About Carburetors




History and development


A carburetor was developed by Enrico Bernardi at the University of Padua in 1882, for his “Motrice Pia”, the first petrol combustion engine (one cylinder, 1,225 cc) prototyped on 5 August 1882.[citation needed]

A carburetor was among the early[when?] patents by Karl Benz as he developed internal combustion engines and their components.[2]

The world's first carburetor for the stationary engine was invented by the Hungarianengineers János Csonka and Donát Bánki in 1893.[3][4] Parallel to this, the Austrianautomobilepioneer Siegfried Marcus invented the rotating brush carburetor.[citation needed]

Frederick William Lanchester of Birmingham, England, experimented with the wick carburetor in cars. In 1896, Frederick and his brother built the first gasoline driven car in England, a single cylinder 5 hp (3.7 kW) internal combustion engine with chain drive. Unhappy with the performance and power, they re-built the engine the next year into a two cylinder horizontally opposed version using his new wick carburetor design.

In 1885, Wilhelm Maybach and Gottlieb Daimler developed a float carburetor for their engine based on the atomizer nozzle.[5]

Carburetors were the usual fuel delivery method for most U.S. made gasoline-fueled engines up until the late 1980s, when fuel injection became the preferred method of automotive fuel delivery.[6] In the U.S. market, the last carbureted cars were:

In Australia, some cars continued to use carburetors well into the 1990s; these included the Honda Civic until 1993, Daihatsu Charade until 1997, the Suzuki Swift until its end in 1999, as well as the Ford Laser (1994), Mazda 323 sedan (1996), and Mitsubishi Magna sedan (1996). Low-cost commercial vans and 4WDs in Australia continued with carburetors even into the 2000s, the last being the Mitsubishi Express van in 2003.[citation needed] Elsewhere, certain Lada cars used carburetors until 2006. A majority of motorcycles still use carburetors due to lower cost and throttle response problems with early injection setups[citation needed], but fuel injection has become increasingly popular since the first fuel injected motorcycle was introduced by Kawasaki in 1980.[8] Carburetors are still found in small engines and in older or specialized automobiles, such as those designed for stock car racing, though NASCAR's 2011 season was the last one with carbureted engines; electronic fuel injection is used beginning with the 2012 race season.[9]



Cross-sectional schematic of a downdraft carburetor

A carburetor basically consists of an open pipe through which the air passes into the inlet manifold of the engine. The pipe is in the form of a venturi: it narrows in section and then widens again, causing the airflow to increase in speed in the narrowest part. Below the venturi is a butterfly valve called the throttle valve — a rotating disc that can be turned end-on to the airflow, so as to hardly restrict the flow at all, or can be rotated so that it (almost) completely blocks the flow of air. This valve controls the flow of air through the carburetor throat and thus the quantity of air/fuel mixture the system will deliver, thereby regulating engine power and speed. The throttle is connected, usually through a cable or a mechanical linkage of rods and joints or rarely by pneumatic link, to the accelerator pedal on a car or the equivalent control on other vehicles or equipment.

Fuel is introduced into the air stream through small holes at the narrowest part of the venturi and at other places where pressure will be lowered when not running on full throttle. Fuel flow is adjusted by means of precisely calibrated orifices, referred to as jets, in the fuel path.

Off-idle circuit

As the throttle is opened up slightly from the fully closed position, the throttle plate uncovers additional fuel delivery holes behind the throttle plate where there is a low pressure area created by the throttle plate blocking air flow; these allow more fuel to flow as well as compensating for the reduced vacuum that occurs when the throttle is opened, thus smoothing the transition to metering fuel flow through the regular open throttle circuit.

Main open-throttle circuit

As the throttle is progressively opened, the manifold vacuum is lessened since there is less restriction on the airflow, reducing the flow through the idle and off-idle circuits. This is where the venturi shape of the carburetor throat comes into play, due to Bernoulli's principle (i.e., as the velocity increases, pressure falls). The venturi raises the air velocity, and this high speed and thus low pressure sucks fuel into the airstream through a nozzle or nozzles located in the center of the venturi. Sometimes one or more additional booster venturis are placed coaxially within the primary venturi to increase the effect.

As the throttle is closed, the airflow through the venturi drops until the lowered pressure is insufficient to maintain this fuel flow, and the idle circuit takes over again, as described above.

Bernoulli's principle, which is a function of the velocity of the fluid, is a dominant effect for large openings and large flow rates, but since fluid flow at small scales and low speeds (low Reynolds number) is dominated by viscosity, Bernoulli's principle is ineffective at idle or slow running and in the very small carburetors of the smallest model engines. Small model engines have flow restrictions ahead of the jets to reduce the pressure enough to suck the fuel into the air flow. Similarly the idle and slow running jets of large carburetors are placed after the throttle valve where the pressure is reduced partly by viscous drag, rather than by Bernoulli's principle. The most common rich mixture device for starting cold engines was the choke, which works on the same principle.

Power valve

For open throttle operation a richer mixture will produce more power, prevent pre-ignition detonation, and keep the engine cooler. This is usually addressed with a spring-loaded "power valve", which is held shut by engine vacuum. As the throttle opens up, the vacuum decreases and the spring opens the valve to let more fuel into the main circuit. On two-stroke engines, the operation of the power valve is the reverse of normal — it is normally "on" and at a set rpm it is turned "off". It is activated at high rpm to extend the engine's rev range, capitalizing on a two-stroke's tendency to rev higher momentarily when the mixture is lean.

Alternative to employing a power valve, the carburetor may utilize a metering rodor step-up rod system to enrich the fuel mixture under high-demand conditions. Such systems were originated by Carter Carburetor[citation needed] in the 1950s for the primary two venturis of their four barrel carburetors, and step-up rods were widely used on most 1-, 2-, and 4-barrel Carter carburetors through the end of production in the 1980s. The step-up rods are tapered at the bottom end, which extends into the main metering jets. The tops of the rods are connected to a vacuum piston and/or a mechanical linkage which lifts the rods out of the main jets when the throttle is opened (mechanical linkage) and/or when manifold vacuum drops (vacuum piston). When the step-up rod is lowered into the main jet, it restricts the fuel flow. When the step-up rod is raised out of the jet, more fuel can flow through it. In this manner, the amount of fuel delivered is tailored to the transient demands of the engine. Some 4-barrel carburetors use metering rods only on the primary two venturis, but some use them on both primary and secondary circuits, as in the Rochester Quadrajet.

Accelerator pump

Liquid gasoline, being denser than air, is slower than air to react to a force applied to it. When the throttle is rapidly opened, airflow through the carburetor increases immediately, faster than the fuel flow rate can increase. This transient oversupply of air causes a lean mixture, which makes the engine misfire (or "stumble")—an effect opposite what was demanded by opening the throttle. This is remedied by the use of a small piston or diaphragm pump which, when actuated by the throttle linkage, forces a small amount of gasoline through a jet into the carburetor throat.[10] This extra shot of fuel counteracts the transient lean condition on throttle tip-in. Most accelerator pumps are adjustable for volume and/or duration by some means. Eventually the seals around the moving parts of the pump wear such that pump output is reduced; this reduction of the accelerator pump shot causes stumbling under acceleration until the seals on the pump are renewed.

The accelerator pump is also used to prime the engine with fuel prior to a cold start. Excessive priming, like an improperly adjusted choke, can cause flooding. This is when too much fuel and not enough air are present to support combustion. For this reason, most carburetors are equipped with an unloader mechanism: The accelerator is held at wide open throttle while the engine is cranked, the unloader holds the choke open and admits extra air, and eventually the excess fuel is cleared out and the engine starts.


When the engine is cold, fuel vaporizes less readily and tends to condense on the walls of the intake manifold, starving the cylinders of fuel and making the engine difficult to start; thus, a richer mixture (more fuel to air) is required to start and run the engine until it warms up. A richer mixture is also easier to ignite.

To provide the extra fuel, a choke is typically used; this is a device that restricts the flow of air at the entrance to the carburetor, before the venturi. With this restriction in place, extra vacuum is developed in the carburetor barrel, which pulls extra fuel through the main metering system to supplement the fuel being pulled from the idle and off-idle circuits. This provides the rich mixture required to sustain operation at low engine temperatures.

In addition, the choke can be connected to a cam (the fast idle cam) or other such device which prevents the throttle plate from closing fully while the choke is in operation. This causes the engine to idle at a higher speed. Fast idle serves as a way to help the engine warm up quickly, and give a more stable idle while cold by increasing airflow throughout the intake system which helps to better atomize the cold fuel.

In many carbureted cars, the choke is controlled by a cable connected to a pull-knob on the dashboard operated by the driver. In some carbureted cars it is automatically controlled by a thermostat employing a bimetallic spring, which is exposed to engine heat, or to an electric heating element. This heat may be transferred to the choke thermostat via simple convection, via engine coolant, or via air heated by the exhaust. More recent designs use the engine heat only indirectly: A sensor detects engine heat and varies electrical current to a small heating element, which acts upon the bimetallic spring to control its tension, thereby controlling the choke. A choke unloader is a linkage arrangement that forces the choke open against its spring when the vehicle's accelerator is moved to the end of its travel. This provision allows a "flooded" engine to be cleared out so that it will start.

Some carburetors do not have a choke but instead use a mixture enrichment circuit, or enrichment. Typically used on small engines, notably motorcycles, enrichments work by opening a secondary fuel circuit below the throttle valves. This circuit works exactly like the idle circuit, and when engaged it simply supplies extra fuel when the throttle is closed.

Classic British motorcycles, with side-draft slide throttle carburetors, used another type of "cold start device", called a "tickler". This is simply a spring-loaded rod that, when depressed, manually pushes the float down and allows excess fuel to fill the float bowl and flood the intake tract. If the "tickler" is held down too long it also floods the outside of the carburetor and the crankcase below, and is therefore a fire hazard.

Other elements

The interactions between each circuit may also be affected by various mechanical or air pressure connections and also by temperature sensitive and electrical components. These are introduced for reasons such as response, fuel efficiencyor automobile emissions control. Various air bleeds (often chosen from a precisely calibrated range, similarly to the jets) allow air into various portions of the fuel passages to enhance fuel delivery and vaporization. Extra refinements may be included in the carburetor/manifold combination, such as some form of heating to aid fuel vaporization such as an early fuel evaporator.