Carb Cleaning: How to Best Tidy Your Motorcycle's Carburetor

The carburetor is an essential part of your motorcycle's engine, helping everything run properly. Without a correctly functioning carburetor, you can expect to have some problems with your ride. And if you want to keep things running smoothly, then you'll need to conduct regular maintenance—including cleaning the carburetor out.

While you can pay for someone to do the job for you, it's possible to handle the process yourself. And to help out with that, we have our guide to how to clean a motorcycle carburetor.

What You Need

Before we get into the nitty-gritty, you're going to need the appropriate equipment. For the best results, you'll want to make sure you have:

●  One can of carburetor cleaner

●  Clean rags

●  Compressed air

●  Your motorcycle's maintenance manual

●  Standard tool kit

●  A small cleaning brush

●  Oil catch pan

●  Gloves

If you don't want to gather things separately, it's also possible to purchase a carb cleaner kit (usually around ten to twelve dollars) that has different sized wires to help with cleaning out gets and body holes. However, it's entirely possible to handle the job without one.

Something you can't compromise on is having the manual for your bike at hand. While we'll be covering the necessary steps, your make and model may require specific stages to tend to your carburetor correctly for the best results.


Instruction manuals can never adequately convey the complexities of working on a DIY project, and sometimes they don't have helpful nuggets of information to smooth out the whole process. Before we get into the instructions phase, we have some useful tips to keep in mind as you work on cleaning!

Determine a System to Keep Track of Parts

Carburetors have all sorts of parts, from wires that connect them to the bike to smaller components inside—and if you want a thorough clean, you're going to be taking plenty of these pieces apart. Remembering where everything goes can be an overwhelming task, even if it's not your first time taking the carb apart.

To avoid unfortunate mix-ups and prevent your project from stretching on for longer than necessary, put a system in place to know what parts go where. Masking tape can serve as appropriate labels, or you could also use your phone (or have a helping hand use theirs) to take pictures of how things connect, so there are no mistakes in the reassembly phase.

Plastic bags can also be handy to keep track of tiny pieces that can quickly become lost otherwise.

Be Ready to Take Apart a Lot Before You Get to the Carburetor

While motorcycle carbs may seem readily accessible, a lot of parts can be around them—unlike cars, which usually have them sitting atop the engine for easy access. This design means that you'll likely need to clear a lot of other parts out of the way before you can even get to the carburetor in the first place.

Since these parts are pretty easy to ding up, it's in your best interest to clear as full of a path as you can so there are no mishaps while taking it out or putting it back in.

Cover Up Your Engine

No matter how efficient you are at cleaning out your carburetor, it will still take some time. During that period, the top end of the engine will be wide open, leaving an accessible entryway for other dirt and debris to get inside. Cover up the holes as quickly as possible to save yourself the trouble.

Have Appropriate Protective Gear

We mentioned gloves in our required gear list, in part because you'll end up with some seriously messy hands if you don't. But you should also exert caution when using carburetor cleaners, as they don't mix well with vulnerable parts of your body, like the eyes and mouth. Pick up some safety goggles while you spray, and keep any food or drink clear.

How to Clean a Motorcycle Carburetor

Follow these steps for cleaning a motorcycle carburetor.

Draining and Removal

Before you start to take anything apart, you want to drain out any gas into your oil catch pan for safe disposal. The more gas you can remove now, the easier the cleaning will be, and you'll reduce the chances of a significant spill to derail your plans.

Once you've gotten out all the oil that you possibly can, it's time to work on the disconnect. For this stage, you'll want to consult your manual for the best approach to disconnecting wires and fuel lines, so that you don't damage anything. Wearing gloves for this stage can help you make less of a mess of yourself as well.

With everything detached, you can work to drain our any remaining gas from the float bowl. Be careful as you handle the carburetor since aluminum can dent and scratch easily.

Removing the Float Bowl

With as much oil out as possible, you can set the carburetor down on a clean towel. From there, it's time to take out the float bowl. You can use a screwdriver to do this, and you may need to tap the pan to remove it, depending on how dirty the inside is. Once you've transferred this part, you can clean it off and shift your attention to the other parts.

Assess and Disassemble Parts as Necessary

Carburetors have all sorts of small parts, which are all capable of building gunk while in use. At this point, you're going to want to take off any parts that have extra buildup or look damaged. You can soak dirty pieces in your cleaning solution to help wipe them off. Your small cleaning brush will be critical for cleaning out tight places.

Again, if you don't keep everything organized, you can quickly find yourself in trouble when the reassembly stage comes around, so pay attention to where parts go and connect. If anything looks rusted or damaged, you're best off with replacing these parts.

Soak Your Carburetor

In addition to cleaning up the individual parts, soaking your entire carburetor can help clean out any places you might have missed. This approach can add a bit of extra expense to your project because you'll need some additional cleaner to do the job. If you want, you can substitute with a towel and some good old elbow grease.

Check Connecting Areas

While you naturally want the carburetor itself to be clean, taking it out creates an opportunity to wipe down the surrounding areas. Carb slides and protective rubber diaphragms can also take damage, so use the opportunity to replace any of these parts as well, if necessary.


Once you've cleaned everything, it's time to get into the reassembly. You want all the parts to go back into place correctly and connect all wires into their proper positions (again, taking pictures of the process, or marking parts with tape will help if you're new to the inside of a carb). Be sure to be careful as you put the carburetor back into its position in the bike.

Keep in mind that for motorcycles with more than one carburetor, you'll need to synch them both back up together before you can start your bike back up. Doing this task is a bit trickier as a DIY project than the cleaning process so that you may need the help of a mechanic and the right synchronizer tools.