Best Carburetor Cleaners: Remove Dirt and Improve Engine Performance
Restore your carburetor to like-new condition with our top picks for best carburetor cleaner.
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BY Heather Fishel / LAST UPDATED ON August 24, 2021
Have you taken a close look at your carburetor lately? Whether your car is a somewhat newer model or has seen many miles and years on the road, you might be surprised at just how much gunk is hiding in and around your carburetor. This central component under the hood may not be as popular or as common as modern fuel injectors, but carbs are still found in plenty of vehicles. Designed to control the flow of fuel as it moves to and through the engine, a carburetor plays a critical role in your car’s operation. And, as a result, it can get pretty dirty.
Dirt, unfortunately, can also cause your carburetor to fail. Over time, and with the flow of fuel, your carb can develop buildup and deposits that keep it from working properly. As a result, your fuel efficiency can drop — along with your engine’s performance. If you’re looking to keep fuel flowing easily and your engine in its best possible shape, try a carb cleaner. We have a selection of the best carburetor cleaners right here to make finding one simple.
Aerosolized and applicable to nearly any carburetor, WD-40’s fast-acting carb cleaner uses a solvent formula to break away stubborn carbon contaminants, leaving you with a clean carburetor.
- 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 manufactures many potent cleaning solutions and the Carb & Choke Cleaner is no exception. An environmentally friendly and fast-acting formula puts this product on the top shelf.
- 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
If you’re looking to unearth some horsepower beneath all those carbon deposits, the quick-drying formula from Gumout works fast to get your carb clean and back to working efficiently.
- Effectively dissolves carbon buildup
- Easy to store, with a replaceable cap
- Improves both engine performance and fuel efficiency with regular use
- Cannot be used on plastic or rubber
- Has become less powerful and effective due to new ingredient regulations
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of Carburetor Cleaner
- Correct air-fuel ratio. Once your carburetor is clean, it should be working properly to distribute the correct amount of fuel. Drastic changes in the air-fuel ratio will cause a slew of problems, including premature engine failure.
- No-scrub solution. Purchasing a carburetor cleaner aids in the process of removing stubborn built-on contaminants that prevent your carburetor from working properly. Most carburetor cleaners do the work for you, no scrubbing required.
- Readily available and affordable. Most auto parts stores will carry a few brands of carburetor cleaner. Typically less than $20, carburetor cleaners are a cheap, efficient way to improve the overall performance of your vehicle.
- Easy trouble-shooting alternative. If you’re having problems with your engine running rough, carburetor cleaner is a cheap solution you can try in the span of an afternoon. Whether or not it cures the problem at hand, it will at least leave you with a cleaner carburetor.
- Multiple-use formula. When you research carburetor cleaners, you’ll see that most of them can be used on a variety of other parts on your vehicle, besides just the carburetor. So really, instead of buying a cleaning product for one part, you’re able to clean multiple parts.
- Better engine performance. We all know that engines run on fuel, but having the right amount goes a long way in helping your engine perform as it should. Cleaner carburetors are able to distribute fuel more efficiently so your engine runs like new.
Types of Carburetor Cleaner
If you live in California, you won’t have to worry about choosing between chlorinated and non-chlorinated carburetor cleaner because chlorinated variants are banned. This is likely due to the number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) contained in chlorinated carburetor cleaners. Unfortunately, these same VOCs are what remove stubborn built-up contaminants found on your carburetor. Chlorinated carburetor cleaners are also non-flammable.
Considered the less-toxic alternative to chlorinated carburetor cleaners, non-chlorinated carb cleaners are more flammable. You should be able to find non-chlorinated carburetor cleaners at most auto parts stores across the nation. Non-chlorinated carburetor cleaner doesn’t dry as fast as chlorinated does, but it is safer to use on plastic components.
Most carburetor cleaners come in the form of a spray can or aerosol can. Unlike many cleaners, carburetor cleaner requires a bit of force to be most effective. It’s not the easiest thing to find a rag that will fit in the small openings of a carburetor, especially when left on the vehicle, so having both the liquid cleaner and the air to propel it makes the entire process more efficient.
Alternatively, you can also buy dipping cans filled with carburetor cleaner. They’re mostly designed for the auto enthusiast who has a lot of parts to clean. Geared more towards extensive long-term use, dipping cans full of carburetor cleaner soak the part versus spraying the cleaner into the tiny cracks and crevices. Dipping cans are not as popular as aerosol cans but they can be a handy alternative.
Operating since 1941, Gumout is headquartered in Houston, Texas. The company offers a variety of products for your vehicle, including this six pack of Carb/Choke & Parts Cleaner. If you’ve got yourself one dirty carburetor, a six-pack is the way to go.
Headquartered in North Carolina, Gunk has been in the car care business for over 60 years. Obsessed with cleaning, its lineup of products addresses everything from the engine bay to the interior of your vehicle. Check out both its Chlorinated and Non-Chlorinated Carburetor Cleaner if you don’t like any of our top picks.
Berryman Products recently celebrated 100 years of business. Headquartered in Arlington, Texas, Berryman offers products any auto enthusiast would love to stock in their garage. The Berryman B12 Chemtool Carburetor Choke & Throttle Body Cleaner is a great option for getting your carburetor going.
Carburetor Cleaner Pricing
- Under $15: You can find a decent carb cleaner for less than $15. Slim, small bottles — or cans — of this kind of automotive cleaner can be found even when you’re on a budget. Variety is more limited in this price range, and the quality may not be the highest, but these cleaners can do good work.
- $15 to $35: Upgrade to this price range, and you’ll find tougher, more capable cleaning products. You’ll also have more options available to choose from. If you’re looking for a heavier-duty carb cleaner, this is the range you’ll want to shop within.
- $35 and up: If you don’t mind spending $35 or more, you can pick up carb cleaners in bulk. While most available cleaners won’t run this expensive, those who need a lot of cleaner (like mechanics or repair shops) can get multiple bottles or cans within this price range.
No one wants to sit and scrub car parts for hours. Isn’t that why we created things like car washes and carburetor cleaner? The best carb cleaners should work quickly so that you can have more fun driving the car rather than cleaning all the individual components. Sometimes fast-acting cleaners need to be a bit potent, but they don’t always have to be.
Carburetor cleaners should also be effective. That doesn’t necessarily equate with fast-acting either. Effective carburetor cleaners remove contaminants the first time around. Depending on how dirty your carburetor is, you may need a few cans to get down to the bare metal, but each of those cans should pull its weight when it comes to removing stubborn contaminants to reveal the clean part beneath.
Carburetor part cleaners are good to have around in case you’re working on a project and don’t feel like running to the auto parts store. For that reason, carburetor cleaners should store well, whether you have to replace a cap or simply store in a climate-controlled area. Having a product that is one-time use only isn’t necessarily efficient or a good investment.
Safe for Most Materials
The best carburetor cleaners shouldn’t destroy the components near where the carb sits or even those within the carb that aren’t necessarily metal. It’s a good idea to keep carburetor cleaners away from painted sections of your vehicle, but the best cleaners make it so you don’t have to worry about that at all. Carburetor cleaners that are safe for most materials make the job much easier as you can focus on more important things.
- Low Odor. The number of volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and the intensity of the carburetor cleaner’s odor typically go hand-in-hand. Different manufacturers will blend their carburetor cleaners with varying compounds, so some may smell worse than others. We don’t recommend huffing every carburetor cleaner you see in an auto parts store, but be aware of this as you shop around.
- Spray vs. Dip. When considering carburetor cleaners, decide whether you want to use an aerosol spray or a dipping can. There are pros and cons to each method. Beyond the points we mentioned above when describing the various types of carburetor cleaner, spray cans are typically easier to use for most people while dipping cans require more time.
- Amount of Cleaning Required. If you’ve purchased an engine that hasn’t seen the better end of a scrub brush in quite some time, consider purchasing bulk amounts of carburetor cleaner. Dipping cans may be an efficient solution in this case, since you’ll likely be cleaning a lot of components. However, if you only plan on cleaning a single carburetor, a can should be all you need.
Best Carburetor Cleaners Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- When using carburetor cleaner, make sure to work in a well-ventilated area. If you plan on working with carburetor cleaner for long periods of time, make sure to stop and take a break every so often. Go outside and breathe fresh air before returning to what you were doing.
- If you’re only going to clean your carburetor and it’s not covered in gunk, you should only need one can of carburetor cleaner. However, if you’re not sure how much carburetor cleaner to buy for large jobs, get one can extra. If you don’t use it, you can always return it.
- When working with carburetor cleaner, always practice personal safety. Wear safety goggles in case the cleaner splashes in your face and gloves to prevent your hands from drying out and absorbing any harmful chemicals.
- Beyond personal safety, you should also dress appropriately for using carburetor cleaner. Put on clothes you don’t care much about and shoes you typically wear to work on your vehicle. That way you won’t damage any nice clothing.
- As you spray carburetor cleaner, be cognizant of what’s around the area you’re spraying. Avoid any painted areas or other materials that could be damaged by the carburetor cleaner. The included straws help with directing the flow of the carburetor cleaner.
- Aerosol cans of carburetor cleaner should not be left in the heat. Do not puncture these cans either. The cans themselves are pressurized and will not react well to heat or puncturing.
Q: Do modern cars have carburetors?
No. Rather than a carburetor, most modern cars are equipped with a throttle body and fuel injectors. These injectors typically sit above the engine and spray fuel in a predetermined amount. Carburetors, fuel injectors, and throttle bodies are all part of the vehicle's fuel system and have a hand in fuel efficiency. Rather than carburetor cleaner, modern cars use fuel injector cleaner instead, which goes into the gas tank.
Q: What is the most popular carburetor brand?
Most auto enthusiasts have heard of Holley carburetors. Edelbrock is another well-known brand. There are a number of different carburetor manufacturers out there, each offering its own unique set of good and bad features. No matter what brand carburetor you buy or own, however, each of them will need to be cleaned at some point.
Q: Do I have to take the carburetor out of the car in order to clean it?
No, you don’t necessarily have to. It’s easier to direct the spray of your carburetor cleaner if you do take the carb out of the car, but it’s not a requirement. If you do leave the carburetor in the car, just make sure that you place rags around it to catch any runoff carburetor cleaner.
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: Why is there a straw attached to the carburetor cleaner?
This is for using the carburetor cleaner in pinpointed areas where accuracy is necessary. For example, it’s best to use a straw when you’re cleaning the jets of the carburetor because you’ll be able to direct the stream of the cleaner into and through the jet hole easier.
Q: Are throttle body cleaner and carburetor cleaner the same thing?
Only in the fact that they are caustic cleaners, meant to remove carbon buildup. When cleaning the components of your vehicle’s engine, it’s best to always purchase and use the intended cleaner. That is, use throttle body cleaner for throttle bodies and carburetor cleaner for older engines equipped with carburetors.
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.
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.