Diagnosing a Clogged Dirt Bike Air Filter

Clogged dirt bike air filter problems can range from "it just doesn't have as much pop" to "it won't run at all." When you aren't getting enough air to the engine, the performance on your dirt bike or ATV starts to suffer. Knowing the symptoms of a clogged air filter on your dirt bike can help you keep the bad stuff out of your motor.

Kawasaki motorcycle air filter

How Dirt Bike Air Filters Work

Most dirt bike and ATV air filters are made of foam, and the foam is covered in a light oil that helps collect dust and other particles that would otherwise make it into the engine. The good news is that it makes it easy to clean the air filter on a dirt bike; the bad news is the great effectiveness of this air filter design means that unlike on a car, you'll see a big drop-off in performance when the filter gets dirty on your bike. A good air filter cleaner and a fresh coat of air filter oil can solve a lot of problems. 

Dirty Air Filter Symptoms

In your engine, the fuel and air mix in the carburetor. When the air filter gets clogged, it restricts air flow, meaning the engine starts burning too much fuel. In a two-stroke motor, it might look like a fouled spark plug or too much oil in your fuel mix. Your first warning sign is black smoke coming from your exhaust pipe. Other warning signs include:

  • Hard starting
  • Stalling engine
  • Sluggish throttle

This is just the beginning, and not getting on top of the problem can mean that clumps of oily dirt can get loose from the filter and fall deeper into the engine. When that happens, it's another set of problems. The manufacturer on your machine can give you exact recommendations on how often you should go between cleaning — or in some cases replacing — your air filter.


Need a little help changing the air filter on your dirt bike? Watch the video below to learn how to change the air filter on a Kawasaki KLX 110.


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