Honda C90 - carburettor main circuit

4th Jan 2020
Tags: carburettor

The carburettor has two independent systems for metering fuel and air, the main circuit and the idle circuit.  As the names suggests the idle circuit is designed to control the mixture of fuel and air when the engine is idling and the main circuit determines the mixture at higher engine speeds.  Here is a rough explanation of how the main circuit works, and I’ll have a go at explaining the idle circuit in the next post.

Throttle Positions

As we saw in the previous post the jet needle is fitted inside the throttle slide.  The throttle cable is attached to the throttle slide so that, as the throttle is twisted, it lifts the slide and jet needle. This allows additional fuel and air to be drawn in to the engine, increasing the speed.

main circuit components

The diagram below is based on the Keihin PB25A carburettor that was used in the Honda C90 z2 and shows what is going on when you twist the throttle:

note the sizes of the parts in this diagram are approximate

Idle to ⅛

When the throttle is closed the jet needle blocks the needle jet and fuel is not able to pass.

As the throttle is turned between the ⅛ position to about ¼ turn, the straight part of the jet needle continues blocking the needle jet and prevents fuel being delivered via the main circuit. At this stage fuel delivery is controlled by the idle circuit.

¼ throttle to ¾ throttle

At about a ¼ throttle, the taper on the jet needle reaches the top of the needle jet allowing fuel through. At this point the volume of fuel delivered is determined by the size of the needle jet, the position of the jet needle and the degree it is tapered: as the jet needle is lifted the space it occupies in the needle jet orifice decreases and more fuel can pass

As the needle is raised the throttle slider also lifts, increasing the size of the venturi opening and allowing more air in to balance the additional fuel.   The fact that the movement of the slide constantly changes the size of the venturi opening is the reason this type of carburettor is sometimes called “variable venturi”.

¾ throttle to full throttle

Beyond ¾ throttle the gap around the jet needle is no longer the constraining factor and the maximum rate that fuel can be delivered is determined by the size of the main jet.

Needle jet position

It is now easier to understand the effect of the position of the circlip on the needle jet has on carburetion:

needle jet with circlip installed in the middle groove

For instance, raising the circlip to a higher position delays the point the tapered part of the jet needle leaves the needle jet and this reduces the supply of fuel without a corresponding reduction in air delivered through the venturi. The result is a leaner mixture in the mid-throttle range.  Lowering the circlip has the opposite effect and makes the mixture richer.


One other important detail: the fuel delivered by the main circuit is actually mixed with air before it is sucked into the venturi. The air gets in via an air passageway that connects to the tube in which the main jet holder is installed:


Each time the piston descends a vacuum is created in the cylinder and atmospheric pressure causes the air to rush into this passage at the same time as fuel is being drawn from the fuel chamber below. The air enters through the holes drilled in the main jet holder where it mixes with the fuel and creating an emulsion of the two.

The main jet holder is sometimes called an “emulsion tube” for this reason and the passage delivering the air is sometimes called an “air bleed” since its purpose is introducing, or “bleeding”, air into the fuel stream.   Aerating the fuel in this way helps to atomise the fuel to aid combustion and the frothy fuel maintains a more stable height in the jet which helps prevent the engine being starved of fuel as the contents of the carburettor bowl slosh around when the bike is moving.

Since the jet needle tends to rattle inside the needle jet when the engine is running these parts can wear over time.   When this happens more fuel is delivered in the mid throttle range. As explained above, it may be possible to compensate for this temporarily by moving the circlip on the jet needle to a lower position, but ultimately the fix is to replace the needle and jet.

Next up the idle circuit.



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