Setting up your go-kart is by no means easy. Finding the best setup that maximizes performance and suits your driving style takes a lot of time and effort to get right. It definitely helps if you are familiar with what you are working and get accustomed to the terms that you will often hear as you set up your go-kart. This article will be divided into two parts. The first are parts of a go-kart that you can adjust in order to fine tune your setup. The next part is for terms that you will hear as you are testing your setup.
Terms you will hear that you can adjust in your go kart for a better setup
- Gear Ratios
- Gear ratios are the relationship between the front and rear sprocket sizes. Gear ratios depend mostly on track layout and track conditions (whether it is dry or wet). It is an essential part of setup and takes a lot of time to find the right gear ratio to balance top speed and acceleration. A smaller gear ratio is when there is a larger front or smaller rear sprocket. This results in more top speed, but less acceleration. On the other hand, a larger gear ratio occurs when there is a smaller front or larger rear sprocket. And with that, results in more acceleration, but less top speed.
- Caster increases or decreases the distribution of weight on the front tyres of the kart. Keep in mind that the more caster, the more grip the fronts have, meaning easier initial turn in. On the other hand, the less caster means that the fronts have less grip, which requires the driver to turn-in more. Caster also affects the rate of chassis flex of a go-kart. The more caster, the faster the chassis flexes. On the other hand, the less caster, the slower the rate of the chassis flexing.
- Camber is the angle in which the front tyres are vertically set. The main thing that camber controls is the contact patch of the tyres. Contact patch is defined as the amount of tire that makes contact with the road surface, which affects traction, braking, and acceleration among others. There are two types of camber, positive and negative camber. Positive camber is when the front tires have a bit of distance between each other. This results in a larger contact patch, which gives the go-kart more grip in the front. On the other hand, negative camber is when the front tyres are closer to each other, meaning a smaller contact patch which reduces overall front grip.
- Seat position plays an important part in the kart’s overall weight distribution. Since the driver is the heaviest element in a kart, most of the balance of weight in the kart is determined by the seating position of the driver and the driver’s center of gravity. The ideal seating position setup-wise is determined by what class you are racing in. For faster engine classes such as TaG (Touch and Go), you want to have your seat further back to increase the rear weight percentage for rear grip. On the other hand, for slower categories, like 100cc engines or 4-stroke engine categories, it is better to have the seat closer to the front to free up the rear since you have much less power. This concept also applies to grippier tracks. If the seat is too far back it won’t allow the inside rear tyre to lift (Also known as chassis flex, more on that later), which can give unwanted understeer. Furthermore, if you put the seat too forward, you will struggle with a loose rear end and a ton of oversteer.
- However, the driver’s comfort is still an important factor to consider when it comes to seat position. Ideally, your arms must be stretched and elbows slightly bent with your elbows not touching any part of the go-kart, especially the engine, radiator, and seat itself. The driver’s legs must be stretched with a bit of bend in the knees. The feet must be able to press the throttle and the brake with full force with no struggle or discomfort experienced. Keep in mind however that the feet must not also rest on the pedal too much as this can cause unexpected braking/application of throttle in corners.
Terms you will hear as you are working on your setup
- Chassis Flex/ Inside Rear Wheel Lift
- Chassis flex is when the inside rear wheel of a go-kart slightly goes up. Chassis flex is essential for a go-kart as this is what makes it turn in the first place. Take note that a go-kart’s chassis is unlike a regular road car. Unlike cars, go-karts do not have a differential, meaning the tires turn at the same rate. This can be seen especially at the back of the go-kart as the rear wheels are connected by one solid axle, making turning impossible, unless you lift one of the rear wheels up in order to initiate turning.
- These two terms are often used when it comes to communicating how the kart feels as you turn it. Understeer refers to when the kart does not turn enough. This can result in the go-kart going wide on exit. On the other hand, oversteer is when the kart turns too much or gives too much turn in. This results in the back end of the kart turning more than the front, which can make the kart spin out.
- Keep in mind that some drivers love a kart that understeers a lot, and others like one that oversteers a lot. At the end of the day, it is all about feel and comfort. Remember that understeer/oversteer can be altered through setup changes, especially through adjusting the seat position, caster, and camber, which were the aforementioned setup terms earlier.
- Telemetry is the collection of data through real-time sensors that are equipped in the go-kart, usually found around the steering wheel. This is defined as the lifeblood of any setup, especially since instincts can only take you so far. Through telemetry, you will find factual and accurate data which can help you in making the right setup changes to your go-kart. Telemetry is able to pick up a lot of data such as temperature, speed, and lap time. As mentioned the data is collected through real-time sensors, which are often called data loggers. There are many options for data loggers on the market. However, the best and frankly most popular option among drivers is the Mychron. Their latest model is the Mychron 5S and collects very accurate data. It is through this data you can derive if your setup is beneficial, can be improved on, and how exactly did it affect the go-kart.
And that concludes some of the many karting setup terms you will hear as you continue to race. We hope you were able to equip yourself with new and essential knowledge. If you want more valuable on kart setup advice, Kart Class offers a dedicated Kart Setup Program at an affordable price! Here, you will learn what to adjust and when to adjust, to take your racing to the next level!