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How to Clean a Car Carburetor

by Tom Keaton

If you have an older car with a carburetor, you know the importance of it working smoothly all the time. It is the lifeblood of the vehicle, supplying the fuel-and-air mix that makes the heart of the car tick properly.The carburetor should be maintained and cleaned on a regular basis to ensure that it is working properly.The process of cleaning it -- inside and and out -- is quite simple and shouldn't take you more than 30 minutes or so!

Step 1

With the engine off, remove your air filter housing so that the carburetor is accessible. Get your rags together, along with your spray lubricant and carburetor and choke cleaner. Also locate the throttle control attached to the carb, which allows you to manually operate and run the engine faster while doing the cleaning.

Step 2

Place some rags around the base of the carburetor, because the chemicals may harm any nearby painted surfaces, and the rags will stop any runoff.

Step 3

Put on your safety goggles and spray the "outside" of the carb with your lubricant, or the carb and choke cleaner. Be sure to spray the connections and attached moving parts, such as the throttle area linkage. Let the fluid set a moment or two and wipe up. If you have a heavy buildup of sludge and oils, clean with a small wire brush before the spray dries.

Step 4

Before you start the car, spray a small amount of carb cleaner directly into the carb. Then remove your rags and any tools from the engine area and start the engine. Do NOT spray the lubricant into the carb. Start the engine and use the throttle control, since you want to be able to run the motor at a higher rpm while you spray in more carb cleaner fluid. This will help push the cleaner through and will also avoid stalling out the engine. Spray in short spirts, run the engine faster and then slow it down to normal idle and respray again. Do this a few times.

Let the car run for a few minutes at normal idle. Then turn off engine and re install the air filter and housing. Now drive the car for 10 to 15 minutes or until hot ,allowing the carb cleaner to completely run through the system. Even if you don't feel any increase in performance, you can rest assured that you are doing all you can to care for and preserve the carburetor. In some cases, if the carb was dirty with carbon buildups, you will feel increased power and save fuel at the same time.


  • You can add fuel additives into the tank as well, to help keep your fuel system clean and carburetor flowing at its best.
  • A regular cleaning of the carb at routine intervals is suggested. The time between cleanings will depend on your driving habits, but every 3,000 miles or with an oil change is a good benchmark.
  • If the engine stalls out during cleaning, just wait a couple of minutes and restart.
  • Be sure to change your fuel filter on a regular basis to help eliminate any debris from entering the carburetor.


  • Always wear your safety goggles when spraying the cleaners, especially when the engine is on, as the drafts may kick up the chemicals into your eyes.
  • Be sure to remove any loose jewelry, such as bracelets and necklaces, while working under the hood with the motor running. Always be aware of the location of moving parts like the belts and fan blade.
  • NEVER spray the lubricant into the carb; only use it on the outside connection areas for lubrication and cleaning.

Items you will need

  • Old rags
  • Choke and carburetor cleaner (sold at most auto supply stores in a spray can with straw tip)
  • Lubricant spray cleaner (sold at auto parts stores)
  • Safety goggles
  • Small wire brush (optional, to clean the outside if there is heavy sludge buildup)

About the Author

Tom Keaton has been writing professionally since 2007. His background includes experience in mortgage banking, pest control and classic-car restoration. Keaton has also worked as a licensed stock broker.

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