What Engines Can Be Used for Go-Karts?

Written by calia roberts
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What Engines Can Be Used for Go-Karts?
Go-karts can be built with several types of engines. (Two racing endurance karts image by Nicola Gavin from Fotolia.com)

When building or buying a previously owned go-kart, it is important to be informed on the types of engines that will work safely and effectively. There are many different types of engines typically used in other vehicles that can be modified for go-kart use. Knowing the extent of modification that is needed to fit a go-kart engine is beneficial to the builder or buyer. For a person who is new to building or buying go-karts, it is best to consult with a professional when fitting engines.


Motorcycle engines are generally one of the best types of engines to use for off road go-karting and for track racing. These engines are popular because they are small, lightweight and need little to no modification to fit homemade go-karts. Motorcycle engines are available in a two-stroke or a four-stroke, which refers to the number of movements to complete a thermodynamic cycle, and both are easy to install. Because of the popularity and versatility of these engines, they are somewhat difficult to find.


Chainsaw engines are also adaptable to use in a go-kart. These engines run well, deliver a fair amount of speed and have the added benefit of a centrifugal clutch, an automatic clutch that is powered by the centrifugal force of the shaft's speed of rotation, which is useful when driving a go-kart. These engines require easy modification to fit a go-kart and are relatively simple to install.


Lawnmower engines are another type of engine that can be used in go-karts. These engines are relatively powerful at 3 to 5 horsepower and are readily available for purchase. Lawnmower engines do have a few disadvantages, however. Though powerful, a lawnmower engine is not capable of much speed and will require various modifications to be compatible with a go-kart.

Off the Shelf

An off-the-shelf engine is designed with an aluminium cylinder bore, which is rubbed against a steel piston ring creating an excess of friction. For this reason, off-the-shelf engines are best when used for only a short period, ideally for a person who does not intend to participate in the go-karting sport often. These engines are available in variations, including a cast iron cylinder design that lasts longer and an engine with the built-in capability of charging batteries and powering a light.

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