damaged or ripped off the kart if they get snagged on something.
4. Learn How To Bleed Your Brakes
The brakes are one of the most important parts of your kart. They are used to stop the kart safely of course, but they’re just as important in terms of performance. Over time, the brakes on your kart will begin to wear out. You’ll notice this happening when the pedal becomes ‘soft’ under your foot. Drivers also refer to this as the brake pedal becoming long.
When the brake pedal goes soft, it means that there is an issue with the hydraulics in the brakes. When you press the brake pedal, the brake cylinder squeezes fluid through the brake line, which engages the calipers. The calipers push down on the brake disc, and the friction causes the rear axle of the kart to slow down.
When your brake pedal becomes long or soft, it means that the brake fluid is contaminated, the brake fluid is leaking out of the system, or there is an air bubble in the brake line. Any of these elements will significantly impact your braking performance and reduce your kart’s stopping power going into corners.
That’s why it’s essential to know how to bleed the brakes on your kart and how to add new brake fluid to your kart. You should be able to engage the brake pedal and the kart should be stood still without moving at all if your brakes have been bled and are working correctly.
5. Clean Your Clutch & Chain Regularly
Finally, the clutch is another important element of your kart that is often overlooked, especially by new kart owners. The clutch is another extremely sensitive part of the kart engine that you need to check up on regularly. Kart clutches are close to the ground, which means that they are often exposed to dirt, oil, and even kerbs on the track. Any of these elements can damage the clutch or cause it to perform poorly.
Dirt and oil can get into the clutch easily. Since it’s a centrifugal clutch, smooth operation is key to optimal performance and reliability in karting. That’s why you need to clean it regularly. You need to take the clutch apart, make sure that the clutch shoes are still intact, and clean it with brake cleaner before reassembling it once it’s dry.
While cleaning and checking up on the condition of the clutch, you also need to remember to clean your kart’s chain regularly. Chain lube on its own is not enough. Sometimes the chain picks up much more dirt than usual. Putting the chain in some petrol or spraying it down with brake cleaner is a good way to clean it once in a while.
No matter how new you are to kart ownership, you will certainly know your way around the basics if you keep the above tips in mind! But most importantly, remember to enjoy the fact that you’ve reached a point that most karters can only dream of – having a rig to call your own. Newbie or not, that’s something to celebrate!
I created and have been writing on this site since 2019, collaborating with drivers, coaches, engineers and manufacturers to provide you with the most reliable information about motorsport. Find out more about me here.