Archive for the ‘go kart steering’ Category

To have reached this point has been pretty gratifying. Now that we have the paint all on, the number in place, I felt we could start putting it all back together. The front wheels went on quite easily and we also put our louvers back on. We also finally removed the last of the blue painters tape from the steering column and put the steering wheel all back in place. Now we’re cookin’ with gas as one might say.

Cutting off the end of our exhaust pipe.

Before I put the exhaust back into place I went ahead and trimmed the end that mounts into the engine compartment. If you remember back in “Chapter 13: Does an engine without an exhaust still make a noise?”, we ended up with the exhaust pipe hitting our crank pedal.
Before we had removed it I marked the spot where it would need to be trimmed with a Sharpie so all we had to do here simply was cut it. I went ahead and held it in place in a miter box (which worked surprisingly well) and cut it on the line we had drawn.

Because our exhaust is nothing but a kitchen drain pipe made of chrome plated brass it cut pretty easily. I wasn’t terribly concerned with it being a perfectly straight cut since it will be on the inside of the kart and not visible, but I tried best I could. Once the cut was through I then was sure to sand the now razor sharp edge to dull it up. Last thing I needed to do was have one of the boys slice their leg open while pedaling down the road. My wife would kill me. Once we were all done with this step it was just a matter of screwing it back onto the side of the body.

Our drive wheel mounted, showing the block that the wheel mounts to.

Onto the rear wheels. I’ve been thinking a bit about the mounting of the rear wheels. I think I’m going to go ahead and rebuild some new mounting blocks. I never had painted the original ones we had created and after putting the wheels back on I just don’t feel that they’d be strong enough or at least last very long so I don’t want to go to the effort of painting them only to have them break soon thereafter.
The alignment of blocks is also bit off, but more than that is the sheer strength. What I’ll do is rather than build a mounting block out of 1×6 as we had before, I’ll pick up a piece of 4×4 and cut it in a wedge shape to align the wheels straight, while also mounting flush to the frame. Am I really looking to rebuild these mounts to insure they’re strong enough, or am I not wanting to finish this project? Good question. I’m not sure I can answer that but probably both.

With the rear wheels now mounted, albeit temporarily, we have a rolling kart again. The kids are really excited to see it all back together. I went ahead and pulled it off the stand to get some shots when one of the boys enthusiastically asked if he could take a ride. Sure, why not. I said “It’s not ready to pedal, but I could push you around a bit.” He sat in it and wrapped his hands around the wheel and just grinned ear to ear.

All rev'd up and ready to roll.

He turned the wheel back and forth a bit and off we went down the street. It really was fun to see. I pushed him down the sidewalk and told him to go ahead and turn up the neighbor’s driveway where we would turn around and head back home. I thought I may have even heard him making some engine noises, but then I quickly realized what I heard in fact was the spokes on the front wheels scraping against the lower control arms. Ahh! Abort! Abort!

We limped ‘er back to the garage and I realized that in the haste to get some pictures of it all back together I neglected to put the spacer on the front wheels that moved them towards the outside to clear the arms. I removed the wheels, put our spacers into place, and put it them back on. And also took a mental note to not to make that mistake again.

You can see where our spokes grazed our control arm.

On closer inspection I think I can repair it aesthetically, but I’m worried that a crack may have been introduced. Even if there is I think that the strength of the upper will be strong enough to support it, but I’ll just keep my eye on it. Luckily I can remove it and replace it relatively easily from the bottom of the kart. Yet another loose end that could have me working on this a bit longer.

All in all we’re looking pretty good. The louvers, the grill, the steering wheel, the exhaust, each add that bit of detail to make this a pretty cool vintage go kart. In addition to resolving our rear wheel mounts and this new wonderfulness with the front wheel I’m looking to get a seat of some sort added. Oh, and maybe some headlights. I did a bit of looking around hoping to find a discarded bar stool with a back that I could take the upholstery off of. I thought a seat like that would be perfect but no such luck finding one (still glancing at the occasional yard sale though). As a last resort I could just head over to the local fabric store and pick up some foam and pleather I suppose.

Our seat, in desperate need for some upholstery.

For the next few steps I’m going to get going on getting the rear wheels mounted permanently with new blocks and get our chain back on and in business. I may have to make it longer with our remounted rear wheels.  If I can insure the front is solid (no cracks) then heck at that point we’d have a fully functional go kart and that would just be great.

If you happen to have any leads on some reproduction Schwinn bike headlights (chrome type) drop me a line.

Until next time…


After the frustrating progress from Chapter 9, and while hunting down an electric motor, I decided to concentrate on something I can move forward with… the steering wheel. There wasn’t anything stopping me so I jumped in with both feet.

If you remember back in Chapter 8 we cut out the rough shape, so here I busted out my trusty Dremel and went to town. With this step I recruited my oldest son to come over and help me. In typical fashion his attention span was short lived, but it was nice to get the help.


Jake getting some great first time experience with a Dremel.

Gradually we rounded the corners off, and carefully brought down the depth of the three spokes of the wheel. While we were working the mailman stopped by to drop off a package. He looked at the kart, looked at me, then looked back at the kart.

In somewhat broken English he asked “Is that an airplane?“.

I was tempted to say yes and tell him her maiden flight would be the next morning, but I was afraid he would believe me and call the FAA.. then we’d have a balloon boy situation on our hands. “No, it’s a go kart… for the boys.

He then said “Well, you could put wings on it!” I looked at him and thought “Are you serious? Yeah, I could also put a propeller on it, but I’m not gonna do that either!” but just asked him “Do you have a box for me?“.

So we continued on with the Dremel work for a bit more.  After some time we dug in with some 80 grit sand paper work to smooth out the rough edges. I was seriously tempted to form out some finger ridges but figured I’ve got a bit too much into this project already. The dog is getting ignored, I have a ton of things to do around the house…my wife pointed out that 4 light bulbs were out,  but alas here I am working on the go kart. Priorities I tell you!

After I finished up the rough sanding with the 80 grit we then moved onto 220 for a bit. It was really coming out nicely. At this point I realized just how soft and easy to work with Pine is. It’s really very soft, almost malleable, and is just really forgiving.


The final result of an afternoon of a Dremel and some sanding.

With the progress pretty far along I thought I’d share it with the other boys and my wife. They were really impressed, with my wife saying that I’m quite the carpenter. I wouldn’t go quite that far but hey, I’ll take it.

My wife then held the wheel in her hand and said “Wow, ya know the boys are gonna have a nicer car than me!” Ah, c’mon … As if I could build a go kart that could compete with a ’78 Pinto wagon!

Next I masked off the perimeter, or grip, of the wheel with tape and newspaper. I will be staining this part and will paint the spokes and hub. Before I can do that though I hit the entire exposed area with some primer sealer.  This was white so the entire wheel, except the outer grip was now a flat white color.


Our wheel all primered up.

After a day of drying I then liberally applied a coat of metallic silver to the spokes and center. I wasn’t so particular about the center, but wanted the spokes to be silver. After this dried I’ll then come back and paint the hub.

After another day of letting the now silver spokes dry, I then masked off the spokes as well as a 1/4″ line around the hub. The exposed area left I then hit with a coat of black paint. My goal here was to give the impression that the spokes were metal, and the center would be a simple black. Some nice bolts will finish it off once mounted. I’m probably putting far too much thought into this, but what the heck. If I’m going to do this I might as well give it my all right?


With the silver paint dry, we masked off except the hub.

It was a somewhat cool day so after I shot the silver paint I brought the wheel into my home office to dry.

My wife came to ask me a question and I guess i didn’t quite realize how bad the fumes were. She opened the door and said “Whoa, what are you doing in here? I can’t even step in the fumes are so bad.” I guess I didn’t realize it was so bad. “Now that you mention it I do kinda have a headache.” I said. A friend suggested I just tell her it’s a new aromatherapy product.

After that dried I removed all of the masking. So far it looked pretty good. Not perfect but still pretty good. It almost had a “folk art” look to it…neat and detailed, but still having an obvious handmade look to it with rough bits here and there.


With the silver dry, I hit the hub with black.

With the painted part now, well painted, I set my sights on the staining of the grip. I grabbed an old rag and a can of stain I already had and tested a spot on some scrap. The scrap looked good so I guess it’s good enough for the wheel.

At this point our black paint we applied on the hub had dried for a couple of days, so I removed all the masking revealing our bare wood grip.

Next I then applied just a bit of masking around the edge our silver spokes where it meets the grip. I did this so I wouldn’t get wood stain onto the spokes. In all likelihood the stain wouldn’t penetrate the silver paint, but better safe than sorry right?

So I wouldn’t stain my hands in the process, I put on a surgical glove, grabbed a rag, and started staining. It’s been a while since I’ve stained any wood and I had forgotten just how fast it goes.


The grip stained and drying out.

I stained all of the outer surface and hung it up to dry. After a few days I took a very very light sand paper to it, then stained it some more. Although it looked pretty good, had I not already had this stain I probably would have preferred something a bit lighter in color, but all in all it looked pretty slick. Especially knowing that this was simply for a go kart!

After letting another few days go by  (as a side note, waiting is sometimes the hardest part of this whole project) I was ready to add a nice coat of lacquer to the stain.

Now that it was all dry to the touch, I again masked off all except the outer grip.  I then applied a coat of high gloss lacquer in a spray can and let it dry for a few days.


Our final lacquered wheel. Ooooh, shiny!

Once dried, I hit it with some more very light sand paper, and then applied a second coat of lacquer. The end result is a really nice high gloss stained wheel reminiscent of the open wheel racers of the ’20s and ’30s.

This definitely makes me want to get into the finish work on the rest of the cart, but not so fast… I have yet to hunt down an electric motor

When I was kid, as millions of others, I had a Radio Flyer wagon. Because this wagon had four wheels, I could sit on it (sometimes daringly even with a passenger), and it was somewhat steerable, it was essentially my go kart.

I say somewhat steerable because anyone who has ever ridden on a wagon, and has used the handle as a steering wheel can tell you that it is incredibly unstable. The slightest turn at even low speed would spell disaster and result in more Band Aids than you can shake a can of Bactine at.

Although I can’t guarantee there won’t be any injuries with our kart, I can say for certain it will be more stable to steer than that old wagon was.

Pieces of pipe that will make our steering column.

Pieces of pipe that will make our steering column.

Unlike a single pivoting front axle on my old wagon, here we’ll have a solid, secure, steering column that turns each wheel on their own axis. As with our spindles, the steering column will be based on galvanized pipe components. The pieces we’ll be using here include 24″ of straight 1/2″ pipe, a T fitting, a floor flange, as well as a coupling, extension and a cap.

The first thing I did was lay all the pieces out to get a clear idea of how it would all fit together. As with many steps in this project I’ve been piecing it together in my mind over and over and over, so I was happy to see it was more less as I imagined it.

Now that I have a good picture of what I’m doing I then drilled out a 1″ hole into the mark we made on the bottom of the grill in Chapter 7. This mark was made earlier with the aid of our PVC pipe. I drilled the hole about 20% through into the back of the grill. I then drilled a 1/4″ hole through the center of this hole, but making this smaller hole go entirely through the grill. We’ll be using this hole to attach the column in place.

Hole in lower backside of grill to hold steering column in place.

Hole in lower backside of grill to hold steering column in place.

On one end of the pipe I then attached the T fitting. Next I drilled a 1/4″ hole through the center of our pipe cap. Once that was done I then ran the 1/4″ bolt into the hole, from the inside of the cap, with the threads sticking out through the top of the cap.

On the threaded side I placed a nut on and ran it tight against the pipe cap, securing the bolt in place in the cap. Next I placed the cap onto the bottom of the T fitting we had attached to the 24″ piece of pipe.

I then turned my attention to the other end of the pipe.  The pipe turns out was the perfect length to fit up to the dash, and through the hole we had drilled through earlier.  I inserted the pipe through the hole, and on the other side I threaded on the coupler (basically an extension).

I added this coupler so that I could position the steering wheel a bit further away from the dash. If I didn’t have this spacing it would be really easy to hit your knuckles against the dash. Afterall, as you find yourself barreling through a corkscrew the last thing you would want to do is accidentally change the radio station!

To determine if the steering wheel position was going to work out I again asked one of the boys to come over to check it out. Jake sat inside and pretended to be holding a steering wheel at the end of the pipe. This position seemed like it would be just about right. While he was sitting there he seemed to be really thinking about something. I could really see the wheels turning.

He said “Dad, when this go kart is finished, and I’m a teenager, I’m going to sneak out at night, and I’m going to drive it and I’m going to go get tacos.”.

I didn’t know whether to be angry for something he didn’t (and likely never would) do, or be happy to hear he was looking forward to driving his kart.

I just said “I’m glad you’re looking forward to driving it… but rather than sneak out, why don’t we go together? I like tacos too!”.

He thought about it for a minute and said “Yeah, you’re right. But could we go to Sonic instead?”. Ahhh to be seven years old again I thought to myself.

Assembled column all in place.

Assembled column all in place.

At this point we’ve got the basics of our steering column all assembled (albeit loosely) and in place. So far we’re lookin’ good. Now to connect it up to our pivoting spindles that we mounted earlier.

Next I turned my attention to a couple of pieces of hardware that I didn’t get from my local Home Depot. In all likelihood I could have probably managed to make some crazy concoction of eye hooks to work here, but I opted to order some specific connectors that are ideally suited to go karts and the like.  I went ahead and ordered a couple of tie-rods from

To this point I’ve been quite happy at the availability of all the parts to build the kart. In this case however I wanted to be able to easily adjust the toe-in of the wheels and these adjustable tie-rods are ideal for doing just that. They have a bit of give in all directions which also helps account for any slight measurement differences from one side to the other. They were delivered in a couple of days and at the time I purchased them were less than $10.00 plus shipping, so to save yourself some headache I recommend them or something similar.

Tie rod end and the threaded rod to connect them both.

Tie rod end and the threaded rod to connect them both.

The tie-rod kit I purchased came with a single threaded rod, and the two tie-rod ends themselves. This would be ideal I thought, but then I discovered that the rod itself was too short. Easy, I’ll just go to Home Depot and buy a longer rod right? Wrong. This rod was 5/16″ fine thread, whereas all I could find was course threaded rod at Home Depot.

After driving to a few different places I realized the solution was to buy that course threaded rod afterall, and tap out the tie-rod ends to fit. To be honest I was bit frustrated with myself that I ordered what I thought would be ideal pieces that would work as is, only to find I had to re-thread them. In hindsight it wasn’t a big deal. So I’d recommend either buying a longer rod with your tie-rods, or be prepared to customize them to suit your needs.

Once I threaded the tie-rod ends, and bought and cut the threaded rod to length, I was ready to get the rest of the steering into place.

Lower portion of steering, connected to the tie rods.

Lower portion of steering, connected to the tie rods.

Before I attached the tie-rods to the threaded rod, I needed to attach the center piece that will provide the steering column to move the threaded rod (and effectively the wheels) from left to right.

I threaded a bolt onto the rod to just left of the halfway point. I then slid on a piece of bendable metal that I bent into the shape of  U. The ends of this U shaped metal had two holes allowing the rod to slide through.

It’s worth mentioning here that I didn’t have much luck finding the ideal bracket or metal at Home Depot, but was happy to discover that one of the pieces from our donated Spiderman bike would work perfectly. I was able to repurpose the bracket that holds the coaster brake against the frame.  You really have to love reusing as much as you can in cases like this.

Once I slide our bracket into place on the rod, I then threaded our tie-rod ends into place. The tapping out process went flawlessly and they threaded onto the new rod with ease. Next I attached each tie-rod end onto the spindles via a 2″ 1/4″ bolt.  Once both ends of the rod where attached to the spindles securely I could move one spindle and the other would turn. It was great to see it all turn so smoothly, so I sat back opened a soda, and admired my progress so far.

With both tie-rod ends attached to the spindles, I then attached the center of the steering column to the metal bracket I mentioned. This bracket will give the column the ability to convert what is essentially a circular motion (rotating approximately 180 degrees or so) to a side to side motion that enables the threaded rod to move back and forth. It’s elegantly simple. We’ll have to see how durable it turns out to be, but for the moment it looks just fine.

Left tie rod end and center column visible.

Left tie rod end and center column bracket visible.

With a bolt and washers attached to the bracket to hold it in place I could now actually see the turning of the pipe translate into turning the wheels. As with other points in this project I was thrilled to see the result. I told my wife “You have to come see this work of art!”. OK, maybe that was an exaggeration and I can’t really blame the lackluster response she gave (she was on the phone afterall) but I was happy nonetheless.

At this point the only thing remaining to be done with our steering system was the steering wheel itself. Earlier I had sketched out the general shape of the wheel onto some scrap 1″ pine wood stock. The plan notes to use 1/2″ but I opted for the thicker wood so I could focus on finishing it out smoothly, rounding it off, etc.

Outline for wheel drawn out and ready to cut.

Outline for wheel drawn out and ready to cut.

After sketching out the wheel I then drilled holes in the corners as starter spots for the jig saw.  The wheel will be a half-wheel mainly to give plenty of room for the rider’s knees. Also, since the wheel won’t turn a complete 360 degrees there wouldn’t be much benefit in having a big wheel anyway.

I dug into the wood with the jig saw and cut the perimeter, and then cut the center sections away.  The outer portion really just felt too thick, but again I’ll be gradually narrowing it down with a Dremel, filing, sand paper, etc. later. Remember this is just the rough cut.

Cut out wheel ready to be finished and mounted.

Cut out wheel ready to be finished and mounted.

I’m already thinking in my mind the way the wheel will end up looking when I get to the point of the finishing work (painting, etc) with the kart. How many times have you glanced in a car, say a classic car, and you think “Wow, look at that steering wheel.” Now the wheel could be huge, at which point you may think it would be akin to driving a bus, or the wheel could be incredibly advanced and full of gadgets, say like the Ferrari 458 steering wheel.

The steering wheel is one of the many points of a vehicle that provide that initial first impression, and once we get to the details this is definitely one part of the kart that won’t disappoint.

With the steering wheel cut out in rough form, I then took our floor flange and marked four spots on the wheel I needed to drill through. These will be our mounting points.

Wheel and steering column all mounted up.

Wheel and steering column all mounted up.

For the moment I just grabbed some extra 1/4″ bolts to mount it temporarily. I’m sure I can find some nice flush mount allen heads to finish it off nice and clean.

Once I mounted the wheel I secured the steering column a bit more tightly, albeit still temporarily, so I could see really how much effort will be required to turn the wheels in one direction or another.

I was surprised to see just how easily the wheels turned, considering the tires were still flat! Once I get the components all mounted permanently and the tires filled up it should be just fine.

A big smile is always the best test result.

A big smile is always the best test result.

To finish off our progress Luke insisted he get to sit in the kart. In fact at this point the boys were tripping all over one another and fighting to sit in it. It’s never good to see them shoving each other, but I have to be honest it was somewhat gratifying.  They are truly looking forward to this getting finished.

Luke asked if he could take it for a test drive. I said “Well there aren’t any brakes yet, and the tires are flat.” He smartly said “Oh yeah, that would be bad.”.

Over the next few days I’ll be getting the steering permanently attached with the use of cotter pins at points where we don’t want anything to come loose. As Luke would say “…that would be bad.”.

After that we’ll dive into the crank and drive chain which should be really fun.