Can You Use Brake Cleaner as Starter Fluid? Know the Facts!

When it comes to working with automobiles, it’s common to run into questions about using different products for various tasks.

One such query that often pops up is whether brake cleaner can be used as a starter fluid. While the two substances have certain similarities, using them interchangeably is a subject of debate.

It is generally not recommended to use brake cleaner as starter fluid, however, it may work in emergency situations when no other options are available.

Keep in mind that this can have potential consequences for your engine, so it should never be a go-to solution.

Can You Use Brake Cleaner as Starter Fluid

Starter fluid is a dedicated product with specific ingredients to make starting an engine easier, while brake cleaner’s purpose is to dissolve dirt and grease on brake components.

As a result, using brake cleaner as starter fluid might not lead to optimal performance and can even harm your engine in some circumstances.

To ensure the best care for your vehicle, it’s important to use the right products for their intended purposes.

Brake Cleaner and Its Chemical Composition

Brake cleaner is a cleaning solvent mainly used for cleaning brake discs, the engine compartment, and the underfloor of motor vehicles. It typically comes in aerosol spray form and is designed to effectively remove grease, oil, and dirt.

Flammable Components

The chemical composition of brake cleaners varies, but most products contain flammable components such as aerosol-based chemicals.

There are two types of brake cleaners: chlorinated and non-chlorinated. Both types are flammable, which is why some people may consider using brake cleaner as a starter fluid.

Environment and Safety Concerns

Environmental and safety factors are important when using brake cleaner. Many brake cleaners are toxic, while others may have a significant environmental impact.

It is essential to use brake cleaner responsibly and follow safety guidelines, such as wearing eye protection and proper ventilation.

When it comes to chemical composition, most brake cleaners contain various additives and detergents that enhance cleaning efficiency.

These additions help leave no residue after the solvents evaporate, ensuring a clean surface for improved brake performance.

However, these additives also pose risks to the environment, especially when not used correctly. Therefore, proper disposal of brake cleaner residues should be observed.

Besides, following the product manufacturer’s guidelines is crucial for minimizing potential harm to both the user and the environment.

What is a Starter Fluid and what are Its Properties?

Starting fluid, commonly known as starter fluid, is a volatile and combustible liquid that assists in starting combustion engines, particularly in cold weather conditions. The primary ingredient in most starter fluids is ether—specifically, diethyl ether.

This substance has excellent ignition properties, making it well-suited for helping engines start more easily.

Other constituents in starting fluid may include heptane, which is another combustible substance, and carbon dioxide, used as a propellant.

Application in Combustion Engines

To use starter fluid in a combustion engine, you need to spray it into the air filter or directly into the combustion chamber.

The engine’s intake system draws the starting fluid into the combustion chamber, where it mixes with air to form a rich mixture. This rich mixture has a higher concentration of fuel, making it more flammable and easier to ignite.

As a result, the engine starts more quickly, especially in cold weather conditions when starting can be difficult.

However, it’s essential to be cautious when using starter fluid. Overuse can lead to a lean mixture, which has more air than fuel and can cause engine damage.

Brake Cleaner vs. Starter Fluid: Understanding the Key Differences

Brake cleaner and starter fluid are two distinct products with different purposes.

 Brake cleaner is designed specifically for cleaning brake components, such as discs, calipers, and pads. Its primary function is to dissolve dirt, grease, and contaminants that can affect braking performance.

 On the other hand, starter fluid is formulated to assist in starting combustion engines, particularly in cold weather. It contains ingredients like ether and heptane, which provide excellent ignition properties.

While brake cleaner and starter fluid may appear similar in terms of being aerosol-based and flammable, their chemical compositions and intended uses set them apart.

Do brake cleaners have an adverse effect on engine components?

Using brake cleaner as starter fluid can have adverse effects on engine components. Brake cleaner typically contains strong solvents that are effective in dissolving grease and dirt from brake parts.

However, when used as a starter fluid, these solvents may not provide the necessary lubrication or combustion properties required by the engine.

The lack of proper lubrication can lead to increased friction, resulting in excessive wear and potential damage to engine components.

Additionally, the flammable nature of brake cleaners can pose a risk of engine fires or explosions if not used appropriately.

Therefore, it is important to use products specifically designed as starter fluids to ensure optimal engine performance and safety.

Brake Cleaner as Starter Fluid: Risks and Alternatives

Using brake cleaner as a starter fluid involves certain risks. Check these out before exploring the viable alternatives.

Potential Hazards

Using brake cleaner as a starting fluid in an emergency could lead to inconsistent ignition and even engine damage.

The potent solvent properties of a brake cleaner can potentially harm your engine components if not used correctly. Besides, it’s highly flammable, posing a risk to you and your vehicle.

Suggested Alternatives

Here are some safer alternatives to using brake cleaner as starter fluid:

  1. Carburetor cleaner or throttle body cleaner can be a better substitute as they’re formulated for use in internal combustion engines.
  2. For a lubrication and cleaning option, consider WD-40 or mass airflow sensor cleaner in a pinch.
  3. A mix of gasoline and oil can help in starting two-stroke engines effortlessly.
  4. Heptane or toluene can work as alternative starting fluids; however, exercise caution as they’re highly flammable.

Remember to wear safety glasses and gloves when handling these alternatives.


Using brake cleaner as starter fluid is generally not recommended due to potential risks and negative consequences for the engine.

Brake cleaner and starter fluid serve different purposes and have distinct chemical compositions. It is crucial to prioritize safety, follow manufacturer guidelines, and utilize the appropriate products for their intended purposes.

Exploring alternative options, such as carburetor cleaner or throttle body cleaner, can ensure safer engine starting and optimal performance for your vehicle.