General wisdom says that you should clean or even partially rebuild your carburetor at least every year if your vehicle is rarely used. In contrast, a complete carb rebuild is usually not required until a lot of wear is noticed on the internal components.
However, as you will see, the carb cleaning/rebuilding intervals depend on many factors like which type of carb it is or the quality of the fuel.
If you want to find out more about this topic, this post is for you.
We at PowerSportsGuide have compiled all you need to know under one roof!
What is a Carburetor Rebuild?
Let’s face it, no matter how precisely you take care of your vehicle, the carburetor is prone to gumming up over time. This buildup of gunk can clog the carb or even find its way into the engine.
What’s more, the carburetor internals, especially the gaskets and seals can also age, which causes various malfunctions.
To avoid these issues, it’s wise to clean or even rebuild the carburetor from time-to-time.
But before we drill into the details, we have to define what a “carburetor rebuild” means exactly.
In a nutshell, rebuilding a carburetor means replacing its internal components, completed by a thorough cleaning. Based on the number of parts replaced we can distinguish between partial and full carburetor repairs.
Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty a look at your options when it comes to carb repair and maintenance:
- Partial rebuild
- Full rebuild
There’s no question that cleaning is the cheapest and easiest carb maintenance available. This process requires you to pull the carb out, take it apart, and soak the parts in a bath of eco-friendly carb cleaner.
This simple process helps remove the buildups from the carb and restore its former performance.
2. Partial Carb Rebuild
Unfortunately, a simple cleaning is sometimes not enough to get the carb in good shape.
This is because the needles and jets are prone to completely clogging if too much dirt gets into them. What’s more, the gaskets and O-rings also age over time.
This is where a partial carburetor rebuild comes into play.
As the name suggests, a partial carb rebuild means replacing the defective internal components, but not all of them. These parts typically include the O-rings, gaskets, needles, and jets.
To manage this maintenance, you have to invest in a “partial carb rebuild kit” (a.k.a. “carburetor repair kit”). These affordable kits are sold for almost every type of carb regardless of their age or type.
Just dismantle and clean the carb, but when it comes to reassembling, you can install the new parts from the kit. It’s as simple as that!
3. Full Carb Rebuild
Unlike a partial rebuild, a full carb rebuild requires you to replace every internal part of the carb. Keep in mind that a full carb rebuild is only necessary if you notice a lot of wear on the major parts like the throttle shaft.
For a complete carb rebuild, you will need a “full carb rebuild kit,” which includes all of the necessary components. These kits typically include needles, jets, O-rings, gaskets, diaphragm, air screw, springs and clips, screws, and metal washers.
Just make sure to double-check the description of the kit before you order it to make sure it includes all the required parts. The exact composition of the kits varies widely depending on the make and type of kit.
Also, if your vehicle features more carburetors, you will need more kits of course.
4. Carb Replacement
Sometimes it makes sense to replace the entire carburetor instead of completely rebuilding it. If the throttle shaft has too much play or the plates have worn into the carburetor body, it could be a sign that the entire carb has to be replaced.
Surprisingly, new carburetors are often affordable since they are designed for mass production and sold in large quantities.
Replacing your old carb for a new one is a lot faster and easier than cleaning and rebuilding the old one. A complete rebuild can be especially tiring if you have more than one carb.
Consequently, you may want to consider replacing the carbs instead of completely rebuilding them.
How Often Should You Rebuild Your Carburetor?
How often should I rebuild my carburetor? – we get this question more often than not.
Although there’s no specific time recommendation for carburetor cleaning and rebuilding, the general rule is that the less often you use your vehicle, the more often its carb needs to be cleaned or even rebuilt.
This is because when the engine sits for an extended period of time, the fuel starts to gum and clog the carbs.
The type of fuel is no less important. Today’s gasoline contains ethanol, which deteriorates the rubber components like seals, gaskets, and the float.
On top of that, the required carb maintenance interval depends on many other factors like the type and design of the carbs, and the way you use the vehicle.
Nevertheless, here are some tips to get some idea of when you should clean or even rebuild your carbs:
- If your vehicle has been sitting for months or even a longer period, its carbs have to be cleaned or partially rebuilt (if necessary).
- If your vehicle is rarely used, it’s recommended to clean (or even partially rebuild) the carbs annually, before each season. Typical examples are vintage cars and auxiliary outboard motors.
- A partial rebuild is always recommended if you have regular carb issues or certain parts show signs of wear.
- A full carb rebuild or a replacement is only necessary if you notice a lot of wear on the major parts.
- Especially on 2-stroke engines, a yearly carb cleaning and inspection never hurts. Keep in mind that many 2-stroke engines blow because of lean running carburetors, so keeping them in good shape is like having extra insurance.
- Note that not each component of the carb is changeable, meaning that in some cases you have no choice but to invest in a new carb.
Are Carburetors Hard to Rebuild?
Rebuilding a carburetor is considered simple routine maintenance, but it requires some time and patience. The difficulty of the work strongly depends on the design and the number of carburetors since the arrangement and the complexity of these units vary widely.
For example, lawnmower carburetors typically feature a fairly simple design, while high-performance powersport vehicles have much more complex carbs.
For example, certain ATVs and snowmobiles come with special safety features (like Yamaha’s T.O.R.S. system) which adds some complexity to the carbs.
We won’t even mention electronically controlled carburetors, which are more difficult to maintain and rebuild than their regular counterparts.
Can You Rebuild a Carburetor Yourself?
You can rebuild a carburetor even by yourself if you have the required tools and a clean, well-lighted place to work comfortably. Best practice is to manage this maintenance on a table where you can sit down.
Besides the above, you will need an appropriate carburetor repair kit, cleaner liquid, rugs, paper towels, and a small container to soak the parts in.
Beware that you will need a lot of patience as you will have to pay attention to the details and cleanliness.
If you are not mechanically inclined, you may want to get the job done by a professional. Keep in mind that after reinstalling the carb you will also have to adjust it for optimal performance.
This process can be tricky if your engine features more carbs since they have to be synchronized, which requires some expertise.
Is it Worth Rebuilding a Carburetor?
Sometimes it’s worth completely rebuilding a carburetor, while in other cases a replacement is a better choice. This strongly depends on the type of carbs you have, the price of a full rebuild kit, and a complete carb, and the value of your time of course.
How Much does it Cost to Have a Carburetor Rebuilt?
As a rule of thumb, rebuilding carburetors cost about $10-$100 per carb if you do the work yourself. A partial carb rebuild kit costs about $10-$20 per carb, while the prices of complete kits range from $20 up to $100. You will also need a can of carb cleaner liquid, which may cost you about $5-$10.
Therefore, you can partially rebuild a simple carb for a couple of bucks, while a complete rebuild of four complex carbs may cost you more than $400.
If you want to get the work done by a service shop, don’t forget to budget for the cost of labor.
Carburetor Rebuild Kits
Let’s take a closer look at carburetor rebuild kits!
Are all carb rebuild kits the same?
If you are considering rebuilding your carbs, keep in mind that not all carb rebuild kits are the same.
The design of carbs varies from one model to the next, so each carb has its own rebuild kit. What’s more, you can often find different kits for the same carb, which contain different components.
The cheapest carb rebuild kits are usually partial rebuild kits that contain only a few components. On the other end of the spectrum, you can find full rebuild kits that come with everything you need for a complete carb rebuild.
Sometimes you can find “middle-level” kits that fit between these two worlds.
How do you know which carburetor rebuild kit to buy?
To figure out which carburetor rebuild kit you need, you should check your vehicle’s owner’s manual. The manual clearly describes the exact type and model of your carburetor.
If the manual isn’t available, you can also identify your carb by the list number stamped on the side of the carburetor’s body.
Based on this number and your vehicle’s year and specs, you can get the exact type of your carb from part catalogs or online databases.
Can carburetor gaskets be reused?
If the gaskets are in a good condition you can reuse them without any problems.
If you use your vehicle regularly, you can run it for many years without rebuilding the carburetor. However, a thorough cleaning before each season is always a good idea to remove the potentially accumulated gum from the carb.
Rarely used vehicles typically require at least an annual cleaning, or often a partial carb rebuild. This maintenance includes replacing the O-rings, gaskets, needles, and jets.
It’s also wise to partially rebuild the carb on vehicles that have been sitting for a long time.
A full carb rebuild is only necessary if there’s significant wear on the major parts.
If you are not mechanically inclined, you can get your carbs rebuilt by a service shop. Your other option is investing in a new carb, which can be a worthy alternative to a full carb rebuild.