How to Maintain Your Dirt Bike Air Filter

How to Maintain Your Dirt Bike Air Filter main image

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The lifeblood of any internal combustion engine is a mixture of an accelerant (fuel) and also oxygen as a fire needs air to burn bright, so with a dirty filter your bike simply won’t run right!

Now for an engine working in an environment which is trying to breathe through a constant barrage of flying dirt, mud, dust and for trail riders out there, seeds from plants and whatever else you happen to ride through you have to take a moment to realise there is only one small piece of foam protecting the delicate heart of your engine from all of those nasties!

There are three main types of air filters being paper, cotton and foam with the majority of dirt bikes being foam. In this article, we will focus on keeping your foam air filter happy and your bike always be breathing clean air!

Foam air filters are a relatively cheap option as they are washable and reusable for a number of times, the life expectancy of an air filter varies on the amount of hours you ride and also the conditions, but keeping track of the condition of the air filter will allow you to make the call on a replacement as over time the filter foam will degenerate and break down from cleaning.

How often should I check my air filter?

We recommend checking your air filter after every day you ride, even if it hasn’t been a particularly dusty day, if you have been riding trails there tends to be grass and plant seeds which get stuck in a filter which makes it hard for your engine to breathe. It only takes a minute to check (If you are unsure on where your filter is or how to remove it, consult your owner’s manual) and should be a staple part of your bike cleaning and preparation procedure!

How do I clean my dirt bike air filter?

The first step, apply some rubber gloves! This is a dirty job at the best of times, rubber gloves will keep your hands clean and prevent you from smelling like you work on an offshore oil rig.

To clean your filter first remove it from the bike and the housing cage, we recommend also covering your open filter duct with something to keep any debris from floating in there while your filter is being cleaned.

Following the correct procedure using the correct chemicals will ensure the filter is cleaned adequately with minimal damage to the foam.

 Using a chemical which is corrosive such as petrol can break down the glue which holds the filter together or begin to breakdown the foam itself, we recommend a purpose made dirt bike air filter cleaning product which is available in spray-on cans or a liquid which you pour into a container and submerge the filter in.

Once you’ve massaged the filter cleaner in, rinsing the filter under warm water will remove any bits of dirt or debris. The next step is similar, although this time you’ll want to massage the filter in a bucket of warm, soapy water - any dishwashing soap will do the trick.

Rinse the filter again under warm water, and if the filter returns to its usual colour when excess water is removed, then it’s ready to air out and dry. If it isn’t, repeat this process once or twice more.

How to prepare clean air filters for oiling:

Pre-oil preparation is an extremely important step in maintaining your filter. First things first, make sure the filter is dry, as applying oil to a damp or wet filter will trap moisture within the filter and can cause major dramas to your engine.

The next step is to turn your filter inside out and then bang out your filter to remove any dirt that’s remained stuck in the filter - to do this, simply hit the filter against your hand a number of times, turning it around to get all areas of the filter.

Following this, you’ll want to hit the filter with an air compressor, and this just ensures any dirt that’s surfaced from the previous step is well and truly removed. This is an extra measure to prevent any dirt or debris from making its way into your engine.

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How do I oil my dirt bike air filter?

Once your filter is clean and dry you can then re-oil the filter by spraying or pouring dirt bike filter oil on the outside of the element, use a generous amount and ensure you massage the oil through the filter so it has even coverage over the entire external surface.

If it is a twin-layer filter make sure you oil both elements as the oil is what dirt and debris sticks to so the clean air can then pass through to your engine. You should also run a thin bead of grease around the surface of the filter which seals to your bike as the added stickiness of the grease will ensure a better seal.

Remember to make sure the airbox is clean before installing your newly-oiled filter.

How to choose the right air filter:

Majority of dirt bikes use a foam air filter that is reusable, and an aftermarket filter is likely one of the first things you'll need for your dirt bike. The standard OEM units are generally made of a single-layer foam and don't provide the level of protection of an aftermarket filter. Leading air filter brands such as Uni Filter, Motorex, Twin Air, and Funnelweb, all make their filters with dual-stage foam - this ensures your engine is being protected in the best possible way, while still receiving enough airflow.

Air filters are also made specifically for each dirt bike model, so ensure you're filter matches the manufacturer, model, and year of your bike. Using a filter from a different model could allow dirt to be sucked into the engine, causing a catastrophic mechanical failure.

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