3 Tricks on How to Align Go-Kart Sprockets

If you own a go-kart, there will come a time where you’ll be faced with the scenario of having to align the front and the rear sprockets. This will be the case, regardless if you are a professional go-kart racer, an amateur kart racer, if you have a racing or an off-road go-kart. Aligning the front and the rear sprockets is essential for safety purposes, ensuring that your go-kart runs smoothly and is well maintained. 

An in correct alignment can lead to your go-kart chain falling off or even snapping, causing damage to your go-kart. This can damage your front and rear sprockets, chain, engine. In the worst case scenario it can cause damage to the go-kart driver and others around your go-kart.

It’s therefore essential that you align your front and rear sprockets correctly. This can come in handy if you’re installing smaller sprockets to make your go-kart go faster, changing your chain or even swapping out the engine for a new one. It’s also good to check your go-kart sprocket alignment every time you check your chain during regular maintenance. 

In this article, I’ll firstly explain to you what go-kart sprockets are and how they are set up on a go-kart. After that we’ll explore three different ways to align your front and rear sprockets. In summary you can do this by any of these 3 methods.

  1. Use a metal ruler, rod or key stock
  2. Turn the axle or wheel
  3. Use an alignment tool

What Are Go-Kart Sprockets?

Sprockets, also known as sprocket-wheels, are steel wheels with teeth. Go-karts have front and rear sprockets that are positioned opposite each other and connected via a chain. They’re used to transmit rotary motion between the engine’s crankshaft to the rear axle. When the engine rotates the crankshaft, it transfers this motion to the rear axle, which in turn gets your go-kart moving. To get a better idea of how this looks like, you can refer to the illustration below.

go-kart sprocket and chain description

A: Rear Sprocket (Driven Sprocket)
B: Front Sprocket (Driving Sprocket)
C: Drive Chain

As you can see in the illustration above, the front sprocket (driving sprocket) is connected to the crankshaft of the go-kart engine. The rear sprocket (driven sprocket) is the larger of the two sprockets and is connected to the rear axle. In a sense, the driving sprocket “drives” the rotary motion onto the axle through the rear sprocket. The rear sprocket is therefore known as the “driven” sprocket. Both of the sprockets are connected by a chain.

3 Ways to Align Go-Kart Sprockets

As stated, it’s extremely crucial that both front and rear sprocket are completely aligned to prevent long-term sprocket, chain and engine damage. There are many ways in order to do this. You can either align your go-kart sprockets manually by using a straight long object, by turning the axle or by using an alignment tool. Let’s explore all three ways in more detail.

1. Align Go-Kart Sprocket by Using a Metal Ruler, Rod or Key Stock

One way of aligning your front and rear sprocket is by using any straight and long object. You can either use a long metal ruler, a rod or a key stock in order to do this. This is a cheap option and you can use any object, as long as it is long enough and is perfectly straight (it must cover the distance between front and rear sprocket). If you don’t have anything of that sort, you can simply get a key stock that will get the job done. 

Firstly, ensure that the front or rear sprocket is not locked to the crankshaft and is completely loose. After that, line up the key stock flat against the rear sprocket. The reason why it works better against the rear sprockets is because it’s bigger to rest against and easier to align. Now, get the key stock to point at the crankshaft and ensure that the front sprocket aligns with the key stock, as well. You can do this with or without the chain attached. Now, all you need to do is lock the loose sprocket in place.

Follow These Steps:

  1. Loosen the front or rear sprocket
  2. Use a straight long object like a key stock
  3. Hold key stock flat against the rear sprocket
  4. Align the front sprocket with the key stock
  5. Lock the sprocket in place

2. Align Go-Kart Sprocket by Turning the Axle or Wheel

The second way to align your sprockets is to rotate the rear sprocket by simply turning the axle or the wheel. This is the easiest and cheapest way to get both sprockets to align, but it’s also not as accurate as the other methods. Please use these methods cautiously.

You first want to ensure that your chain is connected to both sprockets. Also ensure that the rear sprocket is securely tightened around the axle and the front sprocket on the crankshaft is loose (not loosened, but completely loose). Now simply turn the large sprocket forward and backwards multiple times by twisting the axle or the wheels. 

The more the rear sprocket twists, the more they will align. This happens because the chain moves the front sprocket parallel to the rear sprocket. After they are aligned, lock the front sprocket in place and you’re ready to go. Check out the video below, in order to see this in action.

Follow These Steps:

  1. Ensure that chain is connected to sprockets
  2. Make sure the front sprocket is loose
  3. Twist the rear sprocket multiple times
  4. Watch the front sprocket align 
  5. Lock the front sprocket to the crankshaft

3. Align Go-Kart Sprocket by Using an Alignment Tool

You can also align your go-kart sprockets using an alignment tool, which is specifically designed to do just that. This is the most accurate way of aligning you sprockets and is therefore my favorite method. There are two types of alignment tools that you can buy.

The first tool is a simple clamp with a rod attached to it, also referred to as a chain alignment tool. This tool is clamped on to the rear sprocket and the protruding rod indicates where the front sprocket should be positioned at. This is basically an alignment tool that is based on the first method. 

The second and more advanced alignment tool uses a laser, in order to align the sprockets. The laser alignment tool is attached to the rear sprocket either through a clamping or a clipping mechanism. The laser beam will subsequently indicate where the front sprocket should be locked into place. This is by far the most accurate way to align your go-kart sprockets.

Follow These Steps:

  1. Ensure that the chain is attached to both sprockets
  2. Clamp the alignment tool onto rear sprocket
  3. Watch for rod or laser indicator
  4. Align the front sprocket
  5. Lock the front sprocket in securely

Conclusion

I hope that this article was able to show you how to align go-kart sprockets. I would just like to stress the importance of ensuring that your front and rear sprockets are aligned correctly. It’s good to check this alignment every time you inspect your chain or when you hear noticeable chain noise. Use either of these three methods listed above and ensure that you ride safely!

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