Best Honda Clone Engine
Article by Mark Trotta
For those on a budget, Chinese-built Honda clone engines are a good deal for the money. Problem is, there are so many out there, which one is best for your application? The following article will help clear away some confusion.
What Is A Clone Motor?
Since the 1980s, the Honda GX200 was by far the best-selling small gas-powered engine, so it was really no surprise when copycat manufacturers appeared and began selling cheaper versions.
Clone motors follow nearly the same design of the original Honda GX200: single cylinder, horizontal shaft, overhead-valve engine. Most clones are marketed as industrial-grade motors, featuring cast-iron cylinder liners and a ball-bearing supported crankshaft. Many share the Honda GX200's engine displacement of 196cc.
The four most popular sizes of Honda clone engines are 196cc, 212cc, 301cc and 420cc. They are well suited to power go karts, mini-bikes, and other small engine projects.
The companies that manufacture clone engines are based in China, with some having additional factories in other Pacific rim countries. Most of them will sell wholesale to any person or company that buys enough quantity. The buyers, in turn, add their own name to it for resale. Of course, this adds confusion as to who the real manufacturer is.
One of the major clone manufacturers is Lifan Group. Up until 2011, Lifan made an exact copy of the Honda GX200, sold through Harbor Freight as "Greyhound." The two motors were identical in every way, save for the sheet metal shrouds and the color (Honda small engines are red, Greyhound motors are blue). Starting later that year, with pressure from Honda, Lifan redesigned the motor.
Lifan Predator 212cc
Painted black and called Predator, the Lifan 212cc has a bore of 70mm and a stroke of 55mm. This gives a slightly larger displacement of 212cc versus the Honda's 200cc displacement. It still shares most of it's components with the Honda, and makes 6.5 horsepower in stock trim. Plenty of performance parts are available.
There are presently three Predator 212cc engines on the market:
- 60363 - hemi head
- 69730 - non-hemi head
- 69727 - non-hemi head California compliant
Hemi vs Non-Hemi Predator
The "Hemi" Predator motors were built after June 2013 and have a flat-top piston. Earlier, non-hemi motors have a dished piston.
There is little to no stock performance gain over non-hemi engines. The non-hemi model has better parts compatibility and modification options.
Shop: Predator 212cc Engine (6.5 HP)
Some engine parts fit both the hemi and non-hemi Predators. Not all engine parts interchange between the two.
Both the hemi and non-hemi Predator are about the most popular karting engines today. In addition to performance, they are good value for the money.
If you decide to buy a Predator motor, be aware that it does not come with a clutch or torque converter, so they must be purchased separately. For a Predator 212cc, you need a clutch or torque converter to accept a 3/4" shaft.
Although the larger Lifan engines (420cc) come with electric start, the charging system only puts out three amps. This gives only minimum amperage to provide ignition power and little else. If your application requires lighting and battery charging capability, Lifan does not offer the parts to retrofit the charging system.
So Which Clone Motor Is Best?
Unless you need a specific size motor for Kart racing, the best clone engine will be the biggest one that fits your budget. With an initial cash layout of about a third of a new Honda GX200, you can't beat the performance per dollar you get with the non-hemi Predator 212cc.
Shop: Predator 212cc Engine (6.5 HP)
Change Oil Frequently
Regular oil changes preserve the life of any small gas engine. Clone engines with a low oil sensor will take slightly less oil (about 14 ounces) than ones without the low oil sensor (about 16 ounces). Be sure to use name-brand quality oil.
Use The Proper Oil
Small engines require oil specifically designed for air-cooled equipment. Most automotive oils manufactured after 2009 do not meet the specifications for air cooled engines. This results in higher operating temperatures and reduced engine life. Change the oil at the recommended interval (or once a year minimum).
Shop: Small Engine Oil
Buying Clone Engine Parts
Aside from price, another big reason clone motors are so popular is they can be easily modified for more power. Although differing slightly in quality and design, engine parts are not only interchangeable with the Honda GX160, GX200, and GX390, but also with other clone motors.