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, how do you know 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 the non-hemi engines.
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.
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.
Xtremepower 7HP Motor
Advertised as an industrial grade engine, the Xtremepower 7HP block is aluminum and the piston rides in a cast-iron sleeve. Displacement is 212cc, and maximum power in stock form is 7HP at 3600 RPM. The rewind can be relocated to the left or the right for an easier pull.
Shop: Xtremepower 7HP Engine
Xtremepower brand motors appear to be manufactured by Lifan. Like other clone engines, performance is easily upgradable.
Ironton 420cc Engine
Moving up into the big clone motor department is the 12-horsepower Ironton 420. Crankshaft is cast-iron for strength in high-torque applications. Other features include dual ball bearings for reduced friction.
Shop: Ironton 420cc (12-HP)
The Ironton 420cc engine does not have provisions to be set up with electric start. Some of it's internal parts are not compatible with the Honda GX390.
Lifan 420cc Engine
The popular Lifan Predator engine is also offered in a 420cc displacement producing 13 horsepower. These have a larger 1" shaft, a compression release for easy starting, universal mounting pattern, and a low-oil shutdown switch. Generally they power construction equipment, but sure would make a wicked ATV or go kart motor!
Shop: Predator 420cc Engine (13 HP)
Although the larger Lifan engines 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.