Ah, the carburetor.

For some guys, it’s a symbol of American automotive performance…a genuine hot rodder’s answer to the “evils” of modern fuel injection. For others, it’s a source of great intimidation and frustration.

But it doesn’t have to be.

With help from the tech experts at Summit Racing, we’re sharing some typical cures to the new carb blues. Follow along, solve some typical carb conundrums, and get deputized as a Summit Racing carb detective!

Problem: Engine is running rich throughout the rpm band.

Solution #1: You may have the improper size (cfm) carburetor for your application. The carb’s cfm is directly related to your engine’s cubic inches and maximum rpm. Use this Carburetor Calculator to confirm the proper carburetor size for your application.

Solution #2: Although your carb’s floats are pre-adjusted from the factory, they often come out of adjustment during shipping. Check the float level and adjust to the manufacturer’s specifications. If the floats are too high, the carburetor will run rich.

Solution #3: If you’re running an aftermarket fuel pump, make sure the fuel pressure isn’t set too high. As rule of thumb, set your fuel pressure to these ranges based on the carburetor brand: 5-7 psi for Holley, Quick Fuel, AED, Willy’s, or Summit Racing; or 4-5 psi for Edelbrock or Jet.

Solution #4: If you have a carburetor with an electric choke, check and adjust the choke flap to make sure it is opening completely. If it is not opening all the way, there will be an airflow restriction that may cause your engine to run rich.

Solution #5: Evaluate your air cleaner. Dirty air cleaners will restrict airflow and cause a rich condition. The same goes for small air cleaners—install a larger, less restrictive air cleaner if necessary.

Solution #6: If none of the above solutions fix the problems, you’ll need to check for other mechanical issues outside of the carburetor, including worn valve guides, improper spark plugs heat range, or bad valve seals.

Problem: Engine is running rich only at idle.

Solution #1: Try adjusting the mixture screws using a vacuum manifold vacuum gauge.

Solution #2: If you’re running a larger camshaft, engine vacuum will get very low and make the power valve open too early. Swap out the power valve to the correct one for the amount of engine vacuum being produced.


Problem: Engine is running lean.

Solution #1: Many times, the solutions for a rich condition can be reversed to cure a lean condition. Go back through the solutions listed above and take the opposite actions suggested for each solution.

Solution #2: Check for missing vacuum caps, examine the seal between the intake and carburetor, and look at the intake-to-head seal for leaks. A vacuum leak will make the engine run very lean and cause multiple drivability issues.


Problem: Engine stumbles under acceleration.

Willy’s Float Adjusting Tool

Solution #1: A low float level will create fuel starvation, which will cause the engine to stumble. Check the float level and make adjustments if necessary.

Solution #2: Check your fuel pressure and adjust it to these psi ranges: 5-7 psi for Holley, Quick Fuel, AED, Willy’s, or Summit Racing; or 4-5 psi for Edelbrock or Jet. Low pressure will cause fuel starvation during acceleration.

Solution #3: Again, if you’re running a larger camshaft, engine vacuum will get very low and make the power valve open too quickly. This often causes the engine to stumble, so you may need to change the power valve to match the engine vacuum levels in your application.

Accelerator Pump Cams

Solution #4: Depending on your engine combination, a stumble can be caused by a weak accelerator pump shot. Experiment with different accelerator pump cams and nozzle sizes.


Problem: Engine will not idle.

Solution #1: Check and adjust the idle screw. When you take the carburetor out of the box, this screw, which is located on the throttle shaft, is typically not turned in far enough to make the engine idle.

Solution #2: Poor idle quality can be caused by a vacuum leak. Check for missing vacuum caps or bad seals between the carb, intake, and cylinder heads.

Solution #3: Airflow restriction can also cause an engine to idle poorly. If you have a carburetor with an electric choke, make sure the choke flap is opening properly and adjust if necessary.

Solution #4: Examine the fuel filter. If the fuel filter looks old or beat up, dirt or other debris may have entered the carburetor and caused an obstruction. You’ll need to take the carb apart and look for contaminants.


Problem: Engine is backfiring through the carburetor.

Solution: The source of this problem is often something other than the carburetor itself. Typically, backfiring issues are caused by a timing issue, a worn cam lobe, or leaking valve. Check your timing and do a compression test to eliminate each of these possible problems.

If problems persist with your carburetor, here’s a one-size-fits-all solution: call the Summit Racing tech department at 1-330-630-0240. They’ll solve the problem, faster than you can say “case closed.”

Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.