How to Clean A Motorcycle Carburetor While It Is Still There

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It can be frustrating to have a carburetor problem. Though they’re a simple mechanism, they have tiny parts that’s could easily be lost when taken apart.

It would be great to be able clean your carburetor without the need to remove it. And the best part is that it’s completely possible to do so.

So, how can you clean a motorcycle’s carburetor without taking it out? To clean a motorcycle carburetor without removing it, you’ll need to remove the bowls at the bottom of the carburetor. Spray the carburetor cleaner on the inside of your motorcycle, and then wait for a few minutes to spray again. Next, replace the bowls. Start the motorcycle and check how it runs.

Over the past few years, I have cleaned more than 100 carburetors and have used every method possible to clean them. I’ve had success cleaning some without having to remove it and this is how I did it.

You can clean carbs without removing them

It’s no wonder people are researching how to clean the carbs on their motorcycle without having to take it off. A lot of issues associated with how a motorcycle is running is usually because of carburetor issues and the fact that they’re not clean inside. If you have to clean it out every time, these issues can cause a lot of problems.

The majority of motorcycle carburetors are located behind the engine in the middle of the motorcycle. A lot of people don’t want to have to deal with taking the throttle cable off or deal with the intake boots. In order to clean it without taking it completely off the bike, you’ll need to first take off the air box or pod filters. This is easily done and they can easily be reinstalled when you’re finished.

After removing the filters, you can see the back of carburetor. This will allow you to see the butterfly valves that open and close when the throttle is turned. You will have better access to your carburetor if you remove them. Now you’ll need to take off the bowl at the bottom of the carburetor.

There’s usually a center bolt or a few screws around the side of the bowl that will need to be taken off in order for the bowl to detach. These are easy to remove and shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. Also make sure you turn your petcock to the off position so you don’t have gas running out. Have some paper towels handy because you’ll likely have a little bit of gas that leaks once you take those bottom bowls off.

Spray some carb cleaner inside the bowl once it is removed. You can spray the carb cleaner several times per minute to loosen dirt and grime. You can then reattach the bowl and start your motorcycle to see if it improves its performance. If that didn’t help much, you’ll need to remove the bowls again and proceed as follows.

Once the bowl is off again, you’ll see some floats up inside the carburetor (similar to the floats you see in the tank of a toilet tank). These floats will rise as the bowl fills up with gas, telling the carburetor shut off the fuel valve to keep it from overflowing.

You’ll need to take off the float as well in order to access what’s behind it. These are held together by a small wristpin that you should be able push through to remove the float. You will see a small, rocket-shaped piece connected to the float with a rubber tip. This tip prevents the line from overflowing. This rocket-shaped part and the float will be removed together.

While the floats are out, I usually like to test them and make sure they’re still good. To test whether they will float, get a bowl of water. If they don’t float, you’ll need to get new ones as this could cause mechanical issues with your motorcycle later on.

Now that the float is off, you’ll need to look up inside the carburetor and unscrew the jets. There’s usually at least two in there; one is a primary jet and the other is a secondary jet. Look through the jets once they’re out and make sure you can see through them.

They can easily become blocked, especially when ethanol is used. Clogged jets are the number one reason a carburetor doesn’t work right. My article here explains how to choose the right gas for your motorcycle.

If you can see the jets, clean them out. This will ensure you’re getting out any gunk that may be building up inside that you can’t see. You can use carb cleaner several times in a short time to get rid of everything.

Spray carb cleaner all over your carburetor. Spray some cleaner on the outside and inside. Let the cleaner dry completely before reinstalling any parts. Install the float and jets again, then finally, place the bowl on top.

Start your motorcycle now and check that your cleaning was thorough. It’s okay to keep the air intake filters off for this stage in case you need to access the carburetor again. After you are satisfied that the carburetor is clean you can put in the intake filters.

How often do you need to clean the carbs?

You’ll often hear of the routine maintenance you need to perform on your motorcycle with the different components, but people often get confused with the type of maintenance you need to perform on your carburetor.

It’s a good rule of thumb to get the carburetor tuned about every two years, but there’s really no other routine maintenance you’ll need to perform on your carburetor. Taking a carburetor apart is a pain and it’s really okay to only clean it out when you feel like it needs it. Some people could have it every few months while others could have it every few years.

Those who regularly ride their motorcycle will require much less cleaning sessions on their carbs than those who don’t ride them as often. It’s almost like a cleaning system in itself to take your motorcycle on frequent or regular rides.

People who ride less often will need to clean their carbs frequently because they build up dirt and grime faster in the carburetor. You can read my article to find out more about what happens to a motorcycle if it sits too long.

Signs that your carburetor needs to be cleaned

Carburetors can communicate to us riders very well that they need a clean. You can identify signs that a clean is required by looking at these signs.

As I had mentioned earlier, the jets are vital parts to the carburetor’s functionality but they are often clogged and will cause some mechanical issues for your motorcycle.

You can see signs like backfiring, sputtering or poor idle as a sign of a dirty carburetor. If I have any of these symptoms, I will clean my carburetor first. It is responsible for 75% of all the problems.

If your carburetor is still not clean and the motorcycle continues to sputter, you can read my article here.

What To Do When Your Cleaning Wasn’t Enough

I believe in saving time when it comes down to maintaining a motorcycle. It is much easier to clean the carburetor than taking it off, especially if the problem is solved.

However, sometimes a quick clean like this doesn’t always work. You may have to examine the carburetor for other issues. This, unfortunately, means you’ll need to take the carburetor off the motorcycle.

Many people feel intimidated by the task of disassembling a carburetor. They are small and easy to lose. There are many forums and videos that will help you disassemble and reassemble your carburetor.

You want the best results. I recommend that you remove your carburetor and place it in an ultrasonic cleaning machine. I highly recommend this industrial-grade ultra sonic cleaning solution (link to Amazon.com). This is the one I’ve used for dozens of carb cleanings and it does an excellent job.

All you really need to do is buy an ultrasonic cleaning solution and place the part inside the device, turn it on and let it do it’s thing. You’ll notice a high ringing sound so you’ll maybe need to put it in a room you don’t plan on staying in if that type of sound annoys you. This particular ultrasonic cleaner is my favorite because it comes with a heater to heat up the solution and give it a thorough clean.

You can leave all of the cleaning to the ultrasonic cleaner. You don’t need to do any cleaning before or after using it. Once it’s been inside the cleaner, you can reassemble everything. You may need to clean the carburetor several times depending on its size.

You should also take into consideration that any gaskets may be worn out when your carburetor is taken apart. These kits come with new gaskets for a low price and will provide you with good functionality for the future.

I have made a video series on how to restore motorcycles. This series also includes a detailed 25 minute video about how to clean and rebuild carburetors. The series also covers other difficult-to-tackle parts such as electrical and body work. I give dozens of tips and tricks that you won’t find anywhere else online. Click here for more information if you’re interested in viewing multiple videos that will help fix up your bike or if you’re interested in completely building your dream motorcycle!

Related Question

What is the best carburetor cleaning product? There are many excellent brands available that are great choices for cleaning your carburetor. Chlorine-containing carb cleaners are harder and produce better results.

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