How To Clean the Air Filter on a Dirt Bike

A regular cleaning and oiling of the dirt bike air filter extends the lifespan of the dirt bike engine and the foam air filter itself. That’s why it’s important to know how to clean the air filter on a dirt bike. It’s something you can easily do by yourself without any hiccups.

Cleaning a dirt bike air filter involves 7 steps. You need to remove the air filter and inspect it for wear and tear, submerge the air filter into air filter cleaner, squeeze off the excessive cleaner, rinse the air filter with water, let it air dry, apply new air filter oil, and reinstall.

In this post, we will discuss the following topics:

Next, we will explain a quick and easy way for cleaning a dirt bike air filter. By following these instructions, you can save a ton of time and money.

Let’s dive in and go through the steps in detail.

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What Is a Dirt Bike Air Filter?

Learning how to clean the air filter on a dirt bike starts with understanding what the purpose of a dirt bike air filter is.

A dirt bike air filter is an air filter that covers the air intake of your dirt bike. It removes dirt from the air and prevents dust and dirt particles getting past the air filter and into the dirt bike engine.

In addition, a dirt bike air filter improves the airflow to the engine. Without an air filter, the debris in the air would land up in the engine causing unwanted damage. A better air quality increases performance and helps the engine from overheating.

A dirt bike air filter also increases speed and horsepower. When the air quality is higher, there is more oxygen that the engine needs for burning fuel. This makes the combustion better, which in turn improves the engine performance.

When there is a correct mixture of air, oxygen, and combustion, the engine is able to perform at higher levels. This results in a more efficient use of fuel and improved fuel economy. If the air filter is dirty, your dirt bike doesn’t get all the oxygen it needs, which in turn results in sluggish engine performance and poor fuel economy.

How Often Should You Clean Your Dirt Bike Air Filter?

Most dirt bike air filters are foam air filters that are reusable. So you can simply clean and degrease dirt bike filters once they’re dirty and then oil them again with a specific air filter oil. Dirt bike air filters will last several years in normal use when properly cleaned.

According to most manuals, dirt bike filters should be serviced frequently, depending on dust and/or rain conditions plus how often you are full throttle on the bike. So how often is “frequently”?

In general, it really depends on conditions how often you should clean your dirt bike air filter. If you have been riding motocross on a sandy and dusty track or doing enduro dirt biking on dusty and muddy trails for few hours, you should definitely clean the air filter on your dirt bike after the ride. However, if you have only been cruising and taking it easy on a terrain that has no sand or dust, you can get away without cleaning the air filter after every ride.

We recommend cleaning the dirt bike air filter every 2 to 4 rides or after each ride in very dusty conditions.

If you ride often on sandy and dusty tracks or trails, we recommend getting an air filter cover. It is an air filter cover that you slip over your regular air filter. Then when you have finished riding, you just pull the cover off and you’ll have a clean air filter. This way, you don’t need to clean the dirt bike air filter that often as the sand doesn’t get stuck in the sticky air filter. We regularly use this air filter cover below when we ride in dusty conditions as an extra layer of protection.

Tools Needed for Cleaning a Dirt Bike Air Filter

All in all, cleaning a dirt bike air filter is very simple and straightforward. Yet we have developed a unique cleaning process that makes it even easier to clean a dirt bike air filter.

These are the tools and items that you will need to clean the dirt bike air filter:

We regularly use all these products listed and linked above when we clean our dirt bike air filters. We like them a lot and can highly recommend them to all other dirt bike riders.

7 Steps for How To Clean the Air Filter on a Dirt Bike

When cleaning the dirt bike air filter, the goal is to get all sand, dirt, and other debris out of the air filter so that it doesn’t travel into the engine. At the same time, the old dirt bike air filter oil will be removed and replaced with new air filter oil that performs better.

The cleaning process will take about 20 minutes or so depending on how dirty the dirt bike air filter is and how regularly you have been cleaning and oiling the dirt bike air filter. We have divided the process for how to clean the air filter on a dirt bike in seven easy steps.

Check your dirt bike owner’s manual for the recommended air filter cleaning interval. We recommend performing a visual inspection each time you wash your dirt bike and decide if it’s time to clean the dirt bike air filter. In our case, it usually is that time.

Like we mentioned earlier, different conditions, such as dusty and muddy terrain, can quickly dirty the air filter. So it is important to regularly check how clean the air filter on your dirt bike is.

Now, let’s get started on how to clean the air filter on a dirt bike.

1. Remove the Dirty Air Filter and Inspect It for Wear

As the very first thing, put on a pair of rubber gloves as cleaning a dirt bike air filter will get dirty. Make sure that the rubber gloves you are using are oil resistant. We prefer nitrile rubber cloves when cleaning the dirt bike air filter as they seem to be very durable and do not tear easily.

Next, remove the side panel or the seat covering the air box depending on where the air filter is located on your dirt bike. The air filter is usually located on the left side of the dirt bike or sometimes under the seat.

After removing the side panel or the seat, you can access the air box and the air filter. The dirt bike air filter is held in place by a rubber clamp (if located on the side) or a retaining bolt and a washer (if located under the seat). Remove them at this point.

Before removing the air filter, wipe the area around the air box clean of any loose dirt that could potentially fall into the air box or intake. Only after that, remove the dirty air filter from the air box. Be careful and make sure that no loose dirt comes off the air filter either and finds its way into the intake. Once the dirty air filter is out, place an air box cover (or a clean rag) over the air intake to prevent any dirt dropping in while you clean the dirt bike air filter.

Remove the air filter cage that supports the foam filter and holds it in place in the air box.

Next, inspect the dirt bike air filter for damage. Look for any tears in the foam, split seems, and deteriorating rubber seal. If the foam air filter looks good, you can proceed with cleaning it. If not, we recommend throwing the air filter away and getting a new air filter.

We use the Twin Air filters linked below and like them a lot. We usually get the pre-oiled air filter as the price is very close to the regular air filter’s price. Then we just keep cleaning and oiling that pre-oiled air filter. Dirt bike air filters are make and model specific, so make sure to check that the air filter fits your dirt bike.

2. Submerge the Dirt Bike Air Filter Into the Air Filter Cleaner

Next, place the air filter into a bucket filled with dirt bike air filter cleaner. The purpose of this step is to remove the dusty and sandy air filter oil off from the dirt bike air filter.

We have tried many different dirt bike air filter cleaners and have to say that the Twin Air filter cleaner is the best in our experience. It quickly dissolves dirt and grease from the air filters and doesn’t damage or harden them. We regularly use this air filter cleaner below and we highly recommend it.

For best results, submerge the air filter fully in the dirt bike air filter cleaner or degreaser. Then use the air filter cage or similar to hold it under the air filter cleaner. You can place multiple air filters in the bucket at the same time.

A hand holding a dirty dirt bike air filter above a bucket filled with a air filter cleaner
Put the dirty air filter into a bucket and submerge it fully in the dirt bike air filter cleaner.

Let the air filter sit in the bucket while you wash your dirt bike or at least for 10 to 20 minutes. If the air filter is very dirty, leave it in the bucket overnight.

If you are washing your dirt bike at the same time, insert an air box cover in place to prevent water and dirt entering the intake area. It is important to keep the air box clean.

PRO TIP: Buy a big 4-liter can of dirt bike air filter cleaner by Twin Air and dump it in a bucket with an airtight lid (like a paint bucket). This way, you can reuse the air filter cleaner several times and save a ton of cleaner in the process. When the dirt bike air filter cleaner gets dirty, you can pour it through a coffee filter to remove sand and debris and keep reusing it!

3. Squeeze Off the Excessive Air Filter Cleaner

After soaking the dirt bike air filter in the air filter cleaner, gently squeeze it to remove the excessive cleaner and to inspect if the air filter is clean of the air filter oil. Make sure not to twist the air filter. Otherwise, the glued joints might get damaged.

Hands squeezing a dirty dirt bike air filter above a bucket filled with air filter cleaner
Gently squeeze the dirt bike air filter with your hands to remove the excessive dirt bike air filter cleaner.

The goal is to remove the air filter oil, not to fully clean the filter yet. The dirt bike air filter cleaner breaks down the air filter oil and rinsing it with water will then completely clean the dirt bike air filter.

Avoid shaking the bucket and dipping the air filter at the bottom of the bucket. This will only get more sand in the air filter as the sand settles down at the bottom. Submerge the dirt bike air filter few times into the dirt bike air filter cleaner and squeeze the cleaner out of the air filter until you see desired results.

4. Rinse the Air Filter With Water

After cleaning the dirt bike air filter, rinse the air filter off with a water hose.

Start pushing water from the inside out. This will push any remaining sand and debris out of the dirt bike air filter and not deeper into it.

Hands holding a dirt bike air filter and rinsing it with a water hose while the air filter cage is laying on the ground
Rinse the dirt bike air filter with a water hose.

Avoid scrubbing, brushing, or spraying the air filter with high pressure. This will only damage the foam material and shorten the lifespan of the dirt bike air filter.

Rinse the air filter thoroughly until water is clean and not cloudy.

Once the dirt bike air filter appears to be clean, fold or roll the foam air filter and squeeze out all of the water. If the air filter still produces any old air filter oil or the water looks dirty, keep rinsing or repeat the cleaning process in the bucket until the air filter is completely clean.

5. Air Dry the Dirt Bike Air Filter

Next, let the clean dirt bike air filter air dry in an open place away from direct sunlight and wind. It might be tempting to find a nice warm spot in the sun to speed up the process. However, direct sun and the heat will destroy foam filters over time and break down the glues holding the air filter together so you don’t want to do that. The wind in turn can blow dirt and debris into the cleaned dirt bike air filter and you need to clean it again.

It’s important to make sure that the air filter is completely dry before oiling them. If the air filter is damp, the dirt bike air filter oil will not stick to the fabric properly. This might take up to 12 to hours. We usually leave ours to dry for a day or overnight.

Two clean dirt bike air filters and an air filter cage in a black bucket
Let the dirt bike air filters air dry before adding the new air filter oil.

If you must oil the air filters directly after washing them, roll paper towels around the air filter or gently squeeze the air filter with paper towels and let the paper towels absorb the water. This will usually make the air filter dry enough for it to absorb the new air filter oil without major issues.

6. Apply New Dirt Bike Air Filter Oil

Once the air filter is dry, it needs new dirt bike air filter oil. Now, let’s take a closer look at what dirt bike air filter oil is and how to oil a dirt bike air filter.

A dirt bike air filter oil helps to trap dust and dirt by closing the small air holes in the foam filter so that they don’t travel into the engine. It does this by binding itself into the dust particles and thus increasing the air filter performance while minimizing airflow resistance.

Dirt bike air filter oil comes in spray bottles or in regular pour-over containers. The spray bottles are much easier to use for getting an even oil coating and a proper amount applied evenly on the air filter.

Our favorite air filter oil for dirt bikes is the Bel-Ray foam filter oil linked below. We have nothing but great things to say about it: the super sticky foam filter oil coats well and we have never had any issues with dirt getting through.

A hand holding a dirt bike foam air filter that is being sprayed with air filter oil
Apply new air filter oil over the clean and dry dirt bike foam air filter.

Oiling a dirt bike air filter can be messy as the air filter oil is usually very sticky, so wear rubber gloves.

Next, spray a light, even coat on the outside of the air filter. Then with rubber gloves on, work the oil evenly into the filter foam material. If you see any dry, unoiled areas, spray some more air filter oil over these areas. Achieving a perfect coverage is important as that the airflow takes the path of least resistance.

Do not use too much dirt bike air filter oil. A light and even coating will work much better than using too much oil.

If you have an air filter oil container that doesn’t come with a spray function, use a clear plastic bag and pour a spoonful of oil directly in the bag. Smear the air filter oil evenly inside the bag and then insert the clean, dry air filter into to plastic bag. Then work the oil into the dirt bike air filter—only on the outside.

Once the outside of the dirt bike air filter is evenly coated, apply some air filter oil on the inside lip that connects to the air box. This ensures a better seal against the air box and prevents dust from traveling between the housing and the air filter.

7. Reinstall the Clean Dirt Bike Air Filter

Once the dirt bike air filter is oiled, it’s time to reinstall it back in place.

First, remove the air box cover (or the clean rag) and inspect the air box again for any dirt. It’s critical to check the intake area and clean it before installing the fresh dirt bike air filter. Any dirt inside the air box behind the air filter will travel to the motor and cause damage.

Clean the air box and specifically the area where the dirt bike air filter presses against the air box. You can use a rag or a paper towel to wipe the air intake. Do not use air pressure or anything that will push the dirt inside the air intake.

A cleaned and oiled dirt bike air filter installed in the air box
Reinstall the cleaned and oiled dirt bike air filter in the air box.

Insert the air filter cage inside the air filter and make sure it aligns properly making a good seal against the air box.

Next, push the dirt bike air filter in place and attach it with the mounting bracket. Check around the air filter and push the edges in place to ensure a good seal.

Then you can reinstall the side panel or the seat that covers the air box.

You are now completed with cleaning the dirt bike air filter. If you didn’t know how to clean the air filter on a dirt bike before, now you do!

What to Avoid When Cleaning a Dirt Bike Air Filter

When you clean the dirt bike air filter properly, it helps to extend the dirt bike’s engine life and to increase the air filter performance.

Here are few things to avoid when cleaning a dirt bike air filter:

  • Do not use a pressure washer. The high pressure will easily damage the foam material.
  • Do not scrub or brush the air filter. Instead, use a good dirt bike air filter cleaner.
  • Do not use an air compressor to dry the dirt bike air filter. The high air pressure will easily tear the air filter material.
  • Do not use an excessive amount of oil. A light, even coat of dirt bike air filter oil works best.
  • Do not wash the dirt bike without covering the air box. Otherwise, water and dirt will travel inside the air box.

Extra Tips for Cleaning a Dirt Bike Air Filter

  • Dirt bike air filters are relatively cheap so buy an extra air filter. Each time you wash your dirt bike, you can replace the old air filter with a clean one and wash the old and dirty one. This way, you don’t have to wait for the air filter to air dry.
  • Inspect the air filter every time you wash your dirt bike. If the air filter needs cleaning, it is convenient to do at the same time as washing the bike.
  • Always remove the air filter when washing the dirt bike and use an air box cover instead. An air box cover by Twin Air is great for protecting the air box from dirt and water when washing the dirt bike. N.B. Air box covers are make and model specific, so make sure that the air box cover fits your dirt bike.
  • Use a bucket with a lid for the dirt bike air filter cleaner. You can reuse the air filter cleaner several times, usually for several years, if you run the cleaner though a coffee filter every now and then to remove the sand. Then use a paint bucket with a lid to store the air filter cleaner. We recommend getting the large 4-liter Twin Air filter cleaner to have enough cleaner in the bucket.
  • Drop the air filter cage into the bucket over the air filter. This will help to submerge the air filter fully in the dirt bike air filter cleaner.
  • Buy an extra air filter and store the oiled air filter in a closable plastic bag. You can take the plastic bag with you when you go riding and swap the air filter quickly trailside if needed.
  • If you don’t feel like dealing with the cleaning and oiling, you can always buy pre-oiled air filters. They are ready to go once the air box is clean so you can just throw out the old and install the new. Some riders prefer this for the efficiency. Naturally, this will cost a lot more than taking the time to clean and oil the ones you already have. We personally don’t mind the cleaning as it is very quick and easy with this unique cleaning process of ours.

Conclusions

Cleaning the dirt bike air filter is one of the most common maintenance tasks so it’s important to know how to clean the air filter on a dirt bike.

A regular cleaning and oiling of the dirt bike air filter will ensure that no dirt will travel inside the air box and engine. This will greatly improve your dirt bike’s engine life.

Our step-by-step instructions will make it very easy to clean the dirt bike air filter. It’s so easy that practically anyone can do it!

This way, you can spend more time twisting the throttle out on the trails and less time maintaining your dirt bike on the shop floor.

Keep the engine running!

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Last updated: November 2, 2022