Honda C90 – carb main circuit

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This Kehin 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.

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.


This diagram 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 are approximate

Idle to

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 ⅛ position to about the ¼ 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 pilot circuit (more on that in the next post).

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 1)The fact that the movement of the slider 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.

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

One other important detail: the fuel delivered by the main circuit is actually mixed with air before it is sucked into the venturi (this is done to help atomise the fuel and improve combustion). The air gets in via an air passageway that connects to the part of the casting surrounding the main jet holder:


The vacuum in the venturi pulls air through this passage at the same time as it draws fuel from the fuel chamber below. The air is pulled through the holes drilled in the main jet holder where it mixes with the fuel and the resulting emulsion is then drawn into the venturi.

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” passage since its purpose is introducing, or “bleeding”, air into the fuel stream (the carburettor industry is in dire need of some standard naming conventions, every part has several alternative possible names!)

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.


1 The fact that the movement of the slider constantly changes the size of the venturi opening is the reason this type of carburettor is sometimes called “variable venturi”

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