If you found this page, you’ve probably heard the term “live axle” and are wondering what it actually means. What is a live axle on a go-kart? Is a live axle just an ordinary axle? Well, to answer your question, a live axle on a go-kart is an axle that enables equal power distribution to both of the rear wheels.
If that’s too much to take in, don’t worry. In the following section, I’ll go into a little more detail about what live axles are and what they do for a go-kart. We’ll also be discussing some advantages and disadvantages of live axles. Lastly, we’ll compare them against other types of axles. There is quite some information that is ready to be digested, so let’s dive right in!
What Is a Live Go-Kart Axle?
A live axle on a go-kart is nothing more than a rear axle that equally delivers power to both rear wheels. In order to do so, the live axle must be one long shaft where both wheels are attached to both ends. It does this with a sprocket that is attached via a go-kart chain to the crankshaft of the engine.
When the rear axle spins, both rear wheels spin at exactly the same speed. This is different from a differential setup, which allows wheels to spin at different speeds. We’ll go into more detail between live axles and differentials later on.
To summarize, a live axle is characterized by spinning both rear wheels at the same time and with equal force. This means that a live axle rotates uniformly, regardless of which section the sprocket is attached to.
What Are the Best Live Axles for Go-Karts?
Live axles come in various sizes and dimensions. The best live axle for your go-kart depends on the type of kart you have and it’s specifications. As there are several components and parts required to install and operate a live axle on your go-kart, they often come in a kit.
I have created a separate review and buying guide on the best live axle kits for go-karts. Do check it out if you’re looking for a live axle kit. When it comes to the best live axles, there are several things to consider:
- Axle width
- Axle length
- Axle material
- Other components
What Are the Advantages of a Live Axle
As you know, go-karts do not have a differential. Instead, they are equipped with a live axle for two main reasons. The first reason is because it enables faster acceleration. As both wheels are equally, evenly and directly powered, there is no intermediate component to split the torque.
This means that the power transfer to both rear wheels is as efficient as it can be. It also translates into faster accelerations, especially out of corners and chicanes. The second reason is weight. Live axles are essentially long shafts that connect both wheels. This saves your go-kart a decent amount of weight compared to other alternatives, which means that you’ll be able to accelerate and reach top speeds faster.
In summary, a live axle gives your go-kart more efficient power transfer to the wheels and it’s also light in weight compared to its alternatives. Live axles can also have other advantages. Due to its low profile it requires lower ground clearance, enabling go-karts to have a very low center of gravity. Additionally, a live axle also requires very little maintenance, as there are only the axle, two bearings and two pillow blocks.
Here’s a quick overview of live axle advantages:
- More efficient power transfer
- Lighter in weight than alternatives
- Lower ground clearance required
- Less maintenance
What Are the Disadvantages of a Live Axle
Even though go-karts are practically defined as having a live axle, there are also several disadvantages. The main advantage is also its greatest disadvantage, which is its equal power delivery to both wheels.
Having both wheels spin at the same speed, regardless of any situation, is great for accelerating in a straight line. However, it’s not that great when cornering. Let me explain why. Both wheels accelerating at the same speed at all times, will cause your go-kart to skid when cornering.
This is because the inner wheel covers less ground than the outer wheel. The outer wheels are required to travel a further distance. This will cause your go-kart to skid. Therefore, one major disadvantage is the handling around corners.
A live axle also means that your ride will be a little bumpier, as each bump is evenly spread across the axle. However, this won’t affect you a lot in go-kart races, as you’ll be on level ground.
Here’s a quick overview of live axle disadvantages:
- Handling around corners
- Can make your go-kart skid
Go-Kart Live Axle vs Dead Axle
As I’ve explained earlier, a live axle is an axle on a go-kart that allows for equal power distribution to both of the rear wheels. This means that the engine transfers torque from the crankshaft to the rear axle via two sprockets and a chain. The axle is “live” and is able to transfer torque to both rear wheels.
A dead axle on the other hand is an axle that is not able to transfer torque to the attached wheels. In that sense, it only supports the wheels. It’s referred to as a “dead” axle, as there is no power or torque transfer to the wheels. You may think that go-karts have dead axles for the front wheels, but that is not the case.
The front wheels on a go-kart are attached to the frame via spindles, as they are required to turn when moving the steering wheel. Therefore, go-karts don’t have dead axles. Dead axles are usually only used to support the extra weight of a vehicle, which is not required for go-karts.
Go-Kart Live Axle vs Differential
Differentials are systems that transmit torque to each wheel independently. This means that it can split and distribute torque depending on which wheel requires more of it. A differential allows wheels to spin at different speeds, which helps with grip and handling around corners. Differentials are most commonly found on cars.
A live axle on a go-kart doesn’t have this feature and once you accelerate, both rear wheels spin at the exact same speed. Think about the following proposition: go-kart live axle vs differential, what’s better? Well, for go-kart racing a live axle is more suitable and it’s also the reason why go-karts are equipped with a live axle and not a differential in the first place.
Live axles are much lighter, require less maintenance and less ground clearance. This gives the go-kart a much lower center of gravity, which is extremely vital. Moreover, they give faster acceleration in a straight line and out of corners, which is what go-karts are required to excel in. Therefore, live axles are more suitable for go-karts than differentials.