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If you're not willing to roll up your sleeves and get dirty to keep a timeless machine running right while simultaneously building a bond not even the sun exploding could shatter, owning a classic car is not for you. You might like the way they look, sound, and the impression they leave on people, but you'd be far happier in something cushier like a late-model muscle car that's only service intervals are so spaced out that you might even forget they exist.
The truth is that classic cars are more demanding of their owners. The benefit of rock-solid reliability is a by-product of an intimate relationship between car and driver in which you will be engaged with everything under the hood.
A big part of the process is keeping the carburetor clean. Over time, dirt, debris, and all kinds of gunk will block up all the passages. You'll need to clear them up to keep that thing from bucking, sputtering, and falling flat on its face between stoplights. But before we get into the specifics of the process of cleaning that bad boy up, we need to collect the right materials, starting with carburetor cleaner.
WD-40 Specialist Fast-Acting Carb/Throttle Body & Parts Cleaner
- Safe for use on unpainted metal parts
- Suitable for restoration work and modern cars
- Works fast, even when facing stubborn buildup and dirt
- Doesn’t include a straw for targeting tight areas
- Can leave some deposits behind
CRC Carb & Choke Cleaner
- Low VOC content
- Fast-acting formula that allows you to clean up faster
- Works on deposits caused by sludge, gum, and varnish
- No straw included for targeted spray
- May not be suitable for use around plastic or rubber
Berryman 0996 Chem-Dip
- Cuts through stubborn deposits regular cleaners struggle with
- Easy to use
- Lasts far longer than sprays
- Takes hours to work
- Further cleaning required
- Best Overall: WD-40 Specialist Fast-Acting Carb/Throttle Body Parts Cleaner
- Best Value: CRC Carb and Choke Cleaner
- Honorable Mention: Berryman 0996 Chem-Dip
This is one of the easiest buying guides for us. Keeping carburetors in shape is second nature for us. Over the years, we've restored, driven, modified, and done basically everything one could with carbureted vehicles. Therefore, we can draw from personal experience and research-backed expertise to build a list of suggestions for you. What you see below are all items we've used and strongly recommend to anyone getting involved with classic cars.
Best Carburetor Cleaners Reviews & Recommendations 2021
Safe for use on unpainted metal parts
Suitable for restoration work and modern cars
Works fast, even when facing stubborn buildup and dirt
Doesn’t include a straw for targeting tight areas
Can leave some deposits behind
Low VOC content
Fast-acting formula that allows you to clean up faster
Works on deposits caused by sludge, gum, and varnish
No straw included for targeted spray
May not be suitable for use around plastic or rubber
Cuts through stubborn deposits regular cleaners struggle with
Easy to use
Lasts far longer than sprays
Takes hours to work
Further cleaning required
We chose the WD-40 Specialist Fast-Acting Carb/Throttle Body & Parts Cleaner as our top pick for best carburetor cleaner because of the fast-acting formula that cuts down on carbon contaminants quickly so you can get back on the road.
The CRC Carb & Choke Cleaner is another great alternative if you’re working on a budget.
What to Consider When Buying Carburetor Cleaners
Types of Carburetor Cleaners
Carburetor cleaners generally come in the form of a spray can. This delivery method is excellent for blasting out small, relatively loose deposits in the many hard-to-reach places inside a carburetor. Just be mindful of what you're doing when using these types of cleaners, as they will almost certainly be redirected from the carburetor directly into your eyes.
Sometimes, a carburetor needs more than a simple cleaning. After months of sitting and years of neglect, all kinds of heavy deposits will form inside the carburetor. At this point, a long soak in something that can cut through the gunk is in order. That's where chemical dips come in. These systems often come with a basket inside the cleaner itself for you to drop parts into, and they vary in size. A single gallon is enough for the average enthusiast, but a larger 5-gallon bucket is far better for folks who frequently restore carburetors.
Carburetor Cleaners Pricing
The price you pay is highly dependent on the specifics of the carburetor cleaner you buy. Spray cans generally range from $5-$10 per bottle, with the brand having the most significant influence on pricing. Chemical dips land somewhere around $40-$50 for a single gallon, with 5-gallon buckets landing around $200-$300.
You have questions. The Drive has answers.
Q: Do I have to take the carburetor out of the car in order to clean it?
It depends on the carburetor. You will want to research your exact setup to see if this process is feasible. However, it's almost always easier to simply remove it and clean it on an open benchtop.
Q: How often should I clean my carburetor?
Generally speaking, you should clean your carburetor every time you change your oil. For most vehicles, that’s about every 3,000 miles. However, you may want to clean it more often if your car sits for long periods of time. If left alone, the contaminants sitting on the carburetor could potentially damage the metal and cause even more problems.
Q: What symptoms can a dirty carburetor cause?
Dirty carburetors are often the cause of rough idle, decreased horsepower, and any other symptoms relating to an engine that isn’t running as it should. There are a few key components that allow an engine to perform well. These include the correct air-fuel ratio, spark, and timing. Dirty carburetors affect the air-fuel ratio and can cause a number of issues to occur if left unchecked.
Q: What other types of engines have carburetors, besides cars and trucks?
Motorcycles, lawn mowers, and even airplanes have carburetors. Many small engines have carburetors because it's easier to control the flow of fuel than it is with a fuel injection system.
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