Are There Manual Transmission Go-Karts? (How to Make One)

Most go-karts do not have a manual transmission. However, should you want to add a manual transmission to your go-kart it is possible and not overly difficult. Keep in mind that adding a manual transmission to your go-kart will change the overall dynamics, which may be for better or for worse depending on your desires.

Are Go-Karts Manual Transmission?

When you are driving a go-kart, you do not have to change the gears. The reason for that is either the go-kart does not have a transmission, or if it has one, that may be automatic.

A lot of go-karts come with single drive gear and a centrifugal clutch. The most common reason for not noticing the transmission in go-karts is that the transmission system is automatic. This system automatically changes the gear by keeping the RPM at a certain level to control the speed.

The manual transmission in go-karts does exist; those go-karts are known as the “shifter karts.” These carts are generally more expensive, heavier, more complex, and high performing than the basic go-karts.

These go-karts are pretty popular among professional racers because they ask for control over the vehicle, and manual go-karts prove them complete control over the vehicle. Go-kart racers always prefer manual transmission go-karts over automatic ones because they are high-performing.

Does a Go-Kart Need a Transmission?

The transmission system allows the vehicle to remain in a controlled speed environment. In the basic Go-Karts, transmission is not needed. Many use a direct gear mesh up or a direct linkage with a single rear axle gear via a chain. Many go-karts use the following components to transmit power from the engine to the rear axle.

  1. Centrifugal Clutch: the centrifugal clutch only works in some aspects. If your go-kart is heavier, then there may be a lot of power loss.
  2. Torque Converter: torque converter is used in the go-karts with hi-speed. The go-karts with torque converters are quite expensive.

Most racing and off-road go-karts use a transmission that provides controlled mechanical power from the engine to the rear axle. It is required to have complete control of the speed off-road. The transmission controls the RPM so the vehicle wouldn’t explode after heating up. 

You may find the transmission system of cars a little complex, but in go-karts, it is pretty simple with a few gears which control the vehicle to an optimum speed in terms of how the engine is running. It prevents overheating when transmission changes the gears.

Can You Add a Manual Transmission to a Go Kart?

Yes, it is possible to add a manual transmission to a go-kart. It may be hard for you to add a manual transmission to a go-kart unless you are an expert in the field. The easiest way would be to use a regular bike or dirt bike power train and just build it on the go-kart chassis. Make sure you have taken care of these essential parts:

  • You can reroute all the controls like gas, brakes, and clutch to the pedals.
  • You will also need to create a gear selector as it will be manual.
  • A custom driveline from the transmission to differential or rear axle will be required to drive the wheels.
  • Make sure the differential is not an open differential; you can not go straight under acceleration because of the high power to weight ratio.

It may seem very hard for you; it would be easier to opt for a shifter kart instead. Shifter karts are very popular in the US. These karts have a clutch and a six-speed transmission designed to get all the power from the engine based on your choice. The top-rated choices in the shifter karts are 100cc, 125cc, 210cc, and 250cc.

For the manual transmission system, first, you have to learn to change the gears; the timing of changing gears is necessary. It will help the kart not to heat up because of excessive RPM. Initially, you may find it a little tricky, but you will enjoy manual karting more than automatic karting once you learn.

Pros and Cons of Manual Transmission in Go Karts


  • Control: Once You Have Learned the manual transmission, you have full control over the speed of your vehicle. This control helps you in bad weather and off-road activities. Go-Kart racers prefer manual transmission to automatic because they can easily control the transmission with a stick shift.

  • Conversion Cost: You might wonder that the stock shifter karts with manual transmission are more expensive than the automatic one, but if you convert your basic go-kart to a manual transmission, it would be cheaper than converting it to an automatic transmission. You can convert your basic go-kart to an off-road or racing go-kart with manual transmission and a few other upgrades.

  • Maintenance Cost: Manual transmission go-karts are cheaper to repair and maintain. Manual transmissions are easier on the brakes. Transmission fluids require fewer changes with the manual system. 

  • Fuel Efficiency: In a general perspective, manual transmissions have better fuel efficiency than automatic. It is the same in go-karts because the motor does not work as hard to shift between the gears; that is why the car doesn’t consume much gas.

  • Loved by Racers: Go-Kart racers love the manual transmissions in go-kart because it gives full control of the vehicle to the driver; that is what a racer wants to speed up the vehicle on his terms.


  • Inconvenience: In the Go-Kart with a manual transmission, the driver has to manually shift between forwarding gears using a pedal clutch to disengage the engine’s transmission. It becomes a headache for a regular auto driver until he learns it properly. It is very inconvenient in the city and off-road driving where you have many stops.

  • Learning: Manual transmissions are challenging to learn even if you are a good driver in automatic transmission vehicles. You have to learn the timing of changing the gear so the RPM will not heat up the vehicle. Also, when you stop or slow down the vehicle, you have to shift back to the initial gears. This may take a few weeks of practice to master.

  • Upfront Price: Unlike the general cars, the Go-Kart with manual transmission (shifter karts) is way more expensive than the automatic transmission go-karts. 

  • Complex and Heavy: The Manual transmission itself is complex and heavy, making the go-kart heavier and more complex. Suppose you convert your basic go-kart to a manual one; you might also need to increase the power and do some other upgrades.

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