Best Tires For Go-Kart
Article by Mark Trotta
For riding on pavement and occasional off-roading, there are three common types of go kart tires - stud, sawtooth, and slick. Consider the size of the tire and make sure it will fit your kart. And note that not every tread pattern style is available in every tire size.
Sometimes vintage style karts will have smaller tires up front, which make it slightly easier to steer. And it's cool looking!
What Are The Best Size Go-Kart Tires?
If you're building a go kart from scratch, engine size and tire height go together. It's all about gearing - small tires will let you accelerate quickest, but at the expense of top speed. Conversely, taller tires are slower off the line, but allow higher MPH.
Another consideration is cost. Taller, bigger tires cost more than smaller tires. Also keep in mind that the more common the tire size is, the cheaper and more choices of tires you have.
Tubes vs Tubeless
Kart rims can be either tubeless, or require an inner tube. Tubeless tires can be used with or without a tube, but tube-type tires must be used with a tube.
If your tubeless tire has a small leak, you can install a tube to correct the problem.
Popular brand names for kart tires include Carlisle, Kenda, and Cheng Shin. Four-ply tires are more expensive, but seem to last longer than two-ply tires.
A go kart tire usually has a three-number system, for example 9 x 7 x 8. This tells us the tire height is 9". The tire width, when inflated properly and not under a load, is 7". The wheel, or rim, is 8" in diameter.
For a yard kart driven on pavement, common tire sizes are four, five, or six inches, with actual heights of 10 to 12 inches. On an off-road kart, you need more ground clearance, so taller tires (up to 15-inches) are required.
Stud-Tread Go-Kart Tires
A stud, or knobby-tread tire gives good grip on lawns and dirt roads, but are the harshest riding on paved roads.
If you're going to be running on mainly dirt roads or tracks, these would the best choice.
Shop: 18 x 9.50-8" Kart Tires
Slicks For Go Karts
Slicks on go karts are cool looking, and their smoothness makes them great on asphalt, but they give very little traction on anything else.
Shop: 4.10 x 3.50-4" Kart Tire
Slicks are generally tube-type tires and suited for go-karts and other kart projects (drift trike, bar stool racer, etc.) The wider they are, the more traction they give, but they also have the shortest life of the three types.
Shop: 10 x 4.50-5" Slick Tire for Go-Karts
Shop: 11 x 7.10-5" Go-Kart & Kart-Racer Slick Tire
Not too smooth, not too rough, sawtooth (ribbed) tires are the mid-ground of kart tires, and they have a nice traditional look. They are not offered in as many sizes as the other two styles of kart tires.
Popular Sawtooth Tread Tire Sizes
Shop: 2.80 x 2.50-4" Sawtooth Kart Tire
Shop: 4.10 x 3.50-4" Sawtooth Kart Tire
Shop: 410 x 3.50-6" Sawtooth Kart Tire
Shop: 480-8" Sawtooth Kart Tire
When I bought my vintage kart project, it had a set of old, worn-out knobbies. Since this is not an off road kart, I replaced them with sawtooth tread tires.
My new kart tires are 4.10-3.50 x 5". Actual tire height is 11 inches. Ground clearance on the kart is about five inches. I wouldn't want any smaller wheels as there would be too little ground clearance.
Tire And Rim Packages
Several companies offer wheel and tire packages, which often saves you money from buying them separately, as well as the hassle of mounting them. Some wheel kits not only include rims and tires, but also a rear sprocket, rear disc, and wheel bearings.
Tire Air Pressure
A typical go kart tire will inflate from 10 psi to around 35 psi, depending on what type and how big a tire it is. A higher pressure will make the tire harder, which is better for pavement riding. For dirt and trails, a softer, lower pressure tire is best.
Two-piece wheels, or split rims, makes tire changing a snap. They generally have a 4-bolt pattern with a 2-13/16" bolt circle.
Slicks on a go-kart are cool looking, but they wear out quickly. Knobby tires offer the best traction off road, but on pavement it's a harsh ride and they'll also wear out quickly.
For a yard kart with a 5hp or less motor, the sawtooth tire is the best compromise for all-around use.
Of course, if you have the money, you could have two sets of tires/wheels, and swap one for the other when needed. Serious kart racers keep several sets of tires/wheels, and run shorter or taller tires for optimal gearing on a particular track.