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ATV Air Filter Maintenance

ATV Air Filter Maintenance

There are certain parts of your all-terrain vehicle that are essential to how it performs. The importance of the air filter can’t be stressed enough as it relates to your vehicle’s horsepower and overall performance. Here’s what you need to know about ATV air filter maintenance to ensure the proper outcome for your vehicle.

What does the air filter do?

The air filter collects dirt and debris and traps it in place, so it doesn’t end up traveling to the internal areas of the vehicle. This protects important areas like the engine and carburetor from taking on a potentially malfunctioning buildup. You can think of the air filter on your ATV as the same as an air filter on your air conditioning unit at home which filters out impurities, so you don’t breathe them into your lungs. The air filter on your ATV protects the major parts of the machine by filtering out all the impurities.

What are signs of a dirty or broken air filter?

While ATV air filter maintenance should be a regular part of any complete care routine and schedule, there are a few signs something is wrong that you need to know. The bad news is that you may never notice a problem with the vehicle as related to the air filter. You may end up thinking the problem is with wiring or spark plugs or something worse when in reality, you just need to take care of the air filter to see better results. If you experience any of the following problems, your best bet it to check the status of your air filter before assuming it’s something else:

  • - Reduced fuel economy
  • - Unusual engine sounds or engine misfiring
  • - Reduced horsepower
  • - Black smoke from the exhaust
  • - Overwhelming smell of gasoline when starting the ATV


How do I clean an air filter?

One of the most basic parts of ATV air filter maintenance is to keep it clean. While there are times when you may be experiencing the abovementioned symptoms because the air filter itself is torn or damaged, the more common scenario is that the filter is simply dirty and needs to be cleaned. Here are the basic steps for completing this task:

  1. 1. Gather your supplies. You will need a couple of clean buckets, one with a mixture of water and a filter cleaning solution, and one to use for oiling if you have a foam filter. You will also need gloves, and contact cleaner for the air box.
  2. 2. Remove the filter. This is usually an easy enough process, but if you need help doing so, you should refer to your ATV owner’s manual which will walk you through the right way to remove the filter for your specific model.
  3. 3. Soak the filter in the bucket with the cleaning solution. You can let it sit there until it's saturated which should only take a minute or so and then start massaging the filter to release the dirt. You want to make sure you don’t twist or pull the filter too hard because you may damage it so simply squeeze and release like a sponge instead. If the filter is extra dirty, you may need to change the water and cleaning solution more than once.
  4. 4. Check for tears. While cleaning the filter you should inspect for any tears, rips, or other signs of damage to the filter.
  5. 5. Rinse the filter. Once the filter is clean again, you can rinse it off to get any last bits of cleaning solution off the filter.
  6. 6. Set the filter aside to dry. Make sure you put it somewhere clean and dry surface wise to avoid any issues.
  7. 7. Oil the filter. This step is only necessary if you have a foam filter which many ATVs have straight from the manufacturer. If you have a paper only ATV filter, skip this step. To oil your foam filter, using an approved oil for the job, start by pouring a small amount of oil on the filter while placed in the second bucket. Gently massage the oil, adding more as need to penetrate the layers of the filter. You want it well-oiled but not dripping with oil so make sure you give it a squeeze like a sponge to remove any extra oil.
  8. 8. Allow the filter to dry for a few hours. You can work on the air box while you wait and let the rest of the drying happen inside the air box to allow the oil to create an almost tacky residue between the filter and air box.
  9. 9. Clean the air box. Putting a clean filter in a dirty air box is just counterproductive. Make sure you plug up the intake of the box to avoid anything getting in the throat or intake which could cause problems. You should also remove the plug and place a tray underneath the air box to catch any residue. Using a safe cleaner, spray the cleaner in the air box. Wipe dry with a clean rag to remove any left-over residue.
  10. 10. Add a layer of waterproof grease to the sealing edge of the filter.
  11. 11. Place the air filter back in the air box. You should wait a few hours to ride the ATV to give the air filter time to dry inside the box.