Why Does My Go-Kart Clutch Smoke? Learn What We Found!

  • By: Go Kart Picks
  • Time to read: 5 min.

Nothing says panic like a go-kart in smoke. And more often than not, it comes from the clutch.

Naturally, once you observe smoke and heat coming from the clutch, one of the first things you do is find the precise issue and solve it as immediately as you can. Fortunately, the reason why the clutch produces smoke is no mystery.

A go-kart clutch will release smoke when it engages for a long time but does not completely grab.

Likewise, it could be due to failure in reaching the engagement speed or accidental oil contamination.

Moreover, it could be due to poor clutch installation or structural defects for those who have had their go-kart custom-made.

Whichever the culprit is, you can avoid having a go-kart clutch in smokes with proper maintenance and checkup. 

Likewise, knowing how it could occur is vital for its prevention. So, stick around and just keep reading.

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Why Is A Centrifugal Clutch Prone To Smoking?

A centrifugal clutch is prone to smoking if the engine stays idle and doesn’t fully lock despite the clutch’s extended engagement. Simply put, it’s due to the loss of coordination and synchronization between the transmission (clutch) and engine.

Go-kart clutches use centrifugal force instead of a pleasure plate. It’s pretty much why it’s called that way.

A centrifugal clutch is commonly used in most rotary equipment. That’s why you’ll find it heavily used in vehicles, especially go-karts.

So, to transfer power from engine to transmission, the force thrusts the internal brake shoes or weights and flings out to reach the bell-housing once it gets to 1800 to 2000 rpm.

5 Reasons Why Your Go-Kart Clutch Smokes

1. There’s Prolonged Clutch Engagement Without Fully Grabbing.

At about 1800 to 2000 rpm, the clutch must be engaging and fully grabbing to operate the go-kart. Otherwise, it will start to produce smoke.

Prolonged engagement without a full lock doesn’t only put your clutch to smoke, but it will also damage the weights.

So why exactly is this happening?

There are several reasons for prolonged engagement.

First, it could be due to the inability of the engine to proceed to the engagement stage. This could be linked to the inadequate power provided by the engine.

Then, there’s also the potential problem involving the low clutch weight rpm. It has to be high enough to go over the engagement speed.

Changing or adjusting the driveline is one solution to prolonged clutch engagement but failing to grab. This will make the overall ratio steeper. Likewise, you can also increase the diameter of the rear sprocket.

With these solutions, you may have to install a jackshaft, resulting in a two-ratio system that ensures matching horsepower.

go-kart racing

2. The Clutch RPM Fails to Reach Engagement Speed

If the clutch rpm does not reach engagement speed, the likelihood of smokes in the clutch is higher. The same thing happens if the clutch rpm seems to almost get the engagement speed, perhaps just around the corner, but still won’t get past the needed speed.

This is pretty common with go-karts that have mismatched jackshaft systems. That’s why it’s helpful to thoroughly check if the jackshaft in your go-kart was installed correctly. 

If there are mishaps, you need to correct them first before riding your go-kart.

For example, the clutch should not be mounted on the driver of the jackshaft. This could affect the speed of the clutch rotation.  If this is the setup, not even a correct overall ratio can compensate for the error.

3. The Clutch Is Poorly Installed

If you’re fabricating your go-kart, it’s of utmost importance that you have the theoretical knowledge and skills to nail all the parts in the right place.

Of course, that includes positioning the clutch on the engine crankshaft. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a go-kart that smokes from the clutch.

For example, if you use the incorrect length key, the weights will be thrown off balance. This could lead to too much pressure from the first causing damage to the clutch.

The same consequence could occur if the clutch sprocket is not correctly aligned with the rear axle sprocket.  

How Do I Know if My Go-Kart Clutch Is Bad?

A bad clutch is like a disease. You can detect it through several symptoms.

But aside from a smoking go-kart clutch, you would know if the clutch is not in its prime condition when you observe the following:

1. The take-off is slow and boggy.

Your clutch should engage completely at 1,800 rpm. If you’re experiencing a delay when taking off, it could be due to worn-out parts like flyweights.  

2. The tension spring is overheating.

Overheating can happen if the clutch has too much friction. It often occurs in parts such as the tension spring. Lubrication would be the most viable solution for this problem.

3. The metal components are stuck together.

Too much wear, friction, and excessive internal heat can lead to metal components in the clutch sticking together. If this happens, you will have to replace the damaged parts.

go kart racing

4. There’s Oil Inside the Clutch

It’s common knowledge that you have to oil some parts of your clutch every time you use your go-kart. That way, you can ensure that the internal bronze bushing is lubricated before and after the race or training.

However, extra caution is necessary when oiling the clutch. First and foremost, it would be damaging to put oil inside a clutch through the ventilation holes. This could lead to the generation of heat that comes with smoke in some cases.

So, how do you put oil on the clutch?

Naturally, you wouldn’t want to put too much oil on the brushing. In fact, you will only need a small smear. You can simply dip your finger and rub it inside the brushing. Likewise, put a tiny amount on the snap ring.

5. The Clutch Has Structural Defects

Go-kart clutches need to have defined components connected in perfect coordination. If that’s not the case, then it would be prone to malfunction or damage.

For example, the typical number of sprocket teeth you’ll find in a clutch is between 10 to 12. If it goes beyond 12, then you will experience some issues with the drive train that will eventually lead to your clutch overheating and releasing smokes.

Moreover, if you have an incorrect gear ratio, this could also cause damage to the clutch. Typically, the sprocket should have a ratio of 1:6 when connected to the engine and the rear axle.

Final Thoughts

It’s never good news when your go-kart clutch is smoking. Clearly, it’s a sign that you have to pay attention to how power is delivered from the engine to the transmission.

Simply put, the best thing you can do to remedy the issue is to have your clutch thoroughly checked. Replace the damaged parts if necessary. Don’t use the go-kart yet unless the problem is addressed.

Nonetheless, as they always say, prevention is better than cure. It may sound cliché, but it remains true even with a bad clutch.

So, make sure to properly clean and lubricate your clutch and exert the right amount of care to preserve its lifespan.

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