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BUYER BEWARE! A Look at a 250cc Chinese Gocart and its MANY Problems.
I made the mistake of buying a Chinese go kart that did not have any sort of reputation. In other words, I didn't have any feedback from other owners or any sort of product reputation to go on. This was a big mistake as I would later discover and learn about the hard way. Originally, I documented my problems so that I could give feedback to the company that was selling this particular Chinese go kart. As the problems began to pile up, eventually I needed to send this Chinese go cart back. It was that bad. I'm not incapable of working on things myself, but this was so far out there in terms of troubles, that it was not worth wasting any more time or energy trying to fix it. I am sharing this to give others a warning about buying a Chinese go kart without having any way to check on the quality and experience of others. I bought mine on eBay from a small company in the US that was importing these buggies from China. It was not a common Chinese go kart, and that was the thing that attracted me to it. It has some features that most other go karts did not have; however, being so unique was part of the trouble. It was not one of the tried and true Chinese go cart designs out there. Now, to make things clear up front... I am not trying to bash ALL Chinese go karts. I know that there are some decent models made including some like the TJ Powersports, Kinroad, Joyner, and there are probably others. At the same time, there are some JUNK Chinese go carts out there. Do your homework, research the brand and model you are considering, and get the feedback of other owners of the particular Chinese go kart that you want. Searching in online forums where other owners share their experiences can be a good place to start. I won't mention the name of the company where I bought this particular go kart because it is irrelevant. The company is no longer in business, and I don't see this go kart being sold any more. No big surprise there, as you will see after reading further! (PLEASE NOTE: Below, I have simply copied and pasted some of the feedback that I wrote directly to the company that sold me this 250cc Chinese go kart.)
Back in October was the first time I saw your 250cc 5 speed manual transmission kart. When I went to check it out, I was very intrigued by it. I have been a "motorhead" since I was a boy and have wrenched on cars, motorcycles, and engines for most of my life. I have never worked as a professional mechanic, but I have wrenched on a lot of stuff over the years as an amateur mechanic I really liked the concept of your kart with the twin cylinder motorcycle engine and manual transmission. The concept of it was similar to something that I would think up myself and want to build. From what I saw in the auction description and pictures, it looked like a good kart. One of the things that has always lacked in earlier buggies I've owned is power. The 250cc engine with manual transmission seemed like a great idea. I "fell in love" with the kart at first sight, and so I ordered one.
Chinese Go Cart with 250cc Twin Cylinder Motorcycle Engine
Two of my sons and I drove the truck terminal and were excited to pick up our new "toy". When we got home, I unloaded it off the horse trailer and into the shop. After unpacking it, the first big thing to catch my eye was that the paint job on this particular unit was pretty bad and I hoped that I would not be having a problem with paint coming off and rust issues. Some of the welds looked questionable, and I hope there is no problem with welds failing in the future. I also noticed that for some reason, the factory mounted the steering wheel upside down and that there was no way of changing that without unbolting the steering rack and removing steering shaft and rotating 180 degrees. Odd, but just cosmetic stuff that personally are not that important to me if I know something is otherwise made well. I began to get ready to start assembling the kart, but I didn't get very far before I started noticing problems (lots of them). I'll list some of them here. I'll start off listing the simpler/smaller issues here as feedback to you about the manufacturing quality of your kart. Bigger issues will be shared later in this letter. These first issues I will share are what I would categorize as "small". Some could have big consequences if left unnoticed. I will mention these here as feedback on the factory and the quality of their workmanship. If it were only these "small" issues, then I would probably never be communicating this to you. I'd just fix the issues and move on, but all the small problems have a snowball effect and there are also more serious issues later...
Some of the relatively "small" issues:
1) Some of the cable mounts like up at the clutch pedal were not angled correctly and the cable would prematurely wear and probably snap in a relatively short time because of the improper mount. I made some simple little adapters for the clutch cable mount to point the cable correctly up towards the clutch pedal to prevent premature wear/breakage.
2) I found 3 of the 4 brake calipers not mounted correctly and the brake pads dragging badly. I fixed this by tweaking caliper mounts slightly and got those adjusted on 2 of the 3 calipers.
3) One of the rear brake calipers on the axle was very bad. Mount on axle must be improperly positioned because brake caliper itself was rubbing on brake disc. Not just brake pads dragging, but the caliper itself was scraping on the brake disc. I shimmed that caliper with some washers and stopped that rubbing, but caliper still hits the wheel hub. Haven't fixed that yet at the time of writing this.
4) One of the wheel bolts is stripped and looks like it was cross threaded in the wheel hub at the factory. A stripped bolt is no big deal, but not sure how badly stripped/mangled the threads are in the wheel hub. I have not even had the chance to try to mount the wheels because I've spend so many hours fixing other problems.
5) Fuel hoses and cables were routed so that they were laying against the exhaust pipes! The little spring covers around the fuel line would not be enough for me to trust the fuel line would not melt on a hot exhaust pipe with possible serious consequences (fire). Small issue to fix, but the consequences on this could be big if gas starts pouring over a hot exhaust pipe.
6) Discovered that the airbox was poorly made and had a defect where dirt would bypass air filter and enter engine. "Small" problem, but has serious potential consequences. Any engine that inhales dirt over a prolonged period of time will wear out very quickly.
7) I found that when the gas tank was made, there was a jagged sharp edge formed when the 2 halves of the tank were roll welded together. This sharp jagged edged happened to be right on the side where seat belts rub against it! Over time, this could cut and weaken the seat belt. It was sharp enough to cut my finger, so I figured it could begin to cut into the seat belts. Not good! I slit a piece of rubber hose and glued it to the one edge on the tank to cover this sharp edge to protect the seat belts.
8) I noticed that the choke cable looked like it was used. I saw that the choke cable sheath has some splitting. There was rust on one of the nuts. The threaded portion of cable had a stripped out section. There were also signs of wear and tear on the inner cable at the end where it hooks up to the carb. The cable was misadjusted and choke would not work properly, but after I adjusted it some, it now works fine. Another "small" issue that is just irritating. Why is the factory installing what appears to be an old/used cable on a new machine???
9) I checked the oil in the rear axle and found that it was EMPTY! I had to add around 1 quart of oil to the rear axle. An unsuspecting customer that is not aware of this and doesn't know to check things like this could have major problems with a wrecked axle in a relatively short time because of no oil!
There are lots of "small" problems like that. Some of these "small" problems could become big ones if left unnoticed. These are all strong signs of hasty manufacturing and poor quality. As I began to see more and more of these signs of hasty manufacturing/assembly, I became more concerned about the overall quality of the kart. If all these small details were neglected or done hastily or incorrectly, then what about more serious matters??? I began to wonder what a mess I had gotten myself into and what other unpleasant surprises I might encounter now and in the future. I probably spent around 10 - 15 hours fixing the above mentioned issues (some still need to be fixed), as well as fixing other problems. I HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO EVEN ASSEMBLE THE KART YET! The kart is still sitting on jack stands in the shop. Spending so much time fixing problems on a new machine is crazy. Needing to assemble and adjust things is expected and understandable, but having to fix so many problems is a sure sign of trouble. Keep in mind, if it were just these problems mentioned so far, then I would probably not be writing any of this. It would be very disappointing and discouraging to buy a new machine with as many small problems as this, but I would have just fixed these issues and moved on with life... BUT, I have also encountered more serious issues and these are some of the "straws that broke the camel's back"!
Some of the bigger problems:
10) The frame was welded together very sloppy. The engine mounts are welded on so that the engine is crooked in the subframe. The rear axle is cockeyed. The front shock mounts were welded unequally with one mount on one side welded higher than the other side. As a result of that, I have to keep one of the front shocks on the lowest spring pre-load setting and the other front shock on the highest spring pre-load setting. It looks like this particular kart that I got was one of their prototypes and an experiment to see how things would go together. The welding and positioning of critical components (like engine and axle mounts) looks like they were just done very carelessly and no jigs were used to position these critical components. My kart looks like it was a practice run at building these karts. Looks like someone who was not very good at fabrication just starting free hand welding stuff together with very little regard for how things would fit later, and than just forced things together. The rear axle mounts are a horrendous example of this...
11) I noticed that the chain was way too tight. The way it was, the chain probably would have snapped in a short time or damaged the sprockets or caused premature wear on engine output shaft bearing or rear axle input shaft bearing. Chain too tight? No big deal. It's a 5 minute adjustment to chain chain tension... RIGHT? It should be unless the machine you have is screwed up! When I went to adjust the chain, I encountered a big can of worms. I loosened the 3 bolts that attach the rear axle to the rear subframe. Some of the first signs of trouble here that I encountered was when I tried to turn the "chain tension adjusting nuts". They did not want to budge. Were they just tight? NO! The factory put the wrong nuts on the threaded studs and then when they would not turn on any further, they proceeded to force them on (probably with an air wrench) and stripped/crossthreaded the threads on the adjusting studs. CRAZY! The studs are M12 x 1.75 and the nuts the factory used were 12mm but the wrong thread pitch. Unfortunately, we are not just talking about bolts here that can be replaced. The threaded studs I'm referring to are welded onto the mounting brackets on the rear axle. They are an integral part of the whole axle assembly. Because of my experiencing with working on stuff, I have quite a few tools so I checked my metric tap & die set and found a M12 x 1.75 die. I tried to re-cut the damaged threads on those threaded studs but unfortunately the one was damaged pretty bad and the threads are still messed up in one area. But that's not the most frustrating part. As you should be able to tell by now, when I encounter adversity or problems, I try to work around them and fix issues and move on. Unfortunately, some problems are too big to be resolved easily! I discovered that the rear axle would not move properly forward or backwards in the subframe mounts. All bolts are loose, but the axle would not move. I then began to discover the bigger problem causing this... When the factory welded up the rear subframe (where the engine and axle mount), they did such a sloppy job on the axle mounting brackets that the axle did not fit into the subframe. It would not attach because the mounts were misaligned. Did they throw away the subframe or at least fixing the existing one by cutting off the existing brackets and re-welding new ones in the proper places??? NO! They proceeded to take a hammer and begin smashing things in order to try to force it to fit. On the right side (as seen from behind) of the axle, they hammered and bent the mounting bracket that is welded onto the axle itself. Then the holes on the axle were screwed up so it looks like they took a cutting torch or a plasma cutter and cut the hole bigger so the bolt could pass through. On that right side of the subframe, you can see where they took the hammer to the frame to try to force the axle into the misaligned mount. I can see they were also hammering on the subframe because it's slightly dented on top in that area and they sprayed some red paint there to try to cover up what they did. On the left side of the axle, there are signs that they were hammering on the axle itself to try to get it to move forward to loosen the chain tension. The axles also has some dents in it where they hammered it trying to force it to move even though the axle was jammed/stuck because of the screwed up subframe mounts. To make matters even worse, the front mount where the front of the axle mounts to the subframe was welded on crooked! This also probably contributes to the axle being jammed in the subframe and not able to freely move forward or backwards for chain adjustment. When I tried to adjust the chain tension, I was unable to get the whole axle to move forward or backwards properly. Not only is the axle jammed in place, but it looks like it wants to move in a crooked direction because of all 3 mounts on the subframe being screwed up. As it is, even if the axle can be forced to move, it does not want to move forwards/backwards in a straight line. The axle looks like it wants to sit crooked in the subframe because of the crooked front mount and improper fitting rear mounts. What started out as a 5 minute chain adjustment turned into a 2 hour ordeal dealing with the problems and screw ups from the factory! It's still not right. The real answer is to either throw out the entire subframe and replace with a new one, or hack up the old one and cut off the 3 axle mounting brackets and try to weld on new ones that are properly positioned! UGH! That is easier said than done. That is not an easy task. And even then, they hammered the right side axle bracket and messed with the hole and made the axle much more difficult to work with even if the subframe was fixed or replaced.
12) As I encountered more and more problems, one of the things I consoled myself with was that the engine was a Zongshen and should be good quality. I figured that at least the engine should not give me any problems. I decided that even if I couldn't drive this Chinese go kart yet, then at least I could hear the engine run, so I proceeded to fuel up the gas tank. Next thing I know, there is a puddle of gas on the floor! WHAT NOW!?!?! I quickly noticed that the gas was quickly leaking out of the drain/overflow tube on one of the carburetors (the right side carb when viewed from behind). At first, I thought (I HOPED!) that it was just that the factory just didn't tighten the float bowl drain screw on that one carb. WRONG. I reached it with a long screwdriver and found that it was tight. I loosened it and tightened it a few times in the hopes that perhaps some debris would be dislodged and allow that tapered screw to seat properly and stop the leak. No. The gas kept leaking. I then proceeded to pull the carburetors off this brand new Zongshen engine.... UGH!!!... so that I could remove the float bowl from the offending carburetor and see if there was an obvious clue as to why it was leaking. I thought perhaps the inlet needle valve was stuck with some debris and not shutting off properly causing that carburetor to overflow. I removed the float and needle valve, and the rubber tip of the needle looked fine, and I could not see any debris that would cause the needle valve to not seal. I sprayed out the needle seat with carburetor cleaner. I also checked the float level, and it looked fine. I put the carburetor back together and put it back on the engine hoping that perhaps a small piece of debris that I didn't see may have been dislodged and that now it would seal properly and stop the mysterious leak. NO! It continues to leak!! I still do not know for sure what is the problem with that carburetor. Perhaps the inlet needle valve seat in the carburetor has a defect from when it was machined in the factory.
13) Just when I think things can not get much worse, it does.... I decided that I would quickly try to start the engine to make sure that at least the engine itself would start and run. I hooked up the battery, pulled the carburetor choke, turned the ignition key and the electric starter began to turn over. Soon the engine did begin to run, but something did not sound right. The electric starter does not disengage! As the engine ran, the starter continues to stay engaged. I quickly shut down the engine knowing that this could quickly damage the starter (especially if an engine is revved up with the starter still engaged). I then discovered that the kart is improperly wired and so it keeps the starter turned on all the time when the ignition is ON. UNBELIEVABLE!
At that point, I could not take anymore abuse. It was around 2AM or so and I went into the house thinking about what a big mess I've gotten myself into! After all that, then I knew that I needed to contact you about this. As I've mentioned, I worked on cars, motorcycles, and many engine powered machines for most of my life. I've done stuff like bought beater motorcycles for $150 or so and then go through and rebuilt the engine and fixed the machine up. Even so, I can not remember EVER seeing a machine that had as many problems as this kart. Even some of the old beater stuff I bought cheap and have worked on over the years has had less problems! It is truly unbelievable to me. If someone told me that they encountered as many problems as this on a NEW machine, I'd think they were out of their mind or just incompetent or something. Unfortunately, I have been living this nightmare! It is crazy. When I buy an old beater machine for cheap, then you expect to have to work on it and fix problems. For example, I recently bought an old beater Yamaha snowmobile that is close to 30 years old for around $160. It had quite a few problems, but NOTHING compared to this kart. Who would expect to buy a new machine and find so many problems?!?! This Chinese go kart redefines what a "lemon" really is!
Really, if this was something that I bought locally, then I would just return it immediately. When I started discovering all the many problems, instead of spending so much time doing all the work trying to fix them all, I would just take it back and get a refund or a whole different kart that was put together properly. That would be the right way to deal with it. However, because of the distance involved, this is not so easy to do, so I have spent a LOT of time trying to fix these problems. And the big issues like the messed up rear axle/rear subframe are not a quick fix by any means! And the leaking carburetor mystery continues. All this, and I haven't even driven the kart yet! It's still just sitting on jack stands in the shop. And that's not the end of the story on this Chinese go cart. There's still more! See below for more details about my Chinese go kart nightmare.
UPDATE: NOW KART ENGINE HAS NO SPARK & WON'T EVEN RUN! I've been waiting for my parts to arrive to adjust carburetor jetting, but I've taken some test rides as it is even though it's not running totally right yet. Carburetor tuning should fix that. Yesterday I was out test driving in one of the fields at our farm for probably 10 minutes when all of a sudden, the kart engine died out in the middle of the field. Was driving fine and all of a sudden just died. WHAT NOW?!?!
My initial thought was: "ran out of gas??" I didn't think so because it was filled up and the kart has only been driven a matter of minutes! Checked it anyway. Of course, it was not out of gas because the tank was still full. After unsuccessfully trying to re-start it in the field for a several minutes, I hiked back up to the shop and got my other kart, a tow strap, and my son to help steer the 250cc kart. I towed the 250cc kart back up to the shop. That was all on Thursday evening.
Today, on Friday I began troubleshooting to find out why the kart engine died and would not restart. I was a bit suspicious of the carburetors just because of my previous problems with them, and I also wondered if maybe the spark plugs were fouled because I had been playing with the choke while driving to temporarily richen the mixture. I changed to new spark plugs (original ones looked fine - not fouled - but I changed them anyway) and that did nothing. Then I discovered something that eliminated the carburetors and fuel system as the culprit... that the engine has no spark at either cylinder. One of the first things that came to mind was a defective CDI module. I have no good way of testing this CDI module, so I began trying to eliminate other possibilities in the ignition system. I began checking the wiring harness for loose connectors, shorted out wires, bad ground, fuse, or anything that might be causing the ignition system to be dead. I checked the ignition switch even though it was behaving properly (the rest of the kart has power when ignition is ON - lights work and electric starter turns over when starter button pushed). I kept searching and searching and there was no obvious sign of any problem with the wiring that I could find.
To narrow things down further, I even removed the side engine cover to check out the CDI flywheel trigger magnet and pickup unit. It was a long shot, but I have heard of cases where a flywheel on a new Chinese engine had come loose (flywheel nut/bolt not properly tightened at factory) and the loose flywheel started to wobble and wreck stuff around it. I did not expect this to be it, because there was no signs of this and no noise from engine while it was running (or while cranking) that would indicate this happened. Nevertheless, just to eliminate another possibility, I removed the cover and inspected this. Everything looks just fine with the CDI trigger magnet and pickup unit - as I would expect on a brand new engine. The engine cranks over normally, but just can not start/run because there is no spark. Below are some pictures of my troubleshooting the ignition switch and CDI flywheel magnet and pickup.
I am including these pictures just to show you that I have been actively troubleshooting this latest problem, so that when I inconvenience you and ask you to send me another CDI module to test, you'll know that I have been greatly inconvenienced myself and spent a lot of time checking out other these areas before I ask you to do this. It's almost unbelievable that I am encountering another problem of a serious nature (dead engine - no spark) on a brand new engine! I say "almost unbelievable", because I have no choice but to believe it!! I've never seen anything quite like this - I've seen some tricky problems to troubleshoot in the past, but on this kart it has been one thing after another (and another and another...). Again, I'm not being mean spirited towards you, but just sharing the facts. It has been very frustrating. Sometimes, when it rains, it pours! I hope it stops pouring soon!!!
By process of elimination, I can not help but suspect that the CDI module might be defective and somehow went bad when I was out driving in the field. I do not believe it could be the ignition coils because there are 2 separate ignition coils (1 per cylinder) and the likelihood of BOTH coils going bad at exactly the same time would be a very far stretch in terms of probability! The next logical step is to try another CDI module. That's why I am sharing all this with you so you can see that I'm not asking to send me another CDI module to test without first troubleshooting other obvious areas. I've probably spent around 3 hours working on this NO SPARK problem so far, and I do not want to start unwrapping/untaping the enclosed parts of the wiring harness on the kart and mangling the wiring harness until after checking the CDI module. The picture below shows what I need.
Please send another CDI module that I can test as soon as possible. It can be a new one or the used module from your test kart... either way. I just need to try another unit. If after installing the different CDI module the kart runs, then that's the end of this troubleshooting episode. If the kart engine still does not run, then I will have to start digging deeper into the wiring harness to see where the problem might be. I've checked the harness and connectors that are exposed, but I have not wanted to take the harness apart and unwrap it or cut off the harness wire covers/sheathing because I don't think that is the problem. I don't want to mangle the wiring harness for no reason. Probability seems to point to the CDI module, but I won't know for sure unless I try another one. May not be it, but need to give it a shot. If that's not it, then I'll promptly turn back around and ship back the CDI right back to you... and then start scratching my head as to what in the world is going on here!
NO SPARK PROBLEM SOLVED. I discovered the mysterious source of the NO SPARK problem. While I was working on the buggy, I noticed that one of the electrical connectors on one of the coils was broken. Because it was still held together by the insulating sheath, it looked normal and was not something that was easily seen. I just ran across this while working on something else! The cause of this problem was once again because of faulty assembly in the factory. The electrical components were crammed together and mounted along one of the rear subframe tubes. The CDI module was bouncing around banging against the coil connectors on one of the ignition coils. Eventually, one connector broke. The CDI was crammed against the coil because the rectifier and other wiring were crammed against it. Since the rectifier was poorly mounted and just hanging there and banging into the shock springs, I relocated it. See pictures below. Now the engine is running properly. I have adjusted jetting and the engines runs MUCH better now.
Just when I think that my Chinese go cart problems might be coming to an end, then new problems surface! If you want to see more, then continue below to read more about the lack of quality control on this Chinese go kart.
ANOTHER UPDATE: FRONT A-ARM MOUNT FAILURE. Today, I drove the kart for maybe 30 minutes in a big grass field. When I returned to the shop, I noticed that there were some cracks on the floor pan near the pedals. I looked underneath, and there I saw one of the lower A-Arm mounts tearing away from the kart! Even as I type this, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. I feel sick to my stomach thinking about how much work I have done on this kart. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking about all the time I've wasted on this thing! I talked with my wife about this and when she heard me say that I have probably spent 30+hours working on this kart, she said: "Much more". This is a nightmare. I have NEVER seen anything like this. I have tried and tried and tried to make this work, but I can already see what the future holds for me with this kart. It is truly a lemon. I've fixed and improved so many things on it, and yet I've only been able to drive it maybe 1 hour while working on it for 30+ hours. I've carefully driven it in a big grassy field for approximately 1 hour TOTAL, and now the front suspension mounts are beginning to tear off! As I studied this, I can see the flaw is much deeper than just welding. The flaw is not only poor fabrication but a flawed design. The front A-Arm mounts are just welded to the thin sheet metal floor!! They should have designed the frame so the suspension mounts weld directly to structural frame members... not flimsy sheet metal!
I have tried and tried and tried to make this kart adequate, but it is so flawed in it's workmanship and design, that I can not waste anymore time on this. The fix for this latest problem is not just welding the crack (like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound to the head)! If this sort of failure happened because someone jumped off a huge jump and landed really hard, or if someone ran into a tree, then damage like this would be expected. BUT, I've been carefully driving around in a big grass field and the suspension is starting to tear away from the kart! This is a major defect! The solution is to cut off all the existing lower front suspension mounts and adding structural reinforcements that are welded to the frame and become a part of the frame structure. Then new mounts would have to be made and welded to that new structure. This is NOT a simple repair.
I have reached my limit. From Day 1, this kart has been nothing but trouble - LITERALLY! I do not know how all the other karts were assembled or built, but this one was terrible. The very sad thing to me is that I've fixed nearly all of the problems, so the kart is MUCH, MUCH BETTER THAN WHEN I GOT IT. Not only have I been fixing problems but also making improvements trying to make this a better kart. Yet, as soon as I fix things, new problems develop. I do not trust this kart. It is a lemon. I would not trust taking it anywhere for fear that it would strand me or cause me to get injured (or worse). It's bad enough how much time and money I've already invested in this kart (and taken away from my family), but I can NOT continue to waste anymore. I can not afford to get injured or maimed (or worse) because of some major failure on this kart. It is defective. I've had all these many problems, have worked on it for probably 30+ hours and I only had chance to drive it around for maybe 1 hour!! It scares me to think all the trouble I would have in the future! I will be shipping the kart back to you. This has truly been a nightmare to me. Chinese go cart quality like this gives a bad name to all go karts manufactured in China. I know that there are some Chinese go karts of decent quality; however, the phrase "Chinese go cart" and "quality" do not go together in this case. JUNK!
This is the end of my saga dealing with poor Chinese go kart quality. I returned this go cart and got a refund (thankfully)!