It is important to clean a dirt bike regularly to maintain the performance of your machine. While cleaning the air filter seems like a small and easy task, the procedure is crucial for the engine’s longevity and efficiency. It prevents harmful particles from reaching the engine and potentially causing damage.
In this guide, I outlined a simple step-by-step procedure to help you learn how to clean a dirt bike air filter.
I’m a motorcycle enthusiast, and I’ve been servicing my dirt bike for over a decade to keep it in top condition. Cleaning the air filter is a part of maintenance, and I can give you a complete guide to help you do it the right way.
How to Clean a Dirt Bike Air Filter
When cleaning a dirt bike air filter, begin by removing it from the air filter cage to get it ready for the process. Then, apply an air filter cleaner, wash it well afterward, and squeeze out excess water. After that, you can let it dry before reinserting it onto your bike.
It is essential to ensure the engine is completely cool before cleaning. Also, follow the complete manufacturer’s instructions for maintenance and cleaning. Usually, most foam air filters have the same cleaning procedure. You will find the step-by-step process in the section below.
Note: Remember to clean the air filter according to your Owner’s Manual. You will need a thorough cleaning about every 50,000 miles or when you can no longer see portions of the screen. But it is better to clean after every heavy ride for riders who drive in lots of dirt, dust, or gravel.
The Tools You Need to Clean a Dirt Bike Air Filter
Here are a few items you will need when cleaning a dirt bike air filter:
- A pair of gloves
- Filter oil/Turpentine
- Bucket/plastic bag
- Clean rag
- Paper towel
Clean a Dirt Bike Air Filter [Step-by-Step Process]
Step 1: Remove the Air Filter
Detach the seat from your bike to expose the air filter, and then take the filter out. You want to be careful not to drop dirt or debris onto the air box or intake when removing the filter. Working with a pair of rubber gloves is best since air filters are covered in oil and can be very messy. The gloves will also protect your hands against harsh chemicals.
After removing the air filter, place a clean paper towel over the intake (you will remove this when putting back the air filter). Then, If there is any housing on the filter, take out the wing bolt and remove the filter from its cage.
Ensure to look into the air box and clean it if any dirt has fallen in. To do so, spray the air box with a WD-40 or a contact cleaner and gently wipe it with a clean rag.
Step 2: Apply Air Filter cleaner
For this step, you will have to wash the dirty filter well using a good-quality air filter cleaning fluid.
Fill a bucket with about half a gallon of air filter cleaner and submerge the filter inside. Soak the filter for about 5 minutes. This will allow the solution to break down the oil, dirt, and grime on the filter.
After soaking, squeeze out the excess dirt and oil. Do not rub overly hard, twist, or ring out the filter; otherwise, you could damage the foam.
Then, rinse it warm until the water runs clean. Rinsing the filter under warm water removes remnant debris or dirt. Repeat the process if the air filter still looks dirty.
If you treat the air filter using filter oil, wash it with an air filter cleaner product. However, apply mineral turpentine instead if you did not use filter oil on the air filter.
Note: There are various types of solvents used to clean air filters. Some people prefer to use kerosene or automotive solvents to get the oil off. But the best air filter cleaners are from the air filter oil manufacturers. We recommend using the Maxima Air Filter Kit or the No Toil Filter Maintenance Kit. Avoid using degreasers or petrol as they could degrade or dissolve the filter materials.
Step 3: Wash With Detergent
Mix warm water with detergent, immerse the air filter, and massage gently. This will remove the cleaner fluid, kerosene, or automotive solvents from the filter. It will ensure they do not break down the oil when you re-oil the filter afterward.
We suggest using ordinary household detergents as they have no harsh chemicals. After washing, move it to a separate container and rinse it in clean, warm water.
Step 4: Inspect the Air Filter
Now inspect the filter and check if the glued seams are intact. Also, check for any rips, cuts, holes, or tears in the foam and see that the foam is not breaking down. If there are any of these issues, it might be time to replace your filter.
Remember to look at the corners to remove any dirt that may have stuck in the filter. An air filter that is in bad condition risks getting dirt in your engine.
Step 5: Dry
Carefully shake the air filter or squeeze it with a clean rag to drain excess water. This will speed up the drying process. Now set it down in a warm, dust-free environment, so it can thoroughly air dry.
Do not dry the filter using heat, as it might melt the glue that holds the seams together. Also, never leave the filter under direct sunshine since UV may make the foam harden or crack.
Ensure it is completely dry before proceeding to the next step. If water is left in, and you apply oil, you risk trapping moisture within the filter. This might eventually damage the engine.
Step 6: Apply Oil to the Filter
When applying oil, ensure you spread the oil evenly to every corner of the air filter. You can use different methods to oil the air filter:
- Get a bottle of oil and pour a small amount at the top of the filter. Then carefully put the oil on the entire air filter.
- Use an aerosol spray to spritz oil all over the filter. Then work it in with a gentle massage and let the oil wick for 20 minutes to get it even. Or;
- You can submerge the air filter in oil.
The latter is the best way to apply oil to the filter! This method ensures the oil gets everywhere in the form filter.
To submerge the air filter in oil, put fresh oil in a bucket or a plastic bag and dip the filter inside. After thoroughly saturating the filter, squeeze it out to eliminate excess oil. Do not twist or ring out, so you don’t damage the foam.
Next, massage the filter to spread the oil throughout the filter evenly. You should check if there are any dry spots. If you notice any dry spots, add more oil for perfect coverage. After finishing, hang it for some minutes to ensure the filter oil coagulates.
Note: You can use bio-oils, but remember that they are susceptible to breaking down. Once they break down, they can easily allow water to pass through in a wet environment.
Step 7: Grease the Air Filter
Put the air filter back on a clean cage. If the cage is dirty, clean it by spraying a small amount of contact cleaner and clearing the dirty spots using a rag. Then reinstall the cage and put a bit of grease around the edges of the rim.
Greasing is an extra precaution to make the filter seal tight against the surface of the air box. This part is important to prevent dirt or dust from getting to your engine. However, most modern bikes have a broader and tighter seal to cover the air filter, so you might not need to grease it.
Step 8: Reinsert the Air Filter
Now remove the paper towel you placed over the intake before refitting the filter. Then carefully hold the filter and put it back into the air box. Screw the wing nut into place and ensure everything lines up correctly.
It is essential to clean a dirt bike’s air filter to maintain a healthy engine. With time, the accumulation of debris, dust, and dirt will impede the airflow to the engine. A dirty air filter also will no longer prevent these particles from getting into your engine. This could damage the pistons, block the carburetor, and, in extreme cases, stop the engine from performing. But when cleaned, it ensures clean air enters the engine and combusts more fuel to provide more power.
Pro Tip: It helps to have a couple of air filters in preparation for your next ride. An air filter will only last for a while, even with regular cleaning. This is because, with time, the particles it stops from entering the intake system may rip, tear, or create holes in the foam.