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Archive for Chassis Tuning

This is the article the guys I kart with didn’t want me to write.  Why?  Because this tuning area caught out one of my teammates at a previous SuperNats so they didn’t want me to give the competition any advantage by bringing this area to their attention.  Since the area may seem obvious once I mention it, let me tell you what was going on with my friend’s go kart and see if you would have guessed the solution to the problem beforehand.

For the SuperNats, one of my teammates bought two identical chassis to run in two classes.  Neither chassis was bent or had any defects.  With what he thought were identical set-ups, one go kart was on rails and the other had a big turn-in to mid-corner oversteer.  He called me (I missed that year) to get my opinion and we tried everything we could think of to change on the rear to give the rear more grip – longer hubs, softer axle [30mm TonyKart – see axle article – FKI September 2010], increase tire psi, rear to full width, raise rear ride height, different seat position.  Nothing seemed to work, he still had oversteer.  I had him double check the front caster and toe out setting, they were exactly the same.  So, what was the issue?

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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Have you ever put new tires on for qualifying, actually gone slower, and wondered why?  Ever had your go kart perfect in the last heat, rolled into the main without any changes and gone backwards?  If so, you are most likely tuning to where the track has been, not where it is going.  If it makes you feel any better, I spent far too many street races in my Indy Lights career doing the same thing.

You may be saying to yourself, “tune to where the track is going” sounds great in theory, but how does it break down to me.  That’s a great point, because essentially what we are taking about here is how tire wear affects your kart or more specifically how your kart’s handling changes as it progresses through a tire’s given life.  Furthermore, you are the one that has to do the homework week after week to ensure you stay on top of how your kart and the track changes over the course of a day.  There is a definite art to tuning to where you are going, I will try to expose as much of it as I can below…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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Although it is possible to accurately align your kart with the items above, I highly recommend buying or borrowing an alignment tool for optimum results.

I have a confession to make.  For the longest time, I thought aligning your go kart was just a matter of “set the toe and go.”  While toe plays a big factor in a kart’s handling equation (see Myth Busters article for more on this subject), “squaring” the front wheels with the rest of the kart by properly centering the steering shaft plays a much bigger role in a karts handling.  If you miss this part of the alignment equation, you will be compromising performance at the very least and battling a difference in handling from left to right hand turns at the worst.

Regardless of what alignment tool or method you use, there are some basic procedures and steps that you should be following in order to make sure your kart is aligned properly.  If you don’t have an alignment tool, don’t worry, it is possible to align your kart accurately using a few the items pictured above.  Interestingly enough, the steps you use to align the kart without an alignment tool are the exact same steps you should be following with any alignment tool.  I will stress however, that to obtain optimum results I highly suggest you purchase an alignment tool or borrow one from a friend.  For those of you interested in purchasing one, I will provide an overview and buyer’s guide at the end of the article to help you…

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What does happen to your kart’s Toe setting when you set it on the ground?

If you’ve been around go karting long enough you’ve heard the claims:  “Your chassis won’t work properly without the factory seat.”  “You have to toe your go kart out ‘X’ amount on the stand in order for it to be neutral (0 toe-in or 0 toe-out) on the ground or you’ll just be scrubbing speed down the straightaway.”  Or, “You have to set the go kart with toe-in on the stand in order for it to be neutral on the ground.”  Which claim is true, which is a myth?  Has anyone ever actually tested any of this to know for sure?

Out of sheer curiosity, I have decided to tackle these and other go kart myths I have heard over the years, and trust me when I tell you, some are absolutely hilarious.  Nonetheless, I will begin the Myth Buster Series with the mystery of Toe-In.  Why Toe-In?  Well, I have actually never tested it myself and therefore fall into the camp of relying on sources I believed to be reliable to determine where I set the toe.  Before I wrote this article, I used to set the toe with the marks just over the centerline of my Sniper Gauge giving the kart 1/2 mm total toe-out.  I changed my setting for the SuperNats after reading an email from a subscriber in Australia on this very subject.

So, which way, if any, does the toe move from the setting on the stand to the setting when you sit in the go kart on the ground.  Being one of those people that try to envision what happens when you make a change or adjustment to my kart, I have mentally come up with theories that could explain either side of this myth.  If you don’t know the answer, see what you come up with theoretically while I explain the methodology used to solve this myth once and for all…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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The CIK bumper – not the prettiest piece on the kart but definitely worth having and tuning.

The CIK rear bumper.  I first saw one in Europe before they were mandatory here and I have to admit I didn’t like them.  I thought they took away from the beauty of the kart’s lines and looked like a clunky afterthought.  Then, after the 2006 SuperNats, even if they hadn’t become mandatory I was going to get one.   Here’s why:

At the 2006 SuperNats, I qualified 9th but had a better race set-up so I was able to move up in my heats.  In the second heat however, as I hit the brakes to go into the first corner on the first lap, two drivers hit me from the rear.  One climbed up my right rear and took out my pipe, the other climbed my left rear and took out my radiator.  In a split second I had a $1,000 accident and a DNF that I couldn’t avoid from a driving standpoint.  What I could have prevented was being taken out mechanically by having the CIK bumper instead of the old style tubular bumper that leaves the rear tires completely exposed.  So, instead of starting the main in the top 5 (this is where the driver who qualified 8th started because he stayed out of trouble and finished every heat), I started 15th, blowing any chance for a podium (finished 7th).  This is the main reason I now have a CIK bumper on my kart and seeing how it has been caved in behind my rear tire twice now after I finished a race I otherwise might not have, it is worth every penny.

The CIK bumper will change the way your kart handles so don’t expect to just bolt it on and go.  You are going to want to spend a few sessions testing different combinations to get the desired handling effect you are looking for….

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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In the Seat Position & You article, I discuss how to determine if your seat position is incorrect.  I mention that if your kart is unresponsive to major changes and consistently has the same handling issue regardless of a variety of changes you make, chances are the seat position may be the cause.  For instance, if the seat is too far forward, your kart will suffer from perennial oversteer – so move the seat back and up.

This is a perfect example because I had been battling an oversteer condition since I bought my new kart.  Having tried many changes to rectify the oversteer, I felt my current seat position is too far forward  so I vowed to move the seat farther back and up and do a follow-up article here…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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A couple of years ago, my karting wish came true, kind of.  It rained at the SuperNats.  Unfortunately, the G1 class was I was racing in at the time was scheduled for the morning sessions and it rained on one afternoon.  Too bad, it would have been a great test of my rain set-up, just look at the guys in front of me on the grid.  Fabrizio Nannini and Antonio Dettori were the factory Energy drivers sent over from Italy.  Emilio Padron and Eduardo Martins are from Brazil, and Kelly Baker is from Seattle.  I’d be willing to bet they all have substantial experience and success in the rain.  It would have been interesting to say the least.

All is not lost however, as Ethan Wilson, who I’ve raced against before in the ProKart Challenge and who has since moved over to the TAG Masters class with much success (ProKart Challenge Champion in 2010, SuperNats Winner 2013), used the Rain Set Up I outlined in the Trial Issue in his 3rd Heat Race.  I saw Ethan the day before the rain and told him I had printed FKI Trial Issues with the rain set-up and he should at least check it out.  He agreed and took a copy back to his tent.

Ethan came back to my tent the next night and with a huge smile on his face and gave me one of the nicest compliments I could receive by telling me, “I did everything you said in the Newsletter and won my heat in the rain!”  But what is more interesting to me and one of the main reasons I started the Newsletter is what he said next.  “You know, its funny, I am looking around at the other karts on the grid and thinking, I’m not doing that…, this is different…, that’s an interesting direction…Then I thought, what if all of those guys are wrong and I’m right?  So, I just put my helmet on and went for it!”  Congrats and thanks Ethan, nice work.  Now would be a perfect time to delve into how I arrived at the rain set-up…

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Yes, you can tune your go kart with tires just like the big boys do (you hear about it all the time when they interview crew chiefs after a pit stop.) More importantly, you can dial yourself out of the ball park if you don’t understand how tire pressures affect the handling of your go kart. Before you read much further, however, I highly suggest you read last month’s article Tires 101 and Beyond to be sure you have prepared your tires for maximum performance before they hit the track.

To simplify the basic premise of tire tuning, once you are in the tire’s optimum psi range, think of tire pressures as follows…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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It is appropriate that I am picking October to talk about ride heights.  I just finished a street race in Lancaster, CA and will race the SuperNats is a parking lot next month and parking lot tracks are the only place I seem to really mess with ride heights.  The initial premise is fairly simple, raise the chassis (ride height) to gain grip and lower it reduce grip.  How you use it gets a little more interesting…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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As a follow up to September’s article on Quick Change Caster, hopefully you have put the Quick Change Caster Set Up on your kart and are now wondering when and why you would use it.  If your kart has adjustable caster pills and for some reason you have not have put this set-up on, I highly recommend doing so, it will change the way you tune with caster.  To be more specific, since the base caster for any given chassis is set at the factory and changing it in the traditional sense was always a big time consuming task, I never experimented with caster.  Now I try a caster change almost everywhere I go. So let’s break down what caster does and why you would use it…

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Categories : Chassis Tuning
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