Ether or Carb Clean?


My Dad sprays ether to start his truck sometimes. He says to use it to start my bike, but my friend (who works at a bike shop) says not to. That it can damage the engine. What’s the real answer? {Bobby, ME old 1986 GN250}


Do not use ether to start any small engine. Ether combustion is too violent and could damage your engine. An extreme example would be bent valves.

It is good for starting older diesel or hit-and-miss engines. Like those you find in older trucks and equipment {skid steer, excavator, etc}. Manufacturers of modern diesels equipped with glow plugs warn against using ether to start the engine due to danger of ether igniting on contact with glow plug.

You want to use as close a gas substitute as you can find. Products that are sold in aerosol cans are very effective at introducing the product to the carburetor or airbox while keeping it off of your hands and clothing.

Some brands of carburetor cleaner work for starting your bike or quad engine, some do not. I have found that most auto parts store brand carb clean does not work. I do not know what the specific ingredient is that makes some work & some not.

We use the Wal-Mart SuperTech brand of carb clean in our shop. The can is designed well. It is fairly short & stout. Making it stable on the workbench. If I accidentally brush against it with my hand or a wrench it does not topple over like some brands that come in tall, thin cans. It is effective, relatively cheap and available at Wal-Marts across the US. I do not know if the same formulation is sold overseas.

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