Building your own go kart was once the sole province of imaginative gearheads with a creative flair. The rise of kits has made it possible for anyone to make his own go kart at home. Kits range from simple instructions on how to build a go kart from scratch to prefabricated sets that include everything you need except the engine. Go karts are motorised vehicles, not to be confused with the downhill box-on-wheels racers from scouting days. The right type of kit for you depends on your level of expertise.
Buy a complete prefabricated set if you are a beginner. Building a go kart from scratch can involve substantial amounts of welding and bending stiff metal tubing. Preformed kits allow you to stay focused on the purely mechanical aspects of building your own kart. Some can be easily assembled using only common hand tools. Check with a local hobby shop for companies that offer complete kits. MXK Racing has offered go kart kits since 1960. It offers a wide selection of parts and accessories, in addition to basic kits, to customise your kart.
Work with blueprint sets if you feel more adventurous. Blueprints allow you to choose more of your own materials and to make some modifications. If you are not comfortable with metalworking, most blueprint sets still offer some preformed structural components. SpiderCarts has been selling go kart plans online since 2001. They offer a large line of blueprints, complete with suggested outlets for purchasing the parts needed. Their designs lend themselves to extensive modifications, so you can easily build a largely custom kart without having to come up with everything on your own.
Work from scratch if you have the mechanical experience and confidence. If you do, there are resources you should take advantage of. Go karts have particular design elements that are different from full-size automobiles. Check with the staff of small engine repair shops. Many are experienced enthusiasts and tinkerers themselves. DIY Go Karts offers extensive information on parts, engines and even fabrication tips on its website. It also offers some very simplified plans, but the prime value is in its detailed coverage of every element of go kart design and construction. It can help you make sure you cover all the right ground if you choose to both design and build your own custom kart.
Most go karts use lawnmower engines. But not just any engine will do. Most lawnmowers have vertical engines, but go karts must use horizontal engines. Some motorcycle shops carry go kart parts and accessories, but most are attached to a particular go kart manufacturer. Their parts may not be suited as replacements for a custom kart.
Be sure to check the brakes before every use of your finished go kart. Go kart brakes are not the heavy duty assemblies used in cars.