How much do you have invested in your dirt bike(s)? $2,000? $6,000? $10,000+? Would you spend $25 on a dirt bike air filter to protect the money you’ve spent on your bikes?
Regardless of the dollar amount you have invested in your dirt bikes, you don’t want it ruined because of something avoidable like a dirt bike air filter.
Like you, your dirt bike needs to be able to breathe cleanly, and you need to know how to clean the dirt bike air filter property so fresh, clean air is pumped into your engine.
In this post, I will cover what a dirt bike air filter is, how often you should change it, why they’re so important, and how to actually clean it.
Dirt Bike Air Filter: What is it?
A dirt bike air filter is essentially a piece of foam that covers the (intake) hole in your engine that sucks in air. The air filter keeps dirt, dust, and other harmful debris out of your engine.
Air filters can look different depending on what vehicle it’s in. Cars, truck, ATVs, SxS, and basically anything with an engine have air filters, but they all look different.
Even within just dirt bike air filters, they look different.
For example, here is what the air filter looks like for my YZ250 and my YZ250F. They’re both Yamaha 250s, but they have different air filter designs.
Generally, there are three different ways you can buy your dirt bike air filter:
- Dry: You can buy a reusable air filter that comes without oil. You would need to oil the filter before using it. The oil process is explained later in this article.
- Pre-Oiled: You can also buy a reusable air filter that comes pre-oiled.
- Single-Use: You can also buy single-us dirt bike air filters that come ready-to-go. All you have to do is unwrap it, install it, and throw it away when you’re done with it.
Here is an example of what I consider to be the best dirt bike air filter. It’s one of my favorite ready-to-go, single-use air filters that I’ve run on my YZ125 and YZ250:
I run this same Maxima ProFilter on my YZ250F and YZ450F bikes, with the correct one for those model bikes. I personally choose to run air single-use air filters so I don’t have to go through the process below to clean them.
How often should you change your dirt bike air filter?
This is a question that is best answered by asking yourself how often you ride and under what conditions. If you are a casual rider who doesn’t ride that much and isn’t riding in harsh conditions, specifically muddy and dusty, you can go a bit longer before changing your air filter. In this case, you can likely get two ride days out of your air filter.
If you’re riding harder, more frequently, or in dusty and muddy conditions, you should be changing your air filter each day you ride.
If you go to a local practice track and ride 4-5 sessions, you likely don’t need to change it mid-day, but you should change it before you ride another day. The same goes for spending a day in the woods with your buddies.
If you’re racing competitively, you’ll likely want to change your dirt bike air filter throughout your race day.
Why is a dirt bike air filter so important?
A dirt bike air filter is so important because it protects your engine. If left unchecked or dirty, then dirt and debris picked up while riding could get into the engine and damage it.
Air filters cost between $5 and $40. Rebuilding or fixing your engine can cost thousands of dollars. Consistently changing and cleaning your air filter is very cheap insurance to try to protect your bike’s engine and increase its longevity.
Also, a dirty air filter won’t allow your bike to run properly. It will choke your carburetor, if you have one, and cause a loss of power and worse fuel efficiency.
How to Clean Dirt Bike Air Filter
Before you start cleaning your dirt bike air filter, make sure you have a reusable air filter, not a single-use air filter. It sounds simple, but you’d be surprised how many people mistakenly try to clean and re-use a single-use air filter.
To clean your dirt bike air filter, follow these steps:
- Put rubber gloves on (optional), then remove the air filter from your bike.
Remove any parts on your bike necessary to get to the air filter, then remove it.
- Clean the area you just removed the air filter from with a paper towel.
Clean the area around when your air filter mounts to remove any excess dirt, dust, or debris.
- Clean the air filter mount/cage, if your bike has one.
If your air filter goes onto a holder/in cage, which then gets mounted on your bike, clean the mount/cage.
- Run the air filter under warm/hot water from the inside out.
The goal here is to use water to push the dirt and debris out of the air filter, from the inside out.
- Spray your dirt bike filter with filter cleaner.
After you’ve run water through your air filter, thoroughly spray it with air filter cleaner.
- Let the air filter sit for 5-10 minutes to let the cleaner soak in.
The air filter cleaner takes time to work. Let it sit and do its job.
- Thoroughly rinse the air filter again, removing all the cleaner.
- Repeat steps 4-7 if the air filter is not completely clean.
Sometimes the air filter had so much oil or dirt/debris on it that it doesn’t get completely clean in one wash. Repeat steps 4-7 again until fully clean.
Dirt Bike Air Filter Cleaner
I have tested a lot of different air filter cleaners over the years. Maxima’s is my favorite. Specifically, their combo kit with air filter cleaner and oil combined is the best. I’ve used it for years on all my bikes.
I’ve also bought and used Maxima’s bulk container of air filter cleaner. It’s essentially the same air filter cleaner that comes in the can above, but it comes in a larger plastic container. You can get it in 64oz, 1/2 gallon, 186oz, and a variety of other sizes.
I use this if/when I need to clean a lot of air filters. It can help keep the cost down.
Another option that I’ve used and enjoyed is UNI’s cleaner kit. I prefer the Maxima product, but UNI’s was a good product as well.
You may have heard you can also use gasoline to clean air filters. It’s true, you can. It actually works to clean them really well. It’s also fairly cheap compared to air filter cleaning-specific products.
But, you shouldn’t do it. Why?
It destroys the filters. Fast.
The gas is harsh on the foam filter, causing it to break down quickly. Best case scenario, you’d have to buy more filters.
Worst case scenario, you’d have to rebuild your engine.
To me, saving a little bit of money using gasoline to clean the air filters isn’t worth the risk and the potential cost of rebuilding an engine.
Oiling Air Filter on a Dirt Bike
You cleaned your air filter above, but you’re not ready to re-install it back on the bike and go riding. There are still a few things you should do.
You need to check the air filter to make sure it hasn’t been damaged. Check the seams for tears. Even the smallest hole can let dirt into your engine.
Then, next, you need to oil your dirt bike air filter.
You can put your clean filter in a plastic bag or just hold it in your hands out in front of you and spray it with air filter oil. Lightly coat the entire air filter in oil.
Massage the oil into the air filter with your hands (with your rubber gloves on from the steps above) to make sure none of the filter is missed. (Below are the exact gloves I like to use to clean my air filters).
Once the filter is cleaned and oiled, re-install it back on your bike. Make sure it’s lined up properly and tightened well. Any gaps or misalignment will allow unwanted debris into your engine.
Dirt Bike Air Filter Oil
If you use the Maxima or PJ1 combo kits from above, they both come with air filter oil included. You do not have to buy the cleaner and oil separately.
If you’re buying air filter cleaner in bulk, like the larger container from Maxima, you will need to buy air filter oil separately. Maxima does sell an individual can. You can find it below.
Frequently Asked Questions About Dirt Bike Air Filters
Yes, a dirt bike needs an air filter.
For most people, a dirt bike air filter should be changed after each day of riding. But, it could be more or less frequent depending on how much you’re riding in the day and what the riding conditions are.
No, it is not OK to run without air filter.
A dirty air filter can cause your dirt bike to run poorly, not run at all, be difficult to start, foul spark plugs, and even cause your engine to seize up.
Yes, a dirty air filter will affect horsepower negatively.
Yes, a dirty air filter would be better than none.
Yes, a dirty air filter can cause damage to your engine.