Can You Use Brake Cleaner as Starting Fluid? Will It Be Safe?

When the topic is whether can you use brake cleaner as starting fluid, there are lots of mixed opinions. While some only consider it a simple cleaning agent, others aren’t familiar with its capabilities.

But the truth is that you can confidently use brake cleaner as a starting fluid to start the vehicle’s engine occasionally during cold weather. However, using this starting fluid replacement regularly can cause some errors in the vehicle.

Read on to briefly understand the possibility of using brake cleaner in place of starting fluid, along with potential effects and other safe alternatives to starting fluid.

What is the Starting Fluid?

Starting fluid is a perfect solution for a motorcycle engine that is struggling to start because of the cold weather or other errors. It contains carbon dioxide and ether and is preserved in an aerosol spray can.

Despite being extremely flammable, starting fluids are an effective cleaning agent and can be used to clean the cylinder oil layer on a motorcycle. However, it’s dangerous for a two-stroke motorcycle engine, as it relies on a mixture of gasoline and oil for its lubrication. It can cause a dry run, which can damage the engine.

Many expert mechanics use this fluid as a diagnostic tool. If this starting fluid starts the engine while the typical method doesn’t, it means the fuel line gets clogged and the carburetor becomes dirty, which prevents the engine from getting fuel.

A motorcycle owner should only use this starting fluid as a last resort if the engine doesn’t start due to cold temperatures. You shouldn’t use it regularly, and its diethyl ether can be harmful if inhaled.

Can You Use Brake Cleaner as Starting Fluid

can you use brake cleaner as starter fluid

You must use the right alternative to starting fluid to stay safe while driving. Whether your starting fluid runs out or you don’t find it, brake cleaner can be your substitute for starting fluid.

Although this replacement will work without causing any errors, it should only be used in emergency situations. Otherwise, it can knock the oil off the combustion chamber’s wall and create a dry start.

The brake cleaner should also be flammable. In this case, read the label of the can and make sure it contains combustible substances. Combustible substances are also flammable.

Another consideration is that brake cleaners are usually available in two types of cans, including conventional and aerosol cans. Only the aerosol can is acceptable for use as a starting fluid.

Even the user should be more careful when pouring the brake cleaner. Compared to the starting fluid and gas, brake fluid is much more toxic and can damage the lung, eyes, and skin.

So before operating, wear your safety gear, like a mask, gloves, and goggles, and choose an open place. It also leaves residue, while the throttle body cleaner doesn’t.

The Potential Effect of Using Brake Cleaner as Starting Fluid

In general, brake cleaner is a safe substitute for starting fluid. However, you must use it only in an emergency and not routinely. Otherwise, regular use of brake cleaner, which is a cleaning agent, can damage your motorcycle engine. It can also dry up the combustion chamber’s oil.

However, brake cleaners can smooth the engine and encourage the machine to start efficiently. Once again, pouring fuel into the engine regularly can damage it permanently and cost you thousands for a replacement.

Though regular use of brake cleaner can clean the stain from the combustion chamber, it’ll produce a toxic gas that can damage the human skin and lungs. As a result, you should only use this substitute to start the engine during the cold winter months.

What would happen if you used brake cleaner on a gas engine? It’ll clog the throttle body or carburetor. While brake cleaners contain surfactants to remove dust from the brake, carburetor cleaners contain solvents to remove carbon and dirt.

Compared to brake cleaner, carburetor cleaner is more combustible. Hence, it’s recommended to use either starter fluid or carburetor cleaner to start a gas engine instead of brake cleaner. But if your gas engine is two-stroke, don’t apply too much ether to avoid damaging the cylinder and rings due to insufficient oil in the combustion chamber.

Related carburetor: Best Carburetors for Harley Davidson

Is Starter Fluid the Same As Brake Cleaner?

Though you can sometimes use the brake cleaner as a starting fluid, they are both intended for different purposes and have significant differences.

The brake cleaner is a completely colorless cleaning agent and is mainly intended to clean the brake plates of dirt and remove the oil and stains from the brakes. You can also use this cleaning solution in the engine compartment and the motorcycle’s underfloor.

It is also often used as a part cleaner and doesn’t leave any residue, which is a key aspect of this cleaner.

Conversely, starting fluids are flammable and mainly used for lubrication. This fluid also helps keep the combustion chamber functional and start the engine, particularly when the typical method fails. The starting fluid is mostly available in spray can form and is sometimes suitable for applying to a diesel engine for a direct start. This fluid can even power a spark engine that normally runs on alcoholic fuel.

The brake cleaner is more toxic than starting fluid. The gas it emits can hurt human skin. While starting fluid isn’t so harmful, it can be very explosive.

A brake cleaner can be a safe substitute for starting fluid to start a motorcycle engine in cold weather. But you can’t use starting fluid in place of brake cleaner, as they contain different chemicals.

Can you use WD40 as starting fluid?

can you use wd40 as starting fluid

The WD40 has a certain purpose to serve, and it serves a specific function. It’s a common household item that can be used to fix almost anything that requires lubricant.

WD40 can be used as a starting fluid and as a starting fluid. It works great as a starting fluid on a motorcycle, car, or lawnmower that is struggling to start. Simply spray the WD-40 in the carburetor intake, and the vehicle’s engine will start up, no matter how long it has been sitting. This stuff not only helps run the hard-to-start engine, but also helps to lubricate piston rings, and valve guides, making it handy for the car owner.

However, using too much WD-40 can put your motorcycle to sleep. It’s particularly true for the WD that has lubrication properties.  It is also a flammable material, hence the need for proper safety precautions. So never use WD-40 close to an open flame, and don’t crank the vehicle engine by applying WD-40 into its carburetor inlet.

Despite this, if you have a diesel engine, you can safely use WD-40 on it. Even so, it’ll be a better option than the starting fluid, which contains ether and is very volatile and dry. The reason is that using ether on a diesel engine can make it addictive, and using it regularly can result in the engine not starting without it. In addition, ether may ignite very quickly and lead to bent rods.

It’s not the only substitute for starting fluid.

Some Other Starter Fluid Alternatives

The starting fluid is always a safer and better solution to starting the motorcycle engine in cold temperatures or when it struggles to start with normal methods. But what if your starting fluid runs out? What are the options out there that you can apply in place of starting fluid for the same purpose?

Apart from the brake cleaner and WD-40, you can also use carburetor spray or carby as a good alternative to starting fluid. Another alternative is a gasoline-oil mixture. Simply take a bottle and collect a mixture of gasoline and oil from a two-stroke motorcycle or two-stroke lawn mower and utilize it as a starting fluid. But only use it on a cold engine and in an open area.

But remember, you should only spray a little amount, as the oil in this mixture can harm your engine. This gas and oil mixture can also be used in a four-stroke motorcycle engine.

Below are some other options that you can use instead of starting fluid to get excellent performance:

  • Cleaner for brakes      
  • Cleaner for carburetors
  • Degreaser WD-40
  • Lubricant for the throttle body
  • Washing the mass airflow sensor
  • Marine degreasing foam
  • Cleaning solvents
  • Two-stroke fuel in a Windex bottle


1. Is carburetor cleaner a safe alternative to starting fluid?

Yes, using carburetor cleaner in place of starting fluid won’t cause any harmful effects. you can even use this cleaner on the throttle body of the car. The carb cleaner contains an extremely powerful cleaning chemical that is mainly intended to clean the crud off the throttle bodies and carburetor.

2. Can you use hairspray in place of starting fluid?

Generally, most aerosols are flammable, and they should work in your engine. Hence, you can use hair spray or brake cleaner in place of starting fluid, particularly if you don’t have other options.

3. Is starter fluid necessary for the vehicle?

The starter fluid is very handy stuff for equipment that hardly gets used. It is also an effective solution to starting a vehicle engine, lawn mower, or snow blower during cold temperatures. Generally, these engines don’t need many cranks, and applying starting fluid can prolong their battery’s longevity. Mechanics also use this starting fluid as a diagnostic tool as well.

4. What can you spray on your engine’s carburetor to start?

Pour aerosolized petroleum-based lubricant into the carburetor throat to make the engine start-up efficient.

Final Words

Ultimately, you can use brake cleaner as starting fluid to cold start your vehicle’s engine in an emergency. Many people believe brake cleaner is a noncombustible and simple cleaning agent, hence misunderstanding its capabilities. But remember, the brake cleaner or other alternative we mentioned can be used instead of starting fluid as a last resort and rarely. Otherwise, you may have to deal with the consequences.

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Hello there, My name is Lewis Elliott, and I own a service center in the United States. I currently run a four-man bike repair and restoration team. My father was a Harley Davidson mechanic, so I've spent a lot of time around bikes since I was a kid. My father taught me a lot, and with his help, I started a bike service business. I don't work alone because I own a shop. For that, I have enough free time, which I use to run this blog website. I believe that sharing knowledge is beneficial because it motivates me to learn more in order to create new blogs.

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