A turbocharger can definitely be installed on a go-kart, but it may not be worth the effort and expense. A turbocharger can significantly increase the power output of an engine, but it also adds quite a bit of weight and complexity.
For a go-kart, which is typically very light and simple, the addition of a turbocharger may not be worth it. It really depends on what you’re looking for in a go-kart and how much you’re willing to spend.
In this article, we’ll take a look at whether turbochargers are a good idea for your go-kart.
How Turbochargers Work
A turbocharger is a type of forced induction system. It uses exhaust gases to spin a turbine, which, in turn, spins an air compressor. This compressor increases the volume of air delivered to the engine, resulting in more power per cubic inch.
A turbo can increase the power output of an engine by quite a bit, depending on the size of the turbocharger and other factors. Generally, it can make a 6.5HP engine produce around 10HP.
The main downside to turbochargers is that they add weight and complexity to an engine. Therefore, if your engine is too mall (something like smaller than 100cc), upgrading to a bigger engine is always better than installing a turbo.
Turbocharged Go-Kart Considerations
While the power gains might sound appealing, there are a few considerations to think about first. Turbochargers will add weight which can have an impact on acceleration and handling. Secondly, a lot of additional things are needed like proper oiling, fueling, and cooling. These things make turbocharging a go-kart a lot more expensive and complicated.
The biggest downside to installing a turbocharger on a go-kart is the weight. A turbocharger, along with the necessary supporting hardware, can easily add 30 pounds or more to the go-kart. To put it into perspective, a good 212cc go-kart engine weighs around 40 to 50 lbs.
This extra weight can negatively impact the acceleration and handling of the go-kart, potentially making it more difficult to control.
Therefore, I recommend choosing a small turbocharger with a lightweight design if you decide to install one on your go-kart.
Calculating the power to weight ratio is the first thing you need to do. For example, a kart with a 6.5 HP engine weighs about 220lbs. So the ratio is 6.5/220=0.03
With a turbocharger, your engine can get 10 more HP but gain 30lb extra weight. So the new power to weight ratio is 10/250=0.04
Look at the numbers, and it’s definitely worth it.
Oil pressure system
Another potential downside to installing a turbocharger is the required oil pressure system. There are two reasons why the oil pressure system is so important:
- The turbocharger needs a constant oil supply to lubricate the bearings.
- The oil cools the turbocharger when it heats up.
This system requires an electric pump to be installed on your go-kart, which, in turn, requires a battery.
Let’s just not talk about extra weight for a second. Think about the cost and complexity. You’re probably better off spending that money on a bigger engine.
This is another important factor to consider when installing a turbocharger on a go-kart. As mentioned above, a turbo uses exhaust gas to turn its turbine blades. The extra heat will go into the intake, making the turbo engine hotter and eventually causing it to lose power.
So, there are two options you can combat this heat issue:
In addition to the required oil pressure system, you’ll also have to modify your fuel system if you want a turbocharged go-kart. A carburetor is usually a better choice since it’s less complex and less expensive than a fuel injector.
The question is, how can you supply the air-fuel mixture to the engine?
The best and most affordable option is to stuff the air into the carburetor. In this way, the system is pretty much air-tight.
Handmade exhaust manifold
This is probably the hardest part of the turbo installation, but it’s also the most important. You’ll need a custom-made exhaust manifold that can direct the hot exhaust gas from the engine to the turbocharger.
You can hardly find anything like this in the market, so you’ll have to make it yourself or find someone who can. Some experience with grinders and welders are a must to make this work. There will be a lot of hand grinding and fitting required.
Go-Kart Turbo Maintenance
You also need to be prepared for the extra maintenance required for a turbocharged engine. Otherwise, turbo lag could negatively affect the kart’s performance.
Here are a few ways you can maintain the turbocharger:
- Regular oil changes to ensure everything is always properly lubricated
- Cleaning the exhaust manifold once in a while
- Always warm the engine up before driving
- Let the engine cool itself down after driving
Besides, you should be aware of what factors can potentially damage your turbo.
- Not oiling regularly
- Using wrong oil
- Oil leaking into the exhaust system.
- Too old engine
Supercharger or Turbocharger – Which one is better for go-karts?
Similar to the turbo, a supercharger is a device that compresses air and forces it into the engine. However, it is powered by the engine’s crankshaft (via a belt) instead of being powered by the gas exhaust.
There are no superchargers available for small engine engines (something like a 200 cc). This is because the superchargers take a significant amount of energy from the engine to operate. Meanwhile, the turbos don’t put that much backpressure on the engine.
Should You Turbo a Go-Kart?
Installing a turbocharger to your go-kart can provide a noticeable increase in power. However, if you’re looking for an easy, affordable way to get more speed and performance from your kart, this is NOT the modification for you.
Before getting started, make sure you have all of the necessary parts and tools. Moreover, don’t forget to read through the installation instructions carefully. With a little bit of hard work, some research, and a decent budget, you’ll be racing around like a pro in no time!
Have you installed a turbocharger on your go-kart? Leave a comment and let us know how it went!