Brake Cleaner vs. Carb Cleaner

Vehicles are made with several parts and components. These parts will get dirty once in a while.  You cannot use the same substance to clean all parts of your car. Every part and component is cleaned differently and thus requires a different cleaning substance. For instance, you should not use a carb cleaner to clean your brakes and cannot use a brake cleaner to clean the carburetor. This is why we shall look at brake cleaner vs. carb cleaner and why you should use each of them for their specific parts.

Using the wrong cleaner of a specific part can cause damages, and this will cost you a lot of cash for replacement and repairs. In the long run, you will notice that it is cheaper and faster to use the right cleaner on a particular part. Let us now discuss the difference between carb cleaner and brake cleaner.

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Brake Cleaner VS. Carb Cleaner

Brake Cleaner VS. Carb Cleaner

Most people do not know the difference between a brake cleaner vs. carb cleaner. One may say that they are both used for cleaning crap so they can be used interchangeably, but it is wrong. Their chemical composition and purposes are different. Brake cleaner is used to clean the brake parts of your vehicle.

It evaporates very fast, and it does not leave any residue after cleaning. Brake cleaners are very aggressive, which enables them to completely remove dirt, oil, and grease, leaving the brakes perfectly clean. It affects plastics and rubber.

Carb cleaner, on the other hand, is used to clean choke valves and carburetors clogged with dirt, varnish, and gum. It is mainly made of petroleum, and thus it will leave residues after cleaning. Carburetor cleaner is therefore not ideal for cleaning brake parts since the residue will prevent the brakes from working until it is burned off.

Carb cleaner is also not as aggressive as brake cleaner, and thus it may not clean brake parts as well as the brake cleaner. Both brake cleaner and carb cleaner are not ideal for cleaning painted surfaces or metal parts. They are also flammable, and thus you should be careful when disposing of their containers.

What Is Brake Cleaner?

Brake Cleaner VS. Carb Cleaner

Some people do not clean their brakes because they consider it to be a lot of work. Most people, therefore, prefer to take their vehicles to an auto shop to have them cleaned by professionals. Cleaning the brakes will need some effort and time and but it will also save you a lot of costs.

When cleaning the brakes, all you are required to have is a brake cleaner. The brake cleaner comes as a spray, which is quite easy to use. Remove the braking components from the braking system and spray on them. Ensure that you are using the cleaner labelled ‘Multi-purpose’ since it gets rid of all unwanted oil, fluid, or grease stains from the brake components. This cleaner also does not take long to dry up.

Brake cleaners are of two types. There is the chlorinated and the non-chlorinated brake cleaner. The chlorinated brake cleaner has Tetrachloroethylene chemical, which is hazardous to humans. This is one of the reasons professionals should do brake cleaning. The non-chlorinated brake cleaners are safe but not as aggressive in cleaning like the chlorinated brake cleaner. You can make your homemade brake cleaner, and they will be effective as the commercial cleaners.

You are advised not to use brake cleaners on materials that grip the powder coat finish since it might get sticky and damage the perfect finishing. Brake cleaner inhalation is harmful to your lungs and the whole wellbeing. Ensure that you have a protective gear before you start using the brake cleaner.

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What You Need to Make a Homemade Brake Cleaner

 Before you make a homemade brake cleaner, ensure that you have all the ingredients, and they are not against the laws of your country. Some countries do not allow chlorinated brake cleaners. Some of the most common ingredients used to make brake cleaner at home are Toluene, Carbon dioxide, and Acetone. For the chlorinated brake cleaner, you add Tetrachloroethylene. This ingredient is used to get rid of materials such as brake dust, brake fluid, oil, and grease on metals. It is also not soluble in water. 

What Is a Carb Cleaner?

Brake Cleaner VS. Carb Cleaner

The carburetor is responsible for mixing air with fuel within the internal combustion engine. For combustion to take place successfully, the ration of air and fuel need to be well balanced. After the mixture is ignited, the engine generates power, which enables the wheels to move. Carbon and dirt can, at times, stick around the device, and they need to be cleaned for the carburetor to continue functioning properly.  

To clean the carburetor, you will need to use a carburetor cleaning solvent. This is a mixture of powerful and strong chemicals formulated to remove dirt and other grimes from both the exterior and interior of the carburetor. The chemicals used to make a carb cleaner are Propane, 2-Butoxyethanol, Ethyl Benzene, Methyl Ethyl Ketone, Toluene, Xylene, and Acetone.

When you notice that your carburetor is not working as expected, then it is time to do the cleaning. Brake part cleaner can be used as a carburetor cleaner substitute if you have no other choice. You can also use Denatured alcohol, but it should be your last option. It evaporates quickly and does not leave any residue, but it can remove or mess up paints.

How to Use Carburetor Cleaner

The easiest way to clean a carburetor is by using the spray. These are the steps to follow:

Remove the Cleaner Unit

Unscrew the wing unit to remove the air unit.

Spray the Carburetor

Cover the reachable parts and spray the cleaner on the carburetor’s top. This will assist to loosen all the grease and dirt.  Later use a piece of towel to clean the carb.

Spray While Running the Vehicle

Start the engine and spray the carb cleaner both in the inside and outside. Run the engine for some minutes then switch it off.

Spray Again

Re-spray the carb cleaner on the outside and start the engine. Repeat this process.

Clean With Towels

Take a clean towel and wash all the parts you can reach. These towels will assist you in cleaning the grease thoroughly. Later re-install the parts of your vehicle.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Is Throttle Body Cleaner and Carb Cleaner the Same?

A carb cleaner is a concoction of powerful chemicals used to clean dirt from both the inside and outside of a carbonator. A throttle cleaner is somehow similar to a carb cleaner, but it is only used to clean the throttle bodies of a car. You can use carb cleaners to wash the throttle body, but you should not use throttle cleaners to clean the carb.

 It is, however, prudent to clean the throttle with the throttle cleaner since it helps in engine deliver-ability and it is suitable for car maintenance. The throttle cleaner covers the coating to increase the airflow, but the carb cleaner may remove the coating.

Can You Use Brake Cleaner To Clean Your Throttle Body?

It is not recommendable to clean the throttle body with a brake cleaner. Throttle cleaners have oils for lubrication whenever it is sprayed, which makes it perfect for the moving parts in a throttle body. It also cleans both the internal and external components of the throttle. Brake cleaner, on the other hand, evaporates immediately, just leaving the body clean and not lubricated.

Will Brake Cleaner Damage Rubber?

Brake cleaners can cause damage to rubber when used repeatedly. Some of the brake cleaners will warn you to keep off parts made of rubber while others do not have the warning. It is, however, prudent to keep it off from rubber parts. Rubber comprises of a wax protectant, which prevents it from Ozone damage.

Brake cleaners might not directly damage the rubber. However, if it can remove wax, then it will indirectly affect it by removing the wax surface protectants. The rubber will eventually dry out and get cracks.

You can, however, avoid these damages by applying a rubber preserver after cleaning the rubber parts. You can also cover the rubber parts or take them off when cleaning with brake cleaner to prevent them from getting ruined. Brake cleaners are also not good for fabrics and plastics.

Can You Clean a Carb with Brake Cleaner?

You can use the brake cleaner to clean your carburetor, but you have to be very careful about the brand you are using. Some brands are not friendly with plastic. Ensure that you have read the ingredients to determine if it is suitable or not. You are, however, advised to use carb cleaner to clean the carburetor of your vehicle.

Can I Use MAF Cleaner On Throttle Body?

Yes, you can clean a throttle body with MAF cleaner. It cleans perfectly well, evaporates faster, but it is also more expensive compared to a throttle cleaner. You, however, don’t need to waste money to clean the throttle body with an MAF cleaner while you can use throttle cleaner, which is much cheaper.

However, if you have some leftover of the MAF cleaner, then there is no harm. It is crucial to note that you should not use a throttle body cleaner to clean MAF. MAFs are very sensitive, and you should only clean them with MAF cleaner.

Brake Cleaner: Non-Chlorinated vs. Chlorinated


The difference between brake cleaners vs. carb cleaners is that brake cleaners do not leave any residues as compared to carb cleaners. Carbonator cleaners have some lubricants which are suitable for moving parts. You are advised not to use carburetor cleaners on painted materials since the paint will scrape off. Carburetor cleaner can be used to clean the throttle body, but throttle body cleaner should never be used to clean carburetors. Before you use any cleaner on your vehicle, it is advisable to read the warnings and instructions. The cleaners are also made of chemicals, and thus you should wear protective gear for your safety.

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