Top 9 Go Kart Maintenance Items

Go kart maintenance is a must when you own a go kart. It will help drastically extend the life of your go kart, and some things will save you on future maintenance. Below are the top tips I’ve used and benefited from.

1. Engine Maintenance

First and foremost, a healthy engine will make your go kart experience so much more enjoyable. Engine issues are among the most annoying and day killing of the bunch. Fortunately, small engines are very robust and forgiving for poor maintenance, but let’s not test that theory if we don’t have to.

  • Always use fresh gas, and I also like to use a filter in my funnel to make sure nothing drops in there that shouldn’t. Even the smallest particles can start to clog up your carb. 
    • TIP: Look for a filter that stays inside the gas tank, that way you’ll never forget.
  • It’s not absolutely necessary to check the oil before each use, but do make sure you remember to change the oil at least once a year. What type of oil and what weight is a highly debated topic, so I’ll stick to my personal use and explain why. I use synthetic 5w-30 and here’s why. Synthetic is only slightly more expensive than conventional and provides many many more benefits, no brainer there when the oil capacity is low (1/2 quart most times). If using synthetic,  5w will allow you to use in down to -22 degrees and up to 104 degrees. That should cover all applications.
  • Check your spark plug when you change the oil, once a year minimum. It should look halfway between completely black, and stark white. It is recommended to replace every 2 or 3 years.
    • TIP: Write the date on your spark plug every time you replace it, that way you’ll know when it’s due.
  • Check your air filter yearly as well. For factory air filters I would blow it out with some compressed air and put it back unless it’s looking dark. Most of the time they just need a good cleaning and are good to go. For aftermarket air filters I would do the same, however, some require oiling, so follow the recommendation for your filter here.
  • If you follow my End Of Each Use section below, you will not need to maintain your carb. If you forget, you will need to clean the carb every year or two. Take the bolt off the bottom of the bowl and spray carb cleaner all around the inside. Make sure to get any foreign objects and gunk out and shine up the bolt. Reassemble and that should be good enough each year.

2. Chain Maintenance

Once a year make sure you visually inspect the chain for anything bend or warped. Also, check your master link and make sure the retaining clip is still firmly locked. This is also a perfect time to check the tension on the chain and adjust if necessary. You want to make sure there is a little slack, but not enough to cause the chain to slip off a sprocket. Pull on the chain at the edge of your smallest sprocket and make sure it doesn’t come off.

If you need to adjust the tension, loosen all the bolts holding the engine down and slide the engine forward until the chain is fully tensioned, then slide it back just a bit. The proper tension is just looser than fully tensioned. Make sure you visually inspect the sprockets for bent teeth, accelerated teeth wearing (caused by chain being too tight), and make sure the sprockets are in line with each other and the chain isn’t rotating crooked. 

Lastly use some chain lube and spray it on the chain. Don’t soak it, but make sure it’s covered. 

3. Brake Maintenance

Brakes are vital to a go kart, but the maintenance is minimal. Honestly, you just need to be keeping an eye on the amount of brake material left on your pads or belt and have a spare ready to go to save on downtime. Other than that you may want to wiggle on the rotor to make sure it’s still fully tightened.

4. Torque Converter/Clutch Maintenance

  • Clutch Maintenance
    • The frequency here will depend on the use and abuse that the clutch takes. Again though, I would recommend each year taking it off and cleaning it up. 
    • First, remove the clutch with an impact drill and remove your chain.
    • Next, Remove the C clip and separate the two pieces. 
    • Clean the inside out with paper towels and rubbing alcohol to get all the dust off the metal surfaces, do not clean the clutch surface.
    • If you are unable to clean the mating surface well enough with paper towels, a Dremel comes in handy here. The matin surface is the inside surface that the clutch pieces expand out and grab on to. They will be nice and black from use, the cleaner the better for long term use out of your clutch.
    • Lube the shaft and cover where they go together, this can be done with vaseline or any type of thicker lubricant. 
    • Check the clutch surface and make sure the spring holds them in nicely and isn’t loose. If the spring is not doing a good job, you can replace just the spring.
    • You can also spray WD-40 or Dry Lube into the bearing before putting the C clamp back on and reinstalling.
    • Lastly, reinstall in reverse order.
  • Torque Converter Maintenance
    • The frequency for torque converters will match clutches, however, they tend to be more temperamental when they start to get dirty. So you may end up cleaning more than every year. This will also depend on how well protected from the elements the torque converter is.
    • 20 and 30 series torque converters will be easier to clean as for these you just need to take the outer bolt off the pulley that goes to the engine and pull the cover off. 
    • Next, you will need to pull the puck out of the center and with an emery cloth, clean all the surfaces to get them smooth. You don’t need heavy pressure here, just clean it up. Also, make sure to get the inside of the pulley where the puck slides. Make sure the puck can freely slide in the pulley. 
    • If there is gunk inside the puck it will cause your pulley to get stuck on your belt and make your go kart bog and die when you brake and slow down to idle. 
    • 40 series torque converters tend to need less cleaning since they operate on springs that do not gum up as easily. If you are having issues with your 40 series it’s time to take it all apart and clean it with wire brushes. 

5. Lubrication

  • Check your spindles where your front wheels attach and see if they are open or have a grease port. If they accept grease, make sure to add a few squirts every year.
  • If your spindles are open, drip a few drops of oil on them to keep them lubed.
  • Like we talked about with chain maintenance, make sure to keep your chain well lubed, at least once a year.
  • Check for build up around the bushings connected to the axle shaft. Clean up around and spray some dry lube in the bushings.

6. End Of Each Use

This section is probably the #1 way to extend the life of your go kart, and my best suggestions.

  1. Once you have the go kart parked where it’ll be stored, run the engine with the gas lever turned off. This will use up all the gas in the bowl of the carb and will keep it nice and clean. Your go kart will turn off when all the gas is gone.
  2. Put the front of your go kart up on a jack stand to keep the front tires off the ground. This will keep them inflated longer and extend the life of them. 
    • Bonus points if you put the entire go kart on jack stands.
  3. Turn the power switch off on the engine, believe it or not, this will confuse most people trying to take a joy ride on your go kart without your knowledge. I wired mine up backward so it always looks on when I store it.

7. Long Term Storage

To build on the End of Each Use section, I would recommend treating the gas, or removing it. You can get a hand pump for around $10 that will allow you to drain the gas tank. If you would prefer to leave it in there, add some Stabil to your gas to prevent excess water from building up in it. 

You can also top off the gas to allow less room for condensation and a high concentration of good gas to be used. 

If you have a battery, remove it and keep it inside. A trickle charger is also a good idea for extended battery life.

If you put a tarp or any sort of cover over your go kart, make sure to fully wrap it and make it as airtight as possible. Rodents love spots like this and they will tear up your seat or chew through your wires in a few days. Nother is worse than finding damage like this.

I would recommend doing all these things if you plan to store your go kart for longer than 3 months. It’s not necessary to periodically start your go kart if you follow these steps.

8. Pre-Use Check

These pre-use steps will prevent some premature wear on items, so I’ve included them as maintenance tips. 

Always at least do a foot test on your tires and air them up if needed.

Fill up your gas!

When starting the engine, pull the cord until you feel resistance or compression. Release the cord back in, and then pull to start. This will allow you to test the function of the cord, make sure the flywheel spins freely, as well as giving the engine the most optimal chance of starting while making it easiest for you to start.

Always let the engine idle on choke to warm up, especially if you have removed your governor. Flogging your engine before it’s warm enough will accelerate the wear exponentially. I always put it to running position and then slightly pull on the linkage to see if it moves the go kart of bogs the engine. If it moves then you’re ready to go.

Always test the brakes hard before you get going in case something is wrong, you don’t want to be far away if something happens.

9. Yearly Service Checklist

Follow these items to check or replace once a year.

  • Change oil
  • Check spark plug
  • Clean air filter
  • Inspect and lube the chain
  • Inspect brake pads or belt
  • Service clutch or torque converter
  • Lube spindles and bushings

I’ve learned the hard way on a lot of these items because of a lack of maintenance. I can assure you that with proper maintenance, these parts last much longer. I initially took the approach of just riding whenever I wanted and waiting to have issues. You tend to learn more that way, but it’s definitely more frustrating. 


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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