Build a Go-Kart or Off-Road Buggy

Barracuda | Source

Welcome, you’ve arrived at this web page because you’re a speed-demon, a motor-head, an avid DIYer looking for the next project, or you have kids and you want to please them big time.

Go-carts—or go-karts if you prefer—fulfill all those appetites and come in flavours catering for most tastes. For this article I’m going to extend the definition to include buggies as well.

Of course, not all flavours are equal. As such, care must be taken in selecting the one that’s right for you. Many a home project has sat uncompleted on the garage floor because of failure in this department. This not only wastes money and time, but really annoys the spouse, who will eventually sell it on eBay for 1/10th of its actual value.

Factors to be taken into account when determining your choice should include:

Taking a slow trip around the track with my youngest daughter.
Taking a slow trip around the track with my youngest daughter.

Who Is It For?

  • A thirty-horsepower naught-to-one-hundred-in-three-seconds Jet-Cart may be ideal for those with a death wish or seeking to orbit earth, but a tad advanced for your six-year-old.
  • On the flip-side, don’t expect to impress your off-road buggy friends with a three-horsepower solid-frame, no-suspension, bone-judder machine.
  • Therefore, match engine and cart frame size with body weight and speed requirements.

Large ATV wheels are essential for off-road buggies lacking suspension.
Large ATV wheels are essential for off-road buggies lacking suspension. | Source

What’s It for and Where Are You Going to Ride It?

  • Once again, go-karts and buggies serve different purposes.
  • Do you want to build something small so the kids can simply scoot around the driveway? Or for a teenager who wants to join the local speedway club? Or for dirt tracks through forest, or extreme jumps down on the dunes? Maybe it’s just to test your DIY skills to see how mean you can make that machine.
  • Consider also that many local authorities now have noise level restrictions that prevent go-carters from riding near built-up areas. I've heard of some having to sell their hardly used pride-and-joy because they had nowhere nearby to legally ride it.

The basic can still be immense fun.
The basic can still be immense fun.
Knowing how to follow a plan and having the correct tools and the skills to use them makes the whole exercise a lot easier.
Knowing how to follow a plan and having the correct tools and the skills to use them makes the whole exercise a lot easier.

How Are Your DIY Skills?

  • For some they are non-existent, for others they're fair, for a few they can build anything. Which describe yours?
  • Building a go-cart or buggy comes in degrees of difficulty and many have become unglued at this point, realising they've bitten off more than they can chew. Use the following as a basic gauge of what makes such projects more or less difficult:

    The material it is constructed from. Timber is easier to work with than metal and some metals easier than others. Most can use a hammer, but how is your welding? Can you ARC, MIG, TIG? It has to be good weld if you intend to take a buggy off-road or over jumps.

    Fabrication requirements. How many parts require fabricating and what tools will be required to do this? And even if you had the tools, can you operate them to the level required? For example, do you have a metal lathe that you feel competent enough to turn an axle hub? Tools can be dangerous in the hands of the inexperienced.

Something a Bit Different

How Deep Is Your Wallet?

  • A go-cart can cost you as little as a few dollars to upward of twenty grand for the true motor-heads. And you do get what you pay for.
  • For example, many cheap go-cart wheels are simply taken from a removalist trolley. However, these have a speed limit of 15 Km, over which the bearings melt. Add a motor capable of 50km to that go-cart—use your imagination. In other words, spend enough to achieve what you require, but not less.

How Much Time Do You Have?

  • This is probably the main reason projects get left uncompleted: because it wasn’t anticipated how long they’d take. For example, it took me twelve months of fabricating and building on weekends and after work to make my first go-cart. It was a challenge at times, but I had my five-year-old son work alongside me throughout, so it was well worth it.

Wish I'd built this one.
Wish I'd built this one.
Kids, I've found, generally like the combination of speed, bumps, and mud.
Kids, I've found, generally like the combination of speed, bumps, and mud.

Many companies now offer a graduated approach to building a go-cart, depending on your skill level, time and budget. You can purchase a plan, build what you can yourself, and then purchase the remaining parts. I did this with my first project, managing to build 80% myself.

One such Australian company is EDGE

Of course, the more you manage to build yourself, the cheaper it is for you; however it is a comfort to know you can finish the project regardless of your ability.

Final considerations are more to do with ongoing enjoyment of the toy:

  • Where are you going to store it? They're not small.
  • How are you going to transport it? Trailers are expensive.
  • How are you going to maintain it? Things break, sometimes often.
  • What safety equipment will you need? Helmets are essential.
  • When are you going to use it? Nothing disappoints the kids (or the dads for that matter) more than a toy they can never play with.

Hope this helped in your decision making.

All the best with whatever project you decide on and good luck.

© 2010 Richard Parr


nomoretrucks profile image

nomoretrucks 6 years ago from scotland

parrster hiya. The stuff you built is cool. Ive just made a 'Volks_Quad'which cost less than £100 to built, but its tiny. i reckon this sort of stuff intrigues us 'mature' kids some times. Im gonna built something more able for the muddy tracks around the forests we have here. Take a look at it and tell me what you think. Your black creation is inspired by a 'Mad Max' Type look, Yeah?

Ziggy 4 years ago

thanks for all the help and photos and the consideration you need to think of when making something like this.

Iam gonna to hopefully make one of these at my school since we have a huge metal work area full of oxy,mig,arc welders,huge metal cutters,benders with and i think its one of the biggest australian state school workshops.

So my project is that iam goning to hopefully draw out a frame plan but copy your frame but maybe changing the sizes and add a few tweak in if need then i will hopefully find out the costing of the metal and then i hopefully will try to finish the frame this year in metal works and since we also have auto workshop ill was think that i could use the suspeisions off a quad and weld it to the frame so i would then have suspeinsions for the go cart or i might not depend what my auto teacher suggests to me but i will also fit in the motor and the seat and other parts then and hopefully will have it complete but thanks a lot for all the info and photos it really helped me out a lot and i hope to be the dust demon once done :)

parrster profile image

parrster 4 years ago from Oz Author

Hey Ziggy. Thanks for stopping by to read and comment. I wish they gave me the chance to build go-carts during my school days. The workshop you describe sounds like a nice place to spend your days. ATV Suspension might work. Rear suspension is always easier than the front, because the front has to also incorporate your steering, so not sure how you might work the ATV in. Don't forget to take photos as you progress, and post them on hubpages. All the best mate, and good luck.

a person lacking a go kart 3 years ago

i have been looking forword to building/buying a go kart for a wile now. i am wondering where would i find a frame capable of holding 2 teen sized people compfortably

parrster profile image

parrster 3 years ago from Oz Author

The frame is one of the easiest parts of a go kart to fabricate, if you are proficient in welding. Failing that, cart parts, including frames, are available via ebay and other online markets. All the best with whatever you end up doing.

2 years ago

What size square steel would you recommend For an offroad go kart?

parrster profile image

parrster 2 years ago from Oz Author

@H ~ That would depend on the overall dimensions and weight of the finished go kart. For the Buggy pictured above with my children, I used 30mm box section for the chassis and 30mm tubular for the rollcage. It weight is approx 125kg and dimensions were 1850Lx1300Wx1320H. hope that helps.

2 years ago

Yep that helps, I'm looking at making a kart that I designed myself it is L 2200mm W 800 H 1200 this is just the frame.

2 years ago

Sorry the length isn't 2200mm I think I will make it 1900 so it fits in our trailer

parrster profile image

parrster 2 years ago from Oz Author

@H ~ Otherwise it would have been a very wide ride :)

30mm box section will do fine I think.

Ensuring it fits in your trailer is an important consideration. What sort of motor is pushing it? Will it have suspension (front/rear)? I'd be interested in seeing photos as you progress.

2 years ago

Going to keep it simple for now. Will add in suspension after a while I think I don't have much experience but am going to give it a crack and as far as the motor goes I'm looking at motorbike motors but not to sure what size any suggestions also I can send you my plans they are just my own designs so probably a million things wrong with it.

parrster profile image

parrster 2 years ago from Oz Author

@H ~ I love a trier. Starting simple is always best when new to something; success is more likely. On my buggy I used a simple 7Hp industrial type motor connected through a Torque converter. It was simple and gave reasonable speed.

2 years ago

Thanks that's great

2 years ago

Also how much room did you allow for the motor at the back?

parrster profile image

parrster 2 years ago from Oz Author

@H ~ behind the seat I allowed 500mm to mount the motor

Predator141 5 months ago

Few issues here, that Batmobile kart... Unless you bought the plans, you didn't make it. A guy in Montana built it from scratch for his kids and was selling the plans. The picture you got of it was from on of his albums from it. He had to quit selling the plans because he did not want any legal issues with the studios...copyright laws are the worst but have to deal with them. The guy that built it goes by the username T-man go karts on YouTube. He has several videos of this Kart during the build process.

So don't say you built it unless you have the proof to back it up.

parrster profile image

parrster 5 months ago from Oz Author

Hey Predator. Calm down buddy. If you read the blurb under the photo you'll see that I wrote "wish I'd built this one". Pays to read before going off at the mouth, or the keyboard. :)

spoofed2 4 months ago

Parr..mad props on your build lessons and great info. I mainly wanted to congragulate u on the guy commenting on u building the batmobile. U are a tru gentleman. And to that guy. I have a 650 cc lowride go cart that i need tested on a very large jump ending in a brier patch. Will u please volenteer . I will provide a helmet but i dont know if it will fit your head whilst up your buttox...happy riding and building to all.

parrster profile image

parrster 4 months ago from Oz Author

@spoofed2 ~ Cheers. That made me laugh.

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