While a large portion of modern motorcycles have their fuel atomized and delivered to the pistons for combustion via direct injection, almost all older bikes (and still a number of cheaper commuter motorcycles and scooters) used to use carburetors to do this job. Both carburetors and fuel injection systems can become clogged up over time, either from poor quality fuel or from lack of use. When this happens your motorcycle will run poorly, or sometimes not at all. In this article, we’ll be looking at how to clean your motorcycle’s carburetors and how to keep them clean with the right cleaning parts and additives.
Best Carburetor Cleaner Quick Review
Top Choice: Carburetor Cleaning Wires and Nylon Brushes Set
When you need to dismantle your carburetor to clean out the jets, it helps to have a kit to do this instead of using paperclips. This kit from Amazon makes that job a lot easier.First Checkpoint
|Product||Best For||Our Rating|
|1. Carburetor Cleaning Wires and Nylon Brushes Set||Best Carburetor Cleaning Kit||★★★★★|
|2. Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment Concentrate||Best Motorcycle Carburetor Cleaner Additive||★★★★★|
|3. CRC Clean-R-Carb Carburetor Cleaner||Best Motorcycle Carb Cleaner Spray||★★★★|
|4. Multool Ultrasonic Carburetor Cleaner 6.5L||Best Ultrasonic Carburetor Cleaner||★★★★|
|5. WD-40 Specialist Carb/Throttle Body and Parts Cleaner||Best Dirt Bike Carburetor Cleaner||★★★★|
What Does A Carburetor Do?
Carburetors used to be the default mechanism via which fuel was mixed with air and delivered to the pistons in motorcycles and cars. The process by which carburetors do this is by atomizing the fuel (turning it from a liquid into tiny droplets), mixing these with air, and delivering this highly combustible combo into the piston cylinder, inside which a spark plug ignites this mixture, detonating an explosion inside the cylinder which drives the piston. While cars often used a single carburetor to do this, and send atomized fuel to multiple cylinders in multi-cylinder motorcycles, there’s often one carburetor per cylinder. In single cylinder bikes, there’s usually just one carburetor. You can find a much more detailed exploration of carburetors here.
Does My Bike Have Carburetors?
Generally if your bike was made before the year 2000 or so, it’s almost guaranteed to have carburetors instead of fuel injectors. Even for a number of motorcycles made in more recent years, particularly small capacity commuters, scooters and some off road motorcycles, many manufacturers continued to use carburetors instead of fuel injection. Carbureted motorcycles are still made today.
How Do Carburetors Get Dirty?
Carburetors can get dirt in them from rust inside your bike’s fuel tank, from dirt in poor quality fuel, from excessively dirty air filters, or from fuel that’s been sitting in your bike for a long time, which starts to gum up. Symptoms of a dirty carburetor include difficulty starting your bike, rough running, hesitancy with revving, and either running lean or rich.
Can You Spray Carb Cleaner in A Spark Plug Hole?
One of the classic symptoms of a dirty carburetor is difficulty starting your bike. If your bike takes a lot of effort to start, and if it runs really rough after it starts (after a herculean struggle to get it fired up in the first place), it’s likely that your carbs are dirty.
Sometimes, in instances where your motorcycle is seriously refusing to get started in the first place, you might figure that whatever mixture is going into your cylinder isn’t explosive enough to get the cycle started…so can you spray something else into the spark plug hole, something guaranteed to be highly flammable and explosive – something like carburetor cleaning spray?
You can, in fact, spray carburetor cleaning spray into your spark plug hole to get the motor firing, but this isn’t going to solve the problem of a dirty carburetor, which is likely causing the problem in the first place. And even if this gets the motor started, if your carburetors are really filthy and gummed up, your bike isn’t going to keep running much longer, if at all, after doing this “spray carburetor cleaner in the spark plug hole” trick. You need to tackle the source of the problem to truly fix it once and for all.
Can Brake Cleaner Be Used to Clean A Carburetor?
Do you really need a specialist carburetor cleaner spray or solvent to clean a dirty, gummed-up carburetor? Well, no, technically you don’t, although as with most things in the motorcycling world, you’ll almost always get the best results with a product designed specifically for the job you’re wanting to do.
Many carburetor cleaners, though, are marketed as being designed to clean brakes as well, so you could flip this question around and get a similar answer; so, you could use carburetor cleaner to clean a motorcycle’s brakes too.
You can also get multi-purpose motorcycle cleaner or mechanical cleaners, like ultrasonic cleaners, which are used for a huge variety of cleaning applications, from jewelry to tattooing and mechanical equipment, which will also clean carburetors really well. These are, of course, going to be a lot more expensive than carburetor cleaning spray, but they will last many years if you buy a good one.
What Are the Symptoms of A Dirty Carburetor?
As mentioned, one of the classic signs that there’s a problem with your carbs is that your bike is having great difficulty starting. Usually, if your carburetors are perfectly clean and functioning as they should, your bike should start (with a bit of choke, depending on how cold it is) at the push of a button, or on the first or second kick of your kickstart. If you’re having to hold your starter button down for a solid minute while the starter motor struggles to get the engine swinging, or you’re kicking your kickstarter until you’re blue in the face and nothing is happening, you may have a dirty carburetor.
Other signs that your carburetors are dirty include difficulty idling, or if the engine is hunting while idling. Further symptoms can include difficulty accelerating, a loss of power at certain revs, the engine dying instead of idling, having a really high idling speed, or, either when the motorcycle is running or after the motor has been turned off, you notice fuel dripping out of the carburetors.
Please note that while these can all be symptoms of a carburetor that needs cleaning, there can be other causes for these symptoms. Your carburetors may also need to be completely adjusted and balanced; cleaning may not completely solve any or all of these problems, but in most cases it certainly will help a lot.
Can You Use Wd40 to Clean A Carburetor?
WD-40 is often touted by DIY mechanics as being a sort of “cure-all” elixir, which can be used to clean, protect and lubricate just about anything mechanical. While it’s true that WD-40 can be successfully used to clean, protect and lubricate a number of motorcycle parts it won’t do as effective a job – particularly if your carb is blocked up with seriously stubborn deposits – as a dedicated carburetor cleaner. WD-40, by the way, actually does make a specialty carburetor and brake cleaner, which we’re going to be reviewing. Contrary to many opinions, WD40 can also be used as chain cleaner. We’ve explored this topic in depth over here.
If you’re looking for a general cleaner or something more specific to clean your chrome or give your chrome a nice shine, check out our post on the best chrome polish and cleaner.
Best Carburetor Cleaner Review
CRC Clean-R-Carb is an extremely potent carburetor cleaner spray. It’ll dissolve pretty much anything that’s clogging up your carburetor.
If you’ve got a gummed up carburetor that’s clogged with old, stubborn deposits that regular solvents just can’t handle, then you’re going to need something pretty heavy duty to get that carb spotless again.
CRC’s Clean-R-Carb Carburetor Cleaner will remove pretty much anything that’s clogging up your carburetors, no matter how thick and stubborn the grime deposits are. It makes cleaning your carbs a real cinch, and it’s not too pricey either, which is great, but you need to wear appropriate eye and face protection when you’re using this stuff. It comes out of the can at a very high pressure, and this sort of stuff is NOT something you want to get in your eyes and face.
- Extremely powerful carburetor cleaner
- Decent price
- Highly pressurized, can get sprayback in your face or eyes; must use protection when using this product
Best Carburetor Cleaner Fuel Additive
Prevention is always better than a cure, and by using an appropriate fuel treatment concentrate, like Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment Concentrate, you can prevent your carburetors and fuel system from becoming clogged up.
As the old adage goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If your motorcycle’s carburetors are already clean and functioning optimally, and you want to keep them that way, the easiest way to do this is to use a fuel additive, like Star Tron’s Enzyme Fuel Treatment Concentrate. One little bottle goes a long way – it’s able to treat over 500 gallons of fuel, according to Star Tron.
It keeps your carburetors clean while your bike runs, but in addition to that, it also stabilizes your fuel over periods of long storage, preventing the fuel from breaking down and gumming up your carburetors. It’s suitable for both two-stroke and four-stroke engines, and while it’s a little costly, it’ll last a long time and will definitely save you a lot of hassle down the road.
- For both everyday use and for seasonal storage – great for storing your bike over winter, or even a year or two
- One bottle can treat around 500 gallons of fuel
- Preventative measure, so it saves you the hassle of cleaning your carburetors down the line
- Safe to use in both 2-stroke and 4-stroke motors
- A little pricey
While you can use regular WD-40 to clean your carb, the company makes a specialist carb cleaner that does the job way better. It can also be used to clean other parts of your bike.
You’ve already got a can of regular WD-40 lying around, so what do you need specialist WD-40 carburetor cleaner for? Well, while regular WD-40 can clean mildly dirty carburetors, for any remotely stubborn deposits or worse in your carburetors, it’s not really going to cut it. WD-40 Specialist Carb/Throttle Body and Parts Cleaner, however, will get tough grime and stubborn deposits out of your carbs, Plus, it can be used on a wide variety of engine parts and unpainted metal parts – which is perfect for when you’re going to be giving your dirt bike’s mechanical parts a good cleaning.
While it’s not quite as potent as CRC’s Clean-R-Carb, it’ll get rid of the vast majority of deposits you’ll find in your carbs. It’s also a little safer to use than Clean-R-Carb, with less chance of splashback getting in your face. Even so, it’d be wise to wear eye protection while using WD-40 Specialist Carb/Throttle Body and Parts Cleaner.
- Not just for cleaning carburetors; can clean a bunch of engine and metal parts
- Good price
- Reduced sprayback from can
- Not quite as powerful as CRC Clean-R-Carb
When you need to dismantle your carburetor to clean out the jets, it helps to have a kit to do this instead of using paperclips. This kit from Amazon makes that job a lot easier.
Sometimes even the most potent sprays will fail to get the gunk and grime out of your carburetors, and at that point you’re going to have to disassemble the carburetor completely and clean every jet individually, by manually pushing something through it. You could improvise by using paperclips and sewing pins and such things to do this, but you’d have a much easier time of it with a specialized carburetor cleaning kit.
This kit from amazon, consisting of a variety of brushes and cleaning needles, should be suitable for almost any motorcycle carburetor, from the smallest capacity bikes all the way up to the biggest. It’s a great price too, at just over ten bucks, and if you take care of it, it should last for years.
- Comes with a large variety of cleaning needles and brushes, which will be suitable for most motorcycle carburetors regardless of size
- Great price
- If your carburetor parts are of a very unusual size, you might need extra brushes and needles
If you’re going to be cleaning a lot of carburetors, as well as other metal objects, you might want to invest in an ultrasonic cleaner. This 6.5 liter ultrasonic cleaner from Multool does a brilliant job of cleaning carburetors and other parts.
If you own a number of carbureted motorcycles, which frequently need carburetor cleaning, or if you simply have a lot of mechanical parts, motorcycle-related or otherwise, that frequently need cleaning, you might want to save yourself a lot of time and hassle by investing in an ultrasonic cleaner.
They’re very easy to use, and save you a lot of effort; you just put some cleaning solution in, pop your dirty carburetor (and other parts) in, set the time and temperature and let it do its thing. An effective ultrasonic carburetor cleaner, like this 6.5 liter one from Multool, will clean carburetors with even the most stubborn deposits in them very effectively, all while saving you a lot of elbow grease. These machines aren’t too cheap though, so if you’re only going to be cleaning your carburetors once in a while this ultrasonic cleaner might be overkill.
- Can be used to clean a variety of parts, not just carburetors, as well as jewelry and other metal items
- Very easy to use – just set the temperature and time and let it do its thing
- Quite pricey
Keep Your Carburetors Clean and You’ll Be Smiling for Miles
As much as we motorcyclists love our bikes, there are times when all we want to do is push them over the nearest cliff, and having a poorly running, hard to start motorcycle with dirty carburetors is one of these times. Thankfully, you can clean out your carburetors very effectively (and prevent them from getting dirty and clogged in the first place) with the best motorcycle carburetor cleaners, and save yourself a lot of time, hassle and cursing at your bike. Take care of your carburetors and they’ll take care of you, and you’ll end up smiling for many miles on your perfectly running motorcycle.