Swap Go Kart Tires Yourself! Here’s How

Something you are inevitably going to have to do at some point is to replace a tire. Due to the negative camber most go karts have on the front tires, they will wear quicker on the inside. If you don’t rotate them every now and then you’ll need to replace them. Sometimes it’s also nice to just have new tires instead of dealing with perpetual flats when tires start aging. Luckily you can do this without the need for specialized tire machines or expensive tools. You just need a few tools that you probably already have around the house.

The easy answer is to buy a replacement tire preinstalled on a new wheel and replace the entire thing. They aren’t too much more expensive and really save on the install time and difficulty. The bigger the tire/wheel combo the more the difference is between the two, so there is a point where replacing just the tire makes more economical sense. 

Tools Needed

3 or 4 flat screwdrivers
Air compressor and air chuck
Vise Grips
Side Cutters
Prybar (optional)
Spare 2×4 (optional)
Jack Stands
Soap and water
Valve tool (possibly the only thing you don’t already have)

1. Remove Old Tires

First, you need to get the old tire off the rim. This is usually easier when the wheel is off the go kart so you can use a downward force on the bead easier. To remove your front wheels there’s just a bolt and washer holding it on. You need to keep the wheel stationary while you unbolt it. The wheels tend to get stuck on the axle as well, so a spare 2×4 or prybar can be used to pry it off or hammer it off from the backside. Just be careful not to dent or hit the lip of the wheel. 

For removing the rear wheels, they are much more difficult to remove if they have seized onto the axle. You can put a 2×4 behind the wheel itself and hammer it off from the opposite side of the go kart, or, if you have jack stands, change the tire with the wheel still on the go kart. 

Next, you will need to unseat the tires from the wheels. You can do this by standing on the tires around the wheel until they push down off the wheel and become loose. Another option is to take your screwdriver and hammer it down onto the rubber next to the lip of the wheel. If you have a sledgehammer and are confident in your aiming ability, you can hammer down with it like you are tamping down the ground. One tip here is to use the soap and water around the bead to lube the tire as it starts to move and allow it to slip off the wheel a little easier.

Once you have the tire separated from the wheel, you’ll need to start inserting the screwdrivers in between the tire and wheel and start prying it upwards. You should be able to get the tire off the outside of the wheel pretty easily the smaller the tire. Once you are able to pop the front off you can just pull the back off the wheel, or if you need to keep using the screwdrivers to pry it off. 

2. Replace Valve Stem (Optional)

Replacing your valve stems are some pretty good insurance that saves you from issues down the road. For around $4 dollars for two, they’re pretty cheap as well. Just make sure to get ones that are made for tubeless tires, like these from Amazon: Tubeless Tire Valves.

To do this you will just need to get the old ones out and pop the new ones in. If your old ones are rubber you can simply cut the back part off and pull them out through the wheel with some pliers. If they are the metal type, simply unscrew the nut holding them on and pull them out the back of the wheel.

To install new rubber ones you’ll want to use a valve tool like this one, to pull the valve stem through the wheel. You can also do this with some pliers, but just be very careful not to damage the rubber, otherwise, you’ll need new ones again… if you have the tool, we’ll reuse it again later.

3. Install New Tire

Next, you need to get the new tires onto the wheels. If your tires are directional make sure you take into account which way they need to be mounted. You risk damaging the new tire if you have to take it back off to switch sides. 

Using your screwdrivers, pry the new tire onto the wheel like you pried the old one off. Be careful not to scratch, dent, or bend the lip of the wheel while doing this. Small scratches are ok but you want it to stay as smooth as possible so the new tires seal properly. Work your way around until you have the tire fully on the wheel.

Sometimes with bigger tires, you’ll find that as you work your way around the tire with screwdrivers that the tire will start to twist on you and you’ll lose your progress. You can have someone help hold the tire while you do this, or if you’re solo, take the vise grips and attach them to the lip of the wheel very carefully. The added pressure on the tire should help it stay put as you work around. 

4. Seat The Tire

Once you have the tire on the wheel you’ll need to get the edges of the tire to sit flush with the outside lip of the wheel. This seems like an easy task but can be difficult depending on how stiff the tire is or how cold it is. This is where your valve stem tool will come in use again. Remove the valve core with the tool so you’re able to force air into the tire freely with your compressor. You will need an air blower tool for your compressor, something simple like this

Simply start blowing air into the valve stem and push the tread of the tire inward towards the wheel. If this works you should see the tire inflate and you’ll hear a popping noise once the tire seats properly on the wheel. You should hear one pop for each side. If you hear that you’re done, and very lucky! At this point put your valve core back into the valve stem, air up your tire, and reinstall the wheel. 

If you are unlucky and aren’t able to seat the tire here are a few more suggestions. If you have a rope or ratchet strap or anything you can tire around the tread of the tire to keep it compressed, put that on before trying the air again. You want it to be on there tight enough that when you blow the air in, it’ll push the sides out instead of the tread up. A ratchet strap is really the best for this if you have one. 

If you’re working on wheels that are still on your go kart, put your go kart back on the ground and use the ground and your foot to keep the tire pushed down while airing it up. Sometimes this is enough to get that tire seated properly. 

If none of these options work for you, there is an option that works every time, but it is pretty dangerous to do. You will need some hair spray or starter fluid or spray deodorant, anything that’s in an aerosol can and is flammable. Spray a very small amount inside the tire and using a lighter with a long handle, put a flame next to where the wheel and tire should meet. Make sure you are ready to put out a fire as this will happen very quickly. The flammable gas will ignite and expand the tire so quickly that it’ll seat almost immediately. After this happens be ready with your air to put air into the tire and blow out anything on fire. The key here is to use a very small amount of spray, only enough to get the tire to expand quickly and seat. Also, make sure to do this in a well ventilated area and it’s always a good idea to have safety glasses on. 

At this point, you should have the tire seated properly using one of these methods. Install your valve core and air up your tire normally. You want to air up the tires until pushing on them with your foot only compresses them around half an inch. They should be bouncy and not overinflated. 

How To Pick Tire Sizes

If you’re lucky, the size should be right on the outside of your current tires. If they are, just order new ones in the same size. Go kart tires are almost universal with a few variations. Most of the time you should be able to find the exact same tires or ones similar enough to fit.

If you don’t see the tire size or it’s been worn off here’s how you would measure for yourself. First, you need to know the diameter or height of the tire from the ground to the top of the tread. Take this number in inches and write it down. For this example, let’s assume the front tire is 14 inches tall.

Next, you need to know the width of the tire tread. This measurement isn’t always easy to get since the tire does warp a little to fit different widths of wheels. Just lay your tape measure on the top of the tire and look down the sides and guestimate as best you can. For our example, we’ll use 6 inches. 

Next, measure the diameter of the wheel. Go from the outside of the lip to the opposite side of the wheel. We’ll use 6 inches for this example.

Now you should have 14 inches tall, 6 inches wide, and a 6 inch wheel. This translates to a 14×6-6 tire size. That’s how you would search to find the right size. Most manufacturers will list their tires in different ways. Some will use car tire measurements by doing the width in MM first, then a percentage of that wide for the sidewall, or an aspect ratio. Don’t get too confused or in the weeds with the sizes, just know your measurements and find tires with those sizes. If you are having trouble finding something in the same size wheel diameter and width, but just go up or down on height. My suggestion is up if you need to resize. 

Hopefully, this should get you more familiar with go kart tires and sizes and how to replace them if you need to! 


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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