Go Kart Suspension: Is it necessary?

My go kart has suspension, which made me assume all go karts do. It wasn’t until I started looking into upgrades that I found out some go karts don’t have suspension, and on purpose even. 

Racing go karts do not have suspension to save weight and increase predictability while cornering. Off-road go karts do have suspension, as they tend to be bigger and demand more ground clearance. Without suspension, the rider takes the brunt of the abuse, and more than likely you’ll end up breaking something.

Let’s look closer at the types of go karts and why they do or do not have suspension.

Racing Go Kart Suspension


Racing go karts primarily don’t have traditional suspension to save weight. The “suspension” they employ comes in the way of structural rigidity, or lack thereof. The frames are made of tube steel and based on the diameter of this metal it will be more still or more flexible. This same principle is applied to many other parts of the go kart. The length of the spindle that holds the wheels will increase or decrease grip, acting as a sort of suspension to keep the tires on the ground. 

Axle strength also plays a factor in wheel grip and how the go kart reacts to bumps and corners. Perhaps the most important factor in a go kart like this is the driver’s position. How high or how low the seat is positioned, but even more important, how the driver leans and shifts their weight around. 

The overall weight and footprint of a racing go kart is small enough to allow the driver to manipulate weight distribution enough to change the characteristics of how the go kart drives. 

Off-Road Go Kart Suspension


Go karts designed for outside and off-road use are much bigger by design. The frames are created with rigidity and often comfort in mind versus weight and speed. The wheels are much bigger allowing more ground clearance, which also gives way to the use of suspension.

Off-road go kart suspension is similar to car suspension in the front, as the sides are independent of each other. Each will have a single shock, most the time with a spring around it, most similar to a coilover.

Rear suspension is typically one of two setups. Some high end go karts have independent rear suspension as well. This is far superior to our second type but requires the go kart to be bigger to support all the extra moving parts. 

The most common rear suspension is one where the entire section behind the seat rotates on a hinge behind the seat and has two shocks close to the wheels to allow for dampening. This is most commonly called, swing arm suspension. This makes the entire rear section of the go kart function as one single unit. As you hit bumps in the rear the entire half will flex and rotate. 

Swing arm suspension is cheaper and easier to manufacture, but the drawbacks are typically a more harsh ride, and far less dampening of bumps in the rear. 

Tires play a huge part in the comfort of off-road go karts because where the suspension is rigid and unforgiving, the bigger tires can take some of the shock and make the ride more comfortable. Sometimes letting some air out of your tires will make for a smoother, more enjoyable drive if you feel the go kart is too bumpy. 

What if My Go Kart Doesn’t Have Suspension?


If you plan to use your go kart on trails or anywhere with uneven pavement, you might consider how uncomfortable the ride might be. Adding suspension to a go kart that doesn’t already have it is difficult, can be expensive, and is very time consuming. Not to mention you will need to weld and possibly fabricate your own parts. 

Needless to say, if you have a go kart without suspension and you play to go over rough terrain, start looking for another go kart with suspension. 

Do Go Karts Need Suspension?


Technically, no, suspension is a luxury item when it comes to go karts. It does greatly depends on how you intend to use your go kart though. It is highly recommend to have suspension if you will be going over rough terrain or ever intend to jump your go kart. Without it you run the risk of snapping your frame in half, shearing off your spindle where your wheel attaches or breaking your rear axle. I would recommend you use the correct go kart for the driving you intend on doing to make sure you get the most fun out of your go kart. 

Suspension Upgrades


Because of the light weight of go karts compared to cars, the dampening effect of the suspension is limited. However, there are ways to improve the ride of your go kart. Depending on the size of the shock and spring combo, there are after market replacements with adjustability. You can also take a measurement of the total height of the shock and it’s total amount of travel, and search for a replacement shock from a car that fits the same criteria. If you go this route just make sure to consider how you will mount the shock. There are some that will bolt right in place, but you will need to do your homework here. 



One thing to keep in mind when driving a go kart with suspension, don’t expect a smooth ride. Because of the weight of go karts they don’t have enough force to compress a shock enough to allow enough travel over bumps. If you truly want a fun vehicle to drive around that feels like a go kart but acts more like a car, you’re looking at upgrading to a UTV. UTV’s are a blast, but at a high increase in price, and honestly a ton more maintenance and possible failure points. 

Go karts are just bumpy by nature, so get out there and just have fun bumping around!


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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