Finding, modifying or constructing the perfect go kart engine is important for both racing and recreational go kart use. Whether you are planning on entering a go kart race or just joyriding all over town, you will need to take proper safety precautions from square one before you ride in style.
1. Know Your Options
The safest way to provide your go kart with an engine is simply to buy an engine especially made for that purpose. Go kart engines are available for a few hundred dollars from a variety of online retailers. But buying a specially made engine is not your most adventurous option, and it might not be the most cost-effective.
2. Be Careful when You Cannibalize
The simplest way to craft without buying one straight from the store is to modify an engine made for another vehicle or tool. 2 stroke and 4 stroke motorcycle engines fit easily into a go kart frame and adapt well to the demands of go kart driving. However, they can also be expensive and difficult to find. Some other options are cheaper (and also more interesting), but it's important to know the risks.
3. Don't Get "Mowed Down"
Scavenging an old engine is often your best bet, but a run-down engine can be dangerous.
One popular method of powering a go kart is to modify a lawnmower engine. Lawnmower engines are cheap and work very well, but if they are not properly installed, your kart will be difficult to steer and you'll have a dangerous ride.
Make sure the used engine you've found is relatively undamaged and will start up consistently. An unreliable engine could be extremely dangerous mid-ride.
4. Beware of Open-Cell Engines
In many go kart designs, you will be tipping your engine on its side in installation, and an open side could cause oil to spill on the carburetor. Loosen the bolts connecting the engine to the deck of the mower (often adjacent to the screws on the mower blade) and take care to remove both the blade and any electrical wiring. Make sure to wear insulated gloves when dealing with any electrical equipment.
5. Watch the Weather
Don't forget you are dealing with flammable material. If you're storing your engine and materials in too warm an environment, you run the risk of fire. If it gets too cold, the oil may freeze, seriously damaging the engine and making future use more dangerous.
6. Don't Mess around with Metalwork
Here's the most dangerous part, so it's important to take proper precautions; you will need to fashion a stainless steel bracket to mount the engine on its side. This is necessary to properly attach the drive shaft to the cogs and chain, but it does involve a certain amount of metalwork. You will need proper welding equipment, including dark safety glasses, heavy clothing with long sleeves, and thick gloves. If you don't have experience welding, make sure to have a knowledgeable partner to guide you through the process. Of course, you can have the piece made at a metal shop, but where's the fun in that?