Whether you are racing go karts competitively or zooming around the back yard, everyone will say the same thing.
It’s all about the tires…
It may be the tire were worn out, not enough grip, or the air pressure was too low! Regardless, you need to have an understanding of what in the world is going on with your tires!
- Understanding Tire Sizes
- Go Kart Racing tires vs fun kart tires
- Tires vs wheels vs rims
- How to measure go kart tires
- How to know when a kart tire needs to be replaced
- Buying Go Kart Tires
- Which go kart tire brand is the best
- Tools You will Need
8 Guides to Go Kart Tires
Go Kart tires are arguably the most important piece of equipment on your go kart. Why is this? The tires are the only part of the go kart that connect it to the ground! The tires transfer the power from the go kart to the track surface.
Before you start grabbing any go kart tire that fits, you are going to want to read about what makes these things go round… These tips will help you make educated decisions about which go kart tire to buy and why.
Understanding Go Kart Tire Sizes
Go kart tires provide the contact surface that connects your go kart to the surface in which you are driving on. Whether that is the road, dirt, grass, ice, or anything else you are racing on!
When looking for a tire size there are some numbers you need to understand. These three numbers are the basics to understanding and measuring
- Tire height
- Rim Diameter in Inches
- Tire Width
This can get confusing depending on how a manufacturer list the kart tire on the website or store. The meanings for each number will be the same. The numbers may not always be even. For example, MG tires has a fantastic breakdown of what this may look like. Check that out here.
As another example this Firestone YKD racing go kart tire size is 50/105-6.
Now, clearly, this tire is not 50″ tall and the rim diameter is not 105″ wide.
This is a 5″ wide tire (contact patch), 10.5″ tall tire and a 6″-wheel diameter.
Remember these numbers will vary slightly when you install the tire on your wheels. Tire pressure and wheel width will affect width and height of the tire.
*The tire width does not have to match the wheel width
As a racer many times we have installed a small width tire on a wider width wheel. This can create a desirable situation in a racing application. Reduced sidewall flex and a smaller circumference of the tire.
Go Kart Racing Tires vs Fun Kart Tires
Kart racing tires are usually a specified brand of tire that is mandated by the sanctioning body. If you are becoming a go kart racer and would like to learn more read Racing Kart Tires to understand how to get the most out of your tires.
Fun kart tires cannot be used in a racing application. The construction of the tire, speed rating and for safety reasons cannot be used in racing. The yard kart or fun kart tire will not withstand the heat and speed of a racing go kart tire.
Racing go karts can travel over 100 mph! do you want to be using a tire that may explode at that speed. Racing go kart tires are constructed to handle the speed and loads.
When choosing a tire for racing you will need to consult your race director and or rule book to make sure you are racing with the proper tire.
When choosing a fun kart tire you have a bit more freedom. This decision will come down to what wheels you have, application, and price.
Tires vs wheels vs rims
The meaning of these words can sometimes be confusing Each word has its own meaning and each one is very important.
The tire refers to the rubber carcass that the wheel is mounted to. The tire contacts the driving surface. The contact patch of the tire to the driving surface provides traction to move the go kart.
The wheel is the metal center that holds the tire. The tire is mounted onto the wheel. The wheel is bolted directly to the hub of the axle or spindle. The wheel transfers the forces from the go kart to the tire.
The rim is part of the outer edge of the wheel. The furthest outer edge of the wheel that would contact the road if the tire would go flat. The rim protects the weel and the side wall of the tire. The rim also protects the wheel. The initial impact to a wheel will usually hit the rim. Aluminum go kart wheels can be carefully repaired and restored.
How to Measure Go Kart Tires
We already spoke about how to read the numbers on a go kart tire to determined the size. Those numbers are a guideline. When the tire is actually installed on the wheel the go kar tire sizes may change.
If backyard fun is your objective, do not waste your time. If racing, is your objective NOT measuring tire size is wasting your time.
Measuring a tires circumference is one of the most important readings when setting up a go kart. The technical term for measuring the difference between the left and right tire sizes is called stagger.
Think of stagger as a red solo cup. When you role a red solo cup does it roll straight? No, it will turn. The cup will turn or curve to the bottom side or the smaller size circle of the cup.
Stagger is the same thing. If you put smaller tires (small circle of the cup) on the left side of the go kart the go kart will want to turn to the left. Stagger is a great tool to help tune the go kart and assist in turning.
How to know when a tire needs to be replaced
A go kart tire’s life could last 15 minutes or 15 years. It all depends on how the tire is used. The surface a go kart is driven on will determine how much tread is worn away. The abrasiveness of concrete will wear a tire much faster than dirt.
So, when do you know when you have to change a go kart tire?
Visually you can look at the tread depth indicators. These indicators show you how much tread is left before the tire will not performed how it is designed to.
A go kart racing tire doesn’t really have tread per say. Unless we are talking about rain tires. But if we are looking at a sprint tire the surface is flat. The tread is the entire contact patch of the tire. The contact patch is the area of the tire that touches the racing surface.
Measuring the tread depth in a racing application is more for documentation than an indicator of replacement. A tire may have enough tread left but due to other reasons the tire may not perform as well.
Heat cycles for example can change the composition of the rubber giving the tire less grip protentional.
If you are racing on dry rotted tires, then please keep reading and buy some fresh rubbers. Go kart racing tires will never be run long enough to become dry rotted.
What is a dry rotted tire?
When exposed to the elements for prolonged amounts of time a tire will start to dry out. The moisture will evaporate out of the tire. The flexibility also leaves with the moisture and the rubber will start to contract. Leaving cracks.
At this point you will start to see cracks form in the rubber. The tire should be replaced.
Dealing with dry rotted tires will be much more common on a yard kart or fun kart.
Where will you be storing your go kart?
Some people do not have an indoor facility for their go kart. This means your go kart is outside exposed to the harsh elements of mother nature. While go kart tires do not cost an arm and a leg you still want to protect the tires.
Some simple outdoor structures like this would go a long way in protecting the tires and go kart.
5 Steps to protect your go kart tires
- Keep them covered – Keeping your tires covered will reduce the amount of UV radiation that is penetrating the tire from the sun. The UV light breaks down the chemicals in the tire producing dry rot overtime.
- Reduce the use of chemicals (tire shine) – Any chemicals in general will damage the compounds in the tire. Causing the tire to breakdown faster. According to Goodyear, Petroleum-based products are known to be the harshest on the tire breaking down the weathering agents.
- Avoid high Temperatures – Covering the tire not only reduces the UV exposure but it also keeps the tires cooler. Every time a tire is used heat is built up in the go kart tire. Heat will cause the rubber to break down over time and
- Proper tire pressure – Tire pressure can play a huge role in how fast a tire can wear out. The lower the tire pressures the more the tire slips on the driving surface. Tire slippages build heat and heat breaks down tires. The internal heat that builds up in a tire is call a heat cycle in the racing industry. Each heat cycle a tire experience generally makes the tire harder and prone to cracking. A heat cycle is any time a go kart tire is used and builds heat in the tire and then cools down.
- Wrap Them up – Using thin plastic like saran wrap will go a long way in protecting the tire as well. Just the tire being exposed can degrade the life of the tire.
Tires take a beating! They are on the front line and ready to scratch and crawl so your go kart will handle properly. When compared to the race track a tire is very soft.
A flat tire in racing is always a thought in the back of your mind. Always inspect your tires after each use of the go kart.
Inspect each part of the tire so no visible damage is seen. Nothing is worse than traveling at a high rate of speed and a tire fails.
The tread is the most common area to take a beating. This surface comes in contact with the track and accumulates the most heat produced during go karting.
Outside of wear patterns (link) you want to inspect the tread surface for cuts or grooves worn into the tire. During a race or playing in the backyard debris can come in contact with the tread surface and cause a failure.
One of the most delicate parts of the tire is the sidewall. With a significant less amount of rubber the side wall cannot and will not take abuse like the tread.
The sidewall is designed to flex and give. Go karts do not have springs. Part of the “suspension” system is the tires.
The sidewalls flex and give the driver feel in the go kart.
Any signs of cracks, cuts, or grooves is an immediate sign to change that go kart tire.
The bead is a tougher part of the tire that will unlikely see damage on the track.
The bead of the tire is what seals the tire on the wheel to hold air in.
Most of the damage to the bead will come from mounting and dis mounting the tire. Tire spoons (link) and screw drivers can be used to dis mount tires.
This is a good way to damage the bead as you force a tool in between the tire and the wheel.
Buying Go Kart Tires – New or Used?
In anything motorsports there is a balance between money and performance. Figure out what surface you will be driving on and how much money you want to spend.
Racing slicks, rain tires and treaded go kart tires are just some of the types of tires for go karts.
When looking for go kart tires the cheapest and easiest way to find tires is on Facebook. Do a quick Facebook marketplace search for go kart tires and you will see loads of go kart tires for cheap!
eBay as has a huge selection of new and used go kart tires as well.
Used Racing Go Kart Wheels and Tires for Sale
One would assume that new tires are always best when buying go kart tires for your race kart.
Most of the time, Yes. A new tire will provide better grip and improve handling so you can produce faster lap times.
Brands such as Vega, Bridgestone, Hoosier, Maxxis, Dunlop, and Firestone are all tires I have raced in the past. Rarely it was because I chose a specific brand. WKA (World Karting Association) or your local kart track will choose a tire manufacturer. This keeps cost down and the playing field even.
A used go kart tire may have a spot on your tire rack. Tire durometer readings change over time. A tire that has gotten hot from racing and cooled down multiple tires produces a harder tire. The chemical reactions causes moisture to evaporate.
A harder tire has less protentional grip and can be very useful when tuning the handling of your go kart.
Check out some of these online stores to buy some go kart tires.
- karting tires – JEGS High Performance
- Tires & Tools – Comet Kart Sales
- Go Kart Tires (kartpartsdepot.com)
- Amazon.com : go kart tires
Wide Rear Tires or Narrow?
A wider tire has more potential grip.
Grip is what allows your go kart to move when you punch the gas, turn and hold the rear of the kart underneath you while cornering.
Most go karts have live axles meaning both rear wheels are connected to each other and accept equal torque. Why does this matter?
Racing Go karts do not have suspension and require mechanical weight jacking to lift the inside wheel to allow the go kart to turn. In short, more grip is good but too much can affect your handing.
Wider tires are best for the rear of the go kart depending on series and racetrack. A wider go kart tire creates more rolling resistance and force to move it.
For racing there is not right or wrong answer. It is completely dependent on your creativity and engineering know how. Also be sure to freshen up on your local rule book so you will not get busted for being illegal.
Which go kart tire brand is the best?
How do you define the “best” go kart tire? Well, that all depends on what you’re doing.
Best Racing Go Kart Tires
In any form of go kart racing whether it is on dirt, road course, or oval grip is key. You want a tire that is going to produce the precise amount of grip. Not too much and not too little.
There is no easy answer to this as there are a lot of factors that can affect a tire’s grip potential. Tire temperature, air pressure, contact patch, chassis adjustments and age are some of the factors influencing grip potential.
Again, racing series will usually mandate which brand of tire and size you have to run. But, in a world of endless opportunities what would be the best racing go kart tire?
Hoosier Go Kart Tires
Hoosier offers tires with varying durometer readings allowing you to select the optimal tire for your application.
A lower Durometer reading is a softer tire offering more grip potential.
A higher durometer reading tire has less grip potential.
A soft tire wears out faster than a harder tire as well. In a race of attrition, you will need a tire that produces grip for the optimal amount of time during that race.
Best Go Kart Tires – Fun
What’s awesome about a go kart and especially a backyard fun kart is you will drive them anywhere. The track doesn’t stop in the grass, you will drive right onto the pavement to keep the fun going.
A tire that is going to withstand the abuse of the asphalt but still provide the grip in the grass/dirt.
A determining factor will be what size wheels do you have and what tire will fit. So this is more of a recomendation of what I believe the optimal go kart tread pattern would be.
Hoosier makes a go kart tire that has tread blocks, and they are wide.
The tread block is going to handle the abuse the go kart will throw its way. The tread block is the contact patch.
The smaller the contact patch the more heat that will be produced eventually burning up or wearing out the tire.
The image on the right shows three different contact patches of go kart tires. The slick, on the bottom, will evenly absorb the abuse but offer much less grip on terrain such as grass and dirt.
There is no one best go kart tire. It truly depends on your application.
For this reason, I picked the Hoosier go kart tire because it will offer great on road and off-road traction all while having some durability.
Tools You Will Need
Tires can be stubborn, and you might develop and colorful vocabulary while working with them. With the proper tools hopefully, your kids won’t repeat anything you may have said!
A bead breaker is a tool that assist you in removing the tire from the wheel.
The bead of the tire seats at the rim of the wheel to firmly secure the wheel to the tire. The bead breaker pushes down on the rubber portion of the tire close to the rim. The “breaks” the beat from the wheel allowing you to continue removing the tire.
A tire band can save your life if something goes wrong in the go kart tire mounting process. The Tire band prevents the tire from blowing up while airing the tire up to mount on the wheel. Compressed air or nitrogen is used fill the tire with air to push the beads of the tire to the rim of the wheel.
If too much air is used the tire can explode. The tire band forces the tire to be seated and sealed faster to prevents tires from exploding during the mounting process
Tire spoons are a very useful tool but not absolutely necessary. A tire spoon could be a long screwdriver or a pry bar. These tools allow you to work the wheel out of the tire once the bead is pushed off the rim.
The Valve stem has a valve core inside. The valve core allows the flow of air into the tire but not out. You always want to remove the valve core prior to tire mounting. Removing the valve cover allows air to flow much faster into the tire speeding up the process.
Tire pressure is a very important role in setting up the best go kart tire. Set the air pressure in your go kart per the manufacture’s recommendation. A quick reference regarding tire pressure is the following.
Why do I have excessive wear on the center of the tire? – Tire Pressure to high
Why do I have excessive wear on the outer edges? – Too Low of an air pressure
Hopefully this information came of use to you. Go kart tires are simple. If you have any comments or questions, please reach out.
Go back to BetterKarting to learn more great information.