Carb cleaner vs Brake cleaner | What’s the difference

What is the difference between carb cleaner and brake cleaner? They sound like they both do the same thing. We will be honest. We are not sure how one could tell the difference without a label. But it turns out that there are some differences in the chemicals you use to clean your car. Thus, you should know about carb cleaner vs brake cleaner.

Carb cleaner and brake cleaner are both used to remove the oily buildup that accumulates on your engine. But they are not interchangeable.  Read this blog post for more detailed information about brake cleaner vs carb cleaner!

brake cleaner

What is carburetor cleaner?

Carb cleaner is usually a chemical compound with strong chemicals that helps dissolve the oil on your engine. The solvent in carb cleaners evaporates quickly after letting it sit, allowing or minor damage to your engine.  It is most effective when sprayed into the intake manifold or air filter. You can also spray directly onto the carburetor.

How to use carb cleaner

  1. You need to make sure the engine is cold so that it doesn’t damage anything.
  2. Spray the carb cleaner into your air filter and let it sit for a bit of bit before trying to start up again.
  3. It’s okay to use a wet rag or paper towel to remove any excess dirt from your air filter. But never use anything metal because you could damage the carburetor.

Uses of Carburetor cleaner

  1. Cleans and lubricates carburetors, fuel injectors, throttle plates, idling valves, and choke plates.
  2. Removes carbon deposits from spark plugs.
  3. Cleans and dissolves gum, varnish, dirt, and other deposits on carburetors and jets.

Carburetor cleaner alternative

Break cleaner could be used as a carb cleaner substitute. Also, denatured alcohol can also be used as a last resort.

What is a brake cleaner?

Brake Cleaner is usually made from an alcohol-based solvent or petroleum distillate. It’s best to spray it onto a clean, lint-free rag or paper towel and wipe the dirty parts with it. Brake cleaners are too harsh for most engine components. It is mainly used for cleaning brake discs, brake pads, floor area metal and engine compartment. You should use it as a last resort if your carburetor cleaner isn’t strong enough.

How to use brake cleaner

  1. It’s also essential to make sure your engine is cold before using brake cleaner because it could damage the metal if it’s too hot.
  2. Spray or pour the brake cleaner onto a clean paper towel and then wipe down the dirty parts of your car that need cleaning.
  3. Paper towels and rags shouldn’t be flushed down the toilet because they will clog your drains. Besides, brake cleaner is flammable, so it should only be disposed of in special containers.

Uses of brake cleaner

  1. Most people use brake cleaner to clean bike chains and other parts of bikes.
  2. It can be used for brake hydraulic system cleaning, avoiding sticking brake caliper, removing oil or mud from valve stems and tubes.
  3. Washing off dirt, oil, and grease from your hands.
  4. Removing tar, road grime, or paint from vehicles.

Chlorinated vs non-chlorinated brake cleaner

Chlorinated brake cleaners are a lot harsher than non-chlorinated. If you have the choice, always go with the non-chlorinated kind. It’s more likely to damage the metal on your car since it contains chlorine, a corrosive acid.

Brake cleaner alternative

You can use denatured alcohol. Any type of alcohol suits too.

The difference between carb cleaner vs brake cleaner

  1. Carburetor cleaner effectively cleans all engine parts. You can use brake cleaner as the last option for car parts cleaning. But you can use this for cleaning brake discs and engine compartment.
  2. Carb cleaners are less flammable and evaporate quickly, making them safer to use because you don’t need to worry about them catching fire on contact. On the other hand, brake cleaner extremely flammable to use.
  3. Carburetor Cleaner is made specifically to break down dirt and oil, whereas brake cleaner is meant solely for cleaning brakes.
  4. Carb cleaner is usually less expensive. Brake cleaner is a bit expensive.
  5. Carb cleaners are made by most of the big names in the automobile industry, like WD-40. Brake cleaners can only be found under brands such as Brakleen, Hot Stuff, and Klean-Strip.

Tips for using both of them

  1. Make sure the area you clean is well ventilated, or it could be dangerous. You should use Soft Top for your vehicle.
  2. Make sure your engine is cold before using carburetor cleaner. Only use brake cleaners when you’re in a dire situation.
  3. Brake dust can clog up your car’s air filter and prevent the engine from cooling properly, which can cause severe damage if not taken care of right away.
  4. If you don’t have a choice but to use brake cleaners on your engine. Make sure you thoroughly rinse it off with water when you’re cleaning so that no residue will remain behind.
  5. Never use both of them at the same time. This can result in an explosion. So, wear safety equipment and cover your skin when cleaning with these two chemicals.
  6. Buy a high-quality detergent cleaner that is specifically made for the engine of your vehicle. Some carb cleaners contain ammonia. Ammonia can burn in an enclosed space, releasing deadly fumes.


1. Can I use brake cleaner instead of carb cleaner?

No. They can be completely different in make-up. It’s like using gasoline to start a fire versus rubbing alcohol. You should never substitute brake cleaner for carburetor solvent or vice versa. And, only use these products as recommended!

brake cleaner usage

2. What should you not use brake cleaner on?

You need to be especially careful if you are using brake cleaner on a rubber part or plastic. It can discolor or dry out the rubber, making it ultra-brittle and incapable of holding anything together.

3. What can I use instead of carb cleaner?

Denatured alcohol works well for this. It is less volatile than some other chemicals in carburetor cleaner. So, it won’t evaporate as quickly.

4. Does brake cleaner remove wax?

Yes, it does. If you have a waxed car or a layer of polish on the paint job, it will dissolve this and remove any dirt particles if you spray it on.

Final words

Here is the thorough discussion on Carb cleaner vs brake cleaner. These are two solvents that can be used to clean car parts. Carburetor cleaner is more aggressive and should only be applied sparingly.

Whereas, brake cleaner can also have a degreasing effect on other surfaces. If you are looking for a way to clean your vehicle parts, ask us today! We can help you find the best solvent. We’ll help you decide whether it’s best to go with the carburetor or the brake cleaner.


Mr. Rubel is an Engine Mechanic. He has more than 15 years’ experience on repair and maintenance of different kinds of vehicles. He is also providing training to mechanics and works as a Senior Mechanic of a well-known organization. He is sharing his knowledge to support the car lovers to solve the vehicle issues.

Recent Posts