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Gas Powered Scooter 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) 

Since Gas Scooters On the Web was launched, the volume of email I receive has steadily gone up with questions from people like yourself wanting to learn more about a particular gas scooter or custom mini chopper prior to making their purchase. Many of these questions are addressed in my Newsletter, but I also thought it would make sense to share some of them here.  The notation (Article) indicates that there is a full length article available.

Gas Scooter FAQ Table of Contents

  1. What is the difference between 4-Stroke Gas Scooter Engines and 2-Stroke Gas Powered Scooter Engines? (Article)

  2. What does the "cc" stand for in the chart comparing gas scooters?

  3. So what size engine do I want?

  4. Why are the speeds given as a range sometimes?

  5. How important are shock absorbers? I see not all gas powered scooters have them. (Article)

  6. What are differences between drum, caliper and disc brakes? (Article)

  7. What are differences between direct drives, gearboxes and clutch drives? (Article)

  8. What are differences between belt, friction and chain drives? (Article)

  9. Why does it matter what the foot deck is made of? (Article)

  10. How important is tire size? (Article)

  11. What is the difference between a "key start" and a "pull start"?

  12. Why do some gas scooters state that they are not for use in California?

What is the difference between 4-Stroke Gas Scooter Engines and 2-Stroke Gas Powered Scooter Engines?

For an in depth article go to The Differences between 2 and 4 Stroke Engines

There are many differences, but here are the main ones:

  • Four stroke engines carry their lubricating oil in a well in the bottom of the engine (just like your car) and 2 stroke engines require that the oil be mixed directly in with the gas.
  • Four stroke engines are generally quieter, and their exhaust noise is more of a rumble (think Harley Davidson).  2 strokes can be louder and more of a "tinny" sound (think Kawasaki).
  • Two stroke engines are generally hotter.
  • Two stroke engines are usually lighter and smaller in size for the same power output.
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What does the "cc" stand for in your chart comparing gas scooters?

The cc stands for cubic-centimeters of displacement of the cylinder of the engine.  The cylinder is nothing more than a large metal tube where the gas vapor enters and is ignited.  The bigger the cylinder, the more vapor it can hold, and the more work that can be done.  More work means higher speeds or the ability to climb steeper hills.  So a 49 cc engine, has a cylinder capable of holding the equivalent of 49 cubes, each cube being 1 cm square.  When engines get large enough they switch to cubic liters such as in automobiles where the salesman will be telling you that "The gas mileage is great, even with a 4 liter engine"!

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So what size engine do I want?

The engine sizes run from a minimum of 22.5cc through 43 cc (see FAQ question above for definition of cc).  The maximum was strategically determined by the laws in various states that require licensing a scooter above a certain engine size.  You will notice that the engine sizes fall into groups of 36cc, 41cc, and 43cc.  This is a result of there being a relatively small group of engine manufacturers, and the sizes you see are generally a result of the engine being used in applications other than scooters (leaf blowers, hedge trimmers, light chainsaws).

If you weigh more than 200 pounds, or intend to use the gas scooter on steep hills or for competitive racing you will want a gas scooter with a 43cc engine.  If you weigh less or will be using the gas powerd scooter on relatively flat ground the smaller engines will work well.  Although the engine sizes vary, the gas consumption is not a huge issue since these gas scooters burn a very low small amount of fuel regardless of size.

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Why are the speeds given as a range sometimes?

This depends heavily on the weight of the person riding the scooter, what octane gas the scooter is running and even at what altitude the scooter is at.  A gas scooter at sea level will go faster than the same gas powered scooter in the mountains of Denver, Colorado due to the difference in air pressure.  So, the manufacturers have to be careful since not everyone weighs the same and not everyone will be using the gas scooter in the same location.

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How important are shock absorbers?  I see not all gas powered scooters have them.

For an in depth article on gas scooter shock absorbers go to Gas Scooter Shock Absorbers Do More than Just Smooth Your Ride 

Shock absorbers take much of the bumping and jolting away when riding over rough ground.  If you plan to use your gas scooter only on smooth pavement, shock absorbers are not critical.  In fact most electric scooters don't have them at all, since the expectation is that an electric scooter will not be used off road extensively.

Some gas scooters have only one set of shock absorbers in either the front or the back.  In almost all cases, the rear shock absorber will be what is called a mono-shock.  That is one larger shock absorber in the middle of the gas powered scooter, instead of the usual pair you will see on a traditional motor cycle.  Due to the relatively light weight of the scooter, this design works very well.  You may have seen the mono-shock design used on mountain bikes.

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What are the differences between drum, caliper and disc brakes?

For an excellent article on gas scooter brakes, visit Q&A: Gas Scooter Brakes

The differences are huge.  And important.  Brakes are obviously an important part of your gas scooters equipment.  Consideration must be given as to where the scooter will typically be used (in the rain?), the weight of the rider, and in what state the gas powered scooter will be ridden.  Here are the differences:

  • Drum Brakes - This is the most common brake found on gas scooters.  It's design is similar to that found on older cars and motor cycles.  A pair of brake shoes expand inside of the scooters tire hubs, stopping the gas scooter.  Drum brakes are sometimes designed with a strap that goes around the outside of a hub and contracts when actuated.  This design is more correctly called a strap brake.  Drum brakes work well when the linkages are kept lubricated and the cables to them are not kinked or frayed.  Drum brakes attempt to keep water and dust out, but also can accumulate dirt and brake dust inside of them which cannot easily escape.
  • Caliper brakes - Think of your first bicycle with squeeze brakes and that's a caliper brake.  Caliper brakes are nothing more than a clamp that grabs on to the tire or the rim of the tire and causes it to stop rotating.  Caliper brakes are the lowest technology of the three and not all that common.  Typically very small scooters for children might have caliper brakes.  Caliper brakes biggest problem is their lack of efficiency when they get wet.  Just like your bicycle as a child, when you ride through water watch out!!!
  • Disc Brakes- Top of the line gas scooters will come with disc brakes on the front and back tire.  They are easily identifiable by looking for a shiny plate attached to the rim of a tire with a clamping device that grabs it to stop.  Most modern automobiles come with disc brakes, as do many motorcycles.  Disc brakes have the ability to lock up the tires into a full skid if applied with reasonably strength.  Some states such as California require that the gas powered scooter be able to lock up both wheels in a full skid.  Many drum brakes cannot do this with a reasonable amount of hand power.  Disc brakes are very easy to maintain, look sharp, and are not as affected by water.
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What are the differences between direct drives, gearboxes and clutch drives?

If would like to learn a lot more about this topic there are two excellent pages on this site you should visit Gas Scooter Clutches and Transmissions provides a more in depth look at how they function and Gas Scooter Drive Train Troubleshooting gets deep into how to repair them.

Next to brakes, the drive mechanism of your gas scooter is the second most important decision you will make.  Let's start with the basics.  There needs to be a means to get the output of the engine to the wheel of the scooter to make it move.  

Some gas powered scooters use a means call direct drive.  Direct drive is by far the simplest but has some major drawbacks.  Direct drive simply connects the wheel of the  gas powered scooter directly to the out put shaft of the engine.  This means that the gas scooter will be moving whenever the engine is running.  So if you came to a stop sign and stopped, the engine would also totally stop.  To restart it, you would push the gas powered scooter several feet which would restart the engine and cause the scooter to take off again.  Not a very great configuration for children who would be more apt to simply ride through the intersection if they thought it was clear, rather than hop off of the gas scooter and have to restart it.

To avoid this scenario, there is a device called a centrifugal clutch which is the most common clutch used for gas powered scooters.  With such a clutch, the engine can be safely started and will idle (run slowly) indefinitely until the engine is sped up via the hand throttle.  This allows for smooth acceleration from a stop, and allows the gas scooter to stop without the engine always shutting down.

Gearboxes are used to convert the relatively highspeed of the engine shaft into a lower speed which can then be connected to the driven wheel.  Gearboxes typically will have a 5:1 gear ratio, which means if the engine shaft is turning 5000 revolutions in one minute (RPM) then the output shaft of the gearbox will only turn at 1000 revolutions per minute or RPM.  This reduction gives the gas powered scooter the power it needs to climb inclines.

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What are the differences between belt, friction and chain drives?

Now that we understand the differences between direct and clutch drives, let's take a look at three other means for getting your gas scooter to move.

  • Belt Drives - The belt being described is very similar to the belts used in your car to transmit motion from your engine to the various fans, pumps and generators.  In a gas powered scooter, the belt connects the clutch described above, to the wheel of the gas scooter.  Belts typically run much quieter than chain drives, but compared to the exhaust noise of the engine, this difference would not be noticed.  Belts can have a tendency to slip when wet or when not adjusted properly.  However, some gas scooters now used a toothed belt which engages with a toothed wheel on the clutch to prevent slippage.  Also, unlike a chain, a belt may require more disassembly of the gas scooter to replace it since it cannot cut like a chain can to take it on or off. 
  • Friction Drives - Friction drives are the lowest technology drive available.  A friction drive is nothing more than a hardened steel shaft coming out of the gas scooter engine and scrubbing against the rubber wheel of the gas powered scooter.  Friction drives are direct drives, and therefore require the engine to stop every time the scooter stops.  Friction drives positively do not work in the rain, and can result in your drive tire wearing out if they slip.
  • Chain Drives - Chain drives are by far the most rugged of the three drive choices.  Chain drives are similar to what you have on your bicycle.  Two sprockets connected together by a flexible metal chain.  Chain drives will not slip, but do require that they be properly adjusted, similar to a belt drive.  Both the tightness of the chain (how far apart the engine and the driven wheel are) and the alignment of the clutch and drive wheel sprockets are critical.  Chain drives have what is called a master link in them to permit removal of the chain without having to remove the engine housing of the gas scooter to access it.  Drive chains must be regularly lubricated with a good quality chain lube to keep them rust free and to reduce friction. 

If would like to learn a lot more about this topic there are two excellent pages on this site you should visit Gas Scooter Clutches and Transmissions provides a more in depth look at how they function and Gas Scooter Drive Train Troubleshooting gets deep into how to repair them. 

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Why does it matter what the foot deck is made of?

I have written an interesting full length article exlusively on this topic.  Click Taking the Mystery Out of Gas Scooter Footdecks

Foot decks (the place where you stand) come in a variety of materials.  The comparison chart notes what the material is for each of the gas powered scooters.  Advantages and disadvantages of each are as follows:

  • Wood - Wood is the most common foot deck for gas powered scooters in the $400-$600 price range.  Wood has the advantage of being very flexible (will not permanently bend), and adds to overall look of a scooter if the artwork is well done.  Downsides include relatively high weight, not too resistant to wear and tear and possible delamination (where the layers of plywood separate) if soaked.
  • Steel Plate - Next to wood, steel plate is used extensively for gas scooter decks.  You can tell steel decks by the fact that they are always painted over to prevent rust.  Depending on the gauge (how thick) of the plate, the weight will be about the same as wood, although the plate will be much thinner than a wood deck.  Steel holds up well, but nicks need to be touched up or rust will develop.
  • Cast Aluminum - This is a lightweight alternative to steel plate.  The fundamental difference between cast aluminum and aluminum billet (see below) is the manufacturing process.  Cast aluminum decks are made by pouring molten aluminum into a mold.  The resulting deck is light and strong, but lacks the "cut" look of an aluminum billet deck.  The process is similar to one used in the manufacturing of lawnmower decks.
  • Billet Aluminum - Many times you will see billet aluminum decks offered as an upgrade to a gas powered scooter for approximately $90.00.  Billet aluminum decks are cut out of a thick sheet of rolled aluminum (the billet) using a cutting process to shape the deck and cut out the holes.  Billet decks are very strong, very light and have a high-tech look to them.  I wouldn't reject a scooter for not having a billet deck, but if you plan on reselling the gas scooter later, it would be a feature that might get you a better resale price.
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How important is tire size?

I have written a full length article on this topic.  You can find it at Gas Scooter Tires: Size Does Matter

As you can see from the gas scooter comparison chart  tire sizes for gas scooters range from a low of 8" to a high of 16".  Tire sizes determine the ground clearance of the gas powered scooter which can be important if you plan to use your extensively off of paved roads.  A gas scooter with a 9" tire will typically have around 4" of ground clearance.  Larger diameter tires put more tire on the road (they have a bigger footprint) and that enhances braking effectiveness as well.  Some gas scooters have a different size tire in the front than the back.  The width of the tire will also improve the braking efficiency as well.  Again, the more tire surface there is on the pavement, the better the stopping.  Some scooter enthusiasts like the profile of a "fat" tire.  If you buy a gas powered scooter that does not have shock absorbers, you want the largest tire available.  

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What is the difference between a "key start" and a "pull start"?

The Gas Scooter Comparison Chart also tells you which scooters have a key start and which have a pull start.  Here are the differences.

  • Pull Start - A gas scooter with a pull start, is started by grasping a T-shaped handle attached to a cord that rewinds into the engine and vigorously pulling it, not unlike starting a lawnmower, or small out board engine on a boat.  Pull starts are also called recoil-starters due to the fact that the cord recoils into the engine.  Gas scooters with pull starts generally do not have a key and there by can be started by anyone.   Not an ideal situation if you are parking in a low security area.  The gas scooter is stopped by pushing a button on the handlebars called a "kill switch" which shorts out the gas scooter's ignition and stops the engine.
  • Key Start - These scooters start just like your car.  Turn the key and a battery turns a starting motor which causes the engine to start.  A key is required to start the scooter even if it has a pull start.
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Why do some gas scooters state that they are not for use in California?

California has additional Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) laws than many other states in the USA.  Many gas scooter vendors have links that take you to the California DMV site and leave it for you to figure out and take responsibility for whether the gas powered scooter you ordered complies with the California law.  Manufacturers do not want gas scooters being returned to them from owners that were ticketed for a non-complying scooter.  And with the laws changing, the manufacturers do not want to represent a scooter is compliant and then find out the laws changed and today it is not.  

Basically there are three aspects that California considers;  engine size, braking ability, and emissions.  The easiest to understand is braking ability.  California law requires that the gas scooter brakes be able to lock up both wheels in a full skid.  Hence, you will see most gas powered scooters labeled as California compliant will have disc brakes front and back.  The gas scooter comparison chart identifies those scooters with this braking configuration.

You will also note that gas scooters for use off-road or for closed circuit competition (racing) are exempt. Here is the link for the California Department of Motor Vehicles.  http://www.dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/vc/tocd11c1a5.htm


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I get mine from Neo Scooters.  What you see below are actual pictures from their parts catalog.  No more guessing if you have the right part by an obscure description.  They sort by the model of your scooter and have pictures of each part, with the price and part number.  With Free Shipping Included, you cannot go wrong.  Look for their parts link in the lower left corner of the page the link  the Neo logo above takes you to.

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