Teaching kids to drive a go-kart can be an intimidating task. After all, a go-kart is a high-speed vehicle that poses dangers if not properly controlled. So, it’s key to make yourself aware of the best ways to safely teach your kids to drive a go-kart.
Our 6 tips for teaching kids to drive a go-kart are:
- Teach the basic controls first
- Emphasize smooth control over raw speed
- Ensure they prioritize safety
- Teach proper cornering technique
- Explain the importance of awareness
- Show them how to do it
Just like all the parts of a go-kart working together to make it go, there are a lot of components needed to drive the rig outside of knowing how to stop and go. Below, we go into more detail about each of these tips to ensure your kids learn to drive their karts safely.
6 Tips For Teaching Kids To Drive A Go-Kart
1. Teach The Basic Controls First
What better place to start than at the beginning, right? From outside the kart, point out the essential controls that they’ll be using while driving – the steering wheel, the brake pedal, and the gas pedal.
Kid karts won’t come with the ability to shift gears, so don’t fret about that. Even if it’s an option, request a non-shifter kart because of the simple fact that it’s easier to learn when there isn’t another variable to worry about like gears.
The Most Important Lesson
It’s difficult to explain how much gas and brakes they’ll need because that’ll come from being out on the track itself, but the absolutely key thing they need to understand is this:
Never press both pedals at the same time!
There are a few reasons for this, but first and foremost, it’s outright dangerous. If they try to press the gas and brake simultaneously when going through a corner, 9 times out of 10 they’ll spin off the track and into the barriers.
That’ll result in injury or a black flag, rendering them unable to race anymore, so it just isn’t a good idea. The sooner your child understand this, the better their practice will become.
Smooth Driving Is Key
Another vital point when it comes to the controls of the kart is the need for everything to be smooth in operation. When first learning, kids will probably panic and snatch the wheel back and forth in over-corrections, and that’s not a huge problem minus the possibility of a spin.
After every session on the track, explain the benefits of moving the wheel smoothly and ‘feathering’ the gas in tricky parts of the race. Racing and driving should be smooth, and not only for the extra comfort that this affords. It’ll make them go faster around the track too, so it’s an extra win for them if they can control the wheel with nice smooth inputs.
2. Emphasize Smooth Control Over Raw Speed
During the time you take to explain the brake and gas pedals to your kid, make sure to combine the lesson about driving smoothly with the fact that rushing to reach top speed can often be a detriment.
If they worry more about putting their gas pedal to the floor, they’ll be paying less attention to the kart they’re driving and it’ll lead to spins. Keeping a solid momentum is better than fluctuating between flat-out and very slow.
3. Ensure They Prioritize Safety
Trust me, thinking about safety is probably one of the last things on your kid’s mind when they get to hop into a go-kart. I’ve been there as an eager 5-year-old. However, as with any motorsport, safety should always be one of the first things taught to any young driver.
Take some time to explain the purposes of wearing full safety gear to your kid. When I started out racing, I was a string-bean of a child and nothing fit me properly, so I felt like a total idiot. But when my dad told me all about why I was wearing everything, I put aside looking cool once and for all.
Overalls and race suits are designed to protect against potential abrasions if the driver is ejected from the kart, and they also prevent burns if you were to accidentally press a leg against a hot component.
It’s For Their Protection
Gloves are designed to keep a firm grip on the wheel so you won’t lose control, and they protect against blisters (a real killer sometimes). And of course, a helmet is designed to protect from impact damage in collisions on track.
But don’t let these explanations scare your kid. It’s all part of karting, and honestly, accidents rarely happen. They’ll spin and bump into a barrier from time to time, easily able to walk away. But that shouldn’t devalue the worth of proper safety gear.
4. Teach Proper Cornering Technique
Straights on a race track are easy enough to explain, right? You press the gas flat to the floor and go fast. Taking corners is a bit trickier to go over, but the bottom line is that you should always tell your kid something pretty simple: go-karts don’t like turning, they love straight lines.
Make sure to brake plenty before reaching the corner on the far side of it, and then turn while gently applying more gas to take you through the turn. By the time they’ve passed the apex, which is the middle point of a corner, their gas pedal should be pressed down pretty firmly and they should smoothly drift out to the far side.
Another very useful fact is that every go-kart track will have a map of the circuit itself, complete with a racing line drawn on it. If not, take some time to sketch out a rough estimation and explain that your child should always look for the ‘line’ as it appears on the track.
It’ll be visible by being a bit darker than the rest of the track, because of all the tire rubber that’s passed over it. That’ll help them follow the right path into and out of corners.
5. Explain The Importance Of Awareness
Leading on from the above point, use the previous lesson as a way of showcasing how important observation is on a go-kart track. Conditions can change very frequently, and when your kid starts practicing with others out on the circuit, they need to be aware of the positions of all karts around their own.
This will help them avoid collisions as second-nature, and they’ll get a better perception of the circuit overall when they spend time being aware of everything that happens on it.
If they’re racing against one of their friends and they always get that hairpin just right, your kid can watch and learn from that to start replicating better techniques and lines. It isn’t just a safety thing, as it will be an essential part of becoming a better driver overall.
6. Show Them How To Do It
Above all else, the best way to teach your kid is to be out on the track alongside them. And if you aren’t a driver personally, ask around at the kart track and see if one of the marshals wouldn’t mind showing your kid the ropes in practice.
I spent hours looping around tracks closely following my dad so I could better understand the racing line. He came up with a code of sorts, holding out his hand when he reached a braking point, waving his hand forward and backward as an indicator to stomp on the gas, and pointing at the apex of corners as he rounded them.
Although every track will be different, the bare bones of these teachings can be carried onward no matter where you end up.
Race Against Them
When your kid gets a bit more confident in the kart, a good way to teach them how to handle others getting in their space is by racing against them. Not with the purposes of beating them, of course. You’ll want to constantly try and cut them off when they go to take corners, and otherwise be an annoyance, to help them learn what racing will be like.
They’ll quickly learn how important it is to take the racing lines aggressively, and move to avoid you in a safe but effective way. No kid wants to lose to their parents, trust me!
Driving the kart will come easily with plenty of practice, but the full picture of how to race properly, safely, and overall competitively is something far harder to see when you focus only on one part of it.
Provided your kid gets the basics down when it comes to the pedals and how to corner like a pro, everything else will slot into place and they’ll be a racer in the making in no time!
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.