How to Make a Self-Propelled Go-Kart for Almost Free


Go-karts and soapbox derby cars are hobbies for many people. The cost of materials for go-karts varies and is generally higher for karts that are self-propelled. Making a self-propelled go-kart is possible and almost free, if done the correct way. Doing so requires that you combine a little ingenuity and resourcefulness with a working knowledge of go-kart racers.

Things You'll Need

  • Scrap wood
  • 2-cycle lawnmower engine
  • Wheels from lawnmower or other sources
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Drill
  • String
  • Lawnmower pulley
  • Mower belt or car fan belt


  • Gather lightweight scrap wood. Look in your garage or dismantle an old wooden palate or crate. To build a go-kart without spending much money, you need to be as resourceful as possible. Wood is one of the most readily available and inexpensive resources.

  • Determine the type of wheels you intend to use. Wheels come in a variety of sizes and from a variety of sources. Having an assortment will give you options as you piece together your go-kart. Lawnmowers, bicycles and even children's riding toys serve as good sources for wheels.

  • Sketch out a plan for putting your go-kart together. Assess each piece you've gathered, and determine where it goes and how you intend to connect it. Having a visual map in place provides you with a point of reference as you build.


  • Build the frame of the go-kart using the scrap wood you've gathered. You need a hammer and nails for this part of the project. Use the strongest piece of wood as the center plank for the car. Use two additional planks as the front and back of the chassis.

  • Attach the front part of the chassis using a bolt and nut, rather than nails. This will allow you to steer the wheels. Once this piece is attached, your go-cart should look like a capital "T."

  • Nail the back part of the chassis onto the center plank so that the "T" becomes a capital "I" instead, or an "H"-shaped vehicle.

  • Install the wheels to the go-kart. Nail small wood blocks to the underside of the front and back planks of the chassis. Drill holes sideways through these blocks, and then attach the wheels to each corner of the vehicle. Use a bolt and a partially tightened nut to do so. If you have access to a set of wheels and a full axle, you can also run the axle all the way through the holes.

  • Strip a 2-cycle engine off a riding lawnmower. Leave its pulleys and propulsion system intact as much as possible.

  • Reattach the mower engine to the go-kart, putting it on sideways to the back of the kart. Place the engine in such a way that the pulley-propulsion system can be utilized to turn the axle of one of the back wheels of the go-kart. You may have to get creative to attach the engine, but may be able to use the original mounting brackets instead.

  • Place a lawnmower belt or an automobile fan belt around the engine pulley and the axle of the wheel. This part will be tricky. Ensure that the engine is placed at a distance that allows you to place a belt tightly on both pulleys. Move the engine if necessary to accommodate the belt.

  • Drill two holes and tie string to both sides of the front axle of the go-kart. These strings will serve as your steering system. As an alternative, tie one long string in each side of the front-axle system, and hold the middle of the rope to steer.

  • Attach a riding lawnmower seat, pillow or some other type of padding to the back half of the kart to serve as your driver's seat. Tie it in place, if necessary, or even nail it to the go-kart.


  • Photo Credit Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images
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