What Are Carb Cleaner Alternatives? (Explained)

Carburetors need to be cleaned regularly if you want the car to run efficiently. The presence of dirt and carbon residue can prevent the carburetor from performing as expected, and it may lead to engine failure.

To avoid such, if it’s possible, clean your carburetor during every oil change. This should be around after every 3000 miles.

However, you would be surprised to find out that carb cleaners aren’t stocked in auto stores located in certain parts of the country.

If you urgently need carb cleaners, this unavailability of carb cleaners can put you on a quest to find a substitute. On car forums, or even when you ask for advice from friends, there is a lot of misleading information about carb cleaners.

It’s why we have taken the initiative to look at some of the best carb-cleaner alternatives and solvents you should stay away from.

carb cleaner alternatives

What to Use Instead of Carb Cleaner?

1. A DIY Homemade Carb Cleaner

If you didn’t find carb cleaner in a store near you, the best alternative would be to make one at home.

Contrary to popular belief, one can make an effective and safe carb cleaner in their home. All you need to have are the ingredients used in commercial brake cleaners, which include;

• Methyl Ethyl Ketone – This is the key ingredient in carburetor cleaners. It is renowned for its cleaning and degreasing capabilities. When creating your DIY carburetor cleaner, ensure that you have some Methyl Ethyl Ketone.

• Acetone – If you have any clogged-up dirt and carbon, acetone will help flush it out. Please note that acetone should be used in a well-ventilated area because it’s combustible.

• Xylene – You will find xylene in paint thinners. It’s an excellent cleaning agent, and you can also add it to your homemade carb cleaner recipe.

These three are the key ingredients for making a homemade carb cleaner. You can also add propane which will purify the carburetor, ethylbenzene, and toluene. Most of these ingredients are toxic and should be handled carefully.

The best method of making a homemade carb cleaner is by mixing the above ingredients with premium gasoline or diesel. That will create a strong carb cleaner that will remove the filth without damaging the parts.

If you are wondering where you should get these ingredients, they are often categorized as common chemicals, and you can buy them in stores.

Even though a homemade carb cleaner is a good option, you will need to be very careful when handling these chemicals.

Wear safety equipment when preparing and using these ingredients. On the bright side, your carburetor will be sparkling clean.

2. WD-40

If making homemade carb cleaner seems like too much work, you can always use WD-40.

Besides being a good cleaner, WD-40 is gentle on the different parts found in a carburetor. It will only work on removing the dirt, filth, and carbon deposits inside the carburetor.

Even though it’s a good substitute for carb cleaner, WD-40 isn’t strong enough to clean carburetors in cars that have been sitting around for a long. These require a more robust cleaner.

The Importance of Sticking to Carburetor Cleaners

There are hundreds of recommendations out there regarding carb cleaner substitutes.

We will look at some of these recommendations below and explain why they are not the best solutions. For now, we would like to emphasize the importance of sticking to carburetor cleaners.

A car’s carburetor is a critical part. There are some cleaners that you may use which are very effective. But once you are done, your vehicle may never run the same. And you may have to rebuild the carburetor.

In most cars, the carburetors feature gaskets made of rubber, and there are plastic and vinyl components found inside.

Harsh cleaners will eat through these parts, and your carburetor will start to malfunction. A strong cleaner may remove all carbon deposits and filth.

But it may affect the non-metal parts. You avoid this risk when you use a specially formulated carburetor cleaner.

Whether you use a spray carb cleaner or the one where you soak the carburetor in, you are assured of complete removal of carbon gunk.

If you use the latter, you won’t have to scrub the contaminants from the carburetor. The cleaner will do all that work for you.

Carb cleaners guarantee the correct air-fuel ratio, and you should notice an improvement in engine performance.

What If I Can’t Find a Carb Cleaner in Nearby Stores?

Not unless you are living in the 19th century, it shouldn’t be so hard for you to find a carburetor cleaner. Understandably, the stores near you may not have some.

Well, that’s why the Internet and online stores were created. If you can find your way to this site, you can clearly order some carb cleaner from an e-commerce store such as Amazon.

It will be delivered to your doorstep. Also, when you consider how cheap carb cleaner is, it’s not worth risking using a substitute that may end up damaging the inner components.

Is Brake Cleaner an Ideal Substitute for Carb Cleaner?

One of the most popular recommendations for carb cleaner substitutes is brake cleaner. If you read through car forums, many people claim that brake cleaner can be used instead of carb cleaner.

But these two are very different types of cleaners, and they were made for other parts of the car. If brake cleaner also doubled as carb cleaner, manufacturers would include that in the packaging.

It doesn’t come as a surprise that most people consider brake cleaner a versatile solvent. It is a powerful cleaner and can cut through the toughest dirt and carbon deposits.

On brake parts, brake cleaner would work wonders. It would remove oil and carbon residues. Brake cleaner works best on metal, but it’s harmful to painted surfaces, plastic, rubber, and electrical parts.

If you soak a carburetor containing rubber and plastic, these parts could be damaged during the cleaning process, which can affect the proper functioning of the carburetor.

You can avoid this by using a cleaner made specifically for the part you are cleaning.

The bottom line is, no matter how much people hype brake cleaner, you shouldn’t apply it anywhere in your carburetor since you risk damaging rubber gaskets and plastic parts.

Can I Use Pure Acetone Instead?

Another solvent that is often recommended as a carb-cleaner alternative is acetone. We understand why acetone may seem like an excellent substitute.

It’s strong and evaporates faster; therefore, it won’t leave traces behind when you are done cleaning.

Even though acetone is used as an ingredient in most carb cleaners, it is used in small amounts. And it’s often neutralized by other ingredients such as Methyl Ethyl Ketone.

Suppose you decide to go with only acetone. The longer you soak the carburetor inside it, the quicker it will soften plastic and degrade rubber.

Long-term exposure to acetone can cause the plastic to smear or dissolve. This means that you may not notice any difference upon the first attempt of cleaning a carburetor with acetone.

But after some time, the plastic and rubber parts will wear completely, and you will have no option but to rebuild the carburetor.

Can I Soak My Carburetor in Vinegar?

When most people run out of cleaner ideas, their mind quickly rushes to vinegar. This ingredient has been used for decades to clean different surfaces at home.

It’s potent and always available. The big question is – what will happen if I soak my carburetor in vinegar?

Vinegar is acidic. When you soak your carburetor in vinegar, it will remove the dirt just fine. However, the vinegar will degrade rubber. It’s precisely what happens when you use acetone.

What Factors Should I Look Out for in a Carb Cleaner?

So far, you may have realized a pattern when it comes to carb-cleaner alternatives. Certain characteristics make some ingredients ideal carb-cleaner substitutes.

Because there are plenty of solvents that can be used instead of carb cleaner, we can’t compile all of them in this list. We will share some of the qualities you should look for when choosing a carb-cleaner substitute.

The first thing is the cleaner’s ability to remove dirt, oil, and carbon residue.

The carburetor is exposed to fuel and air. Even though cars have filters for air and fuel, at times, dirt can pass through, and when it gets to the carburetor, it can settle there.

This buildup of dirt will affect the air-fuel ratio in the carburetor and lead to engine issues. A good cleaner should be able to get all the dirt that is inside a carburetor.

Your number one priority should be the cleaner’s strength. If it passes this check, you can head on to the next one -safety.

Carburetors are made up of different materials other than metal. A good carb cleaner substitute should be gentle on rubber gaskets and plastic components in the carburetor. This is the factor that eliminates most cleaners.

If you are finding it hard to choose a carb cleaner alternative, you shouldn’t risk using other products such as brake cleaners.

It would be better to order and wait for your carb cleaner to be delivered than use a cleaner that will damage your carburetor.

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