A little bit of dirt on your air filter may sound like a small issue, but it can have a big impact on how your motorcycle runs. Your filter guards the entrance to your engine, allowing fresh air to enter while keeping out the nasties. If your filter is too dirty, your engine won’t get enough air. A big part of maintaining your motorcycle is knowing both how to clean and when to change a motorcycle’s air filter.

Your motorcycle air filter can basically be described as an intake valve that allows clean air in to help your fuel burn and keep impurities out. Like most other motorcycle parts, it comes in different types and different materials. And like most other motorcycle parts, it sometimes needs to be cleaned and replaced so that your motorbike can continue running. This is the Taverner Motorsports guide to cleaning, maintaining and replacing your motorcycle’s air filter: how to know when it’s dirty and whether it’s time to repair or replace.

The Purpose of Motorcycle Air Filters

As you’re well aware, your motorcycle’s engine operates by burning a very precise mix of oxygen and gas. Air passes through the filter, mixes with the fuel and reaches the combustion chamber, where it makes the engine run. Yet riding your bike involves dealing with contaminants in the air like dirt, dust, grime and smog. Your motorcycle’s air filter stops these impurities from interfering with the combustion process and causing harm to your engine.

The air filter is a vitally important component of your motorbike, and without it, your piston rings and cylinder walls would wear down quickly. Replacing your motorcycle air filter is a major responsibility, and knowing when to change it makes a world of difference.

Motorcycle air filters most commonly come in paper, foam or cotton varieties, with paper filters being the most popular and widely used.

How frequently should you be replacing your motorcycle air filter? The answer (which is fairly typical for anything motorcycle-related) is that it depends on the model of bike you have, the type of air filter and the conditions you usually ride in. Every 6,000 to 12,000 kilometres is a good general guideline. But for more specific information, it’s worth consulting your owner’s manual.

Of course, you may not be aware that it’s time to clean or replace your air filter until you start having problems. Issues with the way your motorcycle is running can often tell you that cleaning or replacing your motorcycle air filter is on the cards.

Symptoms of a Dirty Motorcycle Air Filter

If your motorcycle’s air filter has become dirty and clogged, you may notice some of the following issues:

  • An increased consumption of fuel. When your motorbike’s engine doesn’t get enough air, it has to work a lot harder than usual.
  • Delayed throttle response. If your motorbike drags along or feels sluggish when you accelerate, that’s one of the tell-tale signs of a dirty air filter.
  • A loss of response and power, particularly at high rpms.
  • Strange noises. For example, a clogging or popping noise when you start the engine.
  • Overheating.
  • Dark-coloured exhaust gas.
  • The check engine light is on.

And, of course, one of the clearest signs is when you inspect the air filter for yourself and find that it’s dirty.

Sometimes, replacing a motorcycle air filter is the best possible option. Other times, your filter just needs a good clean.

Cleaning Your Motorcycle Air Filter

Cleaning a motorcycle air filter isn’t too difficult, but there are some dos and don’ts to observe. Avoid cleaning with gasoline, as this will just take the residue off your foam filters. Remember to clean the airbox. Use filter-specific cleaners, and for best results, use a cleaner made for your specific filter.

Here is our brief guide to how to clean your motorcycle air filter:

Make sure you have the right tools

Before you clean your filter, make sure you have gloves, turps, filter cleaner or detergent, filter oil, grease and a plastic ziplock bag.

Remove the air filter

Put on a pair of latex gloves and use a damp rag to wipe the airbox. Remove the filter, taking care not to drop muck into the intake.

Apply the turpentine

Pour some turpentine onto your air filter and squeeze it until the liquid goes right through it. If you’ve used filter oil to treat your filter, you can skip this and go straight to washing it.

Wash the filter

Give the filter a decent wash in some warm, soapy water or dishwashing liquid and let it dry.

Grease the air filter

Add some grease to make the seal a bit tighter and reduce the chance of dirt getting through.

Reattach the air filter

Screw the air filter back into the motorbike and reattach any covers.

So, how do you know when cleaning it won’t cut it and when to change your motorcycle air filter instead?

Replacing Your Motorcycle Air Filter

There’s a general guideline that says you should be replacing your motorcycle’s air filter every 15,000 to 20,000 kilometres or once per year. Of course, if you frequently ride on dirty or dusty roads, you should do it a little more often than that. Your owner’s manual should contain an exact figure.

The first step in replacing your motorcycle air filter is to find where it’s located, which is usually somewhere under the seat or fuel tank. When in doubt, check your owner’s manual. When it comes to a new air filter, you have so many options to choose from. Luckily, professionals are there to help if you’re not sure which materials and measurements suit your bike best. If your filter has a “drop-in” design, you should be able to slide it right onto your airbox.  However, if it’s slip-on pod style, some lubricant on the end will make it easier to slip into its housing. 

Routine Motorcycle Maintenance at Taverner Motorsports

Whether you need help replacing your motorcycle air filter or have a bigger motorcycle maintenance job in mind, Taverner Motorsports is happy to help.

Taverner performs comprehensive routine maintenance services in order to keep your motorbike in first-rate condition. Not only will we check the key components like the engine, brakes and tyres, but we’ll also change the oil and replace the filters, including replacing the motorcycle air filter. 

You can make sure your motorcycle stays in prime condition by regularly booking it for a major service. This service covers all the essentials required to keep your motorcycle running smoothly, from replacing the oils and filters to adjusting the chain and clutch to taking it for a test ride and presenting a condition report.

For more information on everything from the basics, like when to change a motorcycle air filter, to our services and parts for sale, contact the Taverner team and request a quote.