While modern cars and trucks run better than ever before, and with less maintenance than ever before, thanks to computers, sensors, and other high-tech wizardry, that doesn’t mean they never need any attention. There are parts in your engine that require maintenance and cleaning over time, and one of those most likely to need cleaning is your throttle body. It’s also one of the most important moving parts in your engine since it’s at the end of what happens when you press the gas pedal.
But you can’t just break out a degreaser and a brush to clean this sensitive electronically-controlled engine part. No, you need a throttle body cleaner to do the job right. We’ve partnered with Advance Auto Parts to create this list of the five best throttle body cleaners to help you get the job done.
Table of contents
Valvoline Heavy Duty Carb & Throttle Body Cleaner
This Heavy Duty Carb & Throttle Body Cleaner from Valvoline is designed to clean build-up and deposits from carburettors as well as your throttle body, but it’s also safe for fuel injected engines and catalytic converters. The low VOC spray works to instantly dissolve gum, varnish, sludge, dirt, and grease from your throttle body and the rest of the intake system.
For carburettor-equipped older vehicles that also means cleaning out your choke, the device that helps the engine start at cold temperatures. While the air going into the engine should be cleaned by the filter, debris does get through. The exhaust gas recirculation system also introduces unburned fuel and even oil back into the intake, and all of those things need to be removed from the throttle body on occasion. Low VOCs means that you can use it more safely indoors, though you should always use these cleaners in a well-ventilated area. This heavy-duty Valvoline throttle body cleaner should help restore lost throttle response—and can even make the pedal operate more smoothly.
- Cleans throttle plates and chokes
- Dissolves deposits
Pyroil Carb & Throttle Body Cleaner
Pyroil Carb & Throttle Body Cleaner uses a blend of cleaners that works to dissolve buildups like sludge and varnish, as well as grease, dirt, and oil that can gum up your throttle body housing. It’s a fast-acting formula that will remove those deposits quickly, and it’s able to get into hard-to-reach places and surfaces—such as the tiny idle air passages in your throttle body that can make your ride idle like it’s about to stall.
In addition to the throttle body, this Pyroil cleaner works to refresh throttle linkages as well as PCV valves, the valve that lets pressurized air vent from your crankcase back into your intake—which helps your vehicle run better, but can clog with oil over time. Removing these airflow-blocking deposits can bring back like-new performance to your vehicle saving fuel and improving engine response. It’s also safe for oxygen sensors, catalytic converters, and electronically controlled carbs.
- Safe for O2 sensors and catalytic converters
- Can free stuck throttle linkages
- Cleans PCV valves
Pyroil Carb & Throttle Body Cleaner (Low VOC)
This blend works like the standard Pyroil throttle body cleaner mentioned above but contains different cleaners inside to help it work. The standard version contains chlorinated solvents, which means they have a number of compounds that are considered to be volatile organic compounds. For emissions reasons, those solvents aren’t permitted for use in some states (such as California). Instead, drivers can opt for cleaners like this low VOC option that contain different solvents including acetone, isopropyl alcohol, and mineral spirits.
While non-chlorinated cleaners take longer to dry on a surface (because they’re less volatile), and some say they work slightly less effectively as a solvent, the trade-off is putting fewer toxins into the air you’re breathing. For both commercial shops worried about their employees and the home mechanic working in their garage with kids and pets around, the trade-offs in using a non-chlorinated cleaner like this one are well worth the reduced health risks.
- Low VOC formula for safer air
- Safe for sensors and catalytic converters
- Dissolves engine intake deposits
Berryman B-12 Chemtool
Berryman has been making chemicals to help out car and truck owners for more than 100 years, so they’ve got loads of experience with cleaning things out of engines old and new. The latest version of their B-12 Chemtool is VOC compliant in all 50 states, and works to clean throttle bodies, carbs, PCV valves, chokes, and even distributor shafts using what the company calls H.E.S.T. That’s High Energy Solvent Technology, a group of strong solvents that Berryman says work much more effectively than commonly used mineral spirits or kerosene, helping to make sure they quickly blast out what’s bogging down your engine.
Berryman B-12 is safe for catalytic converters as well as oxygen sensors. It works quickly to blast the junk out of your engine to get it back to running smoothly, efficiently, and confidence-inspiringly—without harming the delicate exhaust components that can cost you a fortune to repair or replace.
- Uses High Energy Solvents
- Low VOCs for 50 state compliance
- Dries with no residue
CRC Throttle Body & Air-Intake Cleaner
Rather than being formulated to also work on the carburettors of older cars and the different issues that come with them, this cleaner is designed specifically for modern fuel-injected cars. CRC’s throttle body cleaner works to remove varnish, gum, and sludge from the throttle butterfly valve (or valves in some modern engines), to clean out all of the air passages to allow for easier starting, smoother engine performance, and a better idle.
Safe for both throttle body and multi-port fuel injection systems – meaning that it’s safe to get it on fuel injectors – this throttle body cleaner also cleans your entire air intake to make sure that the air and fuel are flowing into your engine the way the manufacturer intended, sinc debris and residue can build up not just on the throttle body’s blades and channels but on every part of the system after the EGR valve.
- Dries fast
- Designed for fuel-injected engines
- Cleans air intakes as well as throttle
Why Use Throttle Body Cleaner?
The inside of your engine is a dirty place, and that goes beyond more than just where the combustion happens. Modern vehicles send exhaust gasses into the intake to improve emissions and economy, and they also send some air from the crankcase into the intake. While that does wonders to reduce pollution, over time it can build up in the intake passage, clogging your throttle body with remains of fuel and oil. That means gum, varnish, dirt, and other unpleasant stuff that needs to be removed. Throttle body cleaner is designed to do just that.
What Does Throttle Body Cleaner Do?
Throttle body cleaner uses solvents that are designed and chosen to break down what’s in your intake. A solvent is a chemical that breaks down something sold. Even water is a solvent – as you’ve no doubt seen if you’ve put dirt in it and the dirt turned to mud – but it’s not strong enough to dissolve what’s in your engine. The solvents used in these cleaners are, and they break down the baked-on hydrocarbons and dirt in your engine so that they can be carried through and out the exhaust.
How to Use Throttle Body Cleaner
It’s normally as simple as pulling off the rubber boot at the front of the throttle body and spraying the face of it. Using proper gloves (or the throttle cable on older cars) open and close the throttle butterfly to make sure both sides are cleaned. Spray for as long as it says on the can.
Do not, however, spray it into the mass airflow sensor, which is usually on the upstream (closer to outside air) of the intake system. These use a delicate matrix to measure airflow and should be cleaned with a specialised cleaner.
We are committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using the retail links in our product reviews. Learn more about how this works.
Main photo credit: NONGASIMO / Shutterstock.com