Getting The Go Kart Ready For The Winter

Fall is approaching and those winter months are just around the corner. The go kart will need to be put away for the winter because typically it is too cold and too wet and too slippery to ride a go kart in wintertime.

There are some key tips or key maintenance items that need to be addressed when you put your go kart down for the winter. The most important of them all is engine care and second is overall maintenance and component checks.

Engine Care

Make sure that the gas tank is fully emptied of gasoline when you get ready up to store the go kart. If you don’t do this gasoline will gel up inside the carburetor and give you grief in the spring when you want to fire it up.

You may have heard of using a product called sta-bil and mixing it with your gas for the winter months. The trouble with sta-bil is that you need to make sure that the gasoline inside the carburetor also has sta-bil in it as well, otherwise it’s not doing any good.

The best thing you can do is to just drain the gas out of the gas tank and make sure the carburetor is run dry.

The best way to do that is to:
– Drain the gas tank.
– Then start the go kart up and run it until it starts to quit.
– Then turn the choke on and run it until starts to quit again.
– Then take off the air cleaner and spray a little gasoline into the carburetor and start up the go kart again until it quits.
– This should ensure that there is no gasoline in the carburetor and that any gasoline that is in there will evaporate.

Oil Level Check

Be sure, obviously, to check the oil and make sure it is at the proper levels and also check your air filters make sure that they’re clean. It’s a good idea at that point to just replace it.

That should really do it for the engine; make sure that the engine is wrapped and cannot be rodent infested during its sitting period. The best way to keep rodents out of your go kart is to have some cats around or put mice poison around your go kart. A trick I have learned is to put dryer lint around the areas that you want mice to stay away from. For whatever reason, thy don’t like dryer lint

But sometimes even that isn’t good enough to keep rodents from getting in the engine and most especially into the seat.

Seat Care

The seat is the most susceptible part of the go kart to become infested with rodents. Rodents or mice love to get into the cushioning material of the seat and make nests. They can do real damage to a go kart seat so the best thing you can do is to remove the go kart seat and bring it in doors and store inside during the winter months.

In fact if you plan on storing your go kart any prolonged period you may want to have the go kart seat removed entirely until you plan on using the go kart again because rodents can be a real problem in go kart seats. It doesn’t matter if you live in the city or in the country rodents can be a real problem.

Drive System Care

The drive system should be addressed as well. Make sure that the go kart is not sitting in a wet, rainy or damp environment where the chain and clutch can become excessively rusted. It is a good idea to coat the chain with a good coating of oil. You may have so much oil on your chain that you may want to put down a board down so that it drips into the board instead of onto the concrete floor.

Make sure that your brake cables are oiled and that they are loose, that your brake system activates easily and is not hung up. At this point you may want to double-check your cabling and replace it if needed.

The reason why I man saying that you should do these maintenance items now is that one of the most disappointing things to occur on a go kart, especially in the spring, is to have it not run ready. What you want to do is basically get the go kart so that in the spring all you have to do is fill up the gas tank, do some minor checks and get the go kart started up and you’re ready to go.

General Maintenance

The general maintenance that should occur is an examination of all joints and bearings. Start with the rod ends that activate your steering system. Make sure the rod ends are tight and not sloppy. If they are sloppy you are going to have to assess whether or not you have the money to replace these rod ends and whether they should be replaced immediately. As a general rule any sloppiness quickly accelerates the wear of the component in question; so it is a good idea to just replace it if it is indeed sloppy.

Steering System

The next part of the steering system that you need to look at is the spindle pivot interface. Typically as we’ve discussed in other articles, there is sloppiness inside the spindle section that is induced because the plastic or the bearing surface inside the spindle has worn away. You can use a shim method which basically entails taking thin pieces of sheet metal and wrapping them around the pivot bolt to take up the sloppiness inside the spindle section. This has a longer affect than the plastic bushings that typically come inside the spindle pivots from the factory.

Wheel Bearings

Very often the bearings that come on cheap go kart’s are the pressed metal bearings. These tend to wear out within a few hours and so, obviously, make sure that you examine these bearings and that the wheels are not sloppy or wobbly. If they are indeed are sloppy then you need to make an assessment again of whether or not the bearing should be replaced. I recommend a roller bearing for any wheel axles. A roller bearing is much more durable and can handle a lifetime of go kart abuse whereas a pressed metal bearing is designed for limited functionality.

Tires and Storage

Examine also the tires for wear. If you have any caster or camber induced into your steering system you more than likely are going to have tire wear that is not even. At this point the tires should be rotated where the tire is taken off the rim and flipped around around so that the next time the tires are wearing on the opposite side of the tire.

Additionally, if there’s any wear, where there’s no more tread on the tire then the tire needs to be replaced.

A word about tires: typically what will occur over a long period of sitting the tires will drain themselves of air. It is not uncommon for example to have a tire that appears to be flat in the springtime. If this is troublesome then the best thing you can do is put the go kart up on blocks so that there’s no weight being exerted on the tires. This will prolong the tire and inner-tube interface and will also allow you to have longer life of the overall tire rim combination.

Drive Axel Inspection

Now that we’ve examined the steering system lets go back to the drive system again and take a look at the drive axle. If you have ridden your go kart hard, the common wear points are the actual interface: the rim axle interface and the sprocket axle interface. Typically the key-way will become wallowed out. A limited amount of wallowing is okay but if excess wallowing starts to occur where the drive sprocket for example can move over 5° of angular motion then there’s a chance that the key way can crack the sprocket.

Aluminum Rim/Hub Wear

The axle hub-interface likewise can crack when sudden shock loads have been applied to the shafting. Typically a loose key way or a loose hub can cause a sloppiness in the axle hub-interface which can cause the hubs to actually crack or sheer the aluminum in the hub. To make up the slop you can stuff metal such as a nail into the sloppy key way and retain it with a hose clamp. But that is not going to address the real issue which could be that something is not tight enough or the power may be too great for the design of the hub.

Additionally the axle may be too soft or made a low-grade steel. It is a good idea if you are designing or building your own go kart to make sure that you have purchased a decent axle and that is made out of high quality steel.

Frame Inspection

And finally we should be examining the framework for any cracks and dingss. At this point in time you may want to try to do a total overhaul of the go kart and bring the frame inside for maintenance. You can paint the frame using spray cans or a spray system. Or you can actually send your frame out to get powder coated.

If you’re planning on doing any extensive modifications such as a frame redesign, over the wintertime is a good time to do that. The reason I say that is at the temptation to do a quick fix and get out and hop on the go kart is a lot less likely and you will spend a lot more time fabricating and designing the parts properly so that when spring comes around you actually have a decent design put in place.

A Word Of Caution About Engines And Bringing A Go Kart Inside.

Never bring an engine into the house unless you absolutely need to. The reason why is that gasoline fumes are going to hang around an engine. There’s no way to free yourself of this gasoline fumes. Also gasoline fumes hang close to the floor and can cause explosions in houses, especially with gas furnaces, gas driers, gas water heaters or even space heaters.

So the best thing to do is to leave the go kart engine in the garage or in the shed. You can bring the frame into the house, but make sure it if the gas tank that is with it is taken off. The gas tank obviously stays out side as well.

Again, obviously, don’t be welding in the house. All the welding that needs to be done on the frame needs to be brought outdoors or performed in the proper setting such as a shop.

To Recap:

To prepare your go kart for winter:
– Make sure that you do a carburetor maintenance or gasoline drain down.
– Remove the seat so that it does not get rodent infested, and store indoors.
– Lube chain so that it doesn’t become rusted, put down some wood to soak up the drippings.
– Store the go kart in a dry place.
– If you need to cover your go kart and leave it outside make sure that the engine is adequately shielded so that rodents cannot get inside the bell housing and cause problems when spring comes around, put out rat poison, or dryer lint.
– Make sure that the cabling for the throttle and brakes his freely moving and that it is not exposed to the elements during storage; oil if needed.
– Make sure that the steering mechanism to bearings for the tires, the rear axle interface and so forth is not sloppy and that all the parts are nice and tight; replace if needed.
– And finally if there are any cracks in the frame or major exposed paint areas be sure to weld in gusset plates in the crack areas and paint the exposed metal prior to storage.

With all these things considered things should start up and be ready when spring comes. All you should have to do is fill the go kart full of gas check all that tire pressures linkages again and away the go kart should go.

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