How Often Do You Need To Change A Motorcycle Air Filter?

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Your air filter performs a crucial role in protecting your engine and making it last as long as possible. In the air around your bike there are all sorts of contaminants including dirt, sand, dust, and pollen. If these things were to get into the engine itself, they would start to slowly wear away your cylinder walls and piston rings.

Over time this filter gets dirtier and dirtier and will need to be replaced. You should replace your motorcycle’s air filter about every 10,000 miles or about every year. If you ride through environments with more dirt and dust, you will need to change the air filter more frequently. Your driver’s manual contains information on how often you should change your filter. This will vary quite a bit based on many factors including how often you ride, where you ride, and what type of filter is on your bike.

Replacing your air filter is a very frequent occurrence that every motorcyclist goes through. Many problems with your bike can result from an uncleaned air filter. This article will help you understand how often you need to change your motorcycle’s air filter, what kind of filter is needed and some special occurrences that involve your air filter.

How Often A Motorcycle Filter Should Be Changed (Timespan And Mileage)

So, how often should the filter be changed and how can you tell? First off, it is always best to follow the manufacturer specified interval in the owner’s manual. They will specify either a length of time, a number of miles, or both, in which you should change the filter. As every bike is slightly different from the rest, following the advice of the people who designed, tested, and built the motorcycle is a great idea. You can always adjust from there if you feel like you need to change more or less frequently.

Generally speaking, you will need to change out your filter about once every year or every 10,000 miles. As previously mentioned, this will vary from bike to bike. In reality, you just need to change the filter out before it gets too dirty, and these guidelines help prevent you from letting it get too dirty. The best way to tell if your filter needs to be changed is by looking at it. Get familiar with how the filter looks when it is clean. From there, you should at least have an idea of how clean your filter should look and can use that to gauge whether you need to replace the filter.

There are a lot of other factors that also come into play. For example, if you frequently drive in dusty areas, your filter will get dirtier much quicker than a bike that only gets ridden downtown, in a big city. Likewise, different filters will last different amounts of time before needing to be replaced. This is due to the size and shape of the different filters and also the materials that they are made out of. If you are unsure whether you should replace your air filter or not, get a hold of the owner’s manual for your bike and see how often the manufacturer recommends that you change the air filter.

What Happens If You Do Not Change The Air Filter?

So, if you forget to change out your air filter or put it off because you cannot afford a new one, is that bad for your bike? Will it hurt the engine? Once your air filter gets dirty, it will become much harder for air to pass through the filter as the dirt blocks or chokes most of the pores. The amount of airflow that you are getting through the filter will be greatly reduced.

You may not be able to notice immediately but as the filter gets extremely dirty, it should become very obvious. First off, you will experience a loss of power. Due to the lesser quantity of air being supplied to the engine, you are unable to make as much energy. You also may begin to run richer, which means using more fuel. As a result, you will also likely notice a decrease in fuel economy. As that ideal air to gas ratio is ruined, your bike’s performance will suffer in all areas.

Depending on the type of filter that you have, a dirty filter can even have more drastic effects on your bike. For example, if you have a foam filter the dirt will start to dry out the filter. As the filter dries out, it makes it possible for dust to make its way through the foam. That dirt that makes it through goes straight into your engine and can damage it tremendously.

Cleaning The Filter Vs. Buying A New One

When it’s time to do something with your air filter, what should you do? This depends largely on what air filter that you have and how long you have had it. Some air filters are cheap, simple, and are only meant to be replaced and never cleaned. These are your common paper OEM-style filters. They are relatively cheap, but they are not meant to be cleaned and reused over and over again. 

Most aftermarket air filters are cleanable and take away the need to replace a filter every time it gets dirty. These new filters that utilize oil allow you to clean and reoil the filter every time it needs to be replaced. There are kits available that will allow you to do all of this yourself. While these styles of filters are generally much more expensive, they can be used for several years before they need to be replaced.

Are there advantages to replacing a dirty oil filter over just cleaning it? The truth is that no matter how good you are at cleaning a filter, it will never be as good as when it was brand new. It is impossible to clean out 100% of the dirt in the filter. Getting a new filter will provide a perfectly clean filtration system for a temporary amount of time. While cleaning the filter will still improve the filter quite a bit and prevent your bike from starving for air, it will never be as good as new. From here, it’s up to you to decide whether you should fully replace or just clean the filter that you are using now.

Special Circumstances That May Require More Frequent Filter Changes

There are a lot of circumstances that can lead you to change your air filter out more often. The first of these would be the environment in which you ride. Some people ride around in very dusty areas. This dust is sucked towards your bike, as the engine acts as an air pump, and sucks the air towards it. All of that dust in the area gets trapped by the filter and the dust oftentimes just sticks to it. If you take your bike off the paved roads, and especially if you ride in groups while off-road, you will definitely need to change out your air filter much more often than normal. All of that dust floating around is trying to go through to your engine. Without your trusty air filter, it would make its way right through to the cylinders.

Another important consideration is how old your bike is. If you have a newer bike with 4,000 or fewer miles, you may not be as concerned about your bike’s health. If you have an older bike that has up to 60,000 miles, it is important that you recognize this bike is very old and could very well have all sorts of problems in the near future. As a result, you may want to put an extra amount of attention and care into your bike to ensure that it keeps running and lasts as long as possible. To accommodate this, you may want to increase the frequency in which you do regular maintenance on the bike to help it stay working.

This article has been reviewed in accordance with our editorial policy.

Kyle Cannon

Kyle currently works as a mechanical engineer and graduated with a minor in automotive engineering. He loves restoring motorcycles, has a vast knowledge of how they work, and has sold his restoration projects to customers from all over the United States.

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