How Often To Change Motorcycle Air Filter? – (5 Symptoms)

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If I say- an air filter is the lung of a vehicle, then I won’t be wrong. Your motorcycle engine needs the right amount of oxygen for the complete combustion of fuel.

The air filter (generally installed below the seat) cleans the dust particles from ambient air and supplies clean oxygen to the combustion chamber. Over time, the air filter clogs and reduces the motorcycle’s performance and mileage.

So, how often should you change your motorcycle air filter? You must change your motorcycle air filter after 10,000 to 12,000 miles or every year. If you ride off-road or in a dusty environment, the air filter clogs frequently, and you must change after 6,000 to 8,000 miles. It also depends upon the type and quality of the air filter used.

Motorcycle Air Filter

How Often Should You Change Air Filter On Harley?

Generally, the air filter on Harley should be changed after 15000 to 20000 miles or about 12 months (whichever comes first).

If you ride your Harley-Davidson in a dusty environment, the air filter clogs more often. For better performance and mileage, I recommend you change your air filter every 8,000 to 10,000 miles.

How Do You Know If Your Motorcycle Air Filter Is Bad?

Now you have a rough idea about air filter change interval on motorcycles. But, because of the dusty environment, the motorcycle air filter clogs much more quickly.

So, how do you know if your motorcycle air filter is bad? Your motorcycle will show several symptoms when the air filter is clogged.

Let’s have a look at those symptoms-

1. Too Much Exhaust Misfire

The very first symptom you’ll notice when your motorcycle air filter has gone bad is too much exhaust backfire.

This happens because the air filter doesn’t pass sufficient oxygen into the combustion chamber, which leads to incomplete combustion.

When these unburnt gases come in contact with air, they detonate and cause misfiring in the exhaust pipe. So, if your motorcycle exhaust is too misfiring, you should inspect your air filter.

2. Performance Drop

As I mentioned earlier, the air-fuel mixture doesn’t detonate properly due to insufficient oxygen supply in the engine cylinder. The inefficient fuel burning in the combustion chamber drops the performance of your motorcycle.

So, if you notice that your motorcycle seems to be losing power, inspect and replace the air filter. This will improve the motorcycle’s performance, and you won’t feel power lag.

3. Reduced Mileage

The calorific value of gasoline/petrol is 42MJ/Kg to 50MJ/Kg (depending upon the grade). This means if you burn 1 kg of gasoline/petrol completely, you’ll get 42 to 50 megajoules of energy.

If your air filter prevents airflow into the carburetor, then your motorcycle engine receives too rich air-fuel mixture.

Due to insufficient oxygen, the hydrocarbons don’t burn completely, and unburnt gases pass through the exhaust valve.

As a result, your engine generates less power than supplied fuel, reducing the mileage. Hence, you get lesser MPG if your motorcycle air filter is clogged.

So, if you notice a mileage drop on your motorcycle, please change the air filter immediately.

4. Check Engine Light

Modern motorcycle has many electronics and sensors installed to increase performance and efficiency.

These sensors read data and send it to the ECU (engine control unit), which further decides the amount of fuel supply to the engine cylinder.

An oxygen sensor (also known as an O2 sensor) is installed on the exhaust system that reads the residual oxygen into the exhaust gases and sends signals to the ECU.

If your motorcycle air filter is clogged, the O2 sensor will detect it and signal ECU. The ECU will understand that the engine receives too rich air-fuel mixture and triggers the Check Engine Light, aka MIL (malfunction indicator lamp).

So, if you scan your motorcycle with an OBD2 scanner, you’ll get a P0175 diagnostic trouble code (DTC), which indicates too rich air-fuel mixture supply to the engine.

5. Air Filter Blackened

I have provided you with four common symptoms of a bad air filter on a motorcycle. However, you can visually inspect your air filter to know its actual condition. You can open the air filter cabinet and check if it has blackened.

If your motorcycle’s air filter looks too dirty and blackened, it’s time to replace it. You can buy an OEM filter for your motorcycle or a K&N universal air filter from Amazon for high performance.

Royal Enfield Air Filter

What Happens If You Don’t Change Your Air Filter?

I recently visited a motorcycle service center, and a guy brought his Honda CBR600RR for the second service.

He asked a very genuine question to the mechanic- what happens if I don’t change the air filter? Will it hurt or damage the engine? Unfortunately, the mechanic didn’t answer his query in depth.

But, I will answer this question. Most OEM motorcycle air filters are made from foam, cellulose, or paper, like a coffee filter. If you don’t change it after recommended time intervals, the pores on the air filter get clogged by dust and debris, which reduces the airflow rate.

Due to reduced airflow rate, the carburetor supplies too rich air-fuel mixture into the engine cylinder, reducing fuel economy.

As you know, oxygen is required to fire up anything. If your air filter doesn’t supply a sufficient amount of oxygen, the fuel doesn’t burn into the cylinder, which results in dropped performance and reduced power generation.

If you don’t change the air filter for a long time, the carbon fouling on the spark plug will increase, and your motorcycle will face a starting problem. It also damages the engine.

Also Read: How Often To Change Motorcycles Oil Filter?

Does Changing Motorcycle Air Filter Improve Performance?

The air filter is the lung of the motorcycle. It filters all the unwanted particles from the air before supplying them to the engine, promoting better fuel combustion.

If you change the air filter, it will definitely improve the motorcycle’s performance and promote better power delivery.

Changing the air filter on every service is recommended for better performance and improved fuel efficiency. Replacing an air filter is very easy, and you can do it yourself.

How Long Do K&N Motorcycle Air Filters Last?

Generally, the OEM filters are made from paper that clogs with dust after several miles. The OEM air filters last for 10000 to 15000 miles, while K&N motorcycle air filters last for up to 50000 miles on highway riding conditions.

Do K&N Air Filters Make A Difference On A Motorcycle?

K&N air filters provide up to 50% more airflow than conventional paper filters. Due to increased airflow, fuel combustion efficiency increases, resulting in increased performance and better throttle response.

I have installed a K&N air filter on my motorcycle and noticed a significant improvement in throttle response and power delivery.

Can You Wash the Motorcycle Air Filter?

The OEM air filter made from paper can not be washed, but compressed air can clean the dust. If your air filter is made of foam, you can wash it with lukewarm soap water and squeeze it to use the next time.

However, you must replace an air filter after 15000 to 20000 miles or every 12 months for better performance and fuel economy.


Can you breathe if your nose is choked? Similarly, your motorcycle engine can not breathe if the air filter is clogged. That’s why you should replace your motorcycle air filter after riding it for 10,000 to 12,000 miles or every year (whichever comes first). This will increase fuel efficiency, power delivery, and better throttle response.

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