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Go Kart Chains | Understanding How and Why

A Go Kart Chain is the Link… pun intended, that connects the engine to the axle. Any questions you may have related to go kart chains will be answered here.

My chain experience is pretty extensive. I have been using chains since I was at least 8 years old. Racing go karts we have learned our lessons here and there about what to do and things to avoid.

The Chain on your go kart can take a beating. It is good to know some basic Maintenace tips, repair procedures, and settings so you can spend more time on your go kart having fun and not up on the bench working.

Chains are such a basic looking piece to the go kart. It is easy to overlook the importance of a go kart chain.

All of these tips can be applied if you are a racer, or you just have a yard kart you beat around the house with. It is all applicable.

Let’s lay out a situation.

You just purchased a used go kart. Once you get home and unload it you notice something. There is no chain! So, what do you do? You can’t just go purchasing chains. You will most likely get the wrong size.

Measure the Clutch sprocket and the rear axle sprocket to determine chain size

A simple quick measurement will inform you on what chain size you will need. You may need to remove the sprocket to get an accurate measurement.

Measure tip to tip on the sprocket.

Go Kart Chain

Use the chart below to determine what size chain you need.

Tooth PitchChain Size
5/16″219
3/8″
35
1/2″
415
5/8″520

Same procedure applies to finding the chain size

Measure from pin to pin on your chain to determine the size

Go Kart Chain

Now that we can positively identify what chain we currently have we can install it!

What is the Correct Tension of a Go Kart Chain?

This is important to know even before you know how to adjust the tension.

Once the go kart chain is installed you want 3/8″ – 3/4″ of up and down movement of the chain.

Simply grab the chain in the middle between the axle sprocket and the drive sprocket (clutch). Then move the chain up and down. The total distance from the lowest point to the highest point should be 3/8″ – 3/4″.

How to Tension a Go Kart Chain

Do you really expect the chain to come out of the box ready to rock and roll?

No.

You are going to most likely have to adjust the chain length.

Depending on the set up of your go kart axle and engine will determine the options you have for adjustment. You have a couple choices but most likely you will need to adjust the chain length. Racing go karts have the ability to loosen the motor mounts which allows the engine to slide on the frame rails to allow for adjustment.

When racing go karts you will adjust the rear gear or axle sprocket as little as one tooth at a time. You will usually have 30-60 minutes between practice sessions. Between gathering data, changing oil, and making other tuning adjustments this leaves little time to adjust the chain.

The last task you want to be doing is adjusting the chain length! But sometimes you get to that point, and you need to actually adjust the chain.

Measuring for your go kart chain

If you have your old chain lay it flat on the table. And match the new chain with the length of the old chain.

What you can also do is count the links. This is the easiest method to measure your go kart chain. Chains can be sold by the number of links. If you find you have 102 links buy a 102 chain.

If you do not have a chain to compare that’s ok. Unbox your chain and assuming you have the engine on the go kart your wrap the chain around the clutch and then wrap it around the rear axle sprocket.

Overlap the ends of the chain. Use a paint pen or a marker to mark the overlapping links. That is where you need to link the chain together.

You can also use a string to wrap around the sprockets. Then measure the string to get an estimated chain length you will need.

Adjusting your Go Kart Chain Length

The majority of hobby go karts do not change gear ratios at all. The go karts are geared to the engine, and you basically have what you have.

Hopefully once you get your chain set to the correct length you will be good to go. Unless you break a chain or just wear it out!

Adjusting the chain requires a tool called a chain break.

This tool allows you to push the pin that holds the links together out. Whether it is a bicycle chain, go kart chain, dirt bike chain, or pedal go kart chain they are all the same. The require the same process to remove or add links.

This is a great video showing you how to break a chain and then re connect it!

When Should I Replace the Chain on my Go Kart?

Chains are pretty tough. Properly maintained they will last a long time. But they are the connecting link between the engine and the axle.

The chain is exposed to the elements. Dirt, water, oils and contact with the ground can all wear out a change and require it to be replaced.

The Chain Rollers wear out

Go Kart Chain

Take a look at the rollers.

In the picture you can see the chain rollers. See how nice and round they are.

What you will notice is the rollers will become oval shaped. Chains are a wear item and they do come in contact with metal thousands of times every minute.

The Chain Link Pins Wear

Go Kart engines may not have the most power but the torque yanking on the chain link pins causes the pins to wear.

Lay out your chain flat on the table. Hold each end and push the ends closer together. Then pull them apart. You should have very little movement. The chain will increase in length if the pins start to wear.

Time to replace the chain if you notice an increase in chain length.

How to Maintain your Go Kart Chain

The chain needs to be lubed but too much can be a problem. Using a lubricant like Bel-Ray or just gear oil is great.

Go Karts are relatively low horsepower vehicles. Especially if you are racing you need that engine to have as little resistance as possible. A dry, worn out and binding chain will rob power from your engine.

Try this test and let me know.

  1. Clean your chain with brake clean. You can leave the chain installed on the axle. Spin the axle with brake clean until all dirt and debris are free.
  2. Spin the axle
  3. See how long it takes to stop spinning
  4. Spray or pour a small amount of lubricant on the chain
  5. See how long it takes to stop spinning

What I believe you will see is the axle will spin longer with a small amount of lubricant.

Avoid Excessive Lubricant

More lube is better…

Not really.

More lube is actually worse for your go kart. The excessive lubrication will attract dirt, dust, and other contaminants. The debris will get caught in between the teeth and increase the wear.

Additionally, the excessive lubrication can penetrate the clutch shoes. This will in turn cause the clutch to slip. A slipping clutch causes excessive heat and wear out the clutch.

So, be careful when lubricating your go kart chain. Use only enough to coat the sprockets and chain links.

For more info on go karting return home here! If you want more information about go kart racing, click here.

What is the Correct Tension of a Go Kart Chain?

Once the go kart chain is installed you want 3/8″ – 3/4″ of up and down movement of the chain.

Simply grab the chain in the middle between the axle sprocket and the drive sprocket (clutch). Then move the chain up and down. The total distance from the lowest point to the highest point should be 3/8″ – 3/4″.

How tight should go kart chain be?

Once the go kart chain is installed you want 3/8″ – 3/4″ of up and down movement of the chain.

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