Young mechanic

My ten-year-old son is obsessed with anything that has tires. He loves his bicycle and skateboard, but wants something with an ENGINE! He is mechanically inclined, so I told him that he can own and drive anything that he can build. I’ve found go-kart kits on the web for under $600 (sans engine). I’ve also found turn-key go-karts starting at $600, so why don’t I just buy one of those and just dismantle/reassemble it?

What is a good, entry level, do-it-yourself project for a ten-year-old future listener?


Logan’s Dad


kit vs. turn-key

YerfDog 5 HP Go Kart (EA) at

You want to go from simple machines to complex machines in one fell swoop? I think this is too much of a jump for a 10 year old (or, 15 year old). Maybe a motorized bicycle (gasoline, or electric)? Model cars (with engines), or model airplanes (with engines)?

My son started off on a used Honda 50cc mini dirt bike riding in the back yard. He was 9 yrs. old
I thought it was a good start for him. He moved up to a Moped.

We had a go cart when I was a little kid. I think I spent as much time tearing it apart and reassembling it as I did driving it. Then there was the bigger engine I put on it.

I think it’s a great idea PROVIDED he has a safe place to drive it. In addition to a go kart, a work area with tools for him to work on it would be a real plus.

DO NOT forget the safety gear! Especially a good quality helmet. A busted arm can be repaired, but a head or spine injury could destroy his future forever. If there is a go kart club or (better) an organized race program in your area, I strongly recommend that you sign him up. He’ll learn an enormous amount about the machinery, safety, and even driving skills. Much of that will carry over into full size cars when he gets older.

" why don’t I just buy one of those and just dismantle/reassemble it? "

You might want to write a construction manual as well, they usually come with a kit. :slight_smile:

Why don’t you buy him one of those “visible engine” models . . . you put it together and it actually runs (well . . . a little electric motor turns the motor really) but you get to see what turns what, where things are, etc. Any hobby store has them . . . I bought one for myself when I got the RX-8 just to see how a rotary works. Another thing you might do is go to a lawnmower/small engine shop and see if they have any junk motors, little air cooled stuff. They will almost give this stuff away and your Son can take it apart, look at valves, pistons, cranks, carbs, all the cool stuff. Rocketman

Excellent suggestion. When I was a little kid my brother and I both got engine models for Xmas, I got the Slant 6 and he got the Visable V8. He had no interest so I built both of them.

I looked at them recently at a hobby shop. The visable V8, which used to run with a battery operated electric motor located as a starter motor…the spark plugs fired (pea bulbs) and everything…now is hand cranked to operate. Bummer.

Well that can be a future project to convert that hand cranked model to electric.

When I was that age I dreamed of owning a go cart. It was a dream that never came true, mainly due to a lack of money.

I think he would love a go cart and you may want to think about getting an engine that needs some rebuilding so he can tear into it. Learning some basic electricity would help also for when he gets on to cars.

What a Christmas gift that would be.