The complete kart buying guide

By Jerry Thurston

[box type=”info” align=”aligncenter” ]Your ability as a driver doesn’t have as much of a bearing on your choice of kart as your budget or mechanical ability. By budget we mean not only the number of £££s you have to spend on buying it but also the amount of money that you can spare to keep it running throughout the season.

Some people may not be comfortable with doing much more mechanical work than checking the tyre-pressures and topping up the fuel/oil and with a budget that’s stretched aer they have factored in race entries and travel the won’t have much spare cash to run in a formula with high maintenance costs. In this case consider one of the formulas that uses tyres which don’t need changing every round and in which the motors have a decent life span: TKM, Rotax, IAME X30 or Prokarts.

Fortunately for Karting Dads the engines used in the cadet classes seem to enjoy great reliability and the tyres last a long time too. Others who enjoy more of a mechanical challenge might prefer to get involved
in one of the historic formulas, tyre life
in these is good and racing is close and competitive especially the pre-2000 series where the karts are light and hugely fast but these late engines can be somewhat fragile at close to 20,000 revs!

When buying a second hand kart and no matter which formula you chose there are a number of factors that are common to them all. Here are our top tips for making sure that you get the deal on a second-hand kart. Where is the kart located? Unless you are looking for something that’s rare and unusual it’s good to set yourself a distance that you are prepared to travel to view, say 50 miles. This means that you won’t feel obliged to buy because you have travelled so far.[/box]

[box type=”warning” ]At-a-glance How is the kart presented? The odd smear of rubber on the bodywork is inevitable as things often get close in the first few laps. But if the kart looks like the looser in a banger race you might need to ask yourself, what else is damaged?

Is it clean and tidy? It doesn’t necessarily have to be eat you dinner off it shiny but it’s good to see that the seller has made some effort to keep the thing clean. A filthy kart might mean a lazy owner, so what else haven’t they bothered with? Assuming that the Kart has passed the at-a-glance test it’s time to get more serious and have a close look at what you might be taking home in an hour or so[/box]

CHASSIS

Is the chassis damaged? Carefully prop the chassis up onto its rear bumper and look at the underside.
Are the tubes unduly damaged? Repeated contact with kerbs grinds the chassis away, a few scratches are normal but beware tubes that have been worn almost flat. Check the entire chassis for cracks, cracked tubes or cracks in in the welds where chassis tubes
meet effectively render the chassis scrap. The only exception to this are seat mountings which can be very prone to cracking. Finding an obviously re- welded seat mounting isn’t necessarily a bad thing. An obviously cracked seat tube can be welded but this needs to be reflected in the price. Ideally any chassis you are looking at will be crack-free.

NOTE: We are only talking about repairs to or cracks in the seat mounting tubes, not a crack or repair to the chassis where the seat tube meets it!

Is the chassis straight? There is nothing that can replace having a kart checked for straightness by a professional on a flat-bed, but there are a few things you can do for yourself when viewing a potential purchase. Take a tape measure ready give the chassis a
quick once over. It’s tricky to be totally accurate but measurements should correspond within a mm or two. Quickly check that the rear axle is central in the frame. That the end of the axle is the same distance from each of the outer rear bearings, the axle needs to be bang on central
for you to be able to
get any useful data
from the following
checks. Do a comparison check, measure from the centre of the front upright pivot bolt to the rear axle each side to check they are the same, if they are not one corner may have been knocked back. If the seat is removed you can measure diagonally across the kart, from the centre of each upright pivot bolt to the outside edge of the rear axle on the other side to see if the frame has any lozenge. Check if the chassis is twisted, a quick ‘n’ dirty method is to make sure that all the tyres are pumped up to the same pressure then put the kart on a bit
of flat ground.

Lift up the front a few inches and set the front wheels to point dead straight ahead. Then slowly lower the front end, if the two front tyres touch the ground at the same time you can be fairly sure that the chassis doesn’t have worrying twist in it. While the kart is on the flat you can have a look at the longitudinal chassis members to see if the underside of the chassis is straight. The chassis needs to be parallel to the floor bear in mind that some karts are deliberately raked when on their wheels, so you might need to prop
the front up to match the back (or vice versa), in order to get meaningful measurements. Then check that the chassis has no belly by measuring the flat part of the frame from the bottom of the tube to the ground at three or four points, these should all be the same, within about 1mm. Essentials to check Brakes Brake pads vary in thickness when they are new but if they have below 3mm of material you can consider them to be worn out. The disc brake needs to be smooth, run your fingers over the braking from middle to the outside if it’s wavy the disc is getting past it’s best. Are all the brake linkages in good condition, is the back- up brake cable fitted, do the brakes work?

Carburettor
There seems to be a lot of mystique around carburettors. ‘This carburettor body is beer than that one’ or ‘this carb won the worlds!’ etc. Ignore the hype and pay no extra despite any extravagant claims. If it’s your first kart, you probably won’t notice the difference (if there is any) anyway. Do the basics, make sure that it operates smoothly and snaps shut cleanly.

Bearings
Do the front wheels and back axle rotate freely without any nasty noises from the bearings? Seat If you think that the seat will fit you/your driver this is a real bonus, so have a quick look for any splits and cracks and most important have a look underneath to see if the boom has been rubbed out of it.

Exhaust
It’s worth checking the exhaust for dents – little dings don’t affect performance too much but bigger dents do. It isn’t a deal-breaker but can be a good negotiating point.

Steering
Get hold of the front wheels to prevent them from moving and gently turn the steering wheels from side to side. This will show up any play in the steering joints. Is the steering-wheels rubbed through the material, perhaps a clue that this kart has done a lot of laps.

Wheels
Spin the wheels and look at the wheel rims… Do they run without wobble?

Tyres
It is almost certain that a Second-hand kart will be sitting on second hand tyres. A set that are not ripped to shreds or worn to such an extent that the little pits that show how much rubber is left have almost disappeared are about the best you can hope for.

Unseen costs
If you are an absolute beginners any extras will make a welcome difference to your set up costs, anything that you can get thrown in to sweeten the deal will shave money off your total spend.

Wet Tyres
It rains in the UK! A set of wet tyres is going to be an essential, it’s good to find out if these are included in the sale. If they are it’s a bonus especially if they are mounted on rims then it doesn’t matter if the tyres are suitable/worn out or not the rims can be used for the new ones.

Lead
Most series run to a minimum weight limit, if your driver is slight it is almost certain that a certain amount of lead will be needed to make the limit. 1kg of lead costs around £5 Engines Don’t take chances. As a rule of thumb, unless the seller can whip the head off and show you a shiny piston, any 100cc air cooled engine will need a new piston and a set of main bearings as a precaution, one of the very stressed high revving engines used in historic F100 or Formula A will probably also need a con-rod and big end too. A really careful owner will have kept a log of the hours that any engine such as a Rotax has done. If it’s got plenty of compression, starts easily and runs without any undue rattles it’s about the best you can do while at the vendor’s house. If you are able to test-drive and the motor goes at least as well as the others down the straight that is a good sign. Unless you intend to run in a series that accepts unsealed engines don’t buy any engine that should be sealed but isn’t. Some engines like the Rotax Max range have a log-book make sure that this is present and matches the engine number.

Testing
Ideally you would be able to test a kart before parting with any money the reality is that most sellers wouldn’t be at-all happy putting a complete stranger into their kart and I don’t blame them. It really is a case of assessing the kart and person in-front of you and making a judgement call. I have come across cases where the buyer has arranged to meet the seller at a track that’s a reasonable distance from them both. The prospective buyer pays the track fee and in return the seller brings it along for the prospective buyer to have a test drive. If you are able to organise this agree a price first. When you get there respect the owner, give it two or three laps at medium pace and bring it in. If it’s what you want, hand over the cash and then you can spend the rest of the day driving around to your heart’s content. Final word Buy with your head not your heart. If a kart needs work, estimate the repair bill then double it. Still happy with the price? Go for it.

[box type=”success” align=”aligncenter” ]Do ask for a price reduction, do not insult the seller but it is always worth making an offer. Do be suspicious of a dirty kart, if the seller can’t be bothered to clean it up ready for sale, what else did they neglect Do ask about extras. Does it have a trolley, extra wheels and tyres or spare pods/stickers etc? Do walk away if something doesn’t seem right, there is often a good reason why you are dubious. Do save some of your budget for the inevitable extras like a new seat or tyres.[/box]

[box type=”error” align=”aligncenter” ]Dont’s Don’t believe the hype and pay extra for a ‘championship winning kart’ It’s likely to be the same as any other chassis of that make, it merely had a good driver in it! Don’t be hurried with your purchase, take as long as you need and make sure that you check everything out. Don’t get into an internet bidding race, karts are like buses there will be another along in a minute. Don’t let the seller talk you into it. It’s your decision Don’t buy blind. It’s stupid, you don’t know what you are getting until it arrives, then it’s too late.[/box]

[box type=”note” align=”aligncenter” ]This article was first published in Karting magazine. Subscribe to Karting magazine here and get three issues for just £1.[/box]