How to Build a Go Kart Engine on a Budget

  • 2-6 hours
  • Beginner
  • 50-150
What You'll Need
Tool kit
Lawn mower engine
Centrifugal clutch
Go Kart body
Bicycle brakes

Do you want to get into go kart racing but are put off by the high cost of a professional go kart engine? Like with so many American hobbies, go kart racing started off as a scrappy hobby for the average Joe to work on in the garage, but has ballooned into a sport with expensive parts and flashy accessories. Today we're going to talk about getting back to the basics and focus on a cheap and easy way to craft a go kart engine in your home or garage.

Step 1 - Scavenge a Lawnmower Engine

Lawnmower engines are by far the cheapest option for creating a go kart engine system, but some care is needed in selecting one. A horizontal lawn mower engine is best, because it will be mounted in this direction on the go kart. A vertical engine will work, provided it is not open-celled; if you use an open-celled engine, mounting it horizontally will cause oil to leak out, damaging your go kart and creating a fire hazard.

Step 2 - Extract the Engine

With your tool kit, loosen the bolts connecting mower deck to the engine. Put on your insulated gloves, and disassemble the electrical wiring and mower blade. The engine should now slide out easily.

Step 3 - Attach Lawnmower Engine to Your Kart

Mount the engine at the rear of the go kart near the bushing/bearing assembly. If the kart design you have constructed has trouble accommodating the engine you have scavenged, consider installing an additional plank above the assembly on which to mount your engine.

Step 4 - Install Drive Chain

Attach a proper sized chain from engine clutch to drive wheel sprocket.

Step 5 - Connect the Bicycle Brakes

Attach bicycle brakes to the rear wheel of the go kart, taking care not to interfere with the pulley assembly. While this set-up may take some time to get right, it is important to have brakes on the back wheel to most safely cancel inertia during a fast ride. You may opt to install brakes on the front as well, thereby reducing all around wear and tear on the system and increasing your safety in the long run. However, only installing brakes on the front wheel is not an option as it may cause your go kart to flip over.

Step 6 - Never Forget Safety!

Make sure your engine is securely in place before your first ride. Every time you get on the go kart, first check both brakes to make sure they have not worn down.

Sure, a lawnmower and bicycle brake-based engine may not be the most stylish way to get your go kart together, but its charming do-it-yourself aesthetic will leave slicker vehicles in the dust. When the next big race comes up, just be careful that the extra weight in your pocket book doesn't slow you down!