Has the time come for you to replace the air filter on your motorcycle? Learn more about how to replace your filter to remove dust and dirt here.

Air filters prevent dust, dirt or other physical contaminants from making their way into your engine. With time, air filters can become clogged and dirty, robbing your engine of power and affecting your fuel mileage. In general, it is recommended to replace air filters every 10 to 15 thousand miles, however, this may vary depending on the type of filter you have.

Most manufacturers use filters made from a paper-like material, much like a coffee filter. Tiny pores in the filter material trap dirt and allow clean air into the engine. More modern filters come with a vicious treatment that traps smaller dust particles and stops them from entering the engine. OEM filters can restrict airflow due to their accordion-style design, and require replacement once they reach their recommended lifespan.

Aftermarket filters are popular among motorcycle enthusiasts as they offer better value over the long term and also offer less restrictive airflow while maintaining good cleaning capabilities. Popular brands such as K&N offer oiled-gauze filters, which are made up of several layers of cotton fabric sandwiched between metal screens. Oil foam filters are also quite common aftermarket choices as they offer great dirt-trapping abilities, especially in off-road applications.

Replacing the air filter

Replacing your motorcycle air filter can either be a very simple procedure or become quite an involved process, depending on the type of motorcycle.

On custom motorcycles, dirt bikes and ATVs, the carburettors or throttle bodies are often quite visible within the motorcycle frame. These filters are the easiest to service or replace as they use simple clamps around the air inlet. Larger, more complex motorcycles usually house air filters in a sealed airbox located under the fuel tank or somewhere around the motorcycle frame.

While owners’ manuals may not show the location of such parts, some internet research will give you a quick idea of where to find the air filter, as well as the work required to do the replacement.

With all jobs that require some disassembly, the key is to take your time. Doing anything in a hurry normally ends up in a pile of broken or spare parts. There is nothing more frustrating than scratching your head trying to figure out where a certain part goes or how it fits.

Prep your workspace in a manner that allows you to systematically pack parts in the order you remove them. Doing this allows you a clear order when reinstalling. Use ziplock bags to organise bolts and clamps, and label the bags as you remove the bolts. Using masking tape and a permanent marker on parts allows you to mark the orientation when it comes to reassembly. Taking pictures of the disassembly process is often a great way of cataloguing the process.

Work cautiously when it comes to removing or relocating fuel lines for the duration of the job and work in a well-ventilated area. When removing the fuel tank, be sure to turn the petcock (if fitted) to the off position.

Once you have gained access to the airbox, use compressed air or a brush to clean off any dirt before opening the airbox. Aftermarket filters may require treatment before fitment, so this will be a good time to prepare the filter before removing the old unit. Once the old air filter is removed, it is advisable to fit the replacement immediately. Allowing the air inlet to be open unnecessarily may cause unwanted objects to enter the engine. Start the reassembly process in reverse order of disassembly.

Take your time when reassembling and ensure that all parts are installed correctly. Because of tight tolerances in motorcycles, parts usually only fit one way, so if it needs an excessive amount of force, then you’re most likely not doing it quite right. Ensure that all parts are refitted and that all bolts, screws and clamps are tightened correctly.

Air filters are often overlooked when servicing motorcycles, especially when they are in hard to reach places. It is advisable to inspect your air filter in between servicing intervals; a clean looking air filter may not always mean that it is operating optimally. Where possible, use compressed air to blow out any unwanted debris or dirt in between service intervals.

With aftermarket filters, it is recommended to use the cleaning products designed by the air filter manufacturer. The use of non-prescribed cleaning products may affect warranties and performance. 

Always consider your skill level before undertaking any job yourself. Some jobs may seem simple enough on the surface but can take scary turns once you get into it. Take some time to research online and find videos of the process specific to your motorcycle; if it seems too complicated, then it is best left to a trained professional.




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