Whether you drive a car, boat, snowmobile, ATV, motorcycle, or tractor, over time all motors in all vehicles will start to accumulate gunk and grime. While for the most part this is benign and can be chalked up to being part of the normal aging process for any vehicle, occasionally this buildup can be located in some more sensitive spots that can lead to performance issues. The most common place for this to occur is in your intake tract.
Your intake tract is comprised of quite a few components. On many cars, vacuum pressure from the intake is used to boost brakes, control your idle, and ventilate your crankcase. Furthermore, your intake contains electronic components such as the MAF (or mechanically operated carburetors for those of us that drive pre-fuel injected cars) that meter the air flowing into your engine that require a high degree of calibration to function properly (it should be noted that if you are specifically looking to clean your MAF you should get a good MAF Cleaner instead of carb cleaner).
As grime, dirt, and varnish build up in these components, they can start to stick, fall out of calibration, or otherwise stop functioning properly. It is then that you start seeing things like idle issues, stuttering upon acceleration, throttle hesitation, stalling, or check engine lights. These are the sorts of things that can motivate you to get your car in to your mechanic, but often times the cause is relatively easy to solve on your own. Many times, simply giving your intake system a good cleaning is an easy approach to solving some of these gremlins. Furthermore, the occasional intake cleaning when there are no obvious problems is a great way to prevent these types of challenges from occurring at all.
When it comes to cleaning your intake, one of the cheapest, easiest, and most effective ways to accomplish this is with a good carb cleaner. Carb cleaner, also referred to as carb and choke cleaner, carburetor cleaner, or just parts cleaner, is an aerosol chemical that can be selectively sprayed into various parts of your intake tract. Carb cleaner typically comes in a can and typically has a small straw that can be inserted into the nozzle to provide precise directional flow. Carb cleaner is a solvent that quickly breaks up and dissolves grease and grime to free up sticky parts, clear up rough idles, and generally clean things up.
The Best Carb Cleaner: Gumout Carb and Choke Cleaner
When it comes to picking the best carb cleaner, our long time favorite has been Gumout’s Carb and Choke Cleaner. When comparing carb cleaners across the board, many of them contain similar chemicals. Gunout is a favorite because it works well, is widely available, and best of all it’s cheap relative to the competition.
When using Gumout’s product, there are some considerations that you must take. First, it’s important to remember that carb cleaner is extremely flammable, so use with caution, especially when your engine is running. Second, because it’s flammable, it is likely to momentarily change your engine rpm if you spray any while the engine is running so this is something to be aware of. You’ll want to avoid using it on electrical connections or electronic parts in general. Finally, you’ll want to be careful about using it on gaskets or rubber components. Typically, carb cleaner works best on unpainted metal surfaces (on that note, make sure not to get any on any painted surface of your car or you risk damaging your paint…wipe it off quickly if you do!). Another plus about Gumout’s carb and choke cleaner is that it will not compromise your catalytic converter or O2 sensors if you spray it in your intake.
Overall , Gumout Carb and Choke cleaner is our favorite because it is a high quality product and hands down one of the best carb cleaners on the market. Any good mechanic should have a bottle laying around the garage so you don’t have to go hunting for one should the need arise. That said, don’t just take our word for the fact that Gumout is awesome!