What are the differences between a go-kart and your car?

“Pure driving, real racing, and that … that makes me happy.” This is what Ayrton Senna, a Brazilian three-time world championship driver, once said about his karting days. Unlike cars, go-karts are for recreational use and are high-performance vehicles for speed and racing.

From a glance, the general deduction one makes is that both the go-kart and the car typically have four wheels and an engine. However, once you sit in a go-kart and drive it around a track, you start to feel like it doesn’t drive like a typical car. This is because there are huge differences in and around the chassis.

Let’s explore some of these differences.

There are no front brakes

Unlike modern cars that have front and rear brakes, go-kart brakes are linked to the rear wheels only. If you stomp on the brakes hard and hold it there, the rear wheels are going to lock up and lose traction. As a result, your go-kart might slide, lose momentum, spin out, or even stall. To make a successful turn in a kart, you will have to hit it hard first, and then release the brake gradually

The wheels are much smaller

There are a lot of features that stand out when you look at a go-kart, and small wheels are one of them. 

Since go-kart tracks have many corners and hairpin turns, the smaller wheels on a go-kart maximize acceleration to help achieve higher speeds quickly. 

Cars have a wider turning radius due to their large wheels. However, go-karts can make responsive turns around sharp corners with ease because of the small tires.

Whether you’re racing for a championship or at a nearby karting track with your friends, go-karting is often a competitive sport. Smaller wheels are quite light and allow the go-kart to accelerate and reach top speeds quickly.

Smaller wheels on a go-kart are less expensive than wheels on a car as they consume less material. Although this is not a determining factor for having smaller wheels, it sure does help with the cost.

Go-karts have a lower center of gravity

Since go-karts have small wheels, they have a lower center of gravity, which allows drivers to take fast corners and perform quick overtaking maneuvers. Unlike cars that have a higher center of gravity, go-karts are less prone to flipping over, making them safe for children and adults alike.

There is no suspension

Unlike cars that have suspension to weather bumps and cracks on the road, go-karts lack that department. Suspensions originally didn’t make it on a go-kart as the added weight would slow down the vehicle. 

However, as go-karts evolved, the structure and frame of the kart became more flexible, dispersing external forces whenever in contact. Instead of the traditional suspension systems offered in cars, go-karts rely on a combination of different types of chassis tubing, axles and spindles, and seat position for more flex and better handling.

They have live axles

Go-karts come equipped with live axles, which deliver equal power to both of the back wheels. These are lightweight and provide efficient power transfer to the wheels, resulting in fast acceleration in a straight line. During cornering, though, the go-kart’s live axles become a disadvantage as they cause the go-kart to skid.

New cars are fitted with differentials, which means each wheel can move independently of the other. These provide the drivers with more control and reduce the risk of rolling over because of bumps in the road.

Comfort is not the main focus

Sitting in a go-kart can often be uncomfortable. These vehicles are made for performance and to ensure minimal weight and maximum speed. Comfort is hardly something go-kart manufacturers focus on. Drivers 6 feet and above may struggle to fit into some go-karts. 

There are a few expensive go-karts that may have a leather-padded seat to offer comfort, but these karts also come with powerful engines and a hefty price tag. 

You can’t legally drive go-karts on the streets!

The majority of go-karts are not street legal, which means that no matter how tempting it is to cruise around in your go-kart, doing so on the streets or in your neighborhood is illegal. Go-karts are hard to spot by other drivers due to their lower center of gravity, and they do not have headlights, seatbelts, or turn signals, making it illegal to drive on roads. That said, you can make some modifications to your go-kart to make it street legal in some states.

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