Your motorcycle’s air filter is quite an important component which is often overlooked

When we talk about the maximum performance of a motorcycle, we only look at the engine for power and tyres for grip. If the engine has a higher compression ratio, you need to look out for fuel additives too. But what about the air which goes into the engine? The engine will deliver its peak performance only when it is fed with clean air.

In a country like India where you’ll find fine dust particles everywhere. On top of that, there is mixed impurities as well as the particulate matter which settles on the pore of the air filter and reduce its effectiveness. So here we’ll discuss the various types of motorcycle air filters and how you can clean them. How often should you do the same will also be discussed here.

Let’s talk about the types of air filter available for your bike in India. There are basically three types of air filters – Paper, Foam, and Cotton.

Paper Type Air Filter


Most motorcycles from the lower end to performance segment in India comes equipped with Paper filters. Paper filters are the most basic and are disposable in nature. When a paper filter is full of grime it needs to be replaced with a new one. This is because you just cannot clean a paper filter as doing so will tear it apart and render it useless.


Paper filters are thus required to change about every 6000 km or so. This is usually mentioned in the owner’s manual of a bike about when to change the air filter. If you ride your bike through
dusty places more often, consider replacing the air filter more frequently. You can try cleaning paper air filter by using kerosene or petrol but it is better to change since it comes disposably cheap.

Foam Type Air Filter

Some motorcycles manufacturer choose to equip their bikes with foam filters. Foam filters are wet filters, they actually look like a common household sponge. But there is a catch, foam filter are designed according to the usage. If you are using an off-road bike, dense foam filter is used to catch all that sand and dirt. For normal road usage, lighter foam is used which will allow more air to pass for higher performance.


Foam filter doesn’t block the dust particles rather it catches them. Here the foam is oiled with special oil. This oil sticks to the foam material and then catches the dust particles. Moreover, the foam filters are thicker than any other type of filters. This makes the best to any type of usage. Foam filters have a very long life. They are virtually immortal, means all you need to do is clean them after every 10,000 to 12,000 km or so and use them again.

For cleaning a foam filter, first, remove it from the airbox. If you don’t know, refer to the user manual and follow the proper instructions. After you have removed the foam air filter. cover the airbox so that unnecessary dust particles do not enter into the intake port. Next, get ready with the air filter cleaning kit. This cleaning kit comes with two main chemicals – one a degreaser and other is filter oil or recharge oil.

Be careful not to over squeeze the foam filter

Now, slap on a pair of gloves to avoid coming in contact with the chemicals (just a precaution) and get the dirty foam filter out of the housing. Knock out the loose dust and then apply degreaser or the filter cleaner. Thoroughly massage the whole foam material and keep on spraying cleaner. You can see some dark gooey substance dripping down, that’s actually the magic spell of foam cleaner.


If you are content with the cleaning duties of the foam cleaner, you can apply filter oil and put the filter back into its place. But, in order to kick out any residual dirt and to live doubt free, dip the foam in warm water with mild soap. Rinse the filer 3-4 times and gently squeeze to dry it out. Remember not to wring it or squeeze it hard as it can damage the foam.

Also Read: Air Pollution vs Bharat Stage 6 emission norms

Once the foam is completely dry, I repeat, only when the foam is completely dry, you can apply the fresh foam filter oil. After saturating the foam with oil, squeeze some oil so that it is easy for the foam to breathe. Make sure the Airbox is clean before putting the filter back into its place. You can also apply sealing grease at the sealing flange of the filter housing. Pop it back and feel the added performance.

Cotton Type Air Filter

Cotton air filters are the most expensive options in the motorcycle industry. Most common cotton air filters are made by K&N. The reason for these filters being expensive is that these will the last filter you’ll ever purchase. Cotton air filters are used mainly for pumping out more power from an engine, they can be cleaned easily and then reused. It is said that cotton filter from K&N usually lasts more than the engine itself.


To clean cotton filters, you need appropriate filter cleaner fluid and filter oil. So, first, remove the filter form the airbox and knock out excessive dirt. Put on the gloves and spray filter cleaner on the complete surface. Wait some time to let the cleaner show its magical cleaning powers. Once done, thoroughly spray the filter surface with the cleaner. Remember to spray the cleaner from the inner side to push the dirt and grime towards outside.

K&N performance air filters are common examples of cotton type air filters

Since the cotton filter is not as thick as their foam counterparts, there is no need to wash it with water. But it is advised to wash the filter with water every alternative cleaning.


Once the filter is completely dry, evenly spray the filter oil on the surface. Ensure to use a spray can for this purpose. Wipe out any extra oil seeping here and there and put is back into the filter housing, them in the airbox.

Finally, I would like to say that if you do not know how to clean the filter or never touched a spanner with your hands, get it done by experienced hands. For peak engine performance and fuel efficiency, you need to have a clean air filter. A properly maintained air filter also enhances engine life.

Ride Safe, Ride Hard, and always wear a helmet while riding. Stay Tuned for more from the world of motorcycling.

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See, there are a lot of things to look at, but you are one hell of a person when your eyes are pulled towards beauty on two wheels. This guy here is one such animal who loves two wheels more than "Maa ke hath ka Khana." Not yet fully transformed into a seasoned rider but still, there are many things still "under construction." Akash is a writer, loves writing fiction but here at motorcycle diaries, its all about the world on two wheels.


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