What is it about go karts, the whistling wind in your helmet, the adrenaline rush when you take a corner? It feels like a sports car, a high performance one at that!
Trouble is getting your hands on a cheap go kart.
We have heard the mantra
Don’t Get One Abused
Don’t Buy at Kmart
But there is more to it than that
You can build your own Cheap Go Kart out of everyday materials using junk that can be found on riding lawnmowers.
The wheels, the steering mechanism, the engine, the belts, the pulleys, foot pedals and even the seat can be used to make a fantastic head turning go kart.
As a side note, some would say take the whole rider and convert it, but I would shy away from that thinking, first because the Center of Gravity (CG) of the riding lawn mower is too high, making it prone to tipping and rolling very easily. Second, the transmission is heavy and not wide enough.
You can however use the tractor parts combined with either wood or metal tubing (or angle iron) to make an outstanding gokart.
There are three elusive parts to the go kart and they are:
– The drive system
– The steering system
– The braking system.
Most of your cost comes from the drive system and in the case of the cheep go kart, need not be.
When I say cheap, I don’t mean: “Works great for now, but will break anyhow.” You can build a drive system that will last years, not days, but will not cost an arm and a leg like the conventional go karts.
The drive system I am talking about is the Belt Drive/Wood Pulley drive system. Doesn’t matter if you have a vertical engine, or a horizontal engine, as long as you have some sort of engine and a belt and wheel.
As a side note as well, a good understanding of drive systems helps so that you aren’t burning belts. But once you get past that, you have a dependable and cheap drive system.
The steering system tends to be the most complicated part of the go kart because of what the steering mechanism is trying to do. The steering system is trying to follow a curved arc that will direct the go kart around a corner, however, the relationship between the turning wheels and the arc can lead to either and under-steer or an over-steer situation. Additionally, unpredictable steering response and adverse tire wear can occur if the steering is not set up properly.
The steering set up typically is either a Ackermann system, or a bogey system (found on small carts and wagons). The Ackermann system requires expensive components, whereas the bogey system (if set up properly and safely) can be fit together with every day “cheap” materials.
The final most complicated part of a go kart is the braking system. Typically the expensive go karts use disc brakes, but a cheap go kart can use a rubbing style brake. If set up properly, a rubbing style brake can last years, instead of days. Most don’t realize the immense loads required to actuate a brake. The braking force exerted on the mechanisms can reach into the thousands of pounds, so a good brake linkage is required. A simple stick, doesn’t cut it.
So to recap, a cheap go kart can be made out of every day materials such as wood and angle iron. There is no need to actually weld a frame, a strong wood go kart can be developed with nearly no cost to you.
First, use of a simple drive system using belts is more than adequate for a cheap go kart. Remember when set up properly (belts are not burning) this a go kart that will last years not days.
Second, a simple steering system can be developed using the bogey style system. If you want to spend more money an Ackermann system can be developed. The Ackermann is the most widely used system on go karts today.
Thirdly, a simple yet effective braking system that rubs against the tire can be developed. Keep in mind that the braking forces of the go kart can get into the thousands of pounds so a rubbing system with the corresponding linkages needs to be developed.
All in all a cheap go kart, less than fifty bucks in most cases, can be developed using wood, old tractor tires, an old snow blower engine, tractor engine, riding lawnmower engine… etc, and a pile of wood.