| The 'New to Karting' Section
Karting FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
1. BEFORE GETTING STARTED
1.1. What is karting?
Karting is probably the world's most popular form of motor sport. It is practiced around the world by hundreds of
thousands of enthusiasts at widely differing levels of competition.
1.2. Uh… so, what is the difference between a go-kart and a kart?
For many, it is simply a wonderful way of enjoying competitive racing on a small and manageable budget, meeting
friends at the track on the weekend and just having a lot of fun. For others, it is a serious stepping stone into
a career of racing, maybe leading all the way up to Formula 1. Karting is definitely recognized as the first and
most important step in order to become a professional race car driver. Even though a kart differs from a car, all
the racing techniques, the awareness of the way the vehicle handles, the discipline, and instincts needed to become
a professional racer are developed with karting. It is therefore no surprise that most of today's top Formula 1 or
CART racers have started their racing careers with karting.
To make racing a profession, you probably want to start with karting as a young teenager and stay with it for several
years, having success in national and international competition, before moving on to car racing. This would be a wise
choice, since for the same budget, you will be able to experience much more competition and seat time in karting than
anywhere else. For most of us, however, karting is simply the best way to spend an afternoon, be competitive, have fun
and a great thrill, all at the same time.
You can find a complete introduction to karting here.
Same difference. In fact, most people will consider both to mean the same. Others make a distinction that a
'kart' is the serious racing vehicle, while a 'go-kart' is a fun-machine, a toy of sorts. It can be argued
either way, but most commonly, the serious racer will refer to his or her vehicle only as 'kart'.
1.3. Where can I learn about karting before I get into it?
This site, Ekartingnews.com, is a great place to start. Not only does it have a New to Karting section, it also
boast several forums, on which enthusiastic karters are discussing their hobby, sport, and passion. They are
always more than happy to accommodate beginners and whatever questions they may have.
1.4. If I really want to work on my racing career, why not just start with car-racing?
Another great source of information are karting shops in your area.
It is probably best to visit several kart tracks and races before you invest any money into any equipment.
Watch the races, check out the many classes of karting, chat to the people at the track. If you want to
actually drive a kart and learn the basics of racing, a karting school might be a great choice. There are
quite a few, and the kart-shops should be able to tell you where to find them, or you may just look for them
on the Internet.
Well, as we said: You can start learning almost all you need to know about racing through karting. Michael
Schumacher once said that all he ever learned about racing, he learned while driving a kart! Ayrton Senna said
that karting is the purest form of motor racing. We can assume that these two probably knew what they were
1.5. Which kind of kart should I get as a beginner?
The beauty of karting is the simplicity of the vehicle. You don't need a big pit crew, in fact, you can go
karting all by yourself. You don't need an expensive transporter, since a kart can fit in the back of a van
or a pickup-truck. Some people even just tie it on the roof of their sedans, or cram it into a hatch-back.
You don't need a whole lot of tools either, and if you are skilled enough, almost all of the maintenance
can be done by yourself. Only the most complex maintenance item, engine rebuilding, is usually done by
specialized engine builders.
If you compare the costs of the season in karting with the cost of going racing in an open-wheel car, for
example Formula Ford, or one of the school series races, you will find that often the cost of a single car
race weekend would pay for an entire season in karting! Now consider that you can just take your kart to the track
whenever you feel like it, and you will see that there is no other form of motor racing which will give you
as much seat time for the same, low amount of money.
We have an article here which explains the different types of
karts and classes. It should give you a good idea on what's out there and how you might choose the right
one for yourself.
1.6. Who organizes kart racing?
Kart races are typically organized by kart clubs, which either have access to race tracks, or actually
operate their own track. The racing itself is regulated by rules and specifications laid out by governing
or sanctioning bodies. You can find a description of some of those organizations
1.7. Do I need a license?
Depends. For most club racing, no special license is required. But for most international events, and even
club racing in some countries, a license is indeed necessary. Ask the race organizers of the clubs or events
you intend to race at.
1.8. Do I need a health certification to be allowed to go racing?
Usually not, at least for most club racing, but again, it does not hurt to ask the race organizers. In
order to get a license, if needed, you may have to show a health attestation.
1.9. How old do I have to be for karting?
Many karting organizations or clubs offer special junior or kid classes, which may allow you to race at
even a very young age. Supposedly there once was a three year old boy somewhere in Brazil who raced karts
competitively, but that certainly is a very extreme case. It is more common to find young teenagers or even
some kids younger than ten racing karts. Usually, all the 'adult' classes are open for everyone 16 or older.
1.10. I'm somewhat heavy set. Will I have a disadvantage compared to a light driver?
Weight does have a great impact on the speed of acceleration on a kart. However, to level the playing field,
a minimum weight (combined driver and kart) is set for each class. Therefore, a light driver has to attach
weights to the kart, usually lead weight, in order to bring the combined weight up to the limit. Also, there
are often different weight classes offered. For example so called 'heavy' classes, which allow you to race
against others in the same weight bracket.
2.1. Is karting not very dangerous?
Karting is actually a very safe form of motor racing. The vehicles are relatively light, and proper safety
equipment usually prevents any serious injuries, which accordingly are very rare. Of course there is always
a risk, as with everything you do. Considering how many people practice karting, however, the number of significant
injuries is very low. It is also a family sport, with even kids participating safely. You are more likely to
hurt yourself in the pits while working with a screwdriver than while racing the kart.
2.2. But I have seen that they don't even have seat belts! Isn't that very unsafe?
Nevertheless, most clubs will have either an actual ambulance on stand-by during a race, or at least have
medically trained personnel present.
Actually, no! The safety principle of a kart is really more similar to that of a motorcycle than that of a
car. Just like a motorcycle, karts usually don't have any roll-cages or seat-belts. In case of an accident,
the driver is meant to be flung from the kart! That sounds horrible, but is actually much less dramatic than
it sounds. The suit, helmet and other safety equipment that the driver wears is intended to be abrasion
resistant, and thus is intended to prevent injuries in case the driver slides over the ground, which is also
similar to a motorcycle racer. A car racer, which is strapped into the car, requires fire retardant clothing,
since in case of an accident he or she might be engulfed in flames, which certainly sounds much more scary!
2.3. So, what kind of safety equipment is needed?
The most necessary piece of safety equipment is a good helmet. It is very important to find a good fitting
helmet. It would be best to go to a store that specializes in helmets, and where the sales person actually
knows how to test for good fit. A motorcycle helmet usually will do fine, since just as with motorcycles,
no fire resistant materials are needed. Make sure that the helmet adheres to the latest Snell certifications,
or any other standards that are mandated by the racing organizers. Ask! Good ventilation is also essential.
A helmet is the last piece of equipment you would want to safe any money on. Get the best you can afford!
Get a $100 helmet only if you think your head is not worth more than that! Reasonable helmets probably start
in the $300 range, with the price range being entirely open ended, depending on weight (lighter is better,
since it causes less fatigue), special ventilation features, anti-buffeting design and so on.
An abrasion resistant karting suit is needed. An overall is preferred, rather than separate pants and jacket,
since the jacket can 'roll up' and expose some skin in case one slides over the asphalt at full speed. Sliding
over the ground with exposed skin can lead to nasty cases of so called 'road rash'. A good suit can be had for
some $200 to $500, or so. Prices are certainly open ended again.
Next, you will need gloves and shoes. You can get specialized karting gloves and boots, which also provide
for a certain amount of abrasion resistance. However, since hands and feet most likely will not have heavy
and prolonged contact to the road-surface in case of an accident, abrasion resistance is somewhat less
important here. So, some people simply wear sneakers. However, sneakers tend to have relatively thick soles,
which does not really give you enough feel. If you don't want to pay for purpose made karting shoes, give
wrestling shoes a try! They look almost exactly as racing shoes, and will provide a good feel. The gloves
should be made from thin leather or some other sturdy material. Some people simply wear their Mechanix gloves
in a race. Shoes and gloves made for general purpose auto racing look pretty much exactly as those made for
karting, but include fire-resistance features, usually in the form of Nomex material. Again, fire-resistance
is not necessary for karting, so it is not required to spend the extra money that this may cost you.
Some karting organizations require you to wear a neck brace or neck support. This is a stiff foam ring, which
you put around your neck and on top of which the bottom of the helmet loosely rests. If you should get flung
out of the kart and land upside-down on the ground, it is intended to prevent the neck from twisting in unhealthy
ways. It is an extremely (!) good idea to wear such a neck support, even if the race organizer should not mandate
Also usually not mandated, but very highly recommended, is a rib protector. These are stiff vests, often with
special plastic plates or ribs worked into the material, which are worn under the karting suit. As the name
implies, they are intended to prevent injuries to your ribs. Since you won't wear a seat-belt in the kart,
your body can press against the side edges of the seat in every curve. Hitting a curb or being involved in a
collision can cause a strong and sudden jolt, which can easily injure or even break a rib. Some karts can even
generate such a high cornering force that just driving through a curve can generate enough force to break a rib,
if you should rest against a relatively small point on the seat edge. For all these reasons, a good rib protector
really is a must.
3.1. How fast does a kart go?
Depends on the kind of kart and the kind of track and the kind of gear ratio used. On short tracks with short
straights, speeds of maybe 80 km/h (50 mp/h) can be reached even by restricted classes. On long, full-sized
race tracks, more than twice that speed is possible. There are karting classes that are slower, and others that
are significantly faster, such as Superkarts, which can have two engines. These are some very rough numbers
indeed, and actual top-speed will depend on many, many factors, not the least of which being the driver.
3.2. What kinds of tools do I need?
A fire-extinguisher and a first aid-kit for your and other's safety. A kart stand, a fuel canister, a complete
set of wrenches, pliers, a mallet, an air compressor or air pressure canister, a tire pressure gauge (a good one).
A pair of good, slip resistant, sturdy and non-bulky gloves to work on the kart (for example Mechanix gloves).
Various cleaning and lubricating agents and rugs (we will have an article here soon which discusses kart cleaning
in more detail). Duct-tape and scissors. These tools should get you started. You will probably quickly add to this
list depending on your needs, but don't even bother going to the track without at least those tools.
3.3. What kinds of spares should I take to the track?
Oh, and don't forget to bring some old towels or paper-towels and a good hand-soap which can get rid of oil on your
fingers. Nothing more yucky than just having fiddled around on the oily chain and then being forced to slip those
same dirty, grimy hands into your driving gloves...
Depends how soon you want to give up and go home. Some people bring enough spares to build a complete second kart,
including engine. Others don't come with any spares and just go home when something breaks. A good medium is probably
to bring those things which tend to break or need replacement most frequently, right?
3.4. How does a kart differ from a car?
You probably always want to bring a few meters of extra fuel line, break line, throttle cable and electrical cable.
Those things can get tangled up and torn, sometimes the hoses stiffen over time and need replacing anyway, so it's
a good idea to have some of those things around. For the same reason, some spare break fluid might be a good idea.
During collisions, it's easily possible to bend a tie-rod, so it's a good idea to have some spare rods. The bearings
for the wheels can get worn out over time, so one might consider bringing some extra bearings.
Engines are complex and can break either all on their own (it does happen) or more likely through accidental abuse.
Most people will not necessarily have the budget to always bring a spare engine, though. So, if you have one, count
yourself lucky. A spare chain is always a good idea, however, since that can break during a race or while working on
it. Of course, a set of spare spark-plus is necessary, simply because plugs can get 'fouled up', or simply become
too old and used.
If you need to replace a bent break rotor, axle, steering column or even chassis, you probably have been in a severe
enough accident that warrants going home and carefully examining yourself and the kart anyway.
The main differences are that a kart does not have a suspension and has a stiff rear axle. The stiff rear axle
causes inside and outside rear wheels to always turn at the same speed. In curves, however, the inside wheel has
to travel less distance and thus should rotate slower. In a rear-driven car, this is made possible via the differential.
In a kart, however, the same rotational speed would result in the tires scrubbing, thereby slowing down the kart and
also causing bad handling.
3.5. My kart utilizes a centrifugal clutch. What is the stall-speed and how can I find it?
For that reason, a kart is designed to actually lift the inside rear tire off the ground in a curve, effectively
making it a three-wheeled vehicle when cornering! This solves the scrubbing and handling problem one would otherwise
The lifting of the inside rear is accomplished through chassis twist and a specially designed front-end geometry.
In a car, the chassis is designed to be as stiff as possible, allowing the suspension to handle all weight transfer
issues and keeping all wheels in contact with the ground. In a kart, the chassis is intended to flex, allowing the
inside wheel to be lifted off the ground in a corner.
The flexing of the chassis is accomplished via utilization of the 'centrifugal force' which applies to the relatively
high center of gravity of the kart, in effect 'tipping' it to the outside of the curve.
The front-end geometry of a kart is designed so that during a curve it tends to lower the inside front-wheel and raise
the outside front-wheel. This contributes to the tipping motion of the kart chassis during a curve and thus is the
second major contributor to the lifting of the inside rear-wheel.
The stall-speed of the centrifugal clutch is the RPM where the clutch begins to engage and allows transfer of engine
power to the wheels (via chain and axle). Many classes allow the tuning of the stall speed, which can aid in better
acceleration out of corners.
An article explaining a simple method to find out the current stall-speed of your centrifugal clutch can be found
4.1. Is there a different driving style for a kart than for a car?
Slightly. No matter if you drive a car or kart, smoothness is usually key to a fast drive. However, the turn-in
into corners is typically taken more abruptly in a kart than in a car. The reason is that one wants to lift the
inside rear in one swoop, and does not want it to drag, lift and drag some more while slowly turning in. This would
reduce speed and upset the handling. Therefore, the turn-in should be swift, but smooth without jerking on the
4.2. I just got my first kart, so can I immediately start competing in racing?
Also, many karts only have a break on the rear axis. Thus, the braking can usually not be as heavy as in a car,
which also has front-brakes.
Most clubs will not require you to show any experience, and thus would allow you to participate in a race,
4.3. Well then, how do I get faster?
It would be a good idea to practice first! In fact, a good advise is this: Find out what the usual pole-setting,
fastest qualifying times are for your class at your track. Then practice, practice, practice until your lap times
are consistently at least within one second of those fastest times. Only show up for a race when you have reached
this speed. You will have more fun racing, you will be competitive and you will be less of a risk to other drivers.
Good question! If there would be one fool-proof recipe to become faster, everyone would be a world champion, right?
Well, no, probably not... But seriously, mostly your speed will depend on your driving skills, and nothing trains these
skills more than seat time. So go to the track and practice as much as you can. Make sure you understand the basics
of racing (there are some good books available). Make sure you understand the track: Walk the track, watch others
drive on the track. Practice consistency: Without focusing on kart setup and tuning (as a beginner you probably won't
know what to change anyway), concentrate on driving the same lap-times consistently, while driving as fast as you can.
Only then will you be able to see if a tuning change or a modified cornering technique made any difference! See if you
can get some help from the kart shop or the previous owner of your kart in getting you on the right track with the
chassis setup. Ask questions at the track. Ask questions in the Ekartingnews.com forums.
5.1. What do I need to do in order to prepare my kart for a race?
Basically, check that you have everything safety wired in case that is required from you by regulation. Check
that all the hoses are properly attached, flexible, and that everything is free flowing. Check the condition of
your tires, your spark-plug, and ensure all bolts and screws are secure. Check any starter batteries and the
operation of the starter engine, if you rely on an electric starter. Check that all bearings are freely rolling
and replace as necessary. Make sure the chain is in good condition. Tire-pressure needs to be set correctly at
the track, and you need to have enough gas in the tank (duh!).
5.2. How do I get safety-wire holes into my pins, screws and bolds?
Safety wiring is required by some race organizers. It means that basically all screws, pins and bolts on the kart
are prevented from coming loose, by having a hole drilled into the end of the screw, and a wire strung through that
hole. This prevents a nut from being able to fall off, for example.
5.3. How do I change tires?
You can either buy screws, bolts and pins already pre-drilled, which is very expensive, or you can try to drill
the necessary holes yourself, which is not necessarily trivial. There are some nice tools available, but also some
very effective low-cost methods, one of which is described here.
That's always a lot of fun. You will find an article about changing tires here
and about inflating them here.
5.4. How do I take care of the chain?
The chain should be cleaned after each race day. You can do that by taking it off the kart, washing all grime and
oily residue in gasoline (swish it around in a cup with some gas, until the gas remains clean) and then boil it in
some clean engine oil. Make sure you have some old pot for that and don't necessarily do it in the kitchen, since
other members of the house-hold may object to the smell. Drip dry the chain after it has boiled for a while.
5.5. What do I need to do to the kart between races?
After installing the chain back on the kart, spray a proper engine lubrication on both the inside and outside of
the chain, while slowly turning the rear wheels, so that all parts of the chain will be sprayed. Note that you should
wait a while before firing up the engine, after spraying the chain. The reason is that the lubricating particles of
the chain-lube are actually carried on some other substances, which allow the lubricating substances to coat the chain
and penetrate between the rollers and pins. These carrier-substances, which make the entire lube-mixture nice and
slippery, should be given a chance to evaporate first. Otherwise the lubricating-substances will fling off the
chain just as easily as they got onto it, when the engine starts up and the chain starts spinning. For that reason,
it is a good idea to re-lube the chain right after each run during a race day, so that there is some time elapsing
before the next outing. The fact that the chain is still quite warm after you just completed a run also aids in the
proper penetration of lubricating material into all the nooks and crannies of the chain.
Taking apart a chain and putting it back together again is usually accomplished with a tool called the chain breaker.
It is a good tool, but it can also ruin some links of your chain and can cause some frustration if not used right.
You can find an article about the correct use of the chain breaker here.
Reapply chain lube. Go through the complete pre-race checklist again, verifying that no damage has been done
anywhere and that everything is still secure. Check the spark plug. Refuel, if necessary. Cover the tires from
direct sun, or make at least sure that you rotate them occasionally, so that they are not baked from one side
only. Check the tire-pressure before the next track session.
5.6. And at the end of the race day?
Empty all fuel from the tank and fuel lines, since they can harden prematurely when the fuel is left sitting
in them. Also, if you are racing a 2-cycle engine, the oil and gas may actually separate again, and it is not
a good idea to have that happen in the fuel system of the kart.
Clean the kart carefully. Only when you clean everything you will be able to see smaller cracks or damage.
Take care of the chain, as described earlier.
Lower the air pressure in the tires, so that they don't sit for prolonged times fully inflated. Some people also
wrap shrink-wrap around their tires, so that the substances which keep the rubber soft do not evaporate over time
and stay in the rubber instead.
For comments or suggestions,
please contact J. Brendel
Photos courtesy and copyright of:
Nelson Merlo -
Stephen Hutchinson -
Jeff Deskin -
Jayne Kamin-Oncea -
Sean Buur -
Bill Kistler -
Blair Hartsfield -
Divisions and Classes -
Sanctioning Bodies -
Technical How-To's -
The 'Introduction to Karting' iDoc