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Making a Go Kart From a Riding Lawn Mower
You may have a lawn mower sitting in your backyard that is getting so crowded that, because the deck is rotting, the mower stops working. All the good lawnmowers these days are pull wagons, and they’re not very good. One thing you can rely on in a lawn mower is the engine, tires and other essentials for a great go kart.
Unfortunately, the riding lawnmower requires some education to drive, push the clutch here and there adjustment is required to get the riding unit. So using a riding lawn mower as a go kart shift is not realistic or safe.
You have some other purpose for this rusting hulk that you haven’t discovered yet. You haven’t discovered how to turn a part of a riding lawnmower into a go kart that will surely put a smile on everyone’s face.
The transformation requires the following:
- Go Kart Plan
- Vertical Engine Drive
- Tubing for frame work
- Wood, fabric, and foam for chairs
- Rear axle and sprocket drive
- Bearings for the rear axel
- Brake system
- Hack Saw of saws-all with metal cutting blades
- Standard wrench kit (includes allens, hammer, socket, locking pliers and screwdriver)
- Drill and or press drill
The rest of the items from the riding lawnmower can be used for go karts. Front tires, rear tires, steering mechanism, steering wheel, foot pedals and of course the engine.
Disassembly Of The Riding Mower
To start riding the lawnmower must be disassembled to find out which parts will work best.
What you will find is that the rear wheels will require some modification, because the hub for the wheels is usually built into the rear wheel and requires a keyed axle to cause rotation. No problem, the wheels can be adapted to fit into a standard go kart axel by welding a 1 inch coupler to the wheel hub. The coupler is then secured with a cross bolt, this prevents the steering wheel from sliding off the axel shaft.
The front wheel can either be taken from the riding lawn mower, or the entire front axle system can be cut in two and then widened to the desired width of the go kart. Usually the width of the frame is 20 inches, and the wheel is about 40 inches.
A good go kart plan will have a simple steering system, so it can be easier at the end to scrap out the steering system and use the parts that the plan shows. Usually the plan will allow you to make a steering system from tubes and plates. A good knowledge of drilling machines and welders is useful here. Keep the steering shaft and steering wheel for later placement on the go kart.
Go Kart Frames and Plans
The frame should be built using the go kart plan as a guide. A typical flat style go kart will require a flat garage floor for proper frame alignment. The preferred go kart plan requires the side profile system to be built first and then mated to the cross piece. The side parts are similar to the trusses in the bridge and provide a safety measure acting as a barrier to prevent the occupants from spilling out. The addition of a truss system provides almost three times as much strength as a flat style go kart. And finally the truss system gives the go kart an aesthetic look, or a cool look.
The frame is built from 1x1x.08 square tubes that are cut to the right size and then placed on a style board for alignment before welding. The tube is held in place with 2×4’s screwed down to the board. 2×4 which is placed so that the tube cannot be moved and held in place like a picture frame will be built. Once the pieces fit in place, the tube can be placed in place and then all the side units can be removed from the fixture.
Once the side units have been built, the central spacer tube can be fitted between the side units and can also be fitted in place. After all the frames have been tacked up, then the whole frame can be solidly welded.
Plates and Engine Mounts
The next step is to fit the plate that holds the pedals, the steering mechanism, the seat post, and the engine plate. If the vertical machine is used, the motor mount for the machine on the riding lawnmower can be cut out using saws-all. (This will take about 20 minutes of patient cutting. Be sure to wear ear plugs and have extra blades on hand. Lubricating the blade helps keep the blade from dulling too quickly.)
The vertical engine can then fit into the frame work around the vertical engine drive system. Some users will try to use the transmission off of the riding lawnmower, but this can actually be quite complicated, heavy and not wide enough for your go kart to make. Others buy used right angle transmissions. The best solution is to use a vertical engine and mount it on the frame without adding weight, then adapt the engine to a vertical engine drive.
The next stage is to install the rear axle of each go kart plan. The axle is held in place by a bearing plate that stays vertically up from the frame rail. Bearings are mounted on pieces of bearing plates. The positioning of this plate dictates where the wheels will be located both length wise and vertically on the go kart frame.
Rear axle placement is important for proper weight distribution which dramatically affects steering. This is known as a 50/50 weight distribution. A good go kart plan will take the weight distribution and the placement of the rear and front axels into account. After the rear axle has been placed, slide the rear sprocket, and rear brake disc into place and then install the rear tire to the rear axle and check the ground clearance.
Ground clearance is usually about the thickness of a 2×4 for good handling.
The output shaft for a vertical engine drive will usually have a clutch mounted on it. The chain can then be attached to the rear drive clutch and sprocket. This is where I like having a chain tensioner because it doesn’t require the rear axle to be moved back or the engine system forward. A simple skate roller attached to the hinge system (spring loaded of course) will provide adequate tension of the chain. Make sure you put the tensioner on the slack side of the chain (ie the bottom side of the clutch system.)
The next stage is to install the front steering system. The front steering system is usually 1x1x.125 wall cross tube with steering knuckles mounted on one end. I like to attach the steering tube with the plate so it can be removed. It also allows the steering system to be moved forward or backward. The steering rod is attached to the cross tube with a bushing plate welded to the cross tube. The steering shaft is supported by an upright tube that comes from the frame. This keeps the steering wheel from moving side to side, up and down and in and out.
The steering wheel can then be attached to the steering shaft. The steering linkage is attached to the steering shaft-plate and then the linkage is routed to each knuckle of the front wheel. Make sure the steering system is tight and does not loosen when finished.
The next stage is the chair. Usually wooden chairs are made. Then the pillow is placed in the wooden frame work. Then the entire system is covered with vinyl material or heavy fabric. The cover is held in place with an industrial type stapler gun on the back of each seat. The chair consists of a seat and a back that is angled up at about 15 degrees. The plates attached to the frame work have holes where wood screws can be driven into the seat back to hold the seat in place.
The next step is to put the pedals in place. The key to the pedal is that it is pulled back into position by spring force. For the throttle I like to spring back by the engine pulling hard, so that when the throttle is released it slams off. Same for the brakes, I like to have a large return spring pulling back on the linkage.
Brakes can now be put on the go kart frame. An important problem with go kart brakes is floating. Otherwise, they will bind. The best thing is to let the disc float and lock the brake mechanism to work the frame.
Installing The Bottom Plate
The final stage is to attach the bottom sheet to the go kart frame. This is important to prevent foot injuries. It provides the bottom shield which is important for kart design. These sheets can be made from metal sheets used in channel work. The easiest way to attach the sheets is to use self-drilling and tapping screws and charge them with a drill. They are about 3 inches apart.
Make sure all the pieces are tight and not wobbly. Also check if the drive system is working properly. And obviously double check that the brakes actually work. It is a good idea to have a stop switch, which is basically a wire that goes to the point wire (usually black). When the switch is activated the cable shorts to the engine stop frame.
The amount of time it takes to build such a go kart is about 7 weekends if not longer. Be prepared for the long haul in this project, but it will be worth it when it’s done.
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