Home Forums Shifter Karts SHIFTER ENGINE OPTIONS – A Guide for Noobs

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    • #74339
      Donald Tran

      I just picked up a shifter kart, however, information is fairly scattered on what engine to purchase – or what engine actually works.

      Dozens of shifter karts are available on ebay & craigslist throughout the US, but as rollers. I’m new to the hobby so I have absolutely no clue on what will work as a bolt-on, what will work with minor modifications, or what won’t work at all. I’ve been all over the web looking for this sort of information, however, it seems that most information out there are for veterans rather than for someone who is absolutely clueless (me).

      I’m not interested in competing at this time, I just want to get my kart up and running so I can learn more about them as I go. Things I’m curious about is:

      – 2 stroke Motorcycle/dirt bike engines – are they an option? If so, what have people been using? I assume not as they don’t use liquid cooling, but karts use radiators.

      – Are there such things as direct injected 2-stroke shifter engines?

      – What are the top 3 go kart specific shifter engines people use? What are the reasons for using them?

      – What engines have the most aftermarket support and spare parts? This is very important as I don’t want to run into an issue where I can’t easily obtain a part.

      I appreciate all your support and information. Photos of my kart below. It’s a 2002 Birel Shifter Kart.


    • #74350
      Matt Martin

      – 2 stroke Motorcycle/dirt bike engines – are they an option? If so, what have people been using? I assume not as they don’t use liquid cooling, but karts use radiators.

      Karts have primarily used 2-stroke motorcycle engines. The most popular are the 1999 CR125 w/ a 1997 CR125 6-speed gearbox. The 2001 is probably the 2nd most popular engine.

      Most shifter karts use the same frame-rail spacing for the engine – get the mount that goes with your engine matched to your frame-rail diameter.

      I think mounts exist for YZ engines, KZ (kawasaki), and other motorcycle-based engines.

      – Are there such things as direct injected 2-stroke shifter engines?

      Maybe. None that are legal in anything but some sort of “unlimited” class. Do you have $10k?

      – What are the top 3 go kart specific shifter engines people use? What are the reasons for using them?

      These are often referred to as KZ, KZ2, and ICC engines (used somewhat interchangeably)

      TM (historically strong motor throughout global competition) K9, K9b, K9c, KZ10, KZ10b, KZ10C







      – What engines have the most aftermarket support and spare parts? This is very important as I don’t want to run into an issue where I can’t easily obtain a part.

      Honda CR engines.

      Basically, pick your engine based on what club/group you plan to run with locally. Or, if you don’t care about placing, put whatever is cheapest, and reliable.

      I am sort of in the same boat as you – I do a few races a year at most. I have a 2008 kart with an early TM K9 engine (it’s what I found first). I would like a CR engine, but the initial buy in was twice what I’ve got in my TM even after a full rebuild.

    • #74352
      Eric Riggs

      If you’re just looking for something to use to have fun with and never plan on racing with it then there’s a lot of options.  Any older 125cc dirt bike engine would work with some slight modifications or you can use an older ICC engine which are engines built specifically for shifter karts.

      The 99 honda cr125 will probably have the most parts / support available with a close second would be TM KZ icc depending on where you live.



      Here’s a link to how to build a stock 99 honda cr125 for kart racing:



      For reference here’s a link to an older ICC package on ebay:



      Honestly your best bet just starting out is to find a local shop or track and pay them a visit to see if they can point you in the right direction.


    • #74385

      Why not just remove the front rotors and calipers, and turn it into a Yamaha KT100 ?

      Shifter karts are very complicated for a brand new karter, and will be a very difficult to learn how to tune, plus they are a handful to drive if you’re a new driver.

      The KT100 clutch engine will have enough power to get you excited, cheap to maintain, and will teach you how to become a good driver.

      But if what you really want is shifter karts then I will respect that.

      Just keep in mind that a huge amount of new karters that jump into shifter karts do get very frustrated, very quickly when stuff always goes wrong, unless you buy a fairly new and super expensive engine package and have someone helping you tune.

    • #74392
      Donald Tran

      Thanks for your responses, Martin, Eric and Freddy.

      Martin – I will definitely look into those engines you’ve recommended – I’ve been seeing a lot of info on the CR125 engines – strange to see that they’re made in ’97 – ’01 rather than in the last decade (or it’s all people talk about). I’ll be reading and reading. I appreciate your thorough reply.

      Eric – Great links man. I’ve been meaning to visit my local shop but seemingly everyone is at the Super Nationals race in Las Vegas. I figure I do as much studying and research on my own until they come back.

      Freddy – What would be the reason for removing the front brakes if I were to ditch the shifter? Couldn’t I just run both front and rear brakes and possibly adjust so the fronts don’t bite as hard?

      The reason I got the kart, beside being a killer deal, was to learn more about engines and driving fundamentals as well as selling my street/track car.

      I’m no expert when it comes to engines, but not mechanically illiterate. I love to tinker and motorsports – Karting seemed like the way to go since it seemed a lot more affordable than street cars. Now I’m learning I just opened up a money pit seeing that people rebuild their motors WAY more frequently than I ever expected…

      Here is my S2000 I occasionally run at the track:

      Maybe going with what you recommended is the best way to go. I don’t want to give up the shifter, but I’m not settling yet. Are there any brand new cheap engines sub $500-700 I can just swap or keep a couple for spare parts?

      Helpful links I’ve found for other noobs doing the same research:




    • #74413


      The reason I mentioned to remove the front brake system is because Yamaha KT100 or clutch karts do not run front brakes, at least most clubs don’t run them, and having no front brakes will really teach you how to drive karts, as they are not as forgiving as the shifter kart brakes. ( I understand you drive track cars) And you may be experience, it’s just that the reaction time is a lot faster on karts, and things happen a lot quicker.

      You don’t have to sell the front brake system, just save them for the day you’re ready for shifter karts, then you can put them back on.

      You can probably find a good used KT100, KPV,HPV, or even an older 125cc Rotax, or Leopard engine for about $700 to $900  complete.

      I would highly recommend to start out this way, still get the thrill of going fast, being able to craft your driving style, etc. Put a season or 2 and then jump into shifter karts, by then you will have all the info you need about shifter karts, what to buy and what to stay away from.

      Where are you located at? And What kart tracks do you have around you?

      • #74460
        Donald Tran


        Thanks for the recommendations on the KT100, KPV,HPV, & 125cc Rotax as well as single speed engines – I’ll be looking into these.

        I’m from Los Angeles – I have a few tracks near me. Grange, Adams, Buttonwillow, Streets of Willow & a few autocross style tracks.

    • #74414
      Morgan Schuler

      Another option is 80cc engines. Honda CR80, Suzuki, and Yamaha’s were all popular. 80cc will be cheaper to buy and operate than the 125’s and be a good introduction to karting. If you’re NorCal call http://www.leadingedgemotorsports.com

    • #76094
      Ben Lewis

      My 2 cents.

      I’ve tried many different engine combinations and I personally run a cr125 in ‘stock moto’ trim under a similar but newer chassis (Birel cry32). I absolutely love it but you said you are new to karting… I have seen many people jump into the deep end with a cr125 shifter and jump back out just as quick. It’s a great setup, reliable, fast, easy to work on and cheapish. BUT in my opinion for someone starting the cr80 is the way to go. You will have to remove the front brakes if you want to compete but you said you didn’t. Cr80’s are not nearly as brutal as the 125’s and are much cheaper prob 1/2 the cost. You will learn to drive and have much more fun out of the gate. They are also a good engine to learn to do rebuilds on. Being able to rebuild your engines is a huge $$ saver if you plan on spending anytime in the sport. Then after a couple of years if you want more speed you can always upgrade.

      Frame spacing is NOT the same

      it will be:

      30×90  or 30×92 or 32×90 or 32×92

      Most Birels are 32×92 but you neeeed to measure. Look on Youtube.

      In my opinion (its just my personal thoughts ok no one get pissed) the Tag motors are much too $$ and finiky for someone new. They are not nearly as do-it -yourself look up a rebuild cost and then imagine paying that every year. However they do make some of the best racing out there too.

      The KT: great lil engine but you will have a very hard time selling it once your done.

      Whatever you do make sure you get up to speed on 2t basics they are crucial in karting and all of the engines your looking at will need tuning day to day.

      Also whatever you do make a yearly budget! You will need to replace things every winter. A lot of people get frustrated because they think pistons, gaskets, bearings, chains, clips, cables, fuel line, brake pads all last forever. They don’t  they are consumables and it only takes $4-500 dollars at the end of the season to freshen up your chassis yourself.

      Let me know if you get a cr80 or cr125 I have a wealth of knowledge and yes there is very little info out there for the first timer.

      Hope you catch the bug!




      " Turd Ferguson is real and he will pass your a** "

    • #76095
      Ben Lewis

      Also I just started a Youtube channel and am finally uploading some videos. There aren’t a ton yet but check em out. I plan on doing a few how to videos in the near future and am currently in the works on a few. I will be uploading a lot more content so keep a look out Suggestions are invited too I need some ideas or things people want addressed. Thanks!



      " Turd Ferguson is real and he will pass your a** "

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