Torque Converter Vs Centrifugal Clutch Go-Kart: Which One Should You Choose?

Unless the go-kart has a direct drive, you’ll have to consider the type of transmission and what kind of performance you want. And there are two ways you can go about it; Torque converter vs. Centrifugal clutch go-kart. The debate is an old one. However, the debate ends today once and for all.

The obvious question is, which one is better? I’d say either one. The answer is vague because they both have advantages and disadvantages. The torque converter is ideal for low-speed driving and can adjust the gear speed on its own. That makes it a better choice for off-road go-karts.

On the other hand, you have the centrifugal clutch that maintains the same gear ratio, which allows it to perform at higher speeds consistently. And that makes it a proper choice for racing go-karts.

A Quick Guide

We’ll be doing a more in-depth analysis as we go further into the article. But for those who just want a summary, here’s the gist of it.

Pick the Torque Converter Go-kart if:

  • You want to drive an off-road go-kart
  • You’ll be having frequent stops on the road
  • Non-experts will be driving the kart
  • Your target speed range is low to medium

Pick the Centrifugal Clutch Go-kart if:

  • You plan to use it for racing
  • You’ll need a constant speed
  • Only those who know how to drive will drive it
  • The target speed range is medium to high

Go-kart Clutch vs. Torque Converter: A Brief Comparison Table

The two transmission systems are completely different both in design and performance. Here is a concise comparison of their features.

  Torque Converter Centrifugal Clutch
System Belt Chain
Efficiency <80% <100%
Torque and Speed Low to Medium Medium to High
Cost Low to medium Low
Gear Ratio Flexible Fixed
Use Case Off-road driving Racing and High-speed driving

The interesting fact is that all the features affect each other. The torque and the clutch are designed in such a way that they will always perform differently. You can’t have it any other way. If it seems confusing, here are two things you need to know:

  • System and Efficiency Go Hand-in-Hand – the torque converter uses a belt to transfer the power, whereas the clutch uses a gear and chain combination for it. That is why the torque converter can’t provide the same level of efficiency.
  • System and Gear Ratio Are Related – As you can see, the converter has a flexible gear ratio which can change depending on the engine’s rpm. But the clutch maintains its speed, aka gear ratio, because of its chain-gear combo.

Detailed Comparison Between the Two Transmissions

Since they have completely different work principles and designs, it’s not possible to make an apple-to-apple comparison. It’s more like an apple-to-orange comparison.

Therefore, we’ll focus on the performance analysis and the advantages and disadvantages.

Working Principle

What Does a Torque Converter Do on a Go-kart?

Here are the general features found across the variety of torque converters.

  • It engages when the engine reaches 1500 rpm
  • Run with two pulleys
  • Variable transmission
  • Stays Disengaged when idle

It works with two pulleys. The smaller pulley called the driver pulley, is attached to the engine’s crankshaft. It’s connected to the larger pulley, aka driven pulley with a drive belt.

When the engine is idle, the torque converter stays disengaged. The engine is considered idle before it reaches an rpm of 1500. After that, the driver pulley clamps on the driving belt and engages the larger driven pulley.

What Does a Clutch Do on a Go-kart?

Here are the general features found across the variety of centrifugal clutches:

  • Variable transmission
  • Engages at 1800 Rpm
  • Uses a sprocket and roller chain
  • For high-speed driving

A centrifugal clutch uses a mechanical coupling design to transmit the engine power to the axle. It has a drive sprocket, a chain, and an outer drum. The outer drum contains all the components.

A rolling chain connects the sprocket with the rear axle. And an arrestor spring holds the friction material.

When the engine reaches 1400 to 1600 rpm, it provides enough centrifugal force to move the spring along with the friction material. At about 1800 rpm, the force is large enough, and the friction material presses against the outer drum, and the clutch become engaged. In turn, it moves the rear axle and the drive sprocket.

Gear Ratio

This is one of the crucial points that affect the performance of your Go-kart immensely. The way the gear ratio of these two transmissions is determined is different.

On the torque converter, the gear ratio is called CVT or continuously variable ratio transmission. It can go up and down depending on the engine’s rpm. One of the perks of CVT is fuel economy and smooth power delivery.

Then you have the fixed gear ratio on the clutch. But it doesn’t change by itself. You have to change gear when you need to. A fixed gear ratio does make changing gears easier.

Efficiency and Power Loss

In theory, torque converters and clutches are efficient enough for any kind of driving. However, in practice, the scenario is different.

A torque converter run with drive belts is far less efficient than a clutch running with a chain system.

The torque is less efficient at around 80% or less. It’s because the torque can’t transfer all of the power from the engine. After all, the belt slips now and then. And the lack of mechanical coupling is why it loses power.

On the flip side, the chain-to-sprocket coupling is the reason why a centrifugal clutch can transfer almost all of the engine power to the rotating axle. The efficiency is considered 100% or less.

Speed

A torque converter is known to produce low to medium speeds with its variable gear ratio. It can theoretically deliver higher speeds, but since it changes depending on the engine’s rpm, it is not stable enough.

On the other hand, a fixed gear ratio helps the clutch to maintain higher speeds.

Where to Use

The higher the torque and horsepower, the faster a vehicle will move. So torque means speed. You know what that means.

A torque converter has a place in an off-road go-kart because of its flexible and automatic gear change. And because it can conserve fuel by idling, it’s also ideal for off-roading as the kart frequently stops loading and unloading items.

In short, the Torque converter is for Off-road driving, and the Centrifugal clutch is for high-speed pavement driving.

Cost

Torque converters aren’t expensive on their own. However, comparatively, clutches are cheaper because these are simpler machines with fewer parts. It also means that any repairing cost in the future will also be higher for a torque converter than a centrifugal clutch.

What Is the Best Go-kart Clutch?

It’s hard to pick just one from a variety of clutch brands. But if we were to pick one based on its build quality and affordability, it’d be the Auto Express centrifugal clutch. Another option would be the EasyBerg centrifugal clutch.

What Is the Best Go-kart Torque Converter?

Good torque converters are plenty available in the market. Out of those, the IParts Experts torque converter has impressed go-kart aficionados with its performance-to-price ratio. But if you want the best torque converter for Go-kart, the Original Comet 30 is hard to beat.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How long do torque converters last?

Torque converters should last a decade with ease. An original comet torque converter usually lasts 5-10 years. Even clones can last for a couple of years with proper maintenance.

  • Is a torque converter better than a centrifugal clutch?

Again, there is no absolute answer. It depends on what kind of transmission and driving experience you want. For slow driving, a torque converter should be more than enough. But for fast driving, the centrifugal clutch is the better bet.

  • How tight should a torque converter belt be?

You should always follow the recommendations given by the manufacturer. A good measurement would be to keep a clearance of 1/8th of an inch between the belt and the drive clutch sleeve.

  • How to install a torque converter on a go-kart?

Installing a torque converter is a piece of cake if you follow the manual to assemble the internal parts. Here are 4 steps to install a torque converter:

  • Lay out the necessary converter parts and accessories, including nuts and screws.
  • Assemble the driven pulley. It’s the larger one. Then attach it to the mounting plate.
  • Now install the mounting plate on the engine
  • Finally, it’s time to assemble the driver pulley, i.e., the smaller pulley

Final Words

So, that was everything to discuss torque converter vs. centrifugal clutch Go-kart. Which one wins? Most people, I assume, would choose the torque converter since go-karts are usually used in non-racing applications. The ability to change the gear ratio when needed makes it the optimum option. Then again, it can’t beat a centrifugal clutch when it comes to delivering high speed constantly.

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