How to Fix a Go-Kart That Won’t Stay Running

Go-Karts are deceptively simple machines but the fact remains that gas-powered karts still utilize an internal combustion engine that requires a number of separate components to work in perfect harmony. If even one of the parts of an engine is malfunctioning, it can cause a chain reaction of events that will cause the kart to shut off. As you can imagine, this is not only frustrating but could also be dangerous if it happens while out on the race track!

Just because you can fire the kart up, doesn’t mean it will stay running and any karting enthusiast knows this reality all too well. Typically you’ll notice your go-kart engine starting and all of a sudden turn off automatically or stalling.

In this guide I’ll be showing you how to fix a go-kart that won’t stay running. You’ll have to put your detective hat on to investigate the possible trouble spots but typically, it’s one of these few problems:

  1. Contaminated or Improper Fuel
  2. Clogged Air Filter
  3. Spark Plug Issues
  4. Damaged or Clogged Carburetor
  5. Engine Issues 

1. Contaminated or Improper Fuel

Quick Summary:

  • Ensure fuel is not contaminated and that is has the right oil/fuel mixture
  • Drain fuel in engine and tank and let it dry before refueling

Contaminated or improper fuel can cause your go-kart engine to temporarily combust, only to ultimately fail. You should try to immediately fix this, as this could cause long-term damage to the engine. The issue with contaminated or improper fuel really stems from two possible things:

  • Water or condensation in your fuel
  • Improper fuel/oil mixture

How To Fix It:

Many people do not drive their go-karts on a daily basis or even a weekly basis and this can lead to fuel that sits without being used for quite some time. If this happens and you live in a colder climate, you may deal with water condensation in the tank of your go-kart or in the fuel itself. If you suspect this may be the issue, it’s best to completely drain your tank of fuel and allow it some time to dry and then refill it with fresh petrol.

Most Go-Kart engines utilize a 2-stroke engine that requires the owner to carefully mix oil and fuel in the same tank. If this is not done properly, you can have either too much fuel and not enough oil or not enough oil and too much fuel. If this happens, you will run into issues with the engine’s ability to handle the mixture and it could subsequently shut off.

If this is the root cause of the problem, it’s best to completely drain the tank, let it get as dry as possible, and refill the proper mix of oil and gas per your engine’s specifications. 

More Information: Go-Kart Fuel Mixture Chart

2. Clogged Air Filter

clogged air filter go kart

Quick Summary:

  • Clean air filter to ensure the engine is getting enough air to combust
  • Check and replace air filters regularly to avoid clogging

Since an internal combustion engine requires proper airflow to function, a clogged air filter can cause your go-kart to shut off without notice. You must keep in mind that the environment, especially in an off-road situation, can cause an air filter to clog quite quickly.

This happens mainly due to the dust particles in the atmosphere. Similarly, this can also happen frequently on the race track from dust and debris.

How to Fix It:

If a clogged air filter is preventing your go-kart engine to not stay running, fixing this is simple and straightforward. Firstly, you’ll need to take a good look at the air filter element to ensure that it’s not full of debris or dust. Since this is an inexpensive part, your best bet is to simply replace the air filter and see if your cart will stay running.

As a short-term emergency fix you can also try banging your air filter on the ground to dislodge some of the debris and allow airflow through. This can be especially handy if you don’t have any more air filters on hand!

However it’s good practice to check your air filter after every race and replace it when necessary. Go-kart air filters are inexpensive and can be easily replaced.

3. Spark Plug Issues

Quick Summary:

  • Check if spark plugs are dirty, corroded or damaged
  • Replace them if required and make the process part of your regular maintenance schedule

An internal combustion engine requires a spark to fire off the combustion cycle that ultimately powers your go-kart. Therefore, without a proper spark, the engine can’t combust. If the spark plugs in your go-kart are worn out, corroded, or damaged then they will not be able to provide the proper spark and therefore the engine can suddenly shut off.

How To Fix It:

In order to tell if this is the issue, you’ll need to pull out your spark plug and take a good look at it. The plug should be free of carbon and other types of corrosion and the diode should maintain a gap and be free of debris or carbon.

If the plug is excessively dirty, corroded or damaged, the spark will not properly fire off and you’ll be stuck with an engine that dies suddenly. You’ll also want to check the spark plug wire to ensure that it’s not damaged and that it’s maintaining a proper connection to the top of your spark plug.

  • Useful Tip:
    Incorporate checking spark plugs into your regular go-kart maintenance schedule. This way you will always ensure that your spark plugs are not worn out and are race-ready!

4. Damaged or Clogged Carburetor

clogged or damaged go-kart carburetor

Quick Summary:

  • Clean the carburetor thoroughly (especially the float components and jets)
  • Replace damaged parts or carburetor entirely if required 

A carburetor is where air and fuel mix together before entering into the combustion chamber of your go-kart engine. If your carburetor is damaged or clogged with debris from either contaminated fuel or is excessively corroded from sitting unused; you’ll need to go ahead and either replace or clean your carburetor with a specifically designed carburetor cleaner.

How To Fix It:

A thorough cleaning should always be the first step prior to replacing your carburetor. There are many tutorials online that teach you how to do this and it’s well worth your time to perform a thorough cleaning. You can follow this guide for quick and easy reference:

  1. Disconnect fuel hose and air filter from carburetor
  2. Dismount carburetor
  3. Remove float bowl
  4. Clean float, float valve and float pin
  5. Clean pilot and main jet
  6. Reassemble carburetor
  7. Mount carburetor back onto go-kart

5. Engine Issues

go-kart engine problems

Quick Summary:

  • Try to diagnose the problem as best you can
  • Fix and replace the parts that are damaged 
  • Seek help from a mechanic if required

An unfixed engine issue can quickly cascade into a larger one, if it’s not properly handled. If you’ve neglected properly mixing your fuel, for example, this could lead to poor lubrication within your go-kart engine. Once that happens, the cylinder, piston, and combustion chamber of your engine can become damaged.

There could be many engine issues that could cause your engine to shut down after a while. If you’re go-kart engine won’t stay running it may be due to a faulty or damaged engine. Here are some of the examples on what could be the culprit:

  • Worn piston rings
  • Blown head gasket
  • Blown rod
  • Hole in engine block

How To Fix It:

Once this happens it’s going to be quite difficult for your engine to run properly. You’re engine probably won’t stay running for long. Dealing with an issue as the ones listed above may require a complete teardown or rebuild of your engine – or even a complete replacement, depending on how bad the damage is.

Therefore, I suggest that you check the engine last and look at possible air filter, carburetor, fuel and spark plug related issues first. If you’re inexperienced on fixing two or four-stroke engines, it’s best to get help from a mechanic.

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