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  1. #1
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    Automotive Starter Fluid for cleaning drivetrain

    The bike mechanic at my local bike shop suggested using automotive starter fluid to spray down my chain,rear cassette,ect. to thoroughly clean my drive train when it gets really gunked up from riding on crushed limestone bike paths.He claims it works as good as the stuff bike shops sell and is a lot cheaper.Would it be a mistake to do this?

  2. #2
    rebmeM roineS JanMM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dclifton View Post
    The bike mechanic at my local bike shop suggested using automotive starter fluid to spray down my chain,rear cassette,ect. to thoroughly clean my drive train when it gets really gunked up from riding on crushed limestone bike paths.He claims it works as good as the stuff bike shops sell and is a lot cheaper.Would it be a mistake to do this?
    Might be a bit dangerous?
    "Starting fluid is a mixture of volatile hydrocarbons (heptane, butane or propane), diethyl ether, and carbon dioxide(as a propellant)." from Wikipedia
    RANS V3 (steel), RANS V-Rex, RANS Screamer

  3. #3
    Senior Member peripatetic's Avatar
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    I believe some people do this, and it's effective. However, starting fluid is pretty volatile, and something that strong really isn't necessary for cleaning. I'm among many others who use mineral spirits and odorless mineral spirits, which themselves work far better than most bike-shop branded "cleaners," and also better than alternatives like "simple green." If you're in a pinch with few alternatives, I've also had success with dishwashing detergent in water; the limitation on that is it's not ideal and it is important to dry parts off afterwards to prevent oxidation and corrosion (rust).

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    Try Brake Klean. bk

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    I find it interesting that folks who wouldn't consider using gasoline because of the fire hazard, swap to products that are not only far more expensive, but also much more flammable, including, certain brake cleaners, and ether blend starter.

    Moreover, any flammable product becomes much more flammable if misted, like from an aerosol can, which creates a perfect fuel/air mixture.

    Either use lower flammability stuff like mineral spirits, or if it's going to be highly flammable anyway, you might as well use gasoline, but use it outdoors only, don't mist it, and store it properly.
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  6. #6
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FBinNY View Post
    I find it interesting that folks who wouldn't consider using gasoline because of the fire hazard, swap to products that are not only far more expensive, but also much more flammable, including, certain brake cleaners, and ether blend starter.

    Moreover, any flammable product becomes much more flammable if misted, like from an aerosol can, which creates a perfect fuel/air mixture.

    Either use lower flammability stuff like mineral spirits, or if it's going to be highly flammable anyway, you might as well use gasoline, but use it outdoors only, don't mist it, and store it properly.
    +1...partially. The flash point of gasoline is -40F, the flash point of mineral spirits is 100F, and the flash point of odorless mineral spirits is 120F. Gasoline: highly flammable in just about any conditions short of the North Pole. Mineral spirits? You could almost smoke and use the stuff. The flashpoint of brake cleaner is -25F (think Minneapolis winter). The flashpoint of starter fluid, because of the diethyl ether in it, is -56F. That means it'll ignite at the South Pole in the dead of winter. Don't use it for all the reasons that FBinNY gives.

    The partially above is that I'd say don't use gasoline at all, under any circumstances. It's just not worth the risks. Especially when there are other, safer routes to go.
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  7. #7
    Senior Member Ira B's Avatar
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    Brake parts cleaner would be much, much safer.
    Starter fluid vapors are highly explosive in fairly low concentrations and even a few good whiffs can render a person unconscious.
    Yep, THAT Ira

  8. #8
    Mad bike riding scientist cyccommute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Ira B View Post
    Brake parts cleaner would be much, much safer.
    Starter fluid vapors are highly explosive in fairly low concentrations and even a few good whiffs can render a person unconscious.
    Nope. Only marginally safer. A flash point of -25F is still very low. Odorless mineral spirits is probably the safest of organic degreasers. That's what's used in professional parts washers.
    Stuart Black
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  9. #9
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    The ether used in start-fluid is also much more hazardous to your lungs than brake-cleaner or mineral-spirits. For the price of a single can of starter-fluid, you can get an entire gallon of mineral-spirits. That will last years in a good parts-cleaner that captures the fluid and strains it through a filter.

  10. #10
    Insane Bicycle Mechanic Jeff Wills's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DannoXYZ View Post
    The ether used in start-fluid is also much more hazardous to your lungs than brake-cleaner or mineral-spirits. For the price of a single can of starter-fluid, you can get an entire gallon of mineral-spirits. That will last years in a good parts-cleaner that captures the fluid and strains it through a filter.

    Knowing that you're a frame builder/ hacker, I hope you're careful with the brake cleaner, Danno: http://www.brewracingframes.com/id75.htm .
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  11. #11
    Senior Member DannoXYZ's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Jeff Wills View Post
    Knowing that you're a frame builder/ hacker, I hope you're careful with the brake cleaner, Danno: http://www.brewracingframes.com/id75.htm .
    Thanks Jeff! I try to stay aways from the chlorinated stuff whenever possible. And the cleaning fluids are in a completely different room with ventilation well away from the welding room.

  12. #12
    Dough Mestique
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    I've had pretty good success with spraying parts with simple green and then running them through the dishwasher.

    Note that this is best accomplished when the spouse is not home


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  13. #13
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    there is a reason they make cleaner for different purposes.

  14. #14
    Bicycle Repairman kingsting's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bkaapcke View Post
    Try Brake Klean. bk
    You have to be real careful with this stuff too. It will eat certain plastics and could damage decals and paint.
    There's always room for one more bike!

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