A Comprehensive Guide to Go Kart Braking System

What is a braking System?

In very non-specialists terms braking system is anything that stops your automobile from moving; it consists of a braking device installed in your vehicle, consisting of interaction of different parts working in such a way to slow your vehicle and finally cause it to halt.

A professional definition of a brake system is an arrangement of multiple and various components such as brake drums or brake discs, fulcrum or master cylinders, etc.

That is, the kinetic energy of a go-kart gets converted to thermal energy, which decelerates or stops the vehicle.

There are multiple reasons why we need a braking system for Go-karts; some are mentioned below:

  • To make a moving vehicle come to a halt or de-accelerate.
  • The braking system helps with stable parking on its flat surface or slope.
  • It helps to prevent accidents and further injuries.
  • Due to rough road conditions, it helps go-karts from any damage.

There are various types of braking systems in go-karts, each with its unique advantages; the Braking system is one of the essential components in go-karts that ensure that vehicle speed is reduced.

When necessary, in a short period; hence it is also vital to check your braking system before using go-karts for professional races. Under some unforeseen conditions, if the braking system fails, you won’t be able to use it efficiently; hence in this guide, I will be teaching you about the most common braking system in go-karts and how to fix them if they fail at crucial times.

Most common Types of Go kart Braking systems:

  • Hydraulic System 
  • Scrub Brakes
  • Band Brakes
  • Drum Brakes
  • Disc Brakes
  • Hand brake system

Go-kart Hydraulic Brake System

Based on the principle of pascal’s work, “in a confined space, a liquid can transmit pressure in all directions without a loss of pressure.”

Go kart Hydraulic Brake System

The above diagram shows a simple construction of a hydraulic system consisting of equal braking effort for all the wheels and has a very smooth operation.

Due to the force of the piston, when the brakes are pressed, fluid from the master cylinder flows into the pipelines and onto the wheel cylinders. Hence, due to this liquid force, the piston on the wheel cylinder pushes outwards, ultimately pushing the brake shoe outwards.

It is causing the lining to rub against the drum, which eventually causes the braking to take place.

When the pedal is released from the go-kart, the piston on the master cylinder moves back to its initial position, and there is a flow of fluid from the wheel cylinder to the master cylinder via a check valve.

This Hydraulic system is the most used braking system in Go-karts because of its effectiveness and reduced complexity, leading to an overall reduction in the weight of go-karts.

Master Cylinder

Also known as the heart and soul of the hydraulic braking system, making it an essential component of the braking system, it consists of two chambers which are mentioned as follows:

  • The reservoir
  • A compression chamber, where the piston reciprocates.

A piston rod connects the piston to the brake pedal, and from the reservoir, fluid enters the compression chamber through the components, as shown below in the diagram.

The wheel cylinder is connected to the master cylinder through a piping system. Funny that the check valve acts as a security clearance point for the fluid, acting as a safe passage point for it to enter the master cylinder from the wheel cylinder when the pedal is released.

Master Cylinder

Go-kart Scrub Brakes

These are very traditional types of braking systems and were used when go-karting was introduced.

The working principle of scrub brakes includes using metal paddles to press against both rear tires when the brake is pressed; it can so often also happen that instead of pushing an actual break, these can be hand activated by pulling up the braking bar.

Scrub brakes use a straightforward mechanical phenomenon of friction and leverage their point, causing the parts to rub against each other; for example, in a go-kart, the friction between two surfaces transforms the kinetic energy of the moving vehicle into thermal energy.

One problem with scrub braking is that once it is wet during rain or on a damp surface, it rarely dries out. The cover for braking is the same as the surface touching the damp ground as the go-kart continues moving forward, constantly supplying a wet, slippery rubber surface to rub against without generating much friction to slow the go-kart. And not to mention that Scrub brakes wore go-kart tires much more quickly due to complex hand-activated braking

Scrub Radius Calculation

Drawing a line between the ball joints and making it intersect the ground, doing it from the front view of the car, and the distance between where this line meets the ground and the centerline of the tire is your scrub radius.

There is no particular equation for this but a rule of thumb or drawings for it as mentioned below;

Scrub Radius Calculation

A larger Scrub radius can help amplify the toe in effect, which helps in reducing the braking distance just a bit.

Go-kart Band brakes

A straightforward and cost-effective braking system with a less complicated design uses a metal band to constrain around the outside of a brake drum when the brake is pressed.

The problem arises during wet surfaces or in rainy conditions; they don’t do very well in these conditions and the tip of advice most people run on only one brake at the driving wheel. Still, I would suggest that two would provide a better braking experience.

There are two types of band brakes used in Go-karts:

  • Simple Band Brakes: the fulcrum is at the one end of the lever.
  • Differential band brakes: When the fulcrum is between the two ends of the lever, it also consists of self-locking.

Band brakes are compact, unique, simple to design, and can produce a high amount of force when a small amount of force is applied like a hydraulic press. Hence, because of this phenomenon, a small band brake can work as strongly as a more significant brake of another type.

However, band brakes have adverse effects on them as well; for example, light rust on the drum can cause the brake to chatter, and also water can cause the brake to slip, and last but not least, a rising temperature in braking can cause the co-efficient of the friction to drop slightly but in turn having a multiplier effect on the braking system.

Band Brakes for Go Kart

While band brakes are very effective for flatland to-go karting, it is not a good idea for downhills and should never be used on front wheels.

Go-kart Drum Brakes

In go-kart drum brakes, there is an expansion inside of the brake instead of an outside expansion, making drum brakes more advance and prone to work better on wet surfaces. It also consists of brake shoes and may long last than band brakes, and usually requires one drum brake installed at the rear wheel. The added advantage of band brakes is that since they are enclosed inside the drum hence are less likely to get wet, improving its stopping efficiency.

Drum brakes are widely used in go-karting and are an effective braking system.

Main Parts of Drum Brakes

Drum Brakes Main Parts

Fitted to the back plate of the wheel, the whole assembly remains stationary and does not move with the rotating wheel.

The main components of the drum brake are as Follows,

Brake Drum

A round cast iron housing that takes the help of the brake shoe to stop the vehicle from moving, the drum brake is bolted to the hub of the wheel, and hence it rotates with the wheel.

Brake Shoe

One of the significant components of a drum brake uses the phenomenon of friction, and without it, the working of the brake would not be possible. At the outer curve, the brake shoe has a brake lining; this lining is in contact with the brake drum for stopping the vehicle.

The lining has two components, as mentioned below:

  • Primary Brake shoe: The shoe with an extensive lining material is known as a primary shoe.
  • Secondary Brake shoe: The shoe with a slight lining is known as a secondary shoe  

Wheel cylinder

It is connected to the Master cylinder; the force that drives the brake shows outwards to apply it. The wheel cylinder forces the brake towards the drum’s inner surface with the piston’s help, which moves outwards when the brake is applied.

Return or Retracting Spring

Two return springs are there in drum brakes, one for the primary shoe and the second for the secondary shoe; its purpose is to retract the brake shoe after it is applied.


Self-adjuster is a primary linkage in go-karts that maintains and ensures a minimal gap between the brake drum and the brake shoe of the go-kart, and hence they are not in contact when the pedal is not pressed on the go-kart. A problem arises when this brake lining is broken or worn out, this increases the gap between the brake shoe and the drum but can be adjusted, and once it is modified, it maintains the hole during the brake working by itself.

Working Principle

In both directions, the brake shoe can expand, and when the brake lining of the shoe touches the inner surface of the drum, friction is generated, which stops the vehicle from moving.


  • It is a self-energizing braking system designed to operate by itself
  • Cheaper than a Disc brake system


  • Drum brakes have a heating problem; since the frictional area is covered by lining, the heat generated is not allowed to enter the atmosphere, reducing the vehicle’s braking efficiency.
  • Water takes a long time to come out of the drum; hence, the brake drum will not work correctly if it gets wet; the water reduces the friction between the brake lining and the drum.

Go kart Disc Brakes

One of the best braking Solutions in the recent era for go-karting, a disc braking system is a high-tech advancement in go-karting. They provide a superior braking experience even during wet conditions, though it can have some downsides in some karts. Disc brakes are your go-to solution if you want the best braking system.

I recently heard that some individuals are using driving sprockets instead of having a dedicated brake disc; I tried it though it works, it isn’t the best possible working solution in many case scenarios, and you need to consider keeping the sprocket oil clean-free and there for its not the most trouble-free disc brake setup.

Working Principle

Disc Brakes Working Principle

Disc Brakes are most used in go-karting in recent times, When the pedal is pressed by the pressure of hydraulic fluid the piston, this causes friction pads to rub against rotating the disc connected to the wheels of the go-kart, and thus braking takes place.

The friction pads return to their initial position once the pedal is released and the pressure of the hydraulic fluid is reduced.

This whole working principle is based on pascals Law which states that “in a confined space when a force is applied to any fluid, it is transmitted uniformly in all directions regardless of the shape of the container.”

Also Check: Go Kart Laws

Main Components of Disc Brake

Wheel HUB

The wheel of the Go-kart is bolted to the wheel hub. The wheel hub and the disc rotor are connected and rotate together.

Caliper Assembly

The caliper assembly has various components as follows.

Brake Pad: The primary component contacts the rotor disc, and due to friction between the rotor disc and brake pad, the go-kart speed reduces.

Caliper Bracket

  • Caliper Frame
  • Piston: When the brake lever is pressed, the piston applies force on brake pads.
  • Slider Pin: The sliding pin slides in the hole when the brake is applied.
  • Dust Boots: It helps in the prevention of dust particles entering sliding holes or Caliper.

Disc Rotor

Rotating part of the disc brake: To prevent heat accumulation inside the assembly, which might reduce brake efficiency, the rotor has drilled vent holes that dissipate heat.


  • Lighter than Drum brakes
  • A better cooling system as the braking surface is exposed to air 
  • It offers better resistance to fade
  • Based on Pascals Law which offers uniform pressure distribution
  • Replacement and repairing are easy for brake pads
  • Self-adjusting brakes


  • More costly than Drum brakes
  • No servo action is present 
  • Higher pedal pressure is required
  • Difficult to attach a suitable parking attachment

Disc Brake vs. Drum Brake – Which is Better for go-karts?

Disc Brake vs. Drum Brake

As I have defined both types of the braking system, there is one thing for sure I can conclude both brakes work on the same principle, i.e., The master cylinder generates a hydraulic

pressure that causes a movement in brake pads generating friction between the pads and rotating component, and hence the go-karts decelerate or stop.

So now the main question is which braking system to choose. The answer to that will depend on your need and application use. I will define the difference between both brake systems in a tabular form as below:

Serial No Parameter Drum Brake system Disc Brake system
01 Constructional Difference Instead of the disc, a drum is used for whose outer part having a drum line is coupled with the wheel’s hub and rotates with it,     The overall arrangement is quite large as compared to the disc brake system. A circular metal plate is used, which is coupled with the wheel’s hub and rotates with the wheel. A caliper is also used to help generate friction for the brake pads.   The overall arrangement is relatively small as compared to the drum brake system
02 Working Difference  A high-pressure brake oil enters the brake drum with the help of the master cylinder and applies pressure on the wheel cylinder’s piston, due to which there is movement in the piston.   Due to this movement, the brake shoe moves outward and contacts the rotating drum lines causing friction. A highly compressed brake oil flows through the brake lines to the brake calipers with the help of the master cylinder.   Due to this oil with high pressure entering the wheel cylinders from both sides, the piston of the wheel cylinder moves, and due to this movement, the piston of the wheel cylinder causes brake pads to move in an inwards direction, trying to clamp the rotating disc
03 Efficiency Difference Drum Brakes are preferred in Heavy Go karts as friction generated between the brake shoe and the rotating drum is moderate or less but enough to stop go-karts Using Drum brakes on heavy go-karts is highly efficient as they can also expand to any size.  Due to increased or maximum size disc brakes, which cause limitations, they are not recommended for more heavy Go-karts.   The frictional force generated is relatively high between brake pads and rotating discs which can be good for others but dangerous for the driver.
04 Application They are likely to use in heavy vehicles and can be only suitable for heavy Go-karts. Vehicles like buses and trucks have a better application of drum brakes The best Braking Option available for go-karts, brakes can be made as small as required and provide the best braking experience for go-karts and small vehicles.

Go-kart Hand Brake System

Also known as parking brakes go-karts work independently of the foot brakes. They are mainly used for parking go-karts on slopes and minimizing accidents when foot brakes are less efficient or fail to do the job.

These are mechanical brakes and can be applied after foot brakes are applied. Mainly hand brakes cause the go-karts to skid over the surface, making sharp turns when necessary reducing the speed instantly. They act on two wheels which are usually the rear wheels of go-karts.

If the hydraulic brakes fail, they provide limited braking to the go-kart and mainly is used for parking purposes.

A hand brake lever pulls a cable or pair of wires linked to the brakes. Hence a ratchet on the hand brake lever keeps the brakes on once applied. It also comes with a push button that disengages the ratchet and frees the liver.

Disc brakes have separate hand brake pads for each disc as it is challenging to place linkage on the compact Caliper.

Trail Braking on Go kart

At a racing track, brakes are used not only to slow down your go-karts but also to control the pitch and weight of your go-kart, front to rear, as you enter a corner.

Changing the go-kart’s pitch means you can alter the grip from front to rear. It allows us to modify the balance of the go-kart, then you can set up the most grip out of each end of your go-kart when going round the corner.

What is Trail Braking?

A term defined for mastering the art of constant yet continued braking while turning into a corner.

This technique is primarily used on racing tracks during go-kart racing, but I rarely see individuals utilizing it entirely.

Trail braking is an art that makes you blend both braking and turning simultaneously. If done correctly, a driver can manipulate the car’s mass to aid entry at the corner by braking late.

How to Tail Brake?

Trail braking is quite a complex technique to master and get done every time. I would say it’s a matter of feel that ensures that you get most of your go-kart potential at corner entry, and when done correctly, you will feel like going fast.

Here are the five steps, if done correctly, will ensure trail braking for you:

  • Brake in a straight line at maximum force
  • It began to ease break slightly before the turning point
  • Begin to turn into the corner
  • Reduce braking pressure as you increase the steering angle
  • Use an appropriate amount of braking to keep a well-maintained and balanced go kart

Well, Practice makes perfect. If you follow these steps with a lot of Practice, I am sure anyone can pull it off.

Professional Driver vs. Amateur Driver – what’s the difference for trail braking

We can illustrate the clear evidence of what a typical driver is doing differently from a professional driver with the help of a G curve; it shows the potential grip available for braking, turning, and acceleration, with the outer ring displaying maximum grip potential.

Professional Driver

  • At constant speed, the go-kart arrives at the corner
  • Brakes as late as possible, using 100% of the grip available. The driver is on the threshold of locking a tire.
  • As the professional driver enters the corner, he ideally balances the braking force reduction and steering increases, using all of the grip available. • Deceleration is complete, and the car uses 100% available grip to turn.

Amateur Driver

  • At constant speed, the go-kart arrives at the corner
  • He breaks too early and thus does not use all the grip available. An amateur driver may be concerned about locking a tire.
  • The amateur driver releases the brakes more when in a straight line and then begins to turn into the corner. As you can see, more grip is available to both decelerate and turn.
  • Deceleration is complete, and the car is turning with its peak g-force; however, the driver

is not using all the grip available and could carry a little more corner speed.

Well, I hope that gives you a bit of a guideline on how to trail break like a pro.

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