How to Clean a Motorcycle Air Filter? (Why You Need to Do It)

A motorcycle air filter is a very beneficial motorcycle part, and it does a significant task. It keeps your motorcycle engine filled with fresh air and prevents harmful particles from entering your engine.

Having that in mind, you need to run a proper service on your motorcycle air filter and change it according to your service or periodical schedule. By doing so, you protect your engine and ensure it has a longer lifespan.

In this article, we will cover basic topics about your motorcycle air filter and everything that has to do with it, like the most important things, how to clean your air filter and why you should do it in the first place.

So how do you clean a motorcycle air filter? As a general rule, the first thing you need to do is take off your air filter and clean your motorcycle to ease yourself with the process of reinstalling the air filter. Clean the filter with water and cleaner, and after it is completely dry, oil it. Once the filter is oiled, return it on your bike.

Later in this article, we will cover more in-depth this information, so don’t worry; you will learn everything you need to know about your motorcycle air filter. Stay with us not to miss a thing since this information can help you in the future, as it did to many of my rider friends.

How to Clean a Motorcycle Air Filter?

So, you have been riding on off-road terrain for a while, and you decide to check your air filter. If you have ever done it, you shouldn’t have any problems with it, but the riders who may deal with an air filter for the first time may wonder how to do it and where to start?

Step 1: Take out the Air Filter

The first step you need to do is open the airbox and remove the filter. This shouldn’t be a problem, but you need to be careful while performing this, and the reason is to prevent any dirt, especially if there are any large clumps of dirt from getting to the air boot while you are removing the air filter out.

CAUTION: Dirt particles are so tiny that they can get in almost every part of your motorcycle. That is why you need to be careful while removing the air filter because you don’t want any later problems that these dirt particles can cause.

Step 2: Protect Air Intake

A vacuum is your friend in this process. After taking the air filter out, take a filter cover and use it to close the air intake.

Step 3: Wash the Bike

Washing your motorcycle will make the process of reinstalling the air filter later much easier.

Step 4: Check Your Air Filter

Take your air filter and clean it thoroughly, and once it is clean, oil it. Every rider has their own number of times to reuse the filter. This number can be up to 10. I wouldn’t advise you to do it more than 10 times but to buy a new air filter and install it on your bike. Check your air filter before you start cleaning it to determine if it is still good to go or it needs to be changed. This will save you a lot of time since you won’t wash a filter that is worn out, but you will throw it and install a new one.

Note: Cleaning your air filter too many times lowers glue’s effect on the filter. It will also cause the foam to be brittle and fall apart as time passes, and the heat that is developed while riding does its job.

Step 5: Clean Your Air Filter

If you conclude that your air filter is still in nice condition and good to go, you will have to clean it. To clean the filter, you will need to use a solvent to clean the petroleum-based oil from your air filter. The next thing you need to do is wash it in warm soapy water. By doing so, you will clean the filter and make it ready for oiling.

If you have No Toil filters, you need to wash and clean them in a slightly different way. These filters have a system that saves your time and makes it easier since you don’t have to use gasoline or solvent for cleaning them.

Proprietary non-petroleum oil is used in No Toil filters, which works along with a cleaner that doesn’t have a solvent. The cleaner breaks down this biodegradable oil which is very useful. Warm water and the cleaner is all you need.

Soak the filter in warm water and leave it for about 5 minutes. After that time, squeeze the filter to remove all the dirt and oil. The biodegradable oil, dirt, and cleaner can be washed down the drain. Some riders take their No Toil filters and wash them in the washing machine.

Step 6: Oil Your Air Filter

After washing, cleaning, and drying your filter, you need to oil it. Take oil, pour it on the air filter, and spread it on the entire filter. Search for any places where there is no color from the oil, which means that there is no oil, and cover it with the oil because these spots without oil will let dirt particles through.

To oil the filter, take a ziplock bag and put an air filter inside since it will make this step much easier because the filter will be entirely covered.

Step 7: Grease the Lip

Once you have oiled the filter, you need to grease the lip. By doing so, the filter will be sealed better to the air boot seal, and any possible leakage will be stopped. If your filter gets dirty while riding, any foreign material will also be stopped from passing through.

Tip: Put a decent amount of waterproof grease on it.

Step 8: Return the Filter

Take the filter and reinstall it on your motorcycle. While reinstalling the filter, make sure that all the sealing surfaces and tabs line up, and that’s it. Your bike is ready for another ride.

Importance of the Air Filter?

If you want your bike to last as long as possible, you want clean air to be used in your motorcycle operation process. Every motorcycle with an internal combustion engine uses air as a needed element to work. Any air will be enough for the engine to operate, but if the air is dirty, the engine won’t work for a long time, at least at the optimal level.

With that being said, you need your air system functional, and the best thing you can start with is having your air filter clean and functional.

If you want to know How to Change a Motorcycle Air Filter, click on this link where we explain everything in detail.

Street motorcycles are pretty simple to service; you just need to take out the air filter and replace it with a new one. Motorcycles that are more involved in a dirt environment, like dirt bikes, have a little more complex process that will be explained in this article.

Street motorcycles air filter servicing is simple to perform. All you need to do is find the air filter, take it off, inspect a good seal and determine that there is no dust or dirt behind the filter, and install a new air filter. Air filters are paper-made most of the time, while they can also be a gauze type.

Changing these types of air filters is a lot easier to do than a foam air filter change, like in the case of adventure bikes, dirt bikes, and some types of street bike racing motorcycles.

Why Should You Clean Your Air Filter?

Cleaning air filters save your motorcycle engine from malfunctioning and, in the worst case, even from engine death. It does it in a way that prevents any dust, silt, and even the tiniest particles that you can not see with your eyes from getting into your engine. All of these particles cant pass the filter, and this is the reason why an air filter is so significant and why you should take good care of it.

Also, if you have some level of experience with motorcycles (don’t worry if not, that is why we are here to help you and pass you as much of our knowledge as possibly we can), you know that an engine runs so much better when it receives more air, this is another bonus point for an air filter.

If your air filter is clogged, it can lead to many reasons connected with your bike’s performance losses, not to mention that a heavily plugged-up air filter will threaten the seal on your airbox filter.

One of the characteristics of the air is that it will always find the way of least resistance, which means that it could travel through the route where it doesn’t suppose to, which can lead to all kinds of issues, like damaging some motorcycle components or lowering your motorcycle’s performance. In this case, the air will likely find the way between the airbox seal and air filter, which will cause harmful particles to get inside your engine parts like cylinders, seals, piston rings, valve seats, and lower-end parts if a lot of dirt and particles gets sucked inside.

How Does an Air Filter Stop Harmful Particles from Getting into Engine?

A foam motorcycle air filter has a sticky oil that is used as a medium that prevents dirt and other harmful particles from getting into the engine. It does it by trapping the particles as they pass through the cellular structure of the air filter.

The oil that is on the filter causes the dirt to stick on the filter and stops it from passing to the engine and doing any harm. Dirty air enters the air filter, and if the filter is oiled, which it should be if you service and maintain it periodically, the clean air will leave the filter from its inside or backside. This is a pretty simple solution, but you need to be meticulous and do your service as required.

Here is a nice video from Motorcyclist Magazine about cleaning the air filter:

Final Thoughts

The motorcycle air filter needs to be in proper condition at all times, and that is why I wrote this article about cleaning it since I want to help all fellow riders to deal with any problem that can occur on their motorcycles. Following this step-by-step guide should help you in the process of taking your air filter off the bike, cleaning it, and returning it back on.

We hope you like this article and that it has helped you with everything you needed to know.


Hello there fellow motorcycle enthusiasts; I’m Mihael. The first motorcycle I had was a scooter Gilera vxr 200 from 2003. This is the motorcycle I fell in love with, which brought me into the moto world. Since then, I have been riding many kinds of bikes, from dirt bikes to race bikes. At the moment, I have a Kawasaki Z750 from 2004, and all I can say is that it is a hell of a bike. I have been riding motorcycles for the last 10 years, and during this period, I have been to many locations where I would probably not be without my bike. My goal is to give you the best advice and tips possible that I have been using myself and that all of my biker friends find helpful to them as well.

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