How to Clean and Replace the Air Filter on Your Bike

How to Clean and Replace the Air Filter on Your Bike

Apr 29, '21

Motorcycle Air Filter Replacement Tips

Of all the motorcycle parts that make up your bike, air filters are probably the humblest, yet they are essential. They are not flashy like motorcycle handlebars or chrome motorcycle wheels, but they are necessary for a well-performing engine and air intake system. Motorcycle air filters trap dirt, dust, and other particulate matter, preventing that debris from entering your bike’s engine and eroding your piston rings and cylinder walls. Air filters, also called air filter elements, are commonly found within motorcycles air cleaners or attached to the intakes of carburetors.

Essentially, air filters function as a protective layer for your engine. Air filters that are clogged up are not effective at blocking debris which can then lead to a lack of power, abnormal engine noises, and other problems with your bike. That is why regular motorcycle air filter replacement is important. Read this simple guide to learn when to replace air filters in your motorcycle.

Different Types of Motorcycle Air Filters

Before getting into the specifics of replacing and maintaining your bike’s air filters, take a deep dive into the different types of replacement air filters commonly available to motorcycle enthusiasts. 

  • OEM Paper Air Filters – Most street motorcycles come stock with an air filter that is pleated and made of paper or cellulose. These OEM paper air filters are inexpensive, but they are disposable and cannot be cleaned. Once they get dirty, you must get rid of paper filters and replace them with new ones. The element is pleated to increase the filter’s total debris load. Since their prioritized function is to filter particulates, they are restrictive and do not maximize airflow, unlike high-performance bike air filters.
  • Oiled Cotton Gauze – Aftermarket options include oiled cotton gauze air filters. Resembling paper filters, they have pleats, but these pleats are made up of layers of oiled cotton gauze instead of a single pleated sheet of paper. Since cotton gauze is more porous, it allows for increased airflow. The oiled filtering material can grab onto debris as dirty air swirls around the motorcycle engine which means cotton gauze air filters do not sacrifice total debris load. While they are often the most expensive option, oil-gauzed filters can be washed and reused multiple times. 
  • Oiled Foam – This type of air filter is favored by those who own off-road bikes because oiled foam air filters can hold a lot of dirt while still maintaining a decent airflow. Unlike paper filters, they are effective in dusty environments and take a long time to clog up. Another advantage they have over paper filters and cotton gauze filters is that the oil and foam aren’t absorbent to water, which means they can continue trapping debris when wet. Oiled foam filters typically utilize a one-inch-thick layer of fine to coarse foam material coated tacky oil is able to capture dirt and grime. Reusable, clogged foam filters need to be washed and re-oiled.
  • When to Replace Air Filters in Motorcycles

    Typically, you are supposed to replace your air filters or have them cleaned every 10,000 to 15,000 miles. Checking your air filters or scheduling a motorcycle air filter replacement every time you get your engine oil changed is also recommended. This method is likely easier to keep track of for many bike riders.

    However, when to replace air filters in your motorcycle may depend on the type of filter you have, the environment you often ride in, and how much usage you are getting out of your bike. If you live in a sandy or polluted location, you might have to replace air filters every 2 to 3 months. If you are going off-road biking in a desert-like environment, clean and re-oil your foam films after every ride using an air filter maintenance care kit.

    At Demon’s Cycle, we are happy to answer any questions about motorcycle maintenance and services. If you have any questions about our wide collection of aftermarket and custom motorcycle parts, we’ll be happy to answer by phone or email. Contact us today!

    Additional Reading

    Motorcycle Maintenance 101

    Carburetor Jetting on a Harley-Davidson