How to Make a Go Kart With No Engine

Written by kirk maltbee
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How to Make a Go Kart With No Engine
(Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Long before kid's electrically powered motorised cars and trucks hit store shelves, a popular pastime for young car enthusiasts was to make wooden go-karts, also known as soapbox racers. Some kids still build their own go-karts that, instead of running on engine power, are propelled by gravity on hills or with the driver's feet. As long as a few basic principles are adhered to, building your own engineless racer can be accomplished in a single afternoon.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Scratch paper
  • Pencil
  • Yardstick
  • Electric hand saw
  • Plywood sheets
  • Wooden rods
  • 2-inch by 4-inch board
  • Planer
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Electric screwdriver/ drill
  • Box of wood screws
  • Metal bolts and nuts

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  1. 1

    Jot down the basic measurements and design elements of your go-kart. Start by drawing the basic rectangular shape of the cart and where the cockpit of the kart will be positioned. Note the length of the car you would like to build as well as the dimensions of the round, oval, square or rectangle cockpit. Include overhead views (to note width) and side views (height).

  2. 2

    Lay a plywood sheet out on a flat surface and use the yardstick as a straight edge to draw the length and width of the kart's floorboard. Saw the floorboard out of the plywood sheet. Use a wood planer to smooth small groves on the floorboard to fit the wooden rods. These rods will be your axles.

  3. 3

    Sand the axle rod grooves to a smooth sheen. Lay the rods in the grooves. Cut small wood blocks from the 2-inch by 4-inch boards then use a hammer to nail the blocks near the rods, flush to the edges of the axle grooves. This creates axle trees that hold the axle rods in place. Nail four blocks per each side of each rod.

  4. 4

    Saw a small section out of the floorboard where the driver's feet will be placed, thus providing the "brakes." Measure and cut the side panels of the racer and screw the panels on each side of the racer. Be sure to cut small grooves in the front and rear end bottoms of each panel to accommodate the axle rods.

  5. 5

    Measure and saw out both the end and rear panel pieces. Screw each of them in place. Measure and cut out the wheels if not using pre-cut, circular wood pieces. In some cases, metal or plastic wheels that are commercially available can be used should you choose not to use wood wheels.

  6. 6

    Drill a hole vertically through the ends of each rod. Drill another hole the width of the wheel away from the end holes, closer to the kart. Drill similar holes on each of the four axle rods that are exposed on the kart's body. Attach wheels to each rod. Insert bolts into each of the holes and thread nuts onto the ends of each bolt.

Tips and warnings

  • Use large metal bolts instead of wood axle trees to prolong wear and tear on the axle rods.

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