Tech Tip Tuesday: Air Filters 101

Air Filter Maintenance
When Riding in Dusty, Muddy, or Sandy Conditions, Don’t Neglect Your Air Filter!

Your air filter is your first and main line of defense against the elements that you ride in. Without it, harmful dirt, dust, sand, mud, and water would enter your engine causing engine failure. If you ride in extremely dusty, sandy, or muddy conditions (who doesn’t?) then it’s a good idea to inspect your air filter after each ride. Here’s a few tips to keep your dirt bike, ATV, or Side by Side/UTV’s air filter in tip top condition:

Inspect: Inspecting the air filter is pretty straightforward, but many people neglect to

Dirty ATV Air Filter
Typical dirty air filter that needs cleaning. This one is out of a Polaris Sportsman.

inspect the air box and boot as well. If your filter is dirty it’s time to clean it. Once you remove the filter, inspect the boot for dirt which might indicate a leak or crack. Clean the air box and drain tube if necessary making sure to block off the intake with an air filter cap or something similar to keep water from going into the intake and carburetor.

Clean: Intervals between cleaning will vary depending on your riding conditions, but it’s a good idea to clean your filter minimum every few rides and every ride if it’s muddy, sandy, or very dusty. To clean the filter, use a good biodegradable air filter cleaner. Some use gasoline or kerosene, but they can be dangerous and harsh on the air filter glue used to hold it together. Once it’s degreased and cleaned, a second stage of cleaning can be done with a mix of 1/2 water 1/2 Simple Green. Soak it for 5 minutes and work it with your hands gently. Afterwards shake off as much water as you can and let it air dry.

Air Filter Cleaner and Oil
Biodegradable cleaner and oil are easy on your filter as well as the environment and work just as good

Oil: Air filter oil is designed to hold up to dust, dirt, and fuel. They typically pour out of the bottle thin to coat filter easily and then evaporate to become sticky to trap particles. There is no good substitute for a good air filter oil (especially not WD-40). No-Toil makes theirs biodegradable and is cleanable with degreaser and water. If you’re not into oiling and cleaning filters, you can buy pre-oiled filters from No-Toil or Maxima, just double check that the oil is distributed evenly before installation (foam should be uniform in color).

Grease: Apply a thin layer of grease to the filter sealing surface of the airbox to prevent air leakage at the mounting surface. A good waterproof grease will work well. Also make absolutely certain that the filter is mounted securely and correctly on the filter frame or leaks will happen.

Sand, Mud, and Water Protection: Those that have an oiled air filter and ride at the sand dunes quickly find that they must clean their filter every ride, due to sand build up on the sticky air filter media. An excellent product to prevent sand, water, and mud from contaminating your filter as quickly is Outerwears. They are an easily washable outerfilter that repels water, mud and sand to keep your primary filter cleaner longer meaning you don’t have to fuss with your filter every ride! These are especially beneficial on dirt bikes and machines where the air filter isn’t as sheltered (such as the Polaris RZR). The best part is they are reusable and washable!

Dirt Air Filter
If you see spider webs and bird crap on your air filter, chances are you haven’t ridden your machine in awhile and you might want to put your air box cover back on…and seat.

When to Replace Air Filter:Filters eventually wear out and need to be replaced. If you see foam crumbling, seams coming apart, or tears, it’s time to throw out that filter and get a new one. If you’re not sure, it’s a good idea to replace your filter after about 20 cleanings to be safe. Remember, an engine will seize very quickly if dirt is introduced into the combustion chamber, so it is better to err on the safe side when it comes to air filters and maintenance.

We hope these tips helped and that your bike will be breathing better with a newly cleaned air filter. Now get out and ride that beast.

Want a tech question answered? Send us your tech tip ideas at techtips@gearhead.com and we may include it in our next post.

ATV Air Filter
ATV Air Filters from $7.35
Dirt Bike Air Filter
Dirt Bike Air Filters from $7.35
UTV Air Filter
Side by Side Air Filters from $7.35
Outerwears Prefilter
Outerwears Pre-filter from $11.95

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