How Does a Go Kart Clutch Work

How Does a Go Kart Clutch Work

How Does a Go Kart Clutch Work

There is a lot know and understand when it comes to building your own Go Kart or making repairs. One of the parts you need to have a handle on is how does a Go-Kart clutch work? Here is a look at what makes them work, and some times on avoiding damage, making repairs and keeping them in great working order!

How does a centrifugal clutch in a Go-Kart work?

how does a go kart clutch work

A centrifugal clutch connects two shafts, the driving shaft and the driven shaft with centrifugal force. The faster the motor goes the more the clutch engages, and when the Go Kart is not moving the clutch does not engage at all. It is an automatic transmission that activates as the engine increases in rpm. The engine crankshaft connects to the clutch’s input and then the output moves a belt, shaft or chain. The increased revolutions per minute swing weighted arms out which causes it to engage.

This type of clutch is commonly used not just in Go Karts but also in lawn mowers, model cars that are powered by fuel, the less powerful chainsaws, mopeds, small bikes, boats, and other gardening equipment. That is the answer to how does a go-kart clutch work.

The advantages and disadvantages of a centrifugal clutch


  • Easier to use and drive a Go Kart with this kind of clutch
  • Cheaper than most other options
  • Very efficient if properly installed and optimized
  • Safer for the Go Kart and the driver


  • Heat damage is a problem if bad habits are kept while driven and it also gets penetrated easily by sand and dirt which also causes damage
  • Needs frequent oiling to keep the temperature down
  • Failure comes quickly when it is not installed properly
  • Lifespan, even when installed correctly, is only about 5 years, some other options have longer

Why you should oil your clutch and bushing

To avoid heat damage it is important to make sure you oil the clutch and do it properly. When there is damage caused by heat the clutch does not disengage as it should when stationary. When you start the engine it will start jerking and try to take off. To recognize whether there is heat damage look in the clutch drum and you will see the metal turns from black to blue. This means the clutch should be replaced. For every two hours of kart driving you do, you need to oil the bushing in the sprocket. If it is being used by small children a lot where it is not always going quick enough to engage the clutch fully then it needs it more often.

Centrifugal clutch oiling

What oil to use and how to do it

How does a go-kart clutch work means knowing what oil to use and how to use it. A 30W oil works as does 10W30. If you look at it you will see that behind the snap ring at the clutch’s end is a bronze brushing that needs to be lubricated. When the engine is off but the bushing is still warm put a few drops of oil there. You can also give the clutch an oil before you ride, just give it a little time to penetrate otherwise it will be flung off. You can also oil the chain. Should there be problems with the chain because you have not often oiled it, replace it before it causes more damage. Never put oil into the clutch or into the holes on the drum. That is to let hot air out.

Things to avoid doing when driving so you do not ruin the Go Kart clutch

  • Driving too slowly too often – going at full throttle gives the clutch a better chance at proper cool down.
  • Stop and go driving.
  • Keeping your foot on the brake while driving. New drivers tend to do this when they are unsure but it does cause damage.
  • Drive somewhere with space to learn.
  • Do not put on tires that are too large – anything over 13 inches will cause stress to the clutch unless the Kart is specifically designed for them.
  • Avoid having too much weight in the kart as that then shortens the clutch’s lifespan. Usually, nothing over 400 pounds is about right including the kart’s weight.
  • Do not get the gear ration wrong. It should be about 1 to 6, so for every tooth on the clutch, there should be six of them at the back.
  • It is not a good idea to try to limit the speed the kart can go with a restrictor in its carburetor or limiting how far the gas pedal goes down. It can lead to the clutch slipping which causes damage. If you really do need to reduce the speed that kart can go get a gear reduction unit. It is similar to the idea of having training wheels on a bicycle but for a Go Kart.
If the crankshaft has a grease fitting what should you do about oiling?

In this situation a bit of oil just once a month should be enough as the grease fitting means the need for oiling can be done with less frequency. However, the chain itself still needs more frequent oiling otherwise it will kink up. Get a good quality chain spray and make sure it is a waxy type otherwise dirt and such gets stuck and will wear the sprockets and the chain.

Fixing a stretched chain

Over a certain time period, chains do stretch and then they can start to come off the sprocket. At this point, you need to move the engine either back or forward to take up that slack. Make sure when you re-tighten the bolts that the alignment of the sprockets is perfect again. Also, do not move the engine so much that the chain is too tight.

Life of a clutch

With proper installation and proper care and driving a clutch should last a few years. If it is not installed correctly, abused when driven and not properly oiled and maintained then it can break as quickly as 20 minutes!

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