Do Go-Karts Have Differentials? (Technical Regulations And Mechanics)

Ready to take your go-kart knowledge to the next level? Our guide will explain why go-karts don't have differentials and more.
Do Go-Karts Have Differentials?

Go-karts are an exciting and fun way to enjoy motorsports, and understanding their inner workings can make your experience even more thrilling. 

Have you ever wondered do go-karts have differentials? 

In this article, we’ll explore that question and explain why go-karts don’t have differentials, how they turn without them, and what the technical regulations surrounding them are. 

By the end of this article, you’ll have a much better understanding of the fascinating mechanics of go-karts.

Go-Karts And Differentials

A differential regulates the power transmission to the rear wheels. It is a typical feature in auto-racing vehicles. Go-karts lack a differential. 

It means they cannot turn at varying speeds while cornering, unlike other vehicles.

Go-karts lack differentials because they raise the weight and center of gravity of the vehicle. 

Also, they go against the technical regulations of the CIK-FIA. Plus, differentials will increase the need for go-kart maintenance.

Why Don’t Go-Karts Have Differentials?

Go-karts lack differentials because:

  • They increase the vehicle’s weight 
  • They need more maintenance
  • They increase the gravity force around the car
  • They are against the technical regulations of the CIK-FIA.

Let me explain these reasons more in-depth to you.

Differentials Increase The Weight Of Go-Karts

The differential may seem like just another component to you but it is way beyond that. But, this extra component would increase the weight of a go-kart. 

By design, go-karts are lightweight. They do not have any unnecessary parts because they are racing vehicles. 

Adding a differential to a go-kart can increase the weight of the vehicle by an average of 35 pounds. 

This may not seem much to you. But the average weight of a go-kart is about 170 pounds. This means the differential will increase the weight of the vehicle by about 20%. 

The extra weight of this level can decrease the go-kart’s potential for acceleration. 

The result is that go-karts may not be able to go in and out of corners as swiftly as they should. Still, go-karts can make up for differentials mainly by jacking

Also Read: What Is The Weight Limit For Go Karts

Differentials Mean The Go-Kart Will Need More Maintenance

Every part of a go-kart needs proper maintenance to function. Differentials function as a set of gears or gear trains. 

So they need proper and constant lubrication to function. 

Having a differential on a go-kart will increase the level of maintenance that the vehicle needs to function. 

Especially because you will need to inspect the gears and oil them. Although this may not seem much, you should remember that you need to constantly oil the differential from time to time. 

It means spending more money on a go-kart.  

Differentials Increase A Go-kart’s Center Of Gravity

The typical location of a differential is towards the back of the go-kart, in between the two wheels of the rear axle. If go-karts have a differential, they will need to be higher up from the surface of the ground. 

This is so that the differential doesn’t make contact with the track surface. Go-karts need to be low to the racing ground as much as they can be so they have a love axle and no differential. 

The lower the go-karts are, the lower their center of gravity as well. This low center of gravity helps them to turn around corners fast without the risk of tumbling over. 

Go-Karts With Differentials Are Against The Regulations Of The FIA

In line with the Commission Internationale de Karting (CIK), go-karts are vehicles with top motors and open wheels. This is the design for racing cars. 

One major way to identify a go-kart is that it has no unnecessary components. This is so that they can be lightweight and run faster. 

In line with this, the CIK-FIA has a regulation for technical carting. This regulation states clearly that differentials should not be part of go-karts. 

According to the technical regulations in Article 1, section 2.8, go-karts must always transmit power to the rear wheels. 

So there are prohibitions for any type or form of differential. 

This is one crucial reason that go-karts lack differentials. As long as these rules are in place, go-karts must transmit direct power to the rear live axle

This is something the vehicles will be unable to achieve with differentials. 

How Does A Go-kart Turn Without A Differential?

There are two ways that a go-kart can turn without a differential and they are:

The Metal Frame

Go-karts lack a suspension system so the frame feels every jolt or bump that occurs to the vehicle. 

The frames of a go-kart can withstand this pressure because its metal flexes so there is no break or crack. This flexing makes up for the lack of differential.

The Tires

Instead of rotating the outer tire faster than the inner tire, go-karts simply lift the inner rear tire fast. 

This means that only the outside rear tire of the go-kart powers the vehicle. In the process, the go-kart’s tires accomplish the same thing as a differential only with a different technique – “jacking”. 

Also Read: Power Steering In Go-Karts

Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens If a Vehicle Lacks Differential?

If a vehicle lacks a differential, both of its wheels will revolve at the same speed. 

This means they have a high tendency to move in a straight line and flip or skid when trying to make a turn. 

Do Go-Karts need Differentials?

Go-karts do not need to have a differential. Their frame and tires make up for what they lack in differentials through jacking. 

They are capable of applying the necessary force on the outer tires to prevent slippage and improve grip. 

What Is a Differential?

A differential is a piece of vehicle equipment. It prevents the jarring of vehicles as they turn or transition around corners. 

When a vehicle turns, the outer tire moves farther than the inner tire. This means that the inner tire must spin slower than the outer tire. 

To allow smooth rotation of the rear end of the vehicle. A differential device helps the vehicle achieve this goal. If a vehicle lacks a differential, both wheels on an axle will spin at the same speed. 

In the process of making a turn, the inner wheel will sporadically contact and spin over the road’s surface.


In conclusion, go-karts do not have differentials. The differential raises the weight and center of gravity of the vehicle, increases maintenance needs, and goes against the technical regulations of the CIK-FIA. 

As go-karts are lightweight racing vehicles, they must transmit direct power to the rear live axle, which is something they cannot achieve with differentials. 

Go-karts turn without a differential by lifting the inner rear tire fast and jacking or flexing the metal frame. 

By understanding the inner workings of go-karts, you can enhance your experience in this exciting and fun way to enjoy motorsports.



Meet Charles, a passionate writer and avid go-kart enthusiast. With a background in motorsports, Charles brings a unique perspective to the world of go-karting and motorsports. When Charles is not behind the wheel, you can find him crafting compelling stories and informative articles on the latest trends and technology on the PK's Go-Karts blog here.