DIY Go Kart Differential

A differential will help the go-kart go around the corners smoothly, but differentials are very heavy, which affects the racing power of a go-kart; that is why the go-karts don’t come with a stock differential. 

If you have a go-kart for non-racing purposes, then putting in a differential is an excellent idea to increase grip while turning. You can either buy a differential or use one from your lawnmower or any other vehicle with the exact size of your go-kart. 

Does a Go-Kart Need a Differential?

A go-kart doesn’t need a differential for racing purposes, and it is not recommended to put a differential in your racing go-kart. A differential affects the racing capability of your go-kart because it loses power. The differentials increase the overall weight and center of gravity of a go-kart and also require more maintenance.

A differential can help you make smooth turns, and if you use the go-kart only for non-racing purposes, you can install the differential for safety. A differential allows one wheel to move faster than the other when making a turn, preventing the wheels from slipping.

As mentioned above, the differential increases the go-kart’s weight and center of gravity, requiring more maintenance. One of the most important reasons a Go-Kart doesn’t come with a differential is that it is against the regulations of CIK-FIA. According to Commission Internationale de Karting(CIK), go-karts are lighter, faster, open-wheeled, and open-top motorized vehicles designed for racing purposes that don’t require any non-essential components.

How Do Go-Karts Compensate Not Having a Differential?

Differentials provide two main benefits in the vehicles by controlling the individual speed of tire rotation. Firstly it reduces the tire wear because the tire rotates according to the distance they travel.

Secondly, it increases the tire grip around the corners because the tires don’t slip. But how do the Go-karts compensate for these two benefits of the differentials? The Go-karts achieve it through their jacking and flexible frames.

Jacking or lifting is used in go-kart racing while turning throughout the corners, where the inner rear wheel is lifted off the ground, which puts more pressure on the outer tire; the increased grip on the outer tire prevents the inner tire from slipping. This mechanism is supported through a flexible and tubular frame. Because the go-karts frames are made from low-alloy steel with a tubular structure, it gives the kart more flex in the rear area. This flex helps the go-kart in jacking.

When using a go-kart for non-racing purposes, you can’t jack it through the streets or backyards (see also ‘19 Kids Backyard Obstacle Course Ideas‘). That is where you need a differential in your go-kart.

How to Put a Differential in a Go-Kart

Go Kart Differential

Installing a differential can vary according to the size and model of your Go-Kart. First of all, you need a differential that can be installed in your Go-Kart. We chose a 100 series differential from Pearless to install in our go-kart, which is essential for a common go-kart because it doesn’t have many parts; this is a lawnmower differential easily available online and in the market.

You may need to install two breaks if you install the sprocket on the differential because the normal position of the sprocket can give power to one wheel on the differential. You may need a wrench set to install the differential.

  1. Start Opening the Rear Axle

You may need to turn your vehicle; otherwise, you can lift it using jacks. First of all, use wrenches to take out the wheel. Free the axle from the engine; in our case, we free the sprocket from the chain, remove the breaks.

Take out the rear axle. It may get tricky if your family go-kart has more parts like shocks absorbers etc., you may also require lifting the vehicle to install the differential. The basic operation is to remember the parts when removing to install them in the same manner, better to take notes.

  1. Prepare The Differential

The first thing is to make sure the differential you bought has the same size as your rear axle in length and diameter; the 100 series differential from the Pearless offers 1 inch and ¾ inch differentials. If you want to use the same, the diameter must be the same, otherwise you need to buy a new sprocket with the same number of teeth. 

Having the differential shaft with the same diameter will help install the old breaks easily. You will need a measurement tape to mark and install the sprocket and brakes on the differential shaft.

  1. Install The Differential

After preparing the differential, you have to install it back to the vehicle; it is a reverse process; no matter how many parts you have removed, it is always a reverse process while installing them back into the go-kart. 

Install the differential and connect it to the engine and brakes, install the wheels back into the go-kart, and have a test drive. You will surely feel the control and grip of the vehicle while turning.

  1. Points to Consider
  1. Installing the differential can get more difficult if you have a fancy go-kart with many parts.
  2. Sometimes it is required to add additional parts to lift the go-kart to install the differential properly.
  3. We installed the sprocket in the same place as before, but if you want to give power to both wheels, you can install the sprocket on the differentials.
  4. You will require extra brakes to install if you install the sprocket on the differential.
  5. The 100 series Pearless differential is originally for the lawnmower. It may not fit in your go-kart if the size varies; you can find many differentials online and install it accordingly.

How Does a Go-Kart Differential Work

The primary function of the differential is to transmit the torque into each wheel independently; it also works similarly for the Go-Kart. Stock go-karts have live axles which use jacking and flex while turning; otherwise, one of the tires would slip. 

When turning, the go-kart with differential will transfer the power to the corresponding wheel, so the other wheel does not slip; in this mechanism, both the tires are independent of each other. The only difference in our stock differential system is that the sprocket is directly connected to the differential in stock. We have connected it to the same place as before because it is convenient for a family Go-Kart.


Go-Karts are usually used for racing, and a differential in a racing go-kart is not a good idea. Because the differential increases the vehicle’s weight and center of gravity, that is why it is not allowed by CIK-FIA in Go-Kart Racing.

You can install the differentials in family go-karts to increase the grip while turning the vehicle. You need to buy a lawnmower differential or any other which matches your model and follow basic steps to install it in the vehicle, make sure to buy one with the exact measurement. Otherwise, you may need to buy some extra parts.

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