How To Clean The Air Filter On Your Dirt Bike

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The air filter on your bike handles the massive responsibility of preventing sand, dirt and foreign materials from entering your dirt bike’s engine.

It can only perform its job properly if it is kept clean. If allowed to become dirtier than Arnie in his prime, it won’t be able to keep out all the dirt. Plus your bikes performance will be affected by the lack of air flow through the mud-caked breathing holes in the filter. There is nothing exciting about cleaning the air filter, but if you neglect to do it on a regular basis you can cause some real damage to the piston and barrel and also block up the carby.

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What your filter looks like after a few hours riding in the dunes! Before cleaning and after cleaning shots.

Here are 7 easy steps to cleaning the dirty bugger:

  • Firstly, make sure the area around the air box is clean. Take the air filter out making sure no muck falls into the air intake. Place a clean rag in the intake while you have it exposed.
  • Now, depending on what oil you have previously used on the filter, you can either rinse it straight out in a bucket of warm water with washing powder. Or, if it doesn’t come clean you may have to rinse it first in mineral turpentine (not petrol – this will potentially dissolve it).I use and can recommend No Toil biodegradable filter cleaner and filter oil.
  • Squeeze out the excess water and allow it to dry properly.
  • While it’s drying, clean the air box. This will have dust and dirt stuck to the inside that needs to be cleaned out.
  • Once the filter is dry – I’ve found the best way to apply the filter oil evenly is to squirt the oil into a plastic bag, then chuck the filter in. Give it a good squeeze and a massage… have fun with it! When it’s soaked, wring out the excess so there’s no heavy patches of oil and allow to dry for half an hour.
  • Apply grease around the rim of the filter. This will ensure a good seal.
  • Screw the filter (and the plastic filter cage) back into position. Run your fingers along the circumference of the filter and ensure there is a complete seal around the air box flange.Certain brands/models, like KTM, have the air filter located on the side of the bike or in other unique places. The process of cleaning the filter remains the same. Just make sure you put it back in properly.

Tip: Don’t do what I’ve done here and use your bare hands. Use some throw-away latex gloves as the chemicals in these products aren’t good for you long term.

When cleaning the filter, always check for holes or tears. If there are any replace it immediately! A new filter is less than $30. Don’t risk damaging the engine or gunking up the carby because you are lazy, or you’d rather spend the money on a cold dozen for after the ride.

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Jim Harmer

I'm the co-owner of Dirt Bike Planet. I live in Star, Idaho and enjoy dirt biking with my wife and two boys throughout the Idaho mountains.

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