Brake cleaner serves many uses in vehicles. It is mainly used to degrease and clean metallic components in your car. Its ability to cut through gunk and dirt is quite impressive, and no wonder it has got many uses.
Brake cleaner, however, shouldn’t be used to clean the throttle body. This is because brake cleaner is very aggressive and can damage the rubber and plastic components in the throttle body.
That is not the only reason. Brake cleaner is highly combustible. In case some traces are left on the throttle body.
When you ignite the engine, it will create more significant combustion than your engine is used to. This will result in engine damage, or it may even lead to a rough idle.
The only exception when using brake cleaner on the throttle body is if you use the non-chlorinated version. A non-chlorinated brake cleaner is safer and can be used on the throttle body without any side effects.
It’s advisable to avoid brake cleaners when removing carbon deposits and dirt on the throttle body. But if you must use this solvent, make sure that you use the non-chlorinated version.
Table of Contents
- What is a Throttle Body and Why Should It Be Cleaned?
- What Should I Use to Clean My Throttle Body?
- Throttle Body Cleaner – The Best Cleaner for a Throttle Body
- Why Do Many Car Owners Use Brake Cleaners to Clean the Throttle Body?
- What about Carb Cleaners?
- What’s the Worst that Can Happen If I Use Brake Cleaner on the Throttle Body?
- What’s So Special about Throttle Body Cleaners?
What is a Throttle Body and Why Should It Be Cleaned?
To better understand the dangers of using brake cleaner on the throttle body, we must dig deeper into what it is and why it should be cleaned.
This is a critical part of your air intake system for those who have never interacted with the throttle body. It regulates the amount of air that is flowing into your engine.
As you may already know, the engine requires specific amounts of fuel and air for combustion to occur.
The throttle body is in charge of the fresh air getting into your car. There is a butterfly valve within the throttle body that controls the airflow.
This butterfly valve is controlled by the gas pedal or a wire for cars whose air intake is controlled electronically.
When you step on the gas, it signals the throttle body to open and pull in more air. An air sensor also ensures the amount of air drawn is enough to create the perfect combustion in your engine.
After some time, the throttle body gets dirty, and carbon deposits form inside. This hinders airflow from the throttle body to the engine. If this dirt isn’t cleaned up, it can cause the butterfly valve to get stuck.
This will affect the vehicle’s performance, and the engine can stall or surge. You may also experience poor idle. If your car is portraying either of these symptoms, you should look at the throttle body and see if it’s filled with filth.
Even though the throttle body is bound to get dirty after a while, this can be prevented by using a quality air filter.
The filter’s purpose is to purify the air passing through the throttle body via the butterfly valve into the engine. Even if you don’t notice these symptoms, a check engine light may come on.
If your throttle body is full of carbon deposits and filth, you must clean it. Some people will recommend brake cleaner.
But as we have seen earlier, brake cleaner is very aggressive. It will damage the plastic parts in the throttle body.
And because it’s highly combustible, if you live traces of brake cleaner in the throttle body, it may cause more combustion than your engine can handle. And this can be a costly mistake.
What Should I Use to Clean My Throttle Body?
Whether you visit your nearest auto parts store or look up recommendations on the internet, you will come across various cleaners that people claim to be ideal for the throttle body.
As a car owner, you must decide which cleaners are safe for your throttle body. Using the wrong cleaner can have adverse effects on the butterfly valve and its components.
Also, the like of brake cleaner, which is combustible, can damage the engine if traces are left in the throttle body.
Throttle Body Cleaner – The Best Cleaner for a Throttle Body
Let no one mislead you. A throttle body cleaner is the best cleaner for your engine’s throttle body.
Some people may claim that brake cleaner is more effective and aggressive than throttle body cleaners. But is it worth risking your engine just because one cleaner is more aggressive? Probably not!
A throttle body cleaner is formulated to thoroughly clean this part of the vehicle. These cleaners are designed to penetrate through carbon buildup and break it down for easy removal.
Brake cleaner aside, a throttle body cleaner performs better than other regular cleaners. It gives your throttle body a deep cleanse, ensuring that no filth can block airflow.
You will be glad to know that a throttle body cleaner is considered sensor safe. A throttle body cleaner won’t damage the air sensor in your vehicle.
And something you have to know about recent throttle bodies is that they come with a protective lining that can be eaten away by aggressive cleaners. Your throttle body cleaner will be gentle on this lining.
If you are looking for the safest cleaner for your throttle body, get one formulated specifically for this part of the car. It can be tempting to use other cleaners such as brake cleaners because they are widely available.
But other cleaners pose a risk to the engine and the throttle body itself. It’s better to go for a much safer solution.
Why Do Many Car Owners Use Brake Cleaners to Clean the Throttle Body?
The primary reason car owners clean the throttle body with brake cleaners is because the latter are more available than throttle body cleaners.
Many car owners have never heard of the throttle body, let alone its cleaning products. The throttle body isn’t a car part such as the brakes that will require regular cleaning.
Throughout your car’s lifetime, you may only clean the throttle body once or twice. Because not many people need throttle cleaners, many auto stores don’t stock these cleaners on their shelves.
If you are shopping for a throttle body cleaner, you may have to visit several stores. But if you were looking for a brake cleaner, you would get it almost anywhere.
This wide availability of brake cleaners makes them seem more ideal over throttle body cleaners.
It’s also worth mentioning that throttle cleaners are designed to be strong on dirt but gentle on the protective finish in a throttle body and plastic/rubber parts found inside as well as the sensors.
Compared to exceptionally aggressive brake cleaners, these may be more effective at removing filth than throttle body cleaners. This is another reason why many people love using brake cleaners.
Despite being so effective, brake cleaners pose many dangers and risks when used. It’s better and safer for car owners to use cleaners specifically made for the throttle body.
What about Carb Cleaners?
Similar to throttle body cleaners, carb cleaners were made for cleaning carburetors. The carburetors too often receive their fair share of carbon and gunk buildup.
A carb cleaner can break down these components and ensure it can do its job without interference. Carb cleaners can also be used to clean the throttle body. But don’t make a habit out of this.
Compared to brake cleaners, carb cleaners are slightly less harsh on rubber and plastic parts. You can use it on your throttle body and not have to worry about it eating through these components.
If you don’t have a throttle body cleaner, instead of using brake cleaner, opt for some carb cleaner. It’s a much safer and gentler alternative.
What’s the Worst that Can Happen If I Use Brake Cleaner on the Throttle Body?
If you make it a habit to use brake cleaner on the throttle body, your car will start to run weirdly. The engine will stall, surge, or have a poor idle. You should know that various engine issues can also lead to stalling.
You may have to perform a complete engine analysis to determine whether a dirty throttle body is to blame.
The worst that can happen when you use a brake cleaner on the throttle body is a decrease in engine performance. The vehicle may stall and surge more frequently.
What’s So Special about Throttle Body Cleaners?
Besides being made specifically for cleaning throttle bodies, these cleaners lubricate the parts on which it has been sprayed. This is highly beneficial to the moving parts of your throttle body.
Compared to brake cleaner, which strips everything away, throttle body cleaners ensure lubrication of all moving parts.
If you want your throttle body to perform optimally, only clean it with a specialized cleaner made for this particular job. Understandably, throttle body cleaners may not be very popular in auto stores.
But, it’s essential to shop around till you can get some. If you don’t find it in nearby stores, you can always head online and have it delivered straight to your doorstep.
It’s also advisable to invest in quality air filters. These will limit the amount of dirt that gets to the throttle body.