How to Shorten and Tighten a Go-Kart Chain

Go-kart chains have a very important function. They help to transfer rotary motion from the engine’s crankshaft to the rear axle, which enables your wheels to turn. Without a chain, this would not be possible. This is why your go-kart chain needs to be the right length, in order to operate efficiently and to avoid the chain from snapping or dislodging from the sprockets. 

When installing a new chain, replacing an old chain with a new one, or installing new sprockets, your go-kart chain may be too long. If that’s the case, you need to tighten your go-kart chain by shortening it. You can shorten your go-kart chain by removing the chain from your kart via the master chain. You then remove the required links using a chain link removal tool or a nail and a hammer to knock out the pins. After assembling the chain back to the sprockets and connecting the master link, make sure to lubricate the chain.  

If the quick summary above sounds too complicated for you, don’t worry. I’ll explain it in a step-by-step guide below so that you understand how you can do it yourself. It’s much easier than it actually sounds. On a side note, don’t shorten or tighten chains that are loose because of wear and tear. Chains that become elongated through wear should be replaced with a new chain. Without further ado, let’s adjust your go-kart chain!

6 Simple Steps to Shorten a Go-Kart Chain

Tightening your go-kart chain may seem like a complex task. However, broken down into smaller tasks this should be manageable, even if you don’t have any idea about roller chains or how they work. Simply follow the 6 simple steps below!

1. Ensure That You Have the Required Tools

The first thing that you’ll need to do is ensure that you have all the required equipment. You’ll definitely need some tools, in order to shorten your go-kart chain. There are two ways to go about doing this, the simple way and the complicated way. The simple way requires a chain link removal tool that is extremely easy to use and saves you a lot of time. I highlighly recommend getting one, as they make the process much more convenient and are relatively inexpensive. 

The second way is slightly more complex and requires you to have a nail that is thinner than the chain pin, two nuts and a hammer. Whichever way you decide to go with, make sure that you have a workstation or an empty area where you can perform these steps. It’s also a good idea to have your go-kart on a stand that lets you easily access your chain. If you don’t have a go-kart stand, just make sure that the chain is accessible.

What You Will Need:

2. Disconnect the Go-Kart Chain

Now it’s time to get our hands a little dirty. The first thing you want to do is to locate the master link. If you’re unsure how a master link looks like, refer to the image below. A master link of a go-kart chain is a quick-release link that allows for easy connection or disconnection of your chain. If it’s at an inaccessible area, simply move your wheels or axle to move the master link to where you can access it.

To remove the master link, you’ll have to remove the clip first. The clip is attached to the outer plate of the roller chain. If you look closely, you can see that the master link clip has an opening on the side. Use a plier to unclip the master link clip. Check out this video if you want to see it in action. After that, you can slowly remove the master link by pushing the two pins out. 

Once you’ve done this, don’t remove the go-kart chain yet. You’ll first want to start measuring how many links you need to remove. The reason why we are removing the master link first and not the other links, is because the master link makes it easier for us to take the chain off, in order for us to work on it at our workstation. We don’t really want to remove the actual links with the chain attached to the sprockets.

remove master link go-kart chain

Follow These Steps:

  • Locate the master link
  • Move the master link to an accessible position for you
  • Remove master link clip with pliers
  • Leave the chain on the sprockets
  • Keep the master link clip for later

3. Measure How Many Links to Remove

Depending on the size of your go-kart chain, you may need to remove some of the links. With the chain still on the sprocket and disconnected, tighten the chain by pulling both ends together. A go-kart chain should be tight so that there is about 1/4″ or 3/8″ of flex. 

If there is too much flex in the chain, there is a high chance that the chain may dislodge when the engine is running. Now, all you need to do is to determine the chain size for a go-kart. This will tell you how many links you should be removing from the roller chain.

go-kart chain on sprocket

Follow These Steps:

  • Pull the two ends of the chain together
  • Tighten it until there is a 1/4″ to 3/8″ flex
  • Count the number of links that you want to remove 
  • Slowly remove the chain from the sprockets

4. Shorten Chain by Removing Link

Now it’s time to start removing the chain links. I highly recommend using a chain link removal tool, as it saves a lot of time. Start with removing the link immediately next to the master link. Place the chain onto the tool, so that the pointer is directly placed against the chain link pin. 

Now, simply screw until the pin releases the link. Ensure that the pin is not completely removed, but still attached to the outer plate. This makes it easier to reattach the links later on. Check out this video on how to do this. Remember to reconnect the chain using this tool, as well. You simply align the pointer to the pin and twist it back into place. 

You can also do this without a chain link removal tool, but it’ll take more time and effort. You can do this by positioning the chain sideways, so that the pins are pointing upwards. Place a nut underneath the pin on the bottom side, use a hammer and a nail to knock the pin out downard. Use a second nut if the pin is too long. You can check out this video for reference.

Follow These Steps:

  • Target the link next to the master link
  • Place the chain onto the tool
  • Align pin with tool pointer
  • Push the pin out by twisting function
  • Repeat until all unwanted links are removed
  • Reconnect chain with tool 

5. Place Chain back on the Sprockets and Reconnect the Master Link

Once you’ve removed the links ensure that the master link is still not connected. You should now place the go-kart chain back onto the sprockets. Make sure that both ends of the chain are at an accessible area, as you need to reconnect it. Remember to take the master link clip along with you, as you’ll need this next.

Now, pull both ends of the go-kart chain together and reconnect the master link. While doing this make sure that the chain isn’t too loose or too tight. Once the go-kart chain is reconnected via the master link, don’t forget to put the clip back on. You can easily do this, the same way you removed it. You just need to use the pliers and cip it in the opposite way you took it out with. One side of the plier on the side of the pin and the other side of the plier against the clip with the closed rounded corner.

placing chain on go-kart

Follow These Steps:

  • Ensure master link is not connected to the chain
  • Place chain on to sprockets
  • Pull ends together 
  • Reconnected the master link
  • Put the clip back on the master link

6. Inspect Chain and Apply Lubricant

Good job! You’re almost done. Once you’ve reconnected the chain and it’s sitting on the sprockets it’s time to inspect if the length is correct and if it’s running as intended. Remember that your go-kart chain needs to be tight enough leaving about 1/4″ or 3/8″ of flex. If this test passes, move on to the next and if not, then you may need to add or remove a link. 

Now do a stationary test, by twisting the wheel or axle to see if the chain moves along the sprockets smoothly and without any issues. You shouldn’t be hearing any noises or see too much slack in the chain. If you’ve checked and all looks good, then it’s time to lubricate your chain. 

The reason why you don’t want to lubricate before checking is because if you have to add or remove an additional link, it’s going to get very messy after applying the lubricant. A simple chain lubricant will do and will ensure that the chain lasts longer and is well maintained. 

Once you’ve lubricated the chain, you’ve reached the final test. If your go-kart is on a stand, you can turn on your go-kart engine and rev the engine a little to see if the chain is running correctly and as intended. If you don’t have a go-kart stand you can take it for a quick spin to ensure that the chain is well in place.

lubricating a go-kart chain

Follow These Steps:

  • Inspect the go-kart chain by moving axle or tires
  • Ensure that it’s running correctly
  • Lubricate the chain with a high-quality chain lubricant
  • Turn on engine to test on go-kart stand
  • Take your kart out for a spin 


Congratulations, you just learned how to tighten your go-kart chain. Even though this task sounds quite complex, when broken down into steps, shortening a go-kart chain is actually quite simple and straightforward. Always remember to wear protective gear and take caution when required.

I’ve also created a go-kart chain size chart if you are wondering what type of chain you should get. This chart will also help you understand a little bit more on how to read roller chain dimensions and what the parts of a go-kart chain are called. If you have more questions on go-kart chain adjustments, feel free to get in touch.

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About Gerrit

Owner, Researcher, Writer & Editor at

Hi, I'm Gerrit. I have been racing go-karts competitively and recreationally for the past 20 years. Apart from actively growing local karting communities, I run GoKartGuide and write comprehensive articles, guides & reviews about go-kart racing. I race, build, mod, & discuss go-karts whenever I find the time. Thanks for stopping by and enjoy the read!

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