How to Drift in a Go-Kart: 7 Easy Steps

Drifting in a go-kart can be extremely fun! It may look extremely easy at first glance. However, it’s not as simple as it looks. Over the years, I’ve seen many people trying to drift with their go-karts and fail. They either collide with the tire barrier or spin out. Some people are not accustomed to all the required drifting techniques, such as learning how to brake, when to turn the steering wheel and when to countersteer.

First and foremost, let’s get one thing out of the way. Drifting is a cornering technique that is meant to be done for fun. It’s not recommended to do this during a race, as it slows you down and unnecessarily increases your lap time. I’ll go into the details later in this article.

If you want to drift in your go-kart you must always ensure that you do this under the right circumstances. This will help you to avoid risking your own safety and the safety of others. In this article, I’ll teach you how to drift like a king, in just 7 easy-to-remember steps. You probably won’t nail drifting on your first attempt, but practice makes perfect. Keep practising! Are you ready? Let’s go!

7 Steps to Master Go-Kart Drifting

  • Step 1 – Identify the Right Circumstances
  • Step 2 – Approach the Corner From the Outside
  • Step 3 – Turn Your Steering Wheel and Lean Outward
  • Step 4 – Feather Your Brakes
  • Step 5 – Counter Steer to Avoid a Spin Out
  • Step 6 – Pulse the Gas Pedal During the Drift
  • Step 7 – Realign Your Kart With the Straight Section

1. Identify the Right Circumstances

identify the right circumstances for go kart drifting

Things to Remember:

  • Know your go-kart well
  • Ensure your surroundings are clear
  • No karts in front or behind you
  • Practice with 90-degree corners

Apart from having to know your go-kart well, the first thing you need to do before trying to drift is to ensure that you’re doing that in the right circumstances. You should make sure that your surroundings are safe and that there is no other kart behind you and that the front is clear, as well.

Just to reiterate you should try to avoid drifting during a go-kart race as it slows you down. Once your wheels don’t have maximum traction on the track, you lose valuable speed and lap time. However, it can be extremely fun to drift and it also looks cool!

In order to drift your go-kart you need to identify a corner. If you’re new to drifting then I recommend you start with a corner that has an angle of about 90-degrees. This will allow you to learn the basics and you’ll be able to tackle more challenging and sharper corners once you are accustomed to all 7 steps. It’s also good to make sure that before and after the corner are straight sections.

To recap, ensure that the surroundings are clear, no other go-karts are near you, you start with a right angle corner and you know your go-kart very well.

2. Approach the Corner From the Outside

approach from the outside

Things to Remember:

  • Practice on the same corner
  • Approach from the outside
  • Go slightly past the racing line

Once you have identified the corner that you want to practice drifting at, make sure that you stick to the same one so that you are presented with the exact same scenario each time. After each attempt, ensure that you complete another round instead of going back in the wrong direction.

When you start your approach ensure that you are still on the racing line. This means that your go-kart should be aligned with the outside of the corner. You should leave a few inches of gap between your go-kart and the track barrier.

The important part here is not to reduce your speed too soon and abruptly, as you aren’t trying to follow the racing line. You want to ensure that you maintain enough speed to drift. When you are approaching, reduce your speed slightly, going past the racing line and ideal turning point.

Now that you know the methods of approaching the corner for drifting, let’s take a look at how to steer and brake accordingly.

3. Turn Your Steering Wheel and Lean Outward

Things to Remember:

  • Turn your wheel into the apex quickly
  • Wait until your kart swings outward
  • Lean outward a little

Once you’re a few feet behind the racing line, you need to start turning your steering wheel. If you start turning your steering wheel before or on the racing line, you’ll definitely come up short and won’t be able to clear the corner.

The tricky part is knowing how much you need to turn your steering wheel by. You don’t want to understeer, as this won’t induce your go-kart to drift. In fact, you need to oversteer, so that the back of your kart swings outward and forces it sideways.

If you turn your steering wheel too slowly, you’ll end up understeering and you’ll hit the barrier. If you oversteer too much, you’ll swing the back of your go-kart out too far, which will cause you to spin out. The trick is to find the right balance. It may be quite intimidating, but you’ll need to turn in sharply followed by active countersteering to avoid a spin. We’ll get into countersteering a little later.

Once you feel that your kart is swinging out and moving sideways, you should lean a little outward. This will cause your center of gravity to shift and your wheels closer to the apex are not able to maximise grip.

4. Feather Your Brakes

feather your brakes

Things to Remember:

  • Reduce speed by feathering brake
  • Feather brakes if you’re too fast
  • Never slam your brakes

Contrary to popular belief, while you approach the corner and brake to slow down, you should never slam your brakes. Doing that with a steering wheel in a straight position will cause you to slow down too much in order to drift. You’ll just end up understeering or simply being too slow.

Slamming your brakes with your steering wheel turned, will cause you to instantaneously spin out. The trick here is to feather your brake pad. Depending on how sensitive your brake pad is set, you need to softly engage your brakes to the right levels for drifting. Remember when I said that first and foremost you need to understand how your go-kart works? Knowing how far you need to press your brakes is crucial, in order to get the perfect speed to drift.

During the drift, you also want to avoid stepping on the brakes too hard. Ideally, you shouldn’t be braking much as you should instead be countersteering.

However, if you build up too much speed during a drift, you can reduce your speed slightly, by feathering your brakes. At no point should you slam your brakes during any stage of a drift.

5. Counter Steer to Avoid a Spin Out

feather your brakes

Things to Remember:

  • Countersteer early on
  • Don’t turn the steering wheel viscously
  • Make many small adjustments
  • Don’t take your hands off the wheel

The art of countersteering is arguably the most difficult technique to learn when it comes to drifting. Ideally, you need to countersteer just the right amount, in order to keep your front wheels pointed in the optimal direction.

If you countersteer too little, you’ll start noticing that the back of your go-kart will swing out a lot more, causing you to spin out. This is because when you drift, your kart is in a natural position to spin. If you countersteer too much you’ll start to exit your drift early, which will cause you to head toward the outward barrier.

The trick is to develop a feeling of how often and how much to countersteer. Make sure that you are doing small adjustments and don’t viscously turn your steering wheel. Keeping your go-kart accurately positioned in a drift takes some practice. Don’t worry, you’ll quite quickly be able to get the hang of it.

Another important tip is that you make many small adjustments depending on how far the back of your kart swings out. It’s very normal to keep adjusting the angle of your go-kart by moving the steering wheel ever so slightly. Make sure that you don’t move your hands on the steering wheel. Always keep a tight grip on the wheel at a quarter to three position.

6. Pulse the Gas Pedal During the Drift

Things to Remember:

  • Don’t slam the gas pedal
  • Pulse the gas pedal when losing speed

At this moment, you’ll be already drifting around the corner. You don’t want to be losing too much speed and you also want to avoid drifting out of the corner. In order to prevent this, you’ll need to manage your momentum and speed during the drift.

You should ideally maintain the same speed around the entire drift. As this is incredibly hard to do, you will have to manually accelerate as the friction of your tires against the asphalt slows your go-kart down.

This can be achieved by pulsing your gas pedal occasionally. Pulsing is the act of stepping on the gas pedal in short intervals. Do this whenever you feel you’re drifting too far outward, or you’re losing speed.

Remember not to slam on the gas pedal during your drift. This can easily cause you to oversteer and you’ll spin out. It’ll take some getting used to, but you will eventually get the hang of it.

7. Realign Your Kart With the Straight Section

realign your kart

Things to Remember:

  • Avoid viscous steering maneuvers
  • Wait for 45-degree angle to the straight
  • Compensate for fishtailing

Great! You’re almost done with your drift and have come to the final stage. Now, your goal is to align your go-kart back with the straight section, in order for you to continue racing.

While you are still drifting and you’re almost at around a 45-degree angle to the straight, you should start countersteering so much that the front of your go-kart levels with the racing line.

Also remember that the closer you are to realigning your go-kart with the upcoming straight section, the faster you want to be and the harder you should be pushing down on the gas pedal.

To avoid fishtailing, you’ll need to avoid viscous steering wheel movements. This is a common problem that occurs mostly during the realignment with the straight section. You’ll want to firmly countersteer and compensate oversteering up to a point where your go-kart slowly but surely aligns back with the racing line.

Conclusion

That’s it! Well, at least in theory. I’ve drifted many times around many types of corners and it’s extremely fun. You can do this around chicanes, bends, hairpines, and all other types of corners. Trust me when I say that at first it may sound like a difficult task, but once you get a few attempts under your belt, you’ll very soon get the hang of it. Just ensure that you are practicing safety. If practicing around a corner is too intimidating at first, you should first try drifting on a private area that is empty and large enough.

I also want to reiterate that drifting does not increase your speed around corners in a race, regardless of what others tell you. Alone from a physics point of view, it doesn’t make any sense. Therefore, you should only drift for fun. Guides stating that drifting increases speed around corners are incorrect and are most likely not written by go-kart racers. Think about it! If it really did, you’d be constantly seeing everyone drifting around every corner there is in every race.

With all that in mind, make sure to use these drifting techniques for fun and always use proper safety equipment. Don’t forget to keep practicing and always have fun! Happy drifting guys!

2 thoughts on “How to Drift in a Go-Kart: 7 Easy Steps”

  1. this was very useful i will remember to keep this n mind when i want to drift thanks for all the help and btw that was was a great conclusion

    Reply

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