How to Clean a Harley Carburetor


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How To Clean A Harley Carburetor

Do you need to clean the carburetor of your Harley-Davidson bike, but you don’t know how to do that? If yes, then you are certainly in the right place.

Cleaning a Harley carburetor is simple as long as you know the right steps. Knowing the appropriate method will help you clean the carburetor of your bike, with or without removing it. To clean the motorcycle carburetor without removing it, you will have to remove the bowls at the bottom of the carburetor. Once you have removed the bowls, you must spray some carburetor cleaner inside, wait for a couple of minutes, and then spray again for ensuring coverage. Lastly, replace the bowls and then start your bike to see how it runs.

In this article, you will get to know all about cleaning carburetors, how to clean a Harley carburetor, how often do you need to clean the carburetor, and more. Stick around to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Why Should You Clean Your Harley-Davidson Carburetor?

It is essential to clean the carburetor of your Harley-Davidson bike. Here are some of the benefits when it comes to cleaning the carburetor of your bike –

1. Greater fuel efficiency

For every bike to move from one place to the other, proper combustion has to take place. One of the crucial facilitators will be the fuel. Fuel will have to move from the gas tank to the engine. If there are any unwanted substances like sludge and grease, fuel won’t reach the engine.

Even if the fuel isn’t reaching the engine, it won’t be in the right quantity. This is what leads to lower fuel efficiency, which translates to a lot of wastage. This is why you will have to clean the carburetor frequently to get rid of these items. In the process, you will also be able to improve your motorcycle’s fuel efficiency.

2. The engine and bike will function better as a whole

A clean carburetor is one of the things that make your motorcycle function properly and run smoothly. If you haven’t cleaned the carburetor, you should try it before you ride your bike the next time. You will notice a major difference in your rides. Undoubtedly, you will get a better experience than any rides that you have been on.

3. The acceleration will be improved

There are certain instances where you’ll struggle to accelerate your motorcycle. One of the reasons that can cause this issue is the presence of dirt blocking the fuel pipe. This will result in less fuel reaching the engine. For an unclogged fuel pipe, the carburetor will need to be cleaned properly. As a result, your Harley’s acceleration will be improved greatly.

4. The engine will start quicker

The motorcycle carburetor directly affects the functioning of the bike’s engine. The carb is, in turn, affected by how the fuel and air move toward each other. If you’ve got a dirty carburetor, this flow will be affected negatively. This is why it’ll be important to clean your bike’s carburetor to allow for the smooth flow of these components. As a result, the engine will start quickly.

How to Clean a Harley Carburetor

When it comes to motorcycle carburetor issues, it can be quite a nuisance to try to take it off the bike, take it apart, and then figure out what is causing the issue. Although there is a simple mechanism, the carburetor has tiny parts that can easily be lost when taken apart.

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It is no wonder many Harley-Davidson bikers often research if there’s a way to clean the carburetor without having to remove it. There are many issues associated with how a bike is running, with most of them being due to the carburetor. It could be that the carburetor isn’t clean inside.  

Most motorcycle carburetors sit behind the bike’s engine and toward the center. Many people don’t want to deal with the hassle of taking the throttle cable off or dealing with the intake boots. To clean it without removing it from the bike completely, you will have to first remove the air box or pod filters. This can be done easily, and they can be re-installed once you’re finished.

Remove the air intake filters. It will expose the back of the carburetor, so you’ll be able to see the butterfly valves opening and closing when you’re turning the throttle. Removing them will give you better access to the carburetor. After that, you should take off the bowl at the bottom of the carburetor.

There is usually a center bolt or a couple of screws around the side of the bowl that you’ll need to take off for the bowl to detach. These are easy to take off, and it’ll only take a few minutes. Moreover, you should ensure that you turn your petcock to the off position, so you won’t have gas running out. Remember to have a few paper towels handy, as you’ll likely experience a bit of gas leaking once you take the bottom bowls off.

Once the bowl is off, you can try to spray some carb cleaner up inside. Keep spraying once every few minutes to let the dirt and grime become loose. After that, reattach the bowl and start your bike to see if this has helped at all with how well it is running. If it doesn’t help, you will have to remove the bowls again and then proceed with the following steps.

After the bowl is off again, you will get floats up inside the carburetor (similar to the floats you’re seeing in the tank of toilet tank). The floats will rise once when the bowl fills up with gas and tells the carb to shut off the fuel valve to prevent the gas from overflowing.

You will have to remove the float as well to access what is behind it. These will be attached by a small wrist pin that you’ll be able to push through to detach the float. Once you remove the float, you’ll notice a rocket shit shaped part connected to it with a rubber tip. This tip is what will plug up the line to prevent any overflowing. The rocket-shaped part and float will come off together.

When the floats are out, you can test them and ensure that they are still good. Get a bowl of water and then put them to see if they actually float. If they don’t float, you will have to get new ones, as this can result in mechanical issues with your bike later on.

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Once the float is off, you will have to look up inside the carburetor and then unscrew the jets. There are at least a couple of those in there. One would be a primary jet and the other will be a secondary jet. Look through the jets when they’re out and ensure that you’re able to see them through. They’re easily clogged, especially when you’re using ethanol gas. Clogged jets will be the number one reason that the carburetor doesn’t work right.

Clean the jets whether you can see through them. This will help you make sure that you are getting out the gunk or dirt that might be building up inside that you aren’t able to see. Use carb cleaner a few times at certain intervals to ensure that you can get everything out.

Now, you’ll be able to spray carb cleaner on the carburetor. After that, you should spray inside again and spray some on the outside. Wait for a few minutes before you reinstall all the parts again so that the cleaner has time to clean. Lastly, you should drip off all the dirt and grime. Reinstall the jets, float, and install the bowl at the bottom. You can try starting your bike and ensure that the cleaning was thorough by seeing how well your bike runs. 

How Often Should You Clean the Carburetor

You might have heard of the routine maintenance that you need to perform on your bike with the different components. However, people often get confused about what sort of maintenance you need to perform on your carburetor.

It’ll be a good rule of thumb to get the motorcycle carburetor tuned about every 2-3 years. However, there is no other routine maintenance that you will have to perform on your carburetor. Taking the carburetor apart can be quite hectic, and it’ll be okay to only clean it when you feel that it needs it. For some bikers, this could be once every few months while for others, it might be once every few years.

Bikers who regularly ride their bike will require fewer cleaning sessions on their carburetors than bikers who don’t ride their bikes as often. Regular or frequent rides are often seen as the cleaning mechanism in itself.

Those bikers who ride less notice that they have to clean their carbs more frequently because dormant bikes tend to get built-up grime and dirt inside the carb much more quickly.

Signs that Your Carburetor Has To Be Cleaned

Carburetors are good at communicating to riders that they are in need of a good clean. There are a few obvious signs that you should look for that indicate that a cleanup is needed. Backfiring, poor idle, sputtering, and running poorly are common signs of a dirty carburetor. Here are a few signs that indicate that your bike’s carburetor needs cleaning – 

1. Problems with starting the engine

Person Checking Harley Carburetor

When the bike is cranking but not starting, the carburetor is likely unclean. This happens because a dirty carburetor will limit the flow of air and fuel. As a result, you’ll feel a crank but no actual start.

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2. Overflow of fuel

If there’s too much dirt in the fuel pipe, the valve controlling fuel entry could be prevented from closing. As a result, there will be an overflow of fuel into the carburetor.

This will cause the air-to-fuel ratio to be get messed up completely. This will wet the spark plugs. If it happens, it’ll be time to get your carburetor cleaned up.

3. It is running rich

When your Harley is releasing a lot of dark smoke, the carburetor is most likely dirty. Typically, you’ll find that there’s an excess flow of fuel in the engine and there isn’t enough air. This is what is called running rich. If it happens, you need to clean the carburetor as soon as possible.

4. It is running lean

When the engine is running lean, it’ll mean there is too much air in the carburetor and not enough fuel. This will result in popping sounds being produced in the intake. During such instances, you’ll need to have the carburetor cleaned.

Cost of Cleaning the Carburetor

If the carburetor isn’t running smoothly, if it misfires repeatedly, or stalls frequently at low speeds, there’s a real possibility that the air-fuel ratio is disproportionate. There is a possibility of dirty air or oil filer too, so they cannot be ruled out.

To clean the parts of a carburetor thoroughly, it is recommended that you should give the carburetor an ultrasonic bath. After ultrasonic cleaning, the carburetor will regain its original performance. However, to clean the carburetor completely, you might need to dismantle it completely from the engine.

A professional service center might charge you between $80 and $200 for ultrasonic cleaning. This will depend if the carburetor is dismantled completely from the motorcycle engine or not. This method generally comprises an ultrasonic bath, which will remove any clogging, deoxidize the mechanical parts, and degrease the jets.


What are the common symptoms of a dirty carburetor?

Some of the common signs that your carburetor is dirty include that the engine is flooded, it is running rich, it is running lean, or the engine doesn’t start.

What is the best solution for cleaning a Harley-Davidson carburetor?

The WD-40’s Fast-Acting Carb/Throttle Body Cleaner is one of the best carburetor cleaners on the market. If you’re looking to clean the carburetor, and you’re in need of a carburetor cleaner within a few minutes, this product will help you make the most of those few minutes. Further, there will be no dipping or scrubbing involved.

Will it be okay to clean your carburetor with water?

Yes, water is required for cleaning the carburetor. You must rinse all carburetor components in a bucket of clean water before allowing the air to dry completely. For small holes and vents, you should utilize a can of compressed air for removing any excess moisture. After that, reassemble and replace.

Can you use kerosene for cleaning the carburetor?

If the carburetor has a crud in it, you need to get it out. Clean it using kerosene and then wipe it clean. The gunk is what might be plugging up your carb’s jets.

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