Best Cheap Go Kart Upgrades Worth The Money

My need for speed is endless, so I’m always on the hunt for ways to make my vehicles and toys go just a little faster. That pretty effortlessly translated to my go kart as well. I drove it the way it was for a few months at the end of the first summer I bought it, but over the winter I bought a new engine and immediately tore into it. I opened the engine before I even ever started it. 

One of the main reasons I opted for a new engine was because I previously had a Robin/Subaru engine. Granted, they are workhorses and extremely reliable and well built, the aftermarket is just not there. If you’re able to find parts, which I was in some cases, they’re going to be 5 to 10 times the price of parts that fit onto Honda’s, Honda clones, and Predators. 

First, you really want to know what engine you have and make sure you have something that’s upgradable easily and cheaply. If you already have a common engine, you’re in good shape. If you have an engine as I did and the aftermarket is sparse, you should really consider replacing the engine. The ~$100 dollars you spend doing that will come back to you in savings on the parts you buy. 

Through that process, and various other fixes I’ve done, I come up with a list of parts and tweaks that can be done to improve your go kart and not break the bank at the same time. I was attempting to make these upgrades on a very tight budget so I made sure to find the best deal and the most options I could find before making a decision. Because I decided to buy a Predator 212 engine, that’s what I’m going to base my information on. The numbers of other engine parts will be similar. Now, to the details!


My first priority was to make my go karts faster. If you know anything about making cars faster, it’s the same principle. You need to allow more air into the combustion chamber, add more gas, and allow more exhaust out. 

1. More Air

Pretty easy here, just pick up an air filter bracket and cone filter. I wouldn’t worry about the quality of the cone filter here, high quality filters aren’t worth much on a go kart engine. If you plan to drive in wet areas though, consider a cover for your filter to protect against water getting in. The same goes for dusty areas, as was the case with me.

2. More Gas

When you up the amount of air going in, you need to match the amount extra in gas. This is to keep the desired air to fuel ratio these small engines run on. To do this you can simply drill out your existing jet in your carb, or get a new jet with a bigger hole already. 

3. More Exhaust

Lastly, as more air and fuel come in, you need to allow it back out. Having an aftermarket exhaust here will make the go kart louder no doubt, but will greatly increase the performance as well. 

I would recommend researching a stage 1 kit for these three parts as they are usually cheaper when bought together. I go into much greater detail as far as performance parts here, but the short answer is that GoPowerSports has the current best deal on a stage 1 kit

4. More Compression

One last suggestion here would be to increase the compression with a thinner head gasket. Some may argue this is not worth your time in labor, but how I see it is, my labor is free and the gasket is a few bucks. It’s something pretty easy to do and it gets you familiar with the inside of your engine if you want to see how easily things are upgraded. You will want something like this .010 head gasket from GoPowerSports to raise compression.



Braking fixes or upgrades are often overlooked and can really put you into a bad situation if you have underperforming brakes. As you increase the speed potential or horsepower of your go kart, you really need to increase the braking capability with it. The faster you get going the more risk you’re running if you aren’t able to slow down in a timely manner. 

1. Brake Pads

Brake pads for go karts are around $10 and you can’t beat that price for the safety aspect. Do some looking into your go karts specifics and pick yourself up some new pads if you feel your braking is underperforming. 

2. Brake Band

The same goes with a brake band if you have one of these types of brakes instead of pads. These do tend to run a little more, around $20, but they also brake better and harder and often last around twice as long. Not to mention they’re so much easier to install. 


Maintenance and Fixes

1. Tires

Having old rotted tires or ones without tread is another recipe for disaster. On rough terrain, your steering capability is greatly reduced and you really don’t want to be sliding off trails or running into trees just because your steering input wasn’t responsive enough. If you have small wheels and tires it’s probably pretty similar price wise to buy the tires already mounted on new wheels. Compare prices to see the difference. If you go with just the tires and want to save some money, I go into more detail on how to change your tires in this post.

2. Remote Kill Switch

This is also along the same safety theme, but the price is super low and you’re just looking at a little wire routing. Most small engines have a cutoff switch on the engine. You would just splice a switch into that wiring and mount it somewhere you can easily reach while driving. I drilled a hole and put mine right in the steering wheel and routed the wires. You just need standard 14 gauge wire you can get from an auto parts store, hardware store, or even Walmart would carry it. Something like this from Amazon would work as well. 

3. Throttle and Brake Pedal Springs

If you have pedals that have springs that return them to their resting spot, and they aren’t working very well, you NEED to replace those. I had a spring going bad on me and didn’t think much of it. While out driving one day my gas pedal got stuck down and I couldn’t get it with my foot. I had to reach down and try to pull it up while driving. Needless to say, not a great experience. Mine were these specific ones from GoPowerSports but they will carry springs for every brand. Just get yourself some new ones!

4. Engine Rubber Mounts

Vibration is one of the most disappointing things about go karts. When you mount an engine to a metal frame and then you sit on that frame, you’re going to have vibration. A lot of times it does smooth out while you are driving, but it’s always there. One that you can do to really help with that is to put rubber in between the engine and the frame. This kit from OMB Warehouse is exactly what I’m talking about. Buy something like this and get it on there to start riding with less vibration. If you want all my vibration suggestions I do go into more detail in this post as well.

5. Bar Cushions

This may start to be pretty specific, but if you have a cage on your go kart and you sit fairly close to it as I do, I would recommend getting a pool noodle at the very least. You can tape them on and they cost $1 or something ridiculous. From my car experience, I know there are actually properly created and rated bar foam pieces, which may be something you want to look into if you’re really serious about it, but for the money there, you might be better off just picking up a helmet instead. For the sake of cheap though, can’t beat a pool noodle to get you by!


Granted this list is a bit specific, but the majority of it is general enough it applies to most go karts. The bottom line here is that you really want to make sure you are able to steer and brake effectively, next you want to be safe and as comfortable as possible, and then you want to go fast! Every small little adjustment or upgrade you do to your go kart will make you enjoy it even more, which is what I’m all about. Just get out there and have fun!


I love to drive my kids around in our go kart and I'm always looking for an opportunity to share what I've learned with others!

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