When it comes to racing go-karts, tires are an extremely important component that are often undervalued. Equipping your go-kart with the right tire size, type and compound can make or break your racing performance.
As go-kart tires perform differently depending on the track conditions, your go-kart, track surface type and various other factors, they can greatly impact your lap times.
In fact, it can be a difference of coming in first place or finishing somewhere in the middle of the pack. Therefore, the aim of this guide is to share valuable information on go-kart tires ranging from types and sizes to compounds and costs.
Here are the topics of what this go-kart tire guide will cover:
In this guide, I’ll share my personal experience with go-kart tires and include extended research that I have done. I’ll also be sharing information that was gathered from professional go-kart racers that I have met and collaborated with along the way.
Selecting the right type of go-kart tires is one of the key tasks that you’ll be confronted with before a race. Each go-kart tire type is designed for a specific application (type of race or go-kart) and performs differently depending on track conditions.
For example, slick tires are designed to provide maximum grip during normal and dry track conditions, whereby wet tires are optimized to perform well during wet and damp track conditions.
Each tire type features different compounds, threads, sizes and are designed for different applications. In the section below, we’ll go through each tire type in a little more detail.
- For dry track conditions
- Hard, medium, soft compound
- CIK-FIA homologated
- Multiple kart classes
- Non-threaded tires
Slick tires are standard go-kart racing tires that are designed with a smooth thread and optimized for maximum grip in dry weather conditions. Manufacturers typically offer three different compounds for slick go-kart tires, which are soft, medium and hard.
Soft tires yield the most grip but wear out the fastest, whereby hard tires last the longest but compromise on grip. Medium compound racing tires are typically the middle ground. Find out more about tire compounds here.
High-end slick tires are typically CIK-FIA homologated and are designed to be used in competitive go-kart races. Non-homologated slick tires are sometimes referred to as sport tires.
Slick tires for go-karts are narrow in the front (about 3.5” to 5”) and wider in the rear (about 6” to 8”). Staggered tires sizes help to induce understeer and accommodate for the increased weight towards the back of the go-kart.
- For wet track conditions
- Hard, medium, soft compound
- CIK-FIA homologated
- Multiple kart classes
- Threaded tires
Wet tires, also called rain tires, are used for go-kart races with wet or damp track conditions. When it rains, water accumulates on the track surface and acts as a layer between the track and the go-kart tire.
Therefore, go-kart tires for wet conditions are typically threaded. Threaded tires have grooves on the surface that are designed to prevent aquaplaning (also known as hydroplaning) by pushing water away from the tires.
Similarly, wet tires can be CIK-FIA homologated for racers who participate in competitive races or non-homologated for non-competitive racing. It’s also common to have a staggered setup for wet tires.
- Designed for oval karting
- For oval dirt and asphalt tracks
- Typically wider tires
- Stiffer sidewalls
Oval tires are not named after the shape of the tire, but after their application: oval kart racing. Oval racing tires are designed for oval karts and are available in threaded and non-threaded versions.
Compared to slick tires, oval tires are much wider and are typically designed with a stiffer sidewall to accommodate for increased grip when racing around an oval track.
Depending on the type of oval go-kart and track type, tire manufacturers typically design oval tires for asphalt or dirt oval race tracks. Oval tires are more common in the United States and are typically non-homologated.
- Designed for dirt & off-road racing
- Thread design
- Higher ground clearance
- Knobby profile
Dirt tires for go-karts are also referred to as off-road tires and are designed for dirt or off-road racing. These tires are typically much larger and aren’t as wide as slick or oval tires.
While it’s true that wider tires with a larger surface area provide more grip, dirt tires are often narrower but larger in size. This type of tire design facilitates a higher ground clearance and increased maneuverability, which is essential for off-road racing.
Dirt tires are typically threaded or knobby, which is ideal for racing on unstable or unlevel terrains such as dirt, grass, mud and sand. Generally speaking, dirt tires for go-karts are not homologated.
- For rental karts
- Mass produced
- Built to last
Concession tires for go-karts are designed specially for rental go-karts. They are often hard compound tires with a thicker construction, as they are built to last longer than slick tires.
These tires are also designed for indoor use and commonly achieve a middle ground between performance and affordability. Concession tires are not CIK homologated and are often tubed for increased lifespan.
Go-kart tires come in different shapes and sizes, which are typically predicated on their application. For example, slick and oval tires are optimized for grip and therefore have a wider construction.
On the other hand, off-road tires are knobby and have a much greater height and narrower width. Go-kart tires are attributed with height, width and rim diameter (example: 11 x 6.00 – 5).
The illustration above will help you better understand where and how you can identify the tire sizes. There are various aspects to this so make sure to read the guide on how to read go-kart tire sizes.
Go-kart tires are commonly made from the following ingredients: polymers which are natural rubber, synthetic rubber (produced from petroleum-derived hydrocarbons), carbon black and various oils.
The ingredients of go-kart tires are fairly similar across manufacturers and are mixed in a specific ratio depending on the type of tire. A tire compound also determines the ‘hardness’ or ‘softness’ of a go-kart tire.
More specifically, they don’t necessarily measure the ‘hardness’ of the tire itself, but more of its interaction with the race track. Go-kart racing tires have three types of compound levels: hard, soft, and medium.
- Hard Tires – Hard compound tires are stiffer and don’t offer as much grip as medium or soft compound tires. This is because less surface area makes contact with the race track. However, hard tires are designed to last longer and also have a lower rolling resistance.
- Soft Tires – Soft compound tires are made of softer rubber allowing more of the tire to make contact with the race track, allowing for more grip. However, soft tires tend to wear faster and have a higher rolling resistance, but are designed to provide more grip.
- Medium Tires – Medium compound tires offer a middle point in terms of tire grip, rolling resistance and wear. They are often regarded as the “safe pick” when it comes to selecting the right tires for a go-kart race.
The compound that is best for your go-kart depends on the track layout, your go-kart and the track conditions. Generally speaking, softer tires offer more grip but are more expensive and have a high rolling resistance, whereas harder tires are more affordable, have less grip but wear less.
The price of go-kart tires depends on the manufacturer, as well as its type, size and compound. Go-kart tires typically cost about $30 to $100 for a single tire and a set of four goes for about $120 to $400.
Of course the actual price may also depend on where you decide to purchase your go-kart tires (retailed, marketplace or directly with the manufacturer). Used go-kart tires are often heavily discounted and can be found on places like eBay for about $40 – $150 for used sets for four.
- Search: Used Go-Kart Tires on eBay
There are various go-kart tire manufacturers, which are predominantly located in the United States and in Europe. Manufacturers typically offer a wide range of go-kart tires for various go-kart types and track conditions.
Please make sure to check out the go-kart tire size chart from various manufacturers. There, you’ll be able to see their tire range, as well as the dimensions and other important details. Below, you’ll find a list of the best go-kart tire manufacturers:
Maxxis was founded in 1967 and has been importing kart tires in the United States since 1997. They distribute kart racing tires all around the world and pride themselves in having a close relationship with track owners, promoters and drivers. Here is their line-up:
- Maxxis Sprint (slick, wet and racing tires)
- Maxxis Dirt (oval tires)
- Maxxis Concession (concession tires)
Hoosier is an American company that was founded by Bob Newton and his wife who started manufacturing racing tires in Indiana, United States. Today, Hoosier offers more than 1,000 different tires and are known for their high-quality go-kart tires, exporting globally.
- R55 (slick tires)
- R60A (slick tires)
- R60B (slick tires)
- R70 (slick tires)
- R80 (slick tires)
- WET (wet tires)
Vega was founded in 1980 and produces a wide range of go-kart tires. With production plants in Italy and France, they offer slick, wet and concession tires. Their speciality are CIK-FIA homologated tires and the team works closely with their team of drivers. It’s also worth noting that each tire goes through at least 200 laboratory checks. Here is their offering:
- Vega Slick (slick tires)
- Vega Rain (wet tires)
- Vega Rental (concession tires)
The Dunlop go-kart tire range is known as Dunlop Kartsport and features four different series. They offer more than 60 different sizes across their range and mainly manufacture slick and wet tires. While they’re focused on homologated tires, they can also be used for leisure karting. Below, you’ll find their complete range
- DF Series (slick tires)
- KT Series (wet tires)
- SL Series (slick tires)
- DE Series (slick tires)
MOJO tires were initially developed in order to cater for Rotax 125 class engines. These go-kart tires are manufactured in Dresden, Germany and offer slick and wet tires for various karting classes. In 2006, MOJO tires were widely commercialized and are now available in more than 50 countries. Here’s a summary of the tires they have on offer:
- D2XX (slick tires)
- D5 (slick tires)
- W5 (wet tires)
- C2 (slick tires)
- CW (slick tires)
Another popular go-kart tire manufacturer is MG Tires, which was founded in 1989 in Brazil. They use PAHs (polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons) to craft CIK-FIA homologated and non-homologated racing tires. They offer a wide range of go-kart tires and work closely with track operators and drivers. Here’s a list of go-kart tires that are available:
- SM Series (slick tires)
- SH Series (slick tires)
- SW Series (wet tires)
- SC Series (slick tires)
- SCW Series (wet tires)
- SS (slick tires)
- SI (slick tires)
- AZ (slick tires)
- SD (off-road tires)
- RL1 (concession tires)
- RL2 (concession tires)
- RL3 (concession tires)
Founded by the two brothers Sergio and Valter Cont, LeCont go-kart tires have established themselves as an Italian manufacturer that produces high-quality racing tires. All of their tires are CIK-FIA approved and homologated. Here’s a closer look at their exceptionally large tire range:
- SVA Series (slick tires)
- SVB Series (slick tires)
- SVC Series (slick tires)
- SV1 Series (wet tires)
- SV2 Series (wet tires)
- LH03 Series (slick tires)
- LH05 Series (slick tires)
- 4S Series (slick tires)
- LH04 Series (wet tires)
- MSA04 Series (all weather tires)
Tire prep formulas are designed to increase the traction of your go-kart tires on the race track. This added traction is able to increase the “stickiness” of your tires on the track’s surface, which typically results in faster lap times, due to the increased grip around the corners and during acceleration.
I’ve written a comprehensive guide on how to tire prep your go-kart tires effectively. In this guide I’ve also shared some additional tips that you should definitely check out.
If you’re looking for a tire prep formula that’s ready-made, then feel free to check out the best go-kart tire prep formulas, where I rank and review the best prep formulas on the market.
Important Note: Please note that tire pro formulas are not allowed to be used in go-kart races that are organized and sanctioned by the CIK-FIA. To ensure compliance to racing rules and regulations, always check with the event or race organizer.
Frequently Asked Questions
In this section, I’ll be addressing some of the most frequently asked questions on go-kart tires. If there are some questions that you have which are not on the list, feel free to write in and I’ll be happy to add them into this list and answer them!
What Are the Best Tires for My Go-Kart?
There is no overall best go-kart tire for every situation that anyone will be able to suggest to you. Your selection criteria of racing tires should be based on your go-kart, as well as the track and weather conditions.
However, here’s a quick guide of their benefits and when it may be best to choose one of the other:
- Oval Tires: For oval races
- Slick Tires: For dry weather conditions
- Wet Tires: For wet weather conditions
- Dirt Tires: For off-road and dirt races
- Concession Tires: For rental go-karts
In terms of compound, you may use below as a guide for your selection. Ensure to do some practice rounds if you can, as you’ll definitely experience a difference in handling (especially around corners).
- Hard Compound: Less grip, lasts longer
- Soft Compound: More grip, wears faster
- Medium Compound: middle ground
Where Can I Buy Go-Kart Tires?
Go-kart tires are available in various places. You’ll be able to purchase new and used tires from retailers, online marketplaces, classified ads and manufacturers directly.
Here are some places you can look at:
- BMI Karts
- Kart Parts Depot
- Facebook Marketplace
Where Do I Find the Right Tire Size?
If you’re looking to find the right tire size for your go-kart, make sure that you check out the go-kart tire size chart. There, you’ll be able to find a list of manufacturers and their available series and respective tire sizes.
How Long Do Go-Kart Tires Last
The lifespan of your go-kart tires depends on various aspects such as brand, quality, track abrasiveness, driving style, go-kart and usage. Therefore, depending on the above mentioned factors, go-kart tires can last between 2 – 3 races on average. You can definitely run them for longer, but you’ll notice a performance loss.
Take note that the longer you use your go-kart tires the less grip they eventually offer, which can affect your lap times. Firstly, they wear over time and secondly due to heat cycling.
How Many Sets of Go-Kart Tires Do I Need?
This depends on your racing habit and how seriously you take go-kart racing. Ultimately, you should have enough sets of tires so that you don’t run out when racing. Here’s a simple practice that I follow for outdoor racing:
- 1 set of 4 tires on my go-kart
- 2 sets of 4 slick tires as spare
- 1 set of 4 wet tires for wet conditions
- 1 set of all-weather tires (optional)
How Much Do I Need to Spend on Go-Kart Tires?
The amount you’ll need to spend on go-kart tires depends how often you need to replace them. Professional go-kart racers find themselves spending anywhere between $15,000 to $25,000 a year on new go-kart tires.
Semi-professionals or occasional racers spend about $5,000 to $10,000 a year on new sets of go-kart tires. However, if you’re on a budget you can replace your tires less frequently and also opt for used tires. You’ll probably get away with about $2,000 to $3,000 yearly.