Kart Safety Part 1
Author: Roger Polak


Note: This article should not be used as a complete kart safety guide and all maintenence procedures are suggestions only.  Consult a karting professional before attempting to use your kart.


Kart Safety


Karting is normally one of the safest forms of motor sport. Most karters will go through their entire time in the sport with little or no injury. But as we've often heard and read, Motor Racing is Dangerous!

Ok, so we all accept that it is possible to get hurt in a kart, but there are plenty of things karters can do to minimize this. This article aims to point out some of the things we can do in preparing the kart to be safer.


First up is how the kart is built and the standard of components that it is built from.


A kart is dangerous if;

  • It is cracked or has been poorly repaired
  • Is assembled using sub standard bolts and fasteners
  • Uses cables that are frayed or too weak
  • Has been built by someone inexperienced

Ok, so that all makes sense, but what should you look for when assessing a kart.





Kart Safety


Obviously you need good reliable brakes for your kart to be safe. Karts travel very quickly and because of the grip they have, we tend to leave braking to the very last moment. If they fail, you are potentially in big trouble. So here's a few things to check before you hit the track (so to speak!). The brake pads themselves should have plenty of material left on them and should not be peeling away from the backing. Discard the pads if you are in any way not sure.


The brake caliper itself should be clean and the pistons free moving. If the pads don't move freely in and out then have the caliper overhauled by an experienced kart mechanic. The pads should also be fairly close to the disk but not hitting it. If they have to travel too far you can run out of piston travel and the brakes will be next to useless.


Your kart will have either cable operated brakes or a hydraulic system. With cable brakes make sure there is no fraying of the cables and that the clamps are tight and affective. Look for faults in the cable where it connects around the pedal or at any place where it has friction with the chassis or guides. Never rely on a single clamp for brake cable, make sure there is a backup.  


The brake pedal itself needs to be in good condition and the pivot bolt should be carefully inspected. If the bolt is bent it could break at any time. Also use only nyloc style locking nuts for any brake components and make sure they firmly grip the bolt's thread. Worn out nyloc nuts do nothing, so replace them.


Also inspect the brake disk and carrier for cracks and loose bolts. Kart brake disks can cop a real hammering when you drop wheels of the track and so inspect them regularly.


With hydraulic brakes you need to check that the brake pads start to move as soon as the master cylinder lever starts to move. If it doesn't you either need to adjust the system or have it bled because of air that may have entered the brake lines. Also keep an eye on the travel of the master cylinder lever.   If you need to press the brake pedal a long way and move the lever a long way to get the brakes to work, then you may run out of brakes when the master cylinder piston hits the back of the master cylinder and can no longer push the fluid along the lines.


But the bottom line is that if you're unsure about the condition of your brakes or how to repair them then have them seen to by a proper kart mechanic. Don't take any chances!



Wheels, tyres and bearings


Kart Safety


Just like on your road car, you need safe tyres on your kart too! Don't be fooled by the slick tread on racing tyres, they have a limited life span just like any tyre does. First up make sure you have the correct tyres fitted to your kart to suit the class you run. Talk to your kart shop to get the current specifications.


Old tyres are bad tyres. If your tyres show signs of the casing wearing through, are cracking anywhere, have been repaired or are worn so that the tread depth holes are disappearing then throw the tyres in the bin! A tyre that fails out on the track can cause huge accidents and having seen this happen to a new karter first hand, it's something you need to avoid! When it comes to replacing tyres only buy new ones or second hand tyres from a reliable source.   Don't go fitting old rubber front under your mate's garage bench. You'll go slower and risk an accident.


Wheel bearings are often neglected on karts, but they should be carefully inspected and maintained.   The two outside front wheel bearings are the only things that keep your front wheels on. If one fails, you'll lose the wheel next time you get to a corner! Wheel bearings are cheap and easy to fit. So make sure yours are tip-top.


Wheels themselves need to be free from dings or damage and have valve stems in good condition.   Rear wheels need to have the mounting holes in good order too. If your mounting holes are flogged out or getting thin then launch the wheel at the bin. If the rims can't be secured properly it will eventually fly off and cause you drama.   Of course it's common sense to make sure all the wheel nuts are on and tightly done up, but give them a quick check each time you drive the kart anyways.





Kart Safety


Now to the steering bits of your kart. First up make sure the steering wheel is not cracked or badly bent. While you're at it make sure the rest of the steering components are in good condition too. The most common fault is worn tie-rod ends. If you have a heap of movement in the rod-ends then the wheels will flop around all over the place and hammer back and forth. At best this will make your kart handle poorly, at worst you'll have a steering failure that will chuck you off the track. Replace any steering components that aren't up to scratch and make sure you get the front end re-aligned once repairs have been made. A poor handling kart can also be a dangerous kart!



Engine and Stuff


Kart Safety


Karts make some pretty decent power these days and so you'll need a good throttle setup to make sure the engine backs off when you need it too. The throttle cable should have enough slack in it so that it easily returns the carby to minimum throttle every time you back off. I.e. don't have the cable taught like a piano wire.   Also make sure you have a return spring on the pedal, plus a return spring at the carby, as well as the throttle shaft return spring on butterfly style carbs. If the cable is kinked or worn it might not return properly each time you back off. If that's the case then replace it.


Make sure your kart's exhaust is secure too, by using a hose clamp and a tie wire around the pipe.   This is part of the rules anyway and so you won't get through scrutineering without them. Use enough springs to hold it all in place too.


Make sure your chain and sprockets are in good order too. If you can lift the chain off the sprocket's teeth more than a millimeter or two then the chain and sprocket are worn and getting ready to snap and fly off. Flying chains are obviously not a good thing.





There are plenty of other things you need to check and maintain on your kart and we've just touched on some of the more major ones here. For more information look up the AKA racing handbook or visit established reputable kart shops like MKC to let them check over your kart.   I can't speak for the other shops, but at MKC we don't charge to look over a kart.   It only costs when parts or work is required.


This may sound crazy but when you do discard a worn and dangerous part, destroy it first so that no one else picks it up out of the bin and tries to use it on their kart. So slash or drill big holes in dangerous tyres, saw through steering components or do whatever is required to put that faulty part out of action for good.


You owe it to yourself and your fellow karters to make sure you beast is worthy of being driven on the track.   And you'll set faster lap times with a well maintained machine than a puss bucket, so it's worth making the effort. Sure all this safety talk isn't the most interesting stuff you'll read through, but if this article fixes one dodgy kart then it will have done its job. In our next safety article we'll discuss how to drive safely, so try not to crash until then!


Kart Safety