This guide is geared toward the Harry Homeowner of go karting. The backyard warrior and go karting mom or dad who has to listen to why their kid ran into the car again because the go kart will not turn!
Go Karts and steering issues can go way back in time. Why my go kart will not turn is a question most people will ask or scream inside their head at some point in time.
This is a frustrating issue and will piss people off to no end. I have felt this before. When we were racing in the Gold Cup series an understeer issue would drive me nuts. You feel helpless, slow and frustrated.
5 Steps to Fix the Problem – Go Kart will Not Turn
These steps are organized from easiest to try first to the more complicated later. For example, if you have worn out components adjusting Caster, Camber and Toe will be pointless! You need to correct the worn out or damaged parts first.
Step 1: Inspect the Front End
Look over each component on the front steering system of your go kart. The most common items that will wear out first are the Heim joints or Rod Ends. These are located at the end of each tie rod. This allows the tie rods to pivot as you turn the wheel, preventing binding or stiff steering.
Step 2: Add Front Weight
Adding some weight to the front may be an easier option. Most go karts do not have adjustable yokes which allow for Caster to be added, so adding weight will probably be easier. For more detailed information on weight transfer click here.
Step 3: Adjusting your toe
The toe of the front tires could have a huge effect on how the go kart steers. Backyard fun karts get beat up. Sometimes you bend some things. It is quite possible a tie rod is bent, resulting in the steering to be way off. Check out everything you need to know about Toe Angle here.
Step 4: Add Caster
Caster creates the inside wheel to lift. The downward motion of the spindle while turning creates a jacking effect. This will lift the inside rear wheel and allow for the rear end to lose traction. This will allow the front tires to take over and steer the go kart.
Step 5: Camber
The camber adjustment may be way off. Go karts get worn out. Parts wear and the settings everything was at from the factory is long gone. If you have a Camber angle that is way off, it may be time to replace parts to get that corrected. Camber angle will most likely be adjusted by replacing new parts.
My Go Kart Will Not Turn! – Common Problems
- Live Rear Axle
- Not enough Front Weight
- Too Much rear grip
- Not Enough Caster
- You are going too Fast
- Your Go Kart is old and worn out – Fix it!
Join the club! If you are having go kart steering issues you are one of many. Let’s solve these issues!
I recently purchased a Manco 400 Go Kart. I barely fit on it, but I do. This go kart is for my boys. Hopefully they fit a little better. As I was fixing it up, I noticed that the front of the go kart was far lighter than the rear.
I also noticed that the front yokes which are welded an not adjustable have very little to no caster in them. The saving grace is the one-wheel drive rear axle. Meaning only one of the rear wheels drives the go kart while the other rear wheel can spin freely at its own speed.
It is Christmas 2022, and I am giving this go kart to them. I will be sure to update on how well the go kart steers and if I hear the complaint – My Go Kart will not turn!
The Live Rear Axle – Go Kart Won’t Turn
Everyone wants a live rear axle. This means you have a solid axle that a drive gear is connected to. Each rear wheel is driven at the same speed. Also means each wheel has to spin at the same speed as they are fixed with each other.
That’s cool and fun because you can do nasty donuts, burnouts, and have better traction… in a straight line that is.
When turning the inside wheel will spin slower than the outside wheel. This creates a bind because both rear wheels have to spin the same speed.
What gives? Well, the front wheels will usually give. You turn the wheel, and the go kart goes straight.
Notice the LR tire is off the ground as they are turning?
This is exactly what you need to get a live rear axle go kart to steer.
Not Enough Nose Weight – Go Kart Won’t Steer
It may be that there is not enough weight on the front tires. In a racing application we put go karts on scales to get the Front, Rear, Cross Weight and Left side weight all exactly where we want them to be.
For example, in a road course application we may have 51% left side weight, 47% Front Nose Weight, and 50% Cross Weight. These numbers probably mean nothing to you, but they are a reference point.
We will meticulously move lead weight around so that we can get the numbers within this range. It may be that you do not have enough weight on the front of the go kart. You can go too far with nose weight so trial, and error is your best friend here.
If your fun kart has a Caster adjustment, I will be very impressed. Almost all racing go karts will have the ability to lean the kingpin bolt forward or rearward.
Unfortunately, most fun go karts have a fixed yoke. See the Picture.
If you have a welder, you can hack the yoke off and reweld in a position to add caster. Just a thought but we have some easier options to check before going there.
Too Much Rear Grip – Go Kart Steering Issues
Did you think it would be cool to put big ole tires on the rear? Some big nasty things that have a ton of grip?
Well, they may be causing steering issues for your go kart. If you have some tiny worn-out front tires you need to show them some love. Upgrade the front tires to get some fresh rubber on there. Even if a tire looks like the tread is acceptable there may be some other issues. In racing they say it is all in the tires!
Your Speeding – Go Kart Understeer
Everything has its limits.
Maybe you are just going too fast for the ability of your go kart to turn.
Easiest adjustment? Try slowing down to make the turn. Crazy thought, right?
Whatever you are trying to do, just try and do it slower. If you have to come to a stop to make the corner then refer back to some of these other adjustments.
Tires age and not have the same properties to flex and grip as they age. Especially if the go kart has been sitting out for a while in the elements.
Linkages, Spindles, Bearings, Bushings, Bolts – Front End Components
Even on the most basic go karts like my Manco 400 there are a lot of moving parts. You have spindles, bushings, bearings, tie rods and wheel bearings.
Over time all of these components wear out. This will create binding in the front of the go kart when you steer.
If you find that steering the go kart with the front wheel off the ground is hard then you need to look into components binding up.
Start by removing the wheels, then the tie rods. You are trying to isolate components to pinpoint which component is causing the issue.
When racing, hitting the apex is key. Sometimes running over the curb is the fastest way around the track.
Hitting the curbs can bend some parts and pieces. The steering wheel would bind in a spot while turning. We found that the kingpin bolts were bent. This caused binding and it made it hard to steer.