How to Make a Wood Go Kart Version 2
September 17, 2023
A little over 9 years ago I built the first variation of the wooden go kart. This go kart was a great starting point and it was a lot of fun to ride while it lasted. However, I knew there were a few design flaws that I needed to address if I ever set out to build another one. The most obvious one being the lack of a steering wheel. This seems to be a trend with a lot of the wood go karts on YouTube. So when I sat down earlier this summer to design the Wood Go Kart V2, I knew I had to step up my game and leave a long lasting mark on the wood go kart scene.
I began this project by picking up a few 8/4 soft maple boards from my local lumber store. Originally I was going to use regular pine 2×4’s, but I ended up going with a hardwood for a stronger frame (I also love the look of soft maple). Using my jointer and planer, I began milling my boards down to what is essentially maple 2×4’s. Once all of my boards were milled, I rough cut all my pieces to make it easier to handle. Using the assembly guide (link at the bottom of the page), I cut all my 2×4’s down to their final dimensions. With the use of a dado stack in my table saw, I cut a 1 1/2″ wide, 1/4″ deep dado on the bottom side of one of the 24″ boards. This is going to allow me to bolt a 1/4″ thick piece of metal on the back of the go kart to mount the brake caliper.
At this point I can set set my boards to the side and start working on drilling out the holes for my metal pieces. I purchased all the metal pieces for this project from metalsdepot.com (not a sponsor). This was the first time I’ve bought from them and they allowed me to order pieces cut to size. I ordered 1/4″ thick angle iron (2″x3″) to bolt the live axle onto the frame, 1/4″ thick flat steel (1 1/2″ wide) to make up the brackets for the spindles and pedal guides and 1/8″ thick steel (1″ wide) to make an extension arm for the brake caliper. Using my drill press on the second lowest speed and cutting oil, I drilled all of the holes in the metal pieces. Once drilled, I began prepping the metal pieces for paint by cleaning them up with sand paper and removed the dirt and grime with mineral spirits. I spray painted all of the pieces with a matte black enamel paint and painted the brake caliper bracket that came with the brake kit at this time as well.
With the metal painted, I began drilling all the holes in the 2×4’s that I could before I began assembling the frame. This allowed me to use my drill press for more accurate holes and the metal pieces as a guide on the areas where they bolt to the frame. Once all the holes were drilled, I began assembling the go kart. I drilled pilot holes and countersunk all of the frame pieces. Using wood glue and 3″ exterior wood screws, I assembled the frame. To hide the screw heads, I fill the holes in with 3/8″ wood plugs and a dab of wood glue to hold them in place. I trimmed off the excess with a flush cut saw and sanded all the plugs to a nice smooth finish. Using the templates in the assembly guide, I drilled the holes to mount the engine and the seat. At this point, I can cut the sheet of 3/4″ thick plywood to 21″x49 1/2″ and set it in place on the go kart frame. Now I can use the frame as a guide to drill all of the holes in the sheet of plywood. With the last of the holes drilled, I began sanding everything down and finished the wood with a few coats of wipe-on polyurethane.
After letting the finish cure, I began assembling the go kart. I started by setting the kart on its side and bolting the 3/4″ plywood, seat and steering column down to the frame. With those bolted down, I went ahead and set the go kart back upright and bolted both of my 33.5″ metal flat bars to the top and bottom of the front of the frame. Then I mounted the spindles to the frame using a 5″ long 1/2″ bolt on both sides and multiple washers to fill the gap. From here, I began mounting the pillow blocks and steering shaft onto the steering column. With the steering shaft in place, I mounted the tie rods, wheels and steering wheel to finish the front steering. One thing I would like to point out is that I originally used 14″ tie rods, but the amount of threads engaged in the tie rod end wasn’t enough for me to feel comfortable with. I ended up replacing them with 16″ tie rods and had to cut a 1/2″ off of each end with a grinder and cutoff wheel.
With the steering done, I made my way to the back of the kart where I started mounting the 8″ metal brackets to hold the pillow blocks in place. Next, I mounted the metal brake bar and bolted the sliding caliper onto it. Then I slid the 45″ long 1″ live axle through the pillow blocks making sure I had my brake disc, sprocket and locking collars all in their respective place. With 10 1/2″ sticking out on each side of the frame, you can tighten down your brake disc, pillow blocks and locking collars. You don’t want to lock the sprocket in place quite yet though. Then I mounted both wheels onto the live axle and moved the go kart from my workbench down onto the ground. With it on the ground, you can torque down the nuts on the front and rear wheels.
Now that I have a rolling frame, I can go ahead and start mounting the engine. I used a 212cc predator engine from harbor freight and added a stage 1 kit and torque converter onto it (click here for video). The stage 1 kit gave the engine about 2-3 more horsepower by adding a performance air filter and a .038″ main jet on the carb. Since the engine has a torque converter installed, you have to use something to raise the engine to give you enough clearance. For that, I used a riser plate that I bolted to the frame and then loosely bolted the engine into place. From here, I can cut the chain and connect it to the sprocket and engine. With the chain in place, I can tighten down the sprocket and locking collars on the live axle. You can now push the engine as far forward as you can to get rid of any slack in the chain and torque the bolts holding the engine down.
Last but not least, I attached the pedals and guides to the frame using the assembly guide to make sure the hardware stack up on the pedals was correct. I then screwed on a 2″x2″ stainless steel bracket in front of each pedal to allow the brake/throttle cable to pass through while holding the sleeve for the cables in position. I can now route the cables through the frame and connect the brake pedal to the brake caliper using a 3/8″ universal clevis pin and cable barrels to lock the cable in place. Using the same process for the throttle, I attached the cable to the gas pedal and connected the other end to the engine.
At this point I was ready for the first ride and I have to say, this go kart did not disappoint! I reached speeds of over 40mph and the amount of torque that this go kart produces when you hit the gas pedal is out of this world. After multiple test drives, I have to say the wood go kart version 2 is a huge improvement from the first and everything seems to be working as designed (including the brakes lol). If you’re interested in building this go kart, I have a list of all the go kart parts with links below and I have attached an assembly guide that includes a shopping/cut list, templates and more to help you build your own. I also linked a 3D model of the go kart in SketchUp so you can reference any measurements that you may need. If you enjoyed this video, I would greatly appreciate if you gave it a thumbs up, share it with all your friends and most importantly be sure to hit that subscribe button to help support more videos like this!
Disclaimer: Build at your own risk. I do not assume any responsibility for people who build/ride this go kart.
Note: Parts on this list constantly change and parts that were previously available may not be available anymore. I’ll try to keep everything updated the best that I can, but you may have to find replacement parts on your own. Sorry for any inconvenience.
Go Power Sports
You can email directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
Visit the About Page to see Frequently Asked Questions
Filling out the form is the fastest way to get in touch with me