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Starting fluid and Brake cleaner- Two of them are different in their name and use! But, many people recommend using brake cleaner as starting fluid in their blogs, articles, or videos on the internet! Hence, the question can arise in your mind, Can you use brake cleaner as starting fluid?

The answer will be ” No.” You shouldn’t use Brake cleaner as starting fluid. Using brake cleaner, you’ll only flood your engine and the spark plug will get wet, but the engine will not start. Although the engine gets started for a while, you’ll damage your engine permanently with this cheap trick! 

However, I’m gonna tell you every bunch of information that I have experimented with my engine. Let’s dive into more details to know the actual truth.

Are brake cleaner and starting fluid the same thing?

Although people are messing up the brake cleaner with starting fluid, they are very different from others. You can easily differentiate them according to their function, purpose & chemical used!  

The first thing you need to clarify about their function. The function of starting fluid is to start a combustion engine which is very hard to start. 

On the other hand, brake cleaner removes oil, debris, and dirt from the brake system and helps them function effectively. 

Starting fluid is a volatile and flammable liquid. It’s mainly lubricating the combustion chamber to run. Again, the Brake cleaner isn’t explosive at all.

Brake cleaners contain toxic chemicals that can harm the environment, whereas starting fluid does not contain toxic chemicals and is safe to use.

The chemicals used in the starting fluid and brake cleaner are also different. Regular starting fluid contains-

  • n Heptane: 70-80%
  • Diethyl Ether: 15-20%
  • Carbon dioxide: 10%
  • Toluene: 0.465-1.86

Regular breaking cleaner contains-

  • Acetone: 5-10%
  • nHeptane: 40-50%
  • Toluene: 10-15%
  • Carbon dioxide: 1.5-5%
  • Methanol: 30-40%.

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Can you use brake cleaner as starting fluid? 

can you use brake cleaner as starting fluid

Your engine won’t start! You have no starting fluid, but you just have an aerosol can of brake cleaner. And, at that point, you are questioning your mind, Can I use brake cleaner instead of starting fluid?

If you haven’t tried it yet, stop right now! Or, again, if you already use it on your engine, never use it again! You don’t want to ruin or damage your engine permanently,  right?

Following others’ opinions, I also tested this experiment on my Two-stroke and four-stroke engines! The brake cleaner I used was WD-40.  The result I get is a flooded engine and a wet spark plug. I attempted three-four times to start my engine. But, all attempts failed. (Source)

Although two-stroke engines were running for a while, it’s between 1-2 minutes highest. The bad smells of gasoline and WD-40 get in my nose and finally, I quit! 

By researching more, I found the exact answer to this question.

A brake cleaner contains toxic chemicals and doesn’t have the same chemical as starting fluid. It’s also hygroscopic and pulls moisture from the air on the engine. The rust can begin to rise on an engine. Hence, the brake cleaner down the engine.  

Only cleaning the braking system is its main function of it. Again, starting fluid work as lubrication and starts the combustion engine. Hence, the engine starts to run.

Meanwhile, many users say that brake cleaners will knock the oil off the combustion chamber’s walls. And you’ll get a dry start of your engine. Don’t forget that it will cause permanent damage in the future. 

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How to use starter fluid: Step-by-Step Guideline

will brake cleaner work as starter fluid

Starting fluid is a very easy and effective tool to start your engine quickly. Whether you are searching for a starting fluid alternative, you are wasting your valuable time only! 

If you haven’t starter fluid, go to a hardware or automotive store and purchase one at only 3$-4$. Next, follow the guideline to get your vehicle’s engine working! 

Step 1: Inspect the engine 

Before using the starting fluid, check whether the engine is still working. Keep trying twice or three times. If you are sure it’s not working, go for the next step.

Step 2: Spray starter fluid on the air filter

Well, find the air filter on your vehicle and spray the starter fluid for 2-3 seconds on it.  

Note: Make sure to keep away your starting fluid from ignition sources. Because it is very flammable.

Step 3: Try to start the vehicle

N9w, it’s time to check whether the starting fluid is working. Give it a try to start the vehicle. And obviously,  you’ll get your engine working again! 

Is carburetor cleaner the same as brake cleaner?

As their name implies, brake cleaner is specifically designed to clean the braking system Whereas,  carburetor cleaner such as Berryman 0996-ARM B-9 Chem Dip Parts Cleaner is designed to clean carburetors. They use in different parts and for different purposes. So, they are not the same, right?

When you are trying to clean the brake system, you need to ensure an oil-free surface. That means brake cleaner will not leave any oil or residue after drying. 

But, carburetor cleaner requires to dissolve stubborn to remove dirt. So, there’s oil left on surfaces. This is the main difference between them.

Can you use carburetor cleaner as starting fluid? 

The answer is almost between yes and no! I don’t recommend carb cleaner as a starter fluid! 

Carburetor cleaner isn’t very flammable and leaves a residue on the surface. So, your engine gets down after its use! It’ll also jam a mechanism to function the engine effectively. 

Again, carburetor cleaner is not volatile or gas. You need petroleum-based lubricant as starting fluid.

Can you use starter fluid on a diesel?

You shouldn’t use starter fluid on a diesel engine. Starter fluid contains ether which has a low ignition point. So, it can explode in a diesel engine’s combustion chamber, damaging the piston.

Again, you can only use starting fluid on your diesel engine; there’s no electric preheat and installed system. 

Substitute for starting fluid 

In an emergency, I’ll recommend using a substitute for starting fluid. I mentioned before that the substitute could cause permanent damage in the future. Although a substitute works for a while, you will not get better results as starting fluid. 

So, the tools that can help you in an emergency case instead of starting fluids are-

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):   

What can you substitute for starting fluid?

You can use substitutes for starting fluid like carburetor cleaner, brake cleaner, throttle body cleaner, and degreaser. If it’s not an emergency,  then skip it. Go to the market and purchase a starting fluid.

Can I use WD 40 instead of starting fluid?

WD-40 is good for small engine stuff! But honestly, say, it will only give your engine a tiny start. The more it caused flooded the engine and wet the spark plug. So, I suggest using starting fluid or ether lubrication over WD-40.

Does Hairspray work as starting fluid?

Hairspray works as a starter fluid as it is flammable. But after a long time, your engine mechanism can be blocked or jammed by this cheaper solution. 

What can I spray in my carburetor to start my engine?

You can use aerosol -petroleum-based lubricant on the carburetor. First, remove the air filter and spray this lubricant directly on the carburetor. Give it a try to start the engine. And it will work!

Can you use brake cleaner as fuel?

No, you shouldn’t use brake cleaner as fuel. It’s non-flammable. So, it does not ultimately fulfill the goal of fuel to start the engine properly.


You may be in a hurry or it gets emergency to start your vehicle’s engine. So, you’re the only option to use brake cleaner as starting fluid! Then, you can give it a try for your small engine stuff.

But honestly, say you’ll kill your engine in the future with this substitute for starter fluid. In my opinion, try to purchase the starting fluid at only a 3$ -4$ budget. It will save your vehicle from any future damage! 

Hopefully, you get your answer with this entire article. If you’ve any questions left, you can ask them below! That’s all for today! Say goodbye!!

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