Whether you’re building a go-kart for your kid or buying a new one for yourself, you’ll need to pay extra attention to what chassis you choose. Ever since I drove a 125cc 2-stroke kart, I noticed how differently the kart’s frame reacts to higher speeds and more power. But, what exactly is a chassis?
A frame is the skeleton of the go-kart. The frame (or chassis) must be sturdy, made from good-quality steel, and lightweight. A durable go-kart chassis is essential if you want to be competitive in a race. And, if you don’t want to spin out in every corner.
With that said, I’ve explained everything about go-kart chassis in this article. I’ll also inform you how to choose a good go-kart frame, whether a used or brand-new one.
What to Look For in Go Kart Frames
While there are many things that you should look out for when buying a go-kart chassis, I’ve included the most important ones below.
Before you start searching for the best go-kart frame, you’ll need to consider what type you’ll need. There are several different types according to each aspect of the chassis, but I’ll focus on its shape, which narrows these down to three: straight, caged, and offset.
Straight frames are the most common ones used in karting. I imagine many of you haven’t driven any type other than this one. These frames are open, with the driver’s seat in the middle.
These are used so often in go-karts because they provide the best weight distribution while still being lightweight. I’ll also focus more on these than the other two types since they’re the most frequently used ones.
Caged chassis are precisely what their name suggests. They look like a cage around the driver. This “cage” is known as a roll cage and is used in rally cars to keep the driver safe in case of a rollover.
That’s also why they’re solely used in off-road karts. But, the added roll cage means they’re much heavier and larger than racing or rental go-karts. So, if you consider buying or building one, be prepared to spend a lot of money on shipping fees.
I’d never heard of oval karting until I met a driver at my local track who told me they’re a big thing in the US. And, just like old F1 cars, go-karts used in these races feature an offset chassis.
Unlike the other two versions, the offset frame places the driver at the left or right of the go-kart. That’s because it provides extra traction and weight distribution on oval race tracks.
Once you’ve figured out what type of kart frame you’re looking for, the most crucial aspect of it is its material. If the chassis is brittle or very stiff, you’ll definitely not have a good time on track with it. The main materials that most racing, off-road, and homemade karts are made from are: steel alloy, aluminum alloy, and wood or hard plastic.
Keep in mind that kart frames are made from many tubes, so if you decide to make a homemade one, you’ll need to weld it yourself.
A good-quality steel alloy, like stainless steel, AISI 4130, or AISI 1018, is a fantastic choice if you can afford it. That said, if you’re well-versed in steel alloys and similar materials (because I’m definitely not), you can check out the CIK-FIA’s chassis regulations (they’re on page 5!)
But, I do know that out of the three, AISI 4130 is the most durable, with AISI 1018 coming in second. These two have similar densities, so their weight difference will be minimal. That said, they’re also the most expensive go-kart frame materials, with the 4130 costing nearly double the price of the 1018.
On the other hand, stainless steel is more affordable but not as durable. It’s also slightly denser than the other two, which makes it a bit heavier. Since you can find stainless steel tubes much easier than the industrial AISI ones, it’ll be your best choice if you’re building your own kart.
Aluminum alloy isn’t the best material for go-kart frames. But, there’s no doubt it’s the most lightweight and cheapest while still being somewhat durable. In fact, from a technical standpoint, aluminum is nearly half as durable as stainless steel while weighing and costing much less.
That said, welding an aluminum chassis is very hard. That’s because it requires more heat to weld, which isn’t easy to achieve with homemade tools. Speaking of which, you should only use an aluminum frame in a homemade kart since the material can’t handle high speeds.
While I was asking around my local track about homemade karts, some drivers told me that using hard plastic or wood was a good idea. At first, I thought they were joking; but it turns out that this is an extremely cheap way to make a functioning chassis.
As long as you have a few wooden planks or some pieces of plastic, you can connect everything together with some nails, and… you’ve got a go-kart chassis. Now, this won’t be able to handle any significant speeds, but it’s a terrific starter for your kid before they drive a real kart.
The size of a go-kart frame will be the same most of the time. There are some dimensions rules that kart chassis makers need to follow. However, there’s a distinct difference in where the kart is longer.
Racing go-karts must be long in the front and short in the back. This way, the weight transfer through corners will be smoother, thus making you have more grip. On the other hand, off-road karts must have a short front and long back because they put too much stress on the front.
If you feel that you can’t build a go-kart chassis, there’s nothing wrong with buying one. Though, you’ll need to make sure that it’s made from a reputable brand to ensure that it’s durable and will last you for some time.
There are multiple big names in kart manufacturing, including Sodikart, Birel, TonyKart, CRG, and many more. Instead of just naming these manufacturers, here’s a list of all the certified chassis by the FIA-CIK.
If you’re planning on racing on a specific track, you should ask drivers what chassis they use. I’m sure that they’ll be happy to help you out. Some tracks have more corners, and others have longer straights.
Either way, it’s best to know how certain chassis act at your local track. Doing this saves you from buying a go-kart frame that performs horribly on race day.
The flexibility of a go-kart chassis is crucial. If it’s too flexible or stiff, you’ll end up with a broken frame before you’ve even won a race.
Stiff frames usually have shorter tension bars and are suitable for most engine displacements. If your chassis’ stiffness is adjustable, you should opt for a stiffer setup when racing on a dry track. That’s because a stiff chassis is better at weight transfer through corners. And they’re also less likely to break.
Flexible frames have longer tension bars and are often used in high-speed go-karts, like superkarts. They’re also better for wet tracks since they act more as a suspension than a chassis. This will give you much more grip, which you’ll definitely need in a wet race.
On average, a go-kart frame will set you back $3000. Most used or homemade chassis for kid karts will cost around $300-$1000. This also includes chassis for Junior classes.
Once we step into the Seniors, the price can be anywhere from $1500 for a used TonyKart to $6000 for a brand-new Birel.
What Makes a Good Go-Kart Frame?
Since there’s no such thing as the best go-kart frame, I’ll let you know how to choose the best one for you.
A good go-kart frame needs to be adjustable to make it stiffer or more flexible according to the track/track conditions. It also needs to be lightweight but durable, so you’ll need to build/buy one made from steel.
If you want an off-road kart, you can build one from stainless steel that’s shorter on the front and longer on the back. On the other hand, if you’re serious about racing go-karts, you’ll need to buy one from a reputable manufacturer. You’ll need to make that choice according to drivers’ feedback from your local track.
And that’s about it when it comes to go-kart frames. The chassis is the most expensive and probably the most vital part of a kart, so don’t cheap out on it. Plus, if you take good care of it, it could last you for several years or even a decade.
Stay tuned for more articles just like this one!
FAQs for Go Kart Frames
What Are Go-Kart Chassis Made Of?
Go-kart chassis are often made from a steel alloy. There are different alloys used, as I mentioned above. Some homemade go-kart chassis can also be built from aluminum or wood/hard plastic.
How Much Is a Go-Kart Frame Worth?
A go-kart frame can cost between $300-$6000. Adult go-kart frames will set you back between $1500-$6000, with used ones being towards the lower end. Used or homemade kid kart frames cost $300-$1000.