The Labor Day Wood Go Kart Project

We all look forward to that three-day weekend where we have Monday off, we can relax, enjoy company next to a campfire and ride that go kart. The best part of the whole weekend is actually building something and then riding it. Typically a go kart is a pretty intense project and requires a lot of pre- thought or preparation before you put it all together.

Gas Engined Wood Go Kart At Speed

Gas Engined Wood Go Kart At Speed

The wood go kart however actually breaks those barriers. A simple wood go kart can be put together in a couple hours, however a decent gas powered wood go kart can be put together in two days. The first day being consumed on building the gravity portion which includes brakes and steering and the second day being used up in developing the drive system.

The wood go kart is pretty simple: it uses basic two by fours and a sheet of plywood. It also includes basic wheels and a simple bolt on axle system. Steering system doesn’t have to be that elaborate, however, some understanding of how steering system operates and how it should be support as needed.

One of the biggest problems that you run into with the wood go kart is making and the brake system functional. The forces which are required to make the brake system deliver the amount of force needed to slow wheel down is pretty high.

The force required on a wheel for example is close to 500-600 pounds. So a mechanism is needed so that the simple pushing of the foot will do the job. Additionally the brake system requires a good mounting so it doesn’t rip off the go kart.

The handbrake is not sufficient for a wood go kart. The handbrake also is a detriment ,in that one hand has to be taken off the steering wheel in order to actually operate the brake and that is not a good combination.

Consideration for the center of gravity is needed as well, so that the go kart has ample weight over the steering wheel. This is so that the cart does not understeer and not respond when the steering is activated or in plain English the steering reacts when used.

The basic Labor Day go kart extravaganza should start out as follows:

Buy the materials:

– 2×4’s (6)
– 3/8 ths piece of plywood,
– 3/4 x 10 inch bolts (2)
– 1/2 bolts (4 x 4.5 long)
– 1/2 nylock nuts
– Dry Walls Screws (1.5 to 2 inchers 1 pack each )
– Washers (big ones and small ones) (two for each bolt)
– 3/4″ Shafting (36” long 2 shafts)
– Sheet Metal Strapping
– Nails
– Compression Springs or Tension Springs
– Engine (Vertical* or Horizontal)
– V-belt for the main drive
– Small pulley to fit on engine
– Tension Pulley
– Oak 2 X 4 Boards Off Of A Pallet
– 4 Wheels Off A Lawnmower (not flat of course)
– Strong Nylon Rope
– 2” PVC pipe
– Door Hinges (2)
– Glue or Epoxy
– Lag Wood Bolts to mount engine
– Right Angle Bracket
– Bailing Wire
– Bicycle Shifter Cable
– Steering Wheel Or Bike Handlebars

*Vertical Engines can be very easily used on wood go karts, but the actual drive system is not discussed in the materials presented here.  Go to the Go Kart Building 202 Vertical Engines Drives Course for more information.

That is not a comprehensive list, but it was pretty close. You should have most of the materials around the garage or have gotten them assembled over the prior week’s. If you are just reading this then you should try to stagger it a bit and not try to make the full-blown go kart but just make the gravity one over Labor Day weekend.

From a tool standpoint you are going to need:

– Hammer
– Power Drill
– Table Saw
– Circular Saw
– And This Is A Must-Have: Spade Bit Drill Bit Him In The
– A Decent Ratchet Set Which Includes A Three-Quarter Inch Ratchet
– And Wrenches Again A Three-Quarter Inch Hand Ranch Or A Knuckle Buster Adjustable Wrench
– Pliers
– Locking Pliers
– Axle Grease
– Phillips Driver Bit Set For Driving Drywall Screws
– Remember Glue
– For The Drive System Is Best To Have A Solid And Cut Circles, Large Ones. A Reciprocating Saw Works Best For This.

Again this is not a comprehensive list, but it gives you the gist of how many tools you will need.

The overall go kart building process should not take more than two hours for the frame and two hours for the braking system. Add another two hours for the steering system and add three to five hours to the drive system.

The drive system can become a little bit more involved and requires trial and error to get it set up properly. So like I said if you’re trying to make this wood go kart order the weekend you’d be best to just try going after the gravity version first and then tackle the engine part on the next weekend.

Things To Look Out For When You’re Doing The Go Kart Engine/Drive System Part:

Be sure to get the right sized belt and get two. You may be surprised that you’re going to run into burning belts initially, especially if you don’t have the drive system set up properly to begin with. What I mean by “not set up properly” is that your ratio may be off and you may be stalling and burning belts inadvertently . Make sure you run through the calculations or at least have the rule of thumb put under your belt about how big pulley should be before diving into the drive system.

Remember the rule of thumb for a drive pulley or a drive sprocket is that the drive pulley should be about 85% the size of the rear tire. So a 12 inch tire should have a 10.25 inch diameter pulley. The go kart drive system that we are describing is a belt drive system and it does not use a centrifugal clutch. If you are using a centrifugal clutch make sure the drive pulley is very small. Otherwise you are going to have to use a jack shaft system.

The reason for the jack shaft system is that the ratio will not be steep enough and the engine will continually stall on the go kart. Additionally you will not go anywhere the clutch will burn out.

The wood go kart when it is finished can be then painted or stained. You will be surprised on how rugged they would go kart actually is and it should last years instead of weeks.

One side note, don’t store it outside. As a general rule is not a good idea to store any go kart outside but that would go kart in particular will not handle the elements very well and so make sure it is stored indoors.

Hope you have a great Labor Day weekend. For more information on how to build a wood go kart visit the wood go kart building e-book series which splits up the gravity go kart and the gas engined wood go kart. Included in the wood go kart books are the plans and the general layout for the wood patterns.

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