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Air Filter Basics- ATV & UTV Tech

- Jan 30, 2019 -

Air Filter Basics- ATV & UTV Tech

Engines need 3 things to run properly: Air, fuel, and spark. Pretty simple, right?

It is fairly simple, but if one of those 3 essentials isn’t present or one or more of them isn’t in balance, then you have problems…

Case in point, your air filter is the first defense for providing clean air to your engine. This clean air is essential for any engine to run properly. Any spec of dirt can produce harmful and detrimental effects to your engine. 

There are two main types of filters available for your off-road vehicle. The first and most common is a foam-type filter element. As you guessed, this style is made from a foam material. The second type is a paper-type element, such as the ever-popular K&N filters.

Both of the types of filters are used in different situations and applications. Paper-based filters like the K&N’s are typically hi-flow filters, meaning more air passes through them. As a result, you have to increase your fuel delivery and you have a corresponding increase in engine output in some applications.

Foam-based filters are typically more restrictive, but they also trap dirt a little better in the long run.

Both filter types require the user to oil the filters after cleaning. More on that later…

Ensuring that your air filter is performing to its best ability should be one of the things on your pre-ride checklist. For a complete list of items that should be on your pre-ride checklist, check out July-August 2014 issue.

No holes, tears, or gaps should be found in your filter. These types of problems allow dirt to get in your filter, especially when you ride in silty or sandy conditions. 

After each of your rides, inspect your filter for the aforementioned defects. Once you have done so, it’s a good idea to clean your filter at least every couple of rides. The more your ride in dirty or dusty conditions, the more you will have to clean your filter. Several companies make the proper cleaners. Whether you have a paper or foam filter, ensure you have the correct cleaners at your local dealer. Companies such as K&N make cleaning and re-oiling your filters easy with their branded products that are easy to spot and purchase at your local dealer.  We advise you to not use toxic chemicals, such as gasoline, to clean your filter. These types of chemicals degrade the foam or paper filter and decrease the effectiveness of your filter.

Once your filter is nice and clean, be sure you apply the right type of oil to your filter before you put it back on your ATV or UTV. You can find the proper oils at your local dealership, and they are again based on the type of filter you have on your vehicle. 

After you have cleaned and re-oiled your filter, be sure to apply a slim coating of grease where your filter comes into contact with the airbox. This thin layer provides the last layer of protection from the inside of your intake track to the engine. You want the best seal possible to ensure no little particles get into your intake. 

Once all of those steps are done, you are ready to ride! Be sure to have fun, and we’ll keep the tech articles rolling out.


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