It’s an unfortunate irony, but a true one—your dirt bike doesn’t like dirt.

More specifically, your bike’s engine doesn’t like dirt. Too much of it will inevitably clog your air filter, restricting airflow, robbing you of horsepower, reducing your gas mileage, and making the overall riding experience infinitely less pleasant.

Of all the chores related to maintaining your dirt bike, cleaning your air filter is probably the easiest one… so please just do it.

Before we get into the actual cleaning instructions, let’s get this out of the way: There are two kinds of air filter-cleaning solvents. One in which you fully submerge the filter to cut the filter oil and work out trapped dirt and sand particles. And another in which you use a spray-on solvent to cut the oil and wash out the gunk.

Both methods have merit and will effectively clean your dirt bike’s air filter if you use the right products.

It’s always a pretty horrible idea to use gasoline or another solvent not designed for cleaning air filters. Doing so can lead to filter damage through swelling of the fibers and glue degradation.

Using the right products for the job is an excellent first step.

You can clean and replace your dirt bike’s air filter in as little as a half hour depending on air-drying time, with these tools and parts in eight simple steps:


What you will need

Tools: Sockets, ratchet, bike stand, clean rags, compressed air

Parts: Air filter cleaner, air filter oil


STEP 1 –
Getting to the air filter is almost always a breeze. Usually, you simply unbolt the seat. Lift the seat free from the frame and you’ll see your filter—probably looking a little gnarly.

STEP 2 –
Be careful and inspect your air filter for loose rocks or sand that might be resting on top of your filter. You want to make sure you don’t drop abrasive materials into your intake while removing the soiled filter.

STEP 3 –
First, get rid of the loose sand and dirt by brushing it off. Then remove the filter from the cage and inspect both elements for any breaks or tears. Filter cleaners can smell pretty wicked and noxious, so make sure you have plenty of air circulation—preferably outdoors—before spraying down your filter preparing your cleaning bucket with solvent. We suggest wearing gloves. After completely saturating the filter, make sure all the dirtiest parts get a liberal coating of cleaner. Make sure to let the filter soak for a few minutes for rinsing.

STEP 4 –
Use warm water for rinsing the dirt and solvent from your filter. You will want a good strong flow of water to do this, but not so hard that you damage your filter. Be careful. If you’re using a cotton filter, this is even more critical. Also, with cotton filters, it’s important that you use cold water and rinse from the inside of the filter out. Foam filters are less sensitive. Just take your time and clean your filter as thoroughly as possible.

STEP 5 –
To the best of your ability, shake and squeeze the water from your filter. The filter must be completely dry before reapplying filter oil. Finding a nice warm spot in the sun will generally help speed up the process. Oiling too soon can trap in some of the moisture.

STEP 6 –
Take advantage of the drying time to clean out your airbox. Remove any dirt residue from the bottom of the airbox and try to wipe off any leftover grease from the filter’s mounting surfaces.

STEP 7 –
After cleaning the airbox, apply grease to the filter flange to help prevent dirt and sand from finding their way into your intake.

STEP 8 –
Again, it’s a good idea to get outside in the fresh air to apply your filter oil—whether you’re pouring it on or spraying it on. Try to use a pattern to apply your filter oil to avoid missing spots. Be sure to let the oil soak in for a few minutes and do a final inspection to make sure you covered it thoroughly before re-installing it. Then, just put your seat back on. Bam.

Twin Air—maker of some of the industry’s finest air filters—recommends waiting 24 hours for the oil to penetrate evenly before riding.

PowerSports Place carries a variety of air filters as well as air filter cleaners and oils! Check them out.

And that’s pretty much it.

Clean air really will make you go faster and prolong the life of your engine. You take care of it, and it will take care of you.

Author: Matt Griswold

After a 10-year newspaper journalism career, Matt Griswold spent another decade writing about the automotive aftermarket and motorsports. He was part of the original OnAllCylinders editorial team when it launched in 2012.