Tinker Talk – February 2020: Money well spent: reusable air cleaners

By Justin James

In all my experiences, reusable air cleaners are a great investment. They are more expensive than OEM replacements but after a few service intervals, a reusable air cleaner will have paid for itself. They are also dyno-proven to increase an engine’s power output since they allow for both increased and quicker airflow. Despite these advantages, many people avoid using them. The most common argument I hear against them is that they can make an engine run poorly. This is true but can almost always be traced back to neglected or improper maintenance. In this edition of Tinker Talk we are going to go over the very simple process to maintain reusable air filters.

Removal: The first thing you will want to do is access the element. On most cruiser type bikes it will be in plain sight (Photo 1). On most sport or off-road bikes, it will likely be in the airbox, found underneath the tank or seat. After removing the element (Photo 2), it is a good idea to plug the carburetors/throttle bodies (Photo 3).

Cleaning: Utilize a proper, mild degreaser to saturate the filter (Photo 2). Allow the degreaser to soak in for no more than ten minutes, then rinse the filter using low pressure, cool water. Follow the direction of intended air flow when rinsing. You may need to perform this step more than once if the filter is heavily soiled. Never allow the cleaning solution to dry. Doing so can obstruct airflow through the filter.

Drying: It is always best to let the filter air dry (Photo 4). If you are pressed for time you can utilize a fan set on a low speed to accelerate the drying process. Do not use compressed air or heat. The use of heat or compressed air can damage the filter material and compromise its filtration ability.

Oiling: If you are working with a dry element disregard this step. For cotton gauze type elements, you will want to apply oil lightly and evenly, pleat by pleat (Photo 5). The oil will soak in and disperse throughout the element. This should not require more than two light coats. Do not over-oil. Excess oil may seep through the filter and make its way through the intake, which can lead to poor running symptoms. Foam type elements will require you to massage the oil into the foam (Photo 6). After the oil has soaked in, reinstall the filter (Photo 7) and hit the road.


Follow these four simple steps exactly, and it is nearly impossible to get reusable air filter servicing wrong. Properly maintain a reusable air filter and you can almost always expect increased performance and filtration that will last the life of the engine.

Tinker, Shred, Destroy, Repeat
(follow more of my Tinker shenanigans on Instagram @justinjamesmoto)

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