Go karting began as a hobby in the United States in the 1950s. Since then, it has grown to become a source of recreation for kart builders and racers who drive on courses in backyards, recreation centres and off-road trails. Building a go kart requires some creativity and basic engineering skills, along with access to all of the basic components.
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The chassis of a go kart is one of its most fundamental components. The chassis is the only part that it is impossible to change once the kart is assembled. Some racers and builders design a chassis specifically for the height, weight and proportions of the driver. Others use a more general chassis plan. In either case, the chassis must be made of metal with strong welds to support the weight of the driver and all of the other components.
A go kart steering assembly is among its more complex parts. It includes king pins and stub axles at each front wheel, a tie rod for adjusting the steering, a Pitman arm to transfer control from the wheels up through the steering shaft and a steering wheel for the driver to have control of the kart's direction. Steering assemblies contain many moving parts and drivers or mechanics should check them before every race.
Go kart wheels are usually trod rubber tires with rubber inner tubes, much like the wheels of a mini bike. They are mounted on metal rims that connect directly to the chassis via an axle. Go kart wheels do not include the brakes, which are instead located inboard. A go kart brake is a mechanical disc brake with a spinning disc connected to the rear axe behind the driver and a caliper for pinching the disc and slowing the kart.
Go karts use small gasoline internal combustion engines with one or more cylinders. Go kart engines may be designed specifically for go kart racing or harvested from a lawnmower or motorcycle. Go kart engines use a small on-board fuel tank and exhaust through a short pipe without a muffler or extensive exhaust system.
For a driver to manoeuvre a go kart and control its speed, the kart needs a basic set of controls. The kart needs an accelerator pedal for controlling the engine and a brake pedal for slowing the kart. Go karts equipped with a manual transmission need a clutch pedal and shifter lever attached to the transmission housing, which is usually located directly in front of the engine and near the driver's seat.
To make a go kart comfortable and safe to drive, it needs a series of accessories. The exposed elements of the chassis are covered with a metal or plastic floor pan, which in turn supports the driver's seat. Karts for off-road driving sometimes use welded metal roll bars to protect the driver. Side view mirrors and a safety harness can also be part of the design, making the driver even safer.
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