How to Clean an Air Filter on a Motorcycle

Servicing a motorcycle can cost over $1,000 annually for basic service needs. Fees add up even higher when you can’t do maintenance tasks independently.

Knowing basic motorcycle maintenance, like cleaning air filters, can save you money and keep your motorcycle in excellent condition long-term. Learning how to clean an air filter on a motorcycle may seem overwhelming, but it’s easy once you learn more about the process.

Keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about cleaning an air filter on a motorcycle.

Importance of Motorcycle Air Filter Cleaning

A motorcycle engine needs to burn fuel and allow air in freely. Oxygen is essential for proper internal combustion, but dirt and debris particles can get in the way.

Therefore, your motorcycle needs a clean air filter to breathe properly. The air filter prevents road debris, dirt, and dust particles from entering your engine.

Even when you have a slightly dirty air filter, your engine can begin to lose power. This is because debris and dirt particles can make their way into the combustion chambers.

Types of Air Filters

Next, you’ll need to know more about the different types of air filters to understand better how to clean and change them. The three common motorcycle air filters include:

Paper Air Filters

Many motorcycles come with paper filters as the standard motorcycle air filter. The paper is thicker and porous, much like coffee filters. You’ll also notice the paper is pleated to allow more air to enter the combustion chamber.

It’s effective at blocking particles, but in most cases, you must replace them once they’re too dirty. If you try to clean them, it will likely result in puncturing holes, making them useless.

While paper air filters do the job, they don’t remove as much debris as other filters. So, if you do a lot of off-road riding, upgrading to a more durable filter is wise.

Gauze Air Filters

Gauze air filters use layers of fabric instead of paper. Most of the time, they’re made from cotton layers separated by wire mesh frames.

Gauze filters are soaked with oil which allows them to catch the particles. The fabric in gauze filters is more porous than paper filters, so you get better airflow.

You can wash, re-oil, and re-use gauze air filters; they’re a good option if you’re looking for a more powerful engine.

Foam Air Filters

Foam air filters are the thickest type of filter and have visibly large porous holes. They allow your engine maximum airflow and can efficiently block most particles from entering the engine.

Foam filters are common in off-road bikes since they’re perfect for dusty areas and can block larger contaminants.

However, foam filters can get clogged up quickly, so you must replace them more often.

If you want a new air filter for a motorcycle, you can check out this site to learn about your options.

How to Clean an Air Filter on a Motorcycle

Before you get down to the cleaning process, you’ll need to do some initial prep work, which includes:

Get Rid of Loose Dirt

The first step you need to take is to eliminate the loose dirt. You’ll need to do this first, no matter your filter type. It’s easy enough to do, you simply knock off as much excess dirt as possible. 

Find a Quality Air Filter Cleaner and Oil Spray

You should stick to the cleaner recommended by the manufacturer of the brand of air filter you have.

If you’re unsure of the brand or want to go with a different type of cleaner, be sure the cleaner is specific to your air filter. 

You’ll also need to purchase air filter oil. It sticks to the fabric or foam of the filter and leaves a sticky residue. This helps the filter trap dirt and debris particles. It prevents dirt and debris from passing through the filter into your engine.

Remember, not all oil is created for this job. You must find an oil that’s formulated for air filters. It has a specific viscosity that allows it to work perfectly with the filter.

You can usually find an air filter cleaner kit with everything you need, including the oil. If you don’t want to buy a kit, you can use dish soap and water and purchase the oil separately.

However, remember that when cleaning gauze filters, it’s best to have a specific filter cleaner that removes oil and debris.

Cleaning a Paper Filter

As mentioned before, discarding the old paper filter and inserting a new one is best.

Paper filters are generally tricky to clean. Rinsing them with water will disintegrate the paper. You can attempt to brush them off gently. This will loosen up the particles and slightly extend the filter’s life.

However, be aware that this doesn’t remove the smaller particles. You’ll continue to have build-up until you completely change the filter.

Cleaning a Gauze Filter

Remove the filter and spray thoroughly with cleaner. Knead the cleaner gently into the filter. Be sure not to wring out the filter, or you can cause damage.

Kneading the filter gently helps remove the grime and dirt stuck inside. 

Once you’ve cleaned the entire filter, you’ll need to rinse it with clean water until all the dirt particles and old oil are gone. You’ll use the same process if you’re using soap and water instead of a cleaner. 

Once clean, let the filter completely dry before applying the new filter oil. It’s critical not to rush this part of the process and try to dry the filter using heat. 

This can break down the glue that holds the filter together. Once dry, spray the filter with oil, ensuring the filter is completely covered.

Cleaning a Foam Filter

You’ll use the same process for cleaning a foam filter; you’ll just need to work the cleaner through carefully. Foam filters are dense, so they usually require frequent cleanings and can take longer to dry.

Gently squeeze out the excess oil, and don’t be tempted to wring out a foam filter. Like gauze filters, you’ll cause damage and need a new filter.

How Often Should You Clean a Motorcycle Air Filter?

Proper motorcycle care includes changing your filter regularly. How often you do this depends on how often you ride your motorcycle and where you’re riding. 

You should generally clean your filter every time you ride or every other ride. Air filters will typically last up to 10,000 miles before you need to change them completely.

Watch for symptoms of a dirty filter like:

  • Slow throttle response
  • Increased fuel consumption
  • Black exhaust gas
  • Engine overheating

Finally, do more research on the do’s and don’ts of filter maintenance to ensure you’re doing everything you need to do.

Cleaning Your Motorcycle Air Filter

Now that you know how to clean an air filter on a motorcycle, the process will be much less overwhelming. You’ll also keep your motorcycle running smoothly for years to come.

Don’t be afraid to ask for professional help if you feel stuck. All it takes is a few visits to a mechanic to learn the basics of motorcycle maintenance.

For more automotive tips and tricks, be sure to read the rest of our blog articles today.

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