If you ride an old-school bike with a carburetor, you’ll need the best motorcycle carb cleaner to keep your bike in tip-top health. While almost all modern motorcycles use fuel injection technology, there are plenty on the road that don’t. And these aren’t just older models. Some new, small capacity machines still depend on carburetors to function.
10 Best Motorcycle Carb Cleaners
Since your carb controls your fuel and air mix and flows directly into your motorcycle’s engine, a dirty carb can cause a whole host of problems. The best way to avoid these problems is to keep your carburetor nice and clean. A good cleaner will do more than just clean your parts. It can also improve engine performance too! Luckily, there are plenty of excellent carb-specific products available. Here are the best carb cleaner products on the market.
The Best Carb Cleaner: A Buying Guide
If you have a carburetor on your motorcycle or car, then you should have some carb cleaner in your garage. In fact, even if you don’t have a carb on your vehicle, carb cleaner is still a great product to have on hand. You can use it to clean a wide range of small parts and components, and some products can also work wonders on your modern fuel injection systems too.
Why Use Carb Cleaner?
If you’re on the fence about buying some, here are a few key benefits of using a carburetor cleaner.
A clean carburetor will function as it was originally intended to, producing the correct air and fuel ratio. The wrong mixture can cause engine problems and sluggish performance. The correct mixture can boost performance and keep your motorcycle in tip-top condition.
If you’re experiencing engine problems, then a carburetor clean should be at the top of your troubleshooting list. Cleaning a carb is quick and easy, and it might solve your problem. But even if it doesn’t, your time hasn’t been wasted. You’ll still have a clean carb!
Almost all carburetor cleaners can be used for more than just the carburetor. Sure, the formula is designed for carbs, but most of the time it can be used to clean other parts of your vehicle or engine. For a few dollars, you can have a heavy-duty, versatile cleaning solution.
A really filthy carburetor will need to be dismantled and cleaned by hand. However, if you’re just shifting small build-ups of grime, then a quick blast of carb cleaner can do a lot of the heavy lifting for you. If you’re meticulous with your maintenance and clean your carb regularly, the occasional spray may be all that you need to keep things running smoothly.
A Cheap Solution
Lastly, it’s the right product for the job, and it’s not expensive to buy. Some products are as cheap as $4. With prices as low as that, there’s no reason not to have some in your garage. It’s an inexpensive formula that can make your car or motorcycle run better.
The Different Types of Motorcycle Carb Cleaner
Before you buy any old carb cleaner, you should familiarize yourself with the different types of products on the market. There are some significant differences, and some products can’t be used in certain regions.
Chlorinated Carb Cleaner
Chlorinated carb cleaners are banned in California. That’s the first thing you need to know. Why? They’re banned because of the higher percentage of volatile organic compounds (VOC) used as ingredients. Chlorinated cleaners with high VOC content are generally stronger and more aggressive than non-chlorinated versions. They can cut through grease and gum with ease, but the aggressive ingredients can harm plastics and other parts.
Non-chlorinated cleaners are an excellent alternative to chlorinated products. They’re non-toxic (or rather, less toxic), safe to use with other components, and widely available. The lack of chlorine does mean they’re not as tough as chlorinated cleaners, but if you don’t mind getting your hands dirty, they’re just as capable. Unfortunately, the lack of chlorine does make them more flammable, so you still need to take care when using this less-toxic alternative.
No matter whether you decide on a chlorinated or non-chlorinated formula, it will likely arrive in an aerosol format. These spray cans are ideal for getting the solution into hard-to-reach places, particularly through small inlets and into the smaller components. Aerosols are great but don’t think they’ll do all of the work for you. Since most of the grime that builds up on a carburetor is on the inside, you will still have to take the carb apart for a thorough cleaning.
Dipping Can Cleaners
Dipping cans are another popular carb cleaner types. Many automotive enthusiasts would claim that dipping cans are the best carb cleaner type, but that’s down to personal opinion. Instead of being deployed as an aerosol, dipping cans are filled with carb cleaner and come with a drip tray that you dip into the solution. The part is completely immersed and left to sit, giving the cleaner time to do its work. They are very effective but time consuming and expensive.
Before investing in a new cleaner, make sure you take the following points into account:
Carburetors are often made from a combination of materials. While they have metal casings, the inside can feature rubber, plastic, and soft metal parts. The last thing you want to do is buy a cleaning solution that harms these parts. Some formulas can even damage metals, so make sure you buy a product that won’t damage your carburetor. If in doubt, buy a non-chlorinated cleaner.
As with all strong cleaning solutions, there may be harmful ingredients in the mix. Some of these chemicals can be irritants, and in some cases, they could cause allergic reactions. Always read the ingredients and take proper care when using these chemicals. And, of course, keep them out of reach of children.
Ease Of Use
For the best results, your carb cleaner needs to be easy to use — and we don’t just mean the application. Sure, having something that’s easy to apply is great, and that should be a priority. But don’t forget the other practicalities such as the time it takes to take effect, the storage conditions, and the preparation time required before you can apply it.
Check if you’re buying a fast or slow-acting product and whether you can simply apply it whenever you feel like or if your need to prepare your motorcycle in advance. Lastly, check that you can easily open, use, and store your product. You don’t want it to go off or evaporate after the first use!
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you use WD-40 as carb cleaner?
Regular WD-40 won’t be very good as a carb cleaner. It will lightly lubricate, but it won’t clean. You can use it to help you clean your carb by hand in a pinch, but we don’t recommend it. WD-40’s specific carb cleaner is highly recommended though.
How do I know if my carb is dirty?
Hard starting, popping sounds, black exhaust smoke, flooding, and poor performance are all good indications that your carb is in need of a clean. The carb may not be responsible for these problems, but it’s a sensible place to start troubleshooting.
Can you use vinegar to clean a carburetor?
Yes, it is possible, but it’s not recommended. Vinegar can help to cut through grime, but the acetic acid in the vinegar can make metal components vulnerable to rust.
Can I use motorcycle carb cleaner on other carburetors?
Yes. A carb cleaner will work on all carburetors. A motorcycle-specific product will be fine to use on your lawnmower, chainsaw, and almost all automotive carburetors.