Why Do Go-Karts Have Small Wheels? (Bigger Is Not Always Better)

why do go-karts have small wheels

Do you want to know why go-karts have small wheels?

Oftentimes, when you see Go-karts, do you ever wonder why they have small wheels compared to other vehicles designed for recreational or competitive racing purposes?

Go-karts have small wheels primarily for enhanced maneuverability and responsiveness. The smaller wheel size allows for quicker acceleration and better cornering performance. 

In this article, we will outline and deeply examine some of the reasons why go-karts have small wheels, their advantages, and possible downsides. 

The Reasons For Smaller Wheels On Go-Karts

Go-karts are developed for recreational or competitive reasons and they also have a very distinctive appearance. The fact that they have smaller tires also helps them perform so well.

Within this article section, we will examine the rationale behind using smaller wheels on go-karts. 

1. Low Center of Gravity

The small wheels that come with a Go-kart help to keep the vehicle closer to the ground to enhance steadiness and stability during quick or tight hairpin turns

Having a lower center of gravity generally allows for better handling and improved performance of Go-karts. 

2. Faster Acceleration

The smaller the wheel, the higher the torque generated. Although tire sizes don’t affect torque, they do affect the force needed to create the necessary torque. 

When the radius of a tire decreases, the amount of force required to accelerate increases. That is, this higher force directly correlates to an increase in acceleration. 

This is advantageous in go-kart racing, where swift acceleration from a standstill or out of corners can give a competitive advantage. 

3. Smoother Ride

When cornering or accelerating quickly on a track surface like asphalt, smaller wheels offer more traction which aids in keeping control and stability. 

Due to their lighter weight and firm contact with the ground, relatively small wheels are less prone to slide or skid on wet or icy roads. 

4. Improved Handling

Smaller wheels provide greater maneuverability and contribute to more responsive steering due to their reduced mass and rotational inertia. 

This doesn’t mean that steering will be more comfortable, but it’ll help in making direction changes effective and swift especially around corners. 

Also Read: Power Steering In Go-karts

When handling is improved, the driver can make quick and precise steering inputs, allowing for sharper turns and better control of the track.

5. Better Jacking Effort

In a go-kart, turning the steering wheel is just as crucial as determining your direction of travel. The front-end steering causes the front tires to rise or fall concerning the chassis when we turn a go-kart.

To achieve more efficient jacking, a smaller wheel size is required. Due to the additional weight and risk of tipping, larger tires will not easily allow this.

6. Less Weight

Go-karts are designed to be small and lightweight compared to other vehicles in the motorsport industry. This is why they are stripped of all non-essential aesthetics leaving the driver as the heaviest component. 

Normally, smaller tires provide are generally lighter than larger ones. Therefore, by minimizing the weight of the wheels, the overall weight of the go-kart is reduced. 

This weight reduction has several benefits, including improved handling, better braking performance, and increased overall speed.

7. Less Expensive

Smaller wheels are usually less expensive than their bigger counterparts. Although this may not particularly be a determining factor on why go-karts use smaller wheels, it can still be considered an advantage. 

This cost advantage makes go-karts with small wheels more affordable and a great option for amateurs and those who are just starting in the sport or those with limited funds for equipment upgrades. 

The Downsides Of Having Smaller Wheels

small go kart wheels on the track

After discussing the benefits of using smaller wheels on go-karts, it’s essential to evaluate their drawbacks as well.

Lower Ground Clearance

Small wheels can reduce the ground clearance of a go-kart, making it more susceptible to scraping out on uneven surfaces or obstacles. 

This can limit the go-kart’s off-road capabilities or its ability to traverse rough terrains. Using smaller wheels can result in more vibrations and impacts from the road surface being felt by the driver, which can make the ride less comfortable.

Also Read: Differentials In Go-karts

Reduced Braking Potential 

When compared to their bigger counterparts, smaller wheels often have less mass and surface area contact with the road surface which is the primary cause for reduced braking potential.

Smaller wheels result in longer braking distances and slower reaction times, both of which might be hazardous depending on the circumstance. 

And even though go-karts try to make up for this with wide rear tires, the difference still is not noticeable. 

Top Speed Limitation

Due to their smaller circumference, small wheels have a lower top speed potential compared to larger wheels. Each revolution covers a shorter distance, resulting in a lower maximum speed.

However, if top speed is a priority, larger wheels may be more suitable.

What Are Normal Go-Kart Wheel Sizes And Tire Sizes

Depending on the style of racing you do, rear wheels are often broader than front wheels.

The rear wheel sizes range from 6 to 10 inches in diameter while the front wheel sizes range from 4 to 6 inches in diameter too. The overall tire diameter and tire width can vary as well; from 10 to 15 inches and 4 to 7 inches respectively. 

It is very important to have in mind that these sizes are general guidelines and there can be variations based on the go-kart model, personal preferences, or racing regulations. 


Go-karts provide an exciting and adventurous way to experience the thrills of racing. 

Smaller wheels have a lot more advantages for go-karts after weighing all of the pros and cons. With just the right component and quantitative routine maintenance, you can quickly start tearing up the track.

It is also very crucial to take into account all aspects, such as limits, track design, and go-kart model while choosing wheel size.



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.