Clean Motorcycle Air Filters to Prolong Engine Life

If your motorcycle is running a little rough it may time for a tune-up. But before you go to all that trouble of breaking into the carburetor do a simple check of your motorcycle’s air filter and clean it out with a motorcycle air cleaner.

Fuel to Air Ratio

By design, it is necessary that outside air mixes with the gasoline inside the carburetor. This is called the fuel to air ratio. Not enough air and the mixture will be off, affecting how smooth the engine will ride. This is the case when a filter is clogged. The engine will run lean – meaning it will feel a little sluggish. And just the opposite is true if there is too much air. The motorcycle’s engine will run hotter and you’ll feel as if the motorcycle has less power.

The purpose of the air filter is to prevent dirt from getting inside the engine. Although you can’t see it, the air around us is filled with microscopic dirt particles. When you’re on the road riding at high speeds you encounter lots of fast-moving air. Road dust ultimately finds its way getting sucked towards the engine through the air intake parts of the motorcycle engine. As stated earlier, an engine needs air and is designed to pull air into the carburetor to mix with the gasoline.

But once even the smallest dirt particles get inside an engine, they have an abrasive effect slowly wearing down the walls of the cylinders, the rings, and valves. This is one the causes that can lead to engine failure.

Motorcycle Air Filters

Motorcycle air filters are either paper, foam, or fabric. The paper filters are disposable, although you can knock off lots of the dirt and debris and reuse a time or two. Foam or fabric are more expensive and are intended to be reused many times and washed between each use.


An air filter will be located on the motorcycle attached to the engine. Most often the filter is inside a protective cover. On some motorcycles the filter is inside a shiny chrome compartment with the motorcycle’s brand logo. These come off with a screw.

Step #1 – The first thing to do is knock off loose dirt whether you have a paper, foam, or fabric filter.

Step #2 – Purchase a motorcycle air cleaner at the local auto parts store. Gently rub or spray this into the air filter. The cleaner will remove grime attached to the filter that you weren’t able to knock off.

Step #3 – If foam or fabric, wash the filter in warm soapy water. Use Dawn dishwashing soap as it is formulated to cut grease. Wash thoroughly until visibly clean and then rinse.

Step #4 – Allow to dry. You don’t want to put a wet filter inside your motorcycle. You want to keep all moisture outside your motorcycle’s engine. A can of compressed air can also be used to dry the filter.

Step #5 – Wipe down the housing with water and a little soap. Dry thoroughly before reinserting the filter.

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