How to Use Starting Fluid
This article was co-authored by Tom Eisenberg. Tom Eisenberg is the Owner and General Manager of West Coast Tires & Service in Los Angeles, California, a family-owned AAA-approved and certified auto shop. Tom has over 10 years of experience in the auto industry. Modern Tire Dealer Magazine voted his shop one of the Best 10 Operations in the Country.
There are 14 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.
This article has been viewed 133,519 times.
Starting fluid is a liquid that helps internal combustion engines operate properly. Starting fluid is often used to start cars the engines of which have been poorly maintained, or for starting older cars when the temperature falls below freezing.
Method 1 of 3:
Quick Preparations Before You Start
Store starting fluid safely. Starting fluid is highly flammable and combustible. Store and handle them safely. For instance, do not place your can of starting fluid on a hot engine or spray it near a hot engine.  X Research source
- Typically, a couple of short bursts of starting fluid should be adequate to get your engine started.
- Starting fluid also cannot be used in two-stroke engines, such as those in lawnmowers.  X Research source
- If starting fluid is not appropriate for your vehicle, try an alternative like carburetor cleaner.  X Research source
Choose a quality starting fluid. Only use trusted brands when selecting a starting fluid. A good starting fluid should start the engine quickly with a minimal application volume. Ask your local auto shop what sort of starting fluid they recommend for your vehicle.  X Research source
Method 2 of 3:
Applying the Fluid
- Air intakes often look like metal tubes. They might be powder-coated or painted in the same color as the vehicle.
- You many need to remove the filter covering your air intake to do this.  X Research source
Take your vehicle to a mechanic if it doesn’t start. If the engine won’t start even with an appropriate application of starting fluid, the engine itself might not be the problem. For instance, your car’s ignition switch might be faulty, or some other system could be to blame. Talk to a reputable mechanic in your area and get their opinion on how to handle the problem.  X Research source
Method 3 of 3:
Troubleshooting a Car That Won’t Start
- Adjusting the choke is also a good idea when your car has a carburetor and starts, but then turns off.
- If you cannot locate your choke, consult your vehicle’s user manual.
- The distributor cap is a small cover that protects your car’s distributor.
- When adjusting the connector and terminal post, use a screwdriver with an insulated or wooden handle.
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My car won’t start even after I sprayed starting fluid. What can I do?
Tom Eisenberg is the Owner and General Manager of West Coast Tires & Service in Los Angeles, California, a family-owned AAA-approved and certified auto shop. Tom has over 10 years of experience in the auto industry. Modern Tire Dealer Magazine voted his shop one of the Best 10 Operations in the Country.
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Gently hit your starter with a hammer or other blunt object to loosen it. You can give the starter, which is located on the motor, a light tap with a moderately heavy object. If this works and the car starts, you should drive to an auto repair shop to get it checked out.
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About This Article
This article was co-authored by Tom Eisenberg. Tom Eisenberg is the Owner and General Manager of West Coast Tires & Service in Los Angeles, California, a family-owned AAA-approved and certified auto shop. Tom has over 10 years of experience in the auto industry. Modern Tire Dealer Magazine voted his shop one of the Best 10 Operations in the Country. This article has been viewed 133,519 times.
9 votes – 89%
Updated: June 18, 2023
Categories: Vehicle Fuels and Fluids
Starting fluid is a liquid that can help your engine work properly. To use starting fluid on your car, you’ll need to check if it’s appropriate for your vehicle and apply it to the air intake. Remember to never spray it on a hot engine, since it’s highly flammable. Check your user manual to see if starting fluid can be used on your car, since you can’t use it on diesels and some other models. If you can’t use it on your vehicle, try a carburetor cleaner. If you can use it, spray a short burst of the fluid into your engine’s air intake. This typically looks like a metal pipe and is usually found somewhere around the engine. Afterwards, try starting your car. If your engine fails to start after you’ve applied starting fluid, take your vehicle to a mechanic to examine the problem. For tips from our Auto co-author on how to identify a good brand of starter fluid, keep reading!
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