How to Clean and Oil a Foam Air Filter - Risk Racing

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How to Clean and Oil a Foam Air Filter

May 03, 2022

POV holding a clean and freshly oiled air filter. Wearing gloves to prevent getting the harsh chemicals on their skin during the cleaning process.

The engine is like the bloodline and beating heart of your dirt bike. It needs two major things to stay running, air and fuel. If either of those two systems gets contaminated with dirt or debris then the bike will cease to keep running. 

That’s why you opt to protect it at all costs. Fortunately, the air intake system already comes with protective equipment to ensure its superb performance and safety against contamination.

Of course, we’re talking about the foam air filter. But just like any other critical component of a dirt bike, you have to care for and maintain your engine’s air filter. So, you may wonder, how to do that exactly?

To clean and oil your foam air filter, you need to follow these steps:

  1.       Remove Air Filter Cover/ or Seat (Make & Model Specific)
  2.       Separate the Foam Air Filter From Plastic Cage
  3.       Place the Foam Air Filter In a Bucket with Soapy Water
  4.       Rinse It with Clean Water
  5.       Let It Dry Under the Sun
  6.       Spray or Pour the Oil Over the Filter
  7.       Reinstall the Air Filter and Housing

Changing/cleaning the air filter on this Honda dirt bike. the person working on this bike had to remove the seat to access the air filter. They have removed the wing screw that attaches/seals the filter and filter cage to the dirt biek and is removing the filter form the bike.

Read on to get more details about performing these steps and to learn more about air filters and their maintenance.

Do You Need an Air Filter on a Dirt Bike?

Yes, your dirt bike has to have an air filter. Otherwise, you can kiss your engine goodbye after only a few rides.

Without an air filter, your engine becomes subjected to silts, dirt, and other contaminants that could destroy your engine’s performance.

Luckily, all dirt bikes come with an air filter. But it is important to maintain it, especially if you are regularly using your dirt bike. When it becomes worn out, you’ll have to replace it as soon as you can, or else you won’t be able to use your dirt bike.

Dirt bike racer racing on a dusty track. The air filter is the only line of defense for keeping that dust out of the engine.

What Does an Air Filter Do on a Dirt Bike?

A dirt bike’s engine relies on oxygen to ensure internal combustion. The intake system makes sure enough air goes into the engine.

However, with air coming from outside, it inevitably gets mixed with dust and harmful particles that could degrade the engine system.

This is where air filters become helpful. 

Air filters screen the air passing through the intake system and trapping contaminants that could damage the engine’s mechanism. It collects the harmful particles preventing them from going inside the engine.

There are different sorts of air filters and the technology that governs the piece, but the majority of filters are made of foam.

The foam ensures that contaminants are held within the foam fibers while allowing clean air to pass through the intake system.

Clean air filter installed in a dirt bike

Why Should You Clean and Oil Your Dirt Bike’s Foam Air Filter?

Knowing the importance of air filters in keeping the performance of dirt bikes on top of the game, it comes as no surprise that you have to clean and oil the foam air filter more often than any other vehicle.

First, dirt bike riding happens off-road. Racetracks are filled with dirt and mud flying around the air. The same goes with off-road terrains. This implies that the foam air filter harbors more contaminants, given the type of environment the dirt bike is exposed to.

Second, dirt bikes are known for their robust engine performance. But, one mishap with your routine maintenance and it could cost you your engine’s lifespan. So, it’s clear that air filters need to perform as unyielding as the rest of the critical dirt bike components.

What Do You Need to Clean and Oil a Foam Air Filter?

Maintaining your air filter does not need any sophisticated items and tools. In fact, you can just as easily clean it along with the other dirt bike components using regular cleaners.

However, it’s essential to do the cleaning with utmost care. Likewise, it’s also crucial to remember to use recommended cleaning solutions. Sometimes other people would use agents which are not meant for air filters. This could cause detrimental damage to the material.

If you’re in doubt, check out the most common items used in cleaning and oiling a foam air filter. 

  • Air Filter Cleaner
  • Spray on Air Filter Oil
  • Soapy Water

Spraying ai filter oil on an air filter to catch contaminants and prevent them from going through the air filter into the engine.

How to Clean and Oil a Foam Air Filter?

If you’re new to cleaning and lubricating your foam air filter, then you can use these steps as your guide.

1.       Remove Air Filter Cover.

Position your dirt bike nicely in a spacious area. Using an adjustable dirt bike stand, keep the bike in an upright position so you can easily locate and remove the air filter.

Your air filter could be located under or in front of your seat. Of course, this would depend on the brand or model. Nonetheless, it’s best to check your manual to be sure.

Once you locate the air filter, take the cover off. Next, look for a clean rag or cloth that you can use to cover the intake system opening.

2.       Separate the Foam Air Filter From Plastic Cage.

The foam air filter is attached to a plastic cage. Carefully separate the filter and plastic cage taking out the foam for thorough cleaning. Set aside the plastic cage and clean it using a degreaser.

3.       Place the Foam Air Filter In a Bucket With Soapy Water.

Prepare a bucket of water and add two squirts of dish soap. Let bubbles form in the bucket and dunk the foam air filter in it. Scrub it gently to release the oil containing the trapped particles. Avoid twisting it as much as possible.

4.       Rinse It With Clean Water.

If the air filter is visibly clean, restoring its original color, you can now rinse it with clean water. You can use a water sprayer or a host to ensure that all the soap residue is taken out.

5.       Let it Dry.

You can place the foam air filter in an open space and under the heat of the sun to make sure it dries off completely. Just make sure that it is far from contaminants such as soil and mud.

6.       Spray On or Pour the Oil Over the Filter.

Once the foam air filter is dry, grab your air filter oil and spray or pour it all over the filter. Feel free to apply a generous amount of oil to lubricate all inches of the foam.

Oil is a crucial component of the foam air filter. It is the very agent that traps the contaminants preventing them from falling into the intake system.

7.       Reinstall the Air Filter and Housing.

reinstalled dirt bike air filter. The filter has been de-oiled, cleaned, dried, re-oiled, and mounted back on the air filter cage.

Before you re-attach the foam air filter to its plastic cage, make sure to wipe the plastic underneath using the air filter oil. Then, return the air filter to its position and seal it properly with its housing.

5 Tips to Maintain Your Foam Air Filter

It’s easy to maintain a foam air filter. However, given its delicate function, there are several things to keep in mind regarding proper maintenance. Here are some of them.

     1.       Visually Inspect Your Air Filter for Damage.

Always check if there is substantial damage in the foam air filter when you’re cleaning. If the damage is visible and its detrimental impact is apparent, you can just forget about the cleaning and oiling. Instead, find a new one for replacement.

     2.       Make Sure Nothing Falls off Inside the Engine and Intake System.

First, make sure your hands are clean when removing the foam air filter. You wouldn’t want to risk having debris fall off your hands and go straight into the engine.

Then, ensure that you are covering the opening of the intake system using a clean item such as a cloth or rag. 

     3.       Avoid Using Gasoline in Cleaning Your Air Filter.

Gasoline is sometimes used to take off the oil and particles from the foam air filter. However, it can also destroy foam cells. Hence, it is discouraged to use it in place of oil or as a cleaning solution.

     4.       Never Twist the Foam Air Filter.

You have to be gentle in scrubbing the air filter. This means no wringing or twisting the foam like a used rag to release the oil and contaminants. This could lead to wear and tear that will damage the foam.

     5.       Don’t Forget to Clean the Airbox.

The airbox is where you can find your air filter. When doing your cleaning, include the entire space surrounding the air filter location. This way, you can ensure that the accumulated particles are properly wiped out, giving a new environment for the newly cleaned air filter.



Cleaning and oiling your foam air filter should be one of your maintenance priorities when it comes to keeping your dirt bike on top of its performance.

The fact that this task is perhaps the easiest part of maintaining your bike gives you no excuse to simply neglect it.

Simply follow the steps we’ve mentioned above, and don’t forget to keep your dirt bike in its most comfortable position the whole time. Of course, we’re talking about making sure it’s upright on a dirt bike stand.

And if you don’t have a dirt bike stand yet, check out the Risk Racing A.T.S. Stand.

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