How to Tire Prep for Go-Kart Racing: A Complete Guide

Picture this, your next go-kart race is coming up in a week and you’re thinking about every edge that you can get, in order to win the race. There are commonly overlooked techniques that you can take advantage of, which are setup before the race even starts. One of these techniques is tire prepping and in this guide I’ll teach you how to tire prep for go-kart racing.

Learning how to prep go-kart racing tires for your next race includes scuffing your tires and applying tire prep formula several days before the race. This will give you the right amount of traction on the race track. Using a tire prep formula can ultimately save you a few tenths of a second per lap, which definitely adds up throughout the race.

Before I continue, please make sure that tire prepping is allowed in the races that you participate in. If you’re using this for personal races, then you can skip that step. Let’s jump right in!

Understanding Track Conditions

Before introducing you to the tire prep guide, it’s important that you understand what a “bite” of a track is. Understanding this is vital, as it will determine how many layers of a tire prep formula you need and how much you are required to apply.

Race tracks have different types of “bite”. The bite of a track basically means how much traction your wheels get. Different types of track surfaces have different levels of grip. For example older asphalt tracks with more rubber deposits tend to have a high “bite” than standard concrete tracks. Dirt in comparison to traditional race track surfaces offer very low amounts of traction.

Generally speaking, when it comes to a low bite track you want to be applying a thicker layer of tire prep formula. If the race track has a medium bite, you should aim for a medium application. For a high bite track you may either want to opt for a thin coat or even skip tire prepping completely, depending on the bite of the respective race track. We’ll go more into the details a little bit later.

How To Apply Tire Prep for Go-Kart Racing

Applying tire prep formula on your go-kart tires is fairly simple, however there are a few steps that you need to take into consideration before you start. For an effective tire prep application process you can follow the step-by-step guide below.

go-kart tire prep step 1
go-kart tire prep step 2
go-kart tire prep step 3
go-kart tire prep step 4
go-kart tire prep step 5

1. Identify How Many Applications You Need

The first step when you tire prep for go-kart racing requires you to plan a little ahead. You’ll need to make a decision on how many coatings you want to apply on to your tires. You’re able to calculate this by understanding what type of track you’re dealing with and the current state of your tires.

As previously explained, the lower the bite of a track, the more tire prep formula you should apply. This means for a low bite track, it’s common to apply a little more than average. You should apply 4 ounces on the outer tire and 3 ounces on the inner tire. For a medium bite track, you should apply 3 ounces on the outer tire and 2 ounces on the inner tire. 

If you’re racing on a high bite track, you should apply 2 ounces on the outer tire and 1 once on the inner tire. You can even opt to skip tire prepping all together, if you think that the track has a very high bite. For now, take this as a reference, as we’ll go into more details in Step 4. 

You should also consider the condition of your tires. New tires usually have less grip as they are smoother and have less traction. In this case, you may want to scuff your tires or apply a thicker layer of tire prep formula. If you are using worn tires for your race, you may require less, as they already have good traction on the track

At first, identifying the number of coatings and how much to apply can be hard, but you’ll get used to it after a few times.

2. Place Your Kart on a Stand

During the process, you’ll need to access all four tires easily and ensure that none of the tires have contact with the ground. For that reason I recommend that you place your go-kart on a stand. You can use a dedicated go-kart stand or simply any other stand that doesn’t make contact with your tires. A go-kart stand is always preferred in this situation.

Once your go-kart is on the stand, ensure that you’re able to move all fours go-kart tires. You’ll need to move all four of them when you apply the tire prep formula. You can move the tires by grabbing on to the wheel or the axle, so ensure that those areas are easily accessible and aren’t blocked.

Also take note that you should do this indoors. It’s best to tire prep on a go-kart stand in your garage or any other indoor location, as you’ll need to let them dry naturally and they also shouldn’t get wet.

3. Scuff Your Go-Kart Tires

If you’re on a new set of go-kart tires, you should think about scuffing them. Tire scuffing is a common practice for racing. Scuffing your kart tires means that you are taking a rough material and are scraping it against your tires to create small scuff marks on them.

I know this sounds counterintuitive, but scuff marks actually create a tire profile. I’m sure you’ve noticed that go-kart tires are smooth, compared to normal car tires. Scuffing increases grip, especially at the beginning of a race, when you need it the most. Think of a piece of smooth paper running against wood, compared to sandpaper. It’s quite evident that sandpaper creates more friction, thus getting a better grip.

The most common scuffing tool is a handheld belt sander. You can use it by running the sander against your rear tire. You don’t need to move your tires, as they will automatically spin when the belt sander is running. All you need to do is move the sander horizontally to ensure that you cover the entire surface area. To see go-kart tire scuffing in action, you can take a closer look at this video.

When it comes to scuffing, you’ll only need to process the rear tires. This is because your go-kart is most likely a rear wheel drive and it’s the rear tires that provide you with the most amount of traction on the track.

4. Apply The Tire Prep Formula

After you’ve scuffed your tires, ensure that there is no rubber residue left on the surface of the go-kart tires. You can simply use a dry cloth and wipe or brush off both rear tires. Now your tires are ready to be coated with a tire prep formula. If you need some guidance on that, you can check out my review of the best tire prep formulas for go-kart racing.

You should read instructions on the tire prep container carefully. They will usually indicate how much to formula to apply and how the formula should be applied. If you’re using a homemade tire prep or are unsure, you can continue reading for a general guideline.

When it comes to applying the tire compound, you have a choice between three different methods. You can either use a spray, a brush or a roller. You can pick whatever is most comfortable for you. I prefer to use a brush, as it ensures that I can evenly coat the tire surface and it also doesn’t get messy. 

You can take the table below as reference for how much of the tire prep formula you should apply on your go-kart tires.

For Low Bite Tracks

  • 4 ounces on Outer Tire
  • 3 ounces on Inner Tire

For Medium Bite Tracks

  • 4 ounces on Outer Tire
  • 3 ounces on Inner Tire

For High Bite Tracks

  • 2 ounces on Outer Tire
  • 1 ounces on Inner Tire

The first thing you will notice is that the outer tire requires more tire prep formula than the inner tire. This is because the outer tire will make more contact with the race track especially during cornering. This will cause more wear on the outer tires and therefore will require more traction and more formula.

As you can see, the lower the bite of the race track, the thicker the application needs to be, in order to give you the extra traction you need. However, there is also another method of doing this. Instead of applying it in one application, you can apply half or a third of the required amount in 2 or 3 separate applications.

If you want to apply all of the tire prep coatings in one go or split the application into multiple thinner ones is completely up to you. Just take note that the last application on your tire should leave at least 48 hours of time before the start of the race, in order to properly dry.

5. Let the Formula Dry

Now that you’ve applied the tire prep formula, it’s time for the final step. You now need to let the application dry. The drying process allows the formula to penetrate your go-kart tires and the surface area to dry.

The drying process can take around 24 – 48 hours so it’s best to leave it at least 48 hours to dry. While the tires are drying, it’s vital that they don’t make any contact to the ground. Therefore, you should keep your go-kart on the stand and store it indoors in a dry environment.

Freshly coated tires that come into contact with a wet environment could render the tire prep ineffective and also prolong the drying process.

Tire Prep for Go-Kart Racing on Different Surfaces

Certain tire prep formulas also work on dirt surfaces, instead of only asphalt or concrete. If you’re planning to use tire prep formula on off-road go-karts for dirt surfaces, you have to take into account that it will not be as effective as when used on asphalt.

However, it still works very well if you follow the recommended instructions from the manufacturer. As the surface of dirt isn’t as firm as asphalt or concrete, a general rule you can use is to either apply an additional layer or increase the application amount by about 25 – 50%.

Asphalt Race Track
concrete race track
Concrete Race Track
dirt race track
Dirt Race Track

Racing Rules and Regulations

One of the most important things that you need to consider is that a lot of go-kart races and events don’t allow the use of tire prep formulas. I have taken part in some that do, but I’ve also seen other racers being disqualified after the race, as they were using tire prep formulas that were against the rules.

It’s therefore very important that you ensure not breaking race regulations. If you’re unsure about tire prep regulations for your race, you can simply check directly with the race organizer or the sanctioning body. Either of them will be able to refer you to the regulatory guidelines.

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