Riding motorcycles has been a passion of mine for a long time. Over time, I have educated myself about the various components and parts of a motorcycle that work together to give me the thrill that no other activity gives me. While learning about the engine, I came across the air filter as part of the intake system.
I became quite curious and wondered if having an air filter helped improve the performance of my bike?
Yes, an air filter improves the performance of a bike. You can change the amount of air (oxygen) going into the engine by replacing the air filter to a performance air filter, and thus improves the overall performance and efficiency. It can also help increase the initial acceleration of the bike.
An air filter helps keep out dust and debris that may enter the combustion chamber of the engine otherwise. It ensures that air alone enters, making sure that the engine is able to maintain the optimum fuel to air ratio for proper combustion. As a result, the engine will consume less fuel, giving the rider increased mileage and range while riding their motorcycle.
Some air filters not only keep foreign particles out, but actually increase the airflow into the engine. This is especially crucial when you apply throttle initially. As a result, more air enters quickly, allowing the engine to produce more output in a shorter span of time. This increases the pick-up of the bike.
I was surprised by the significance of this seemingly small component and thus did more research on the same. Read on as I discuss other common queries about air filters. I have also included the most common type of air filters available in the market nowadays.
By the end of this article, you will know everything you need to know about air filters. This will help you tune your bike to extract maximum performance from it.
Can a Dirty Air Filter Affect Performance?
A dirty air filter can affect performance. It can lead to a loss of acceleration, reduced mileage, unnatural engine noises and damage to the engine. It can also lead to emission of smoke from the exhaust in some cases.
The air filter plays a crucial role in improving the acceleration of the bike. If there is insufficient air intake due to a clogged filter, the combustion process will be left incomplete, resulting in lower power outputs that will reduce the acceleration of your ride. This will force you to open your throttle more than you normally would.
To compensate for improper combustion, the carburetor will allow for an increased fuel flow to make the process more efficient. However, this will consume more gas than normal, which means you will have reduced mileage. This increases the cost of riding, while forcing you to make more frequent stops for refueling.
The process of combustion can be compared to that of controlled explosions within the chamber. When the fuel air mixture is at an incorrect ratio, the combustion that results is not what the engine normally designed for. As a result, you will hear a change in the throttle note of your exhaust, especially when you open the throttle.
A dirty air filter can affect the internal components of an engine performance. The tips of the spark plugs can tend to get fouled due to increased fuel flow. It will trigger the engine warning light on your bike, which means you will have to bring it in and get it checked by a mechanic.
Another common consequence of dirty air filters is thick black smoke being emitted from the exhaust.
This is because the incomplete combustion produces additional by-products and pollutants that eventually come out through the exhaust in the form of smoke. Or you can read this article by TVS Motors, How Bike Air-Filters Can Help Boost Your motorcycle’s Performance or you can watch this video which explains what happens when you don’t clean or replace air filter to the power output.
How Often Should I Change my Air Filter on my Motorcycle?
It is ideal to change your air filter at least once a year. Speak to your mechanic or refer to the manual of your motorcycle to see the service requirements of your air filter. You will have to change your air filter if it causes a significant drop in engine performance.
Most air filters are designed to function efficiently for a maximum of one year. While a brand new filter is white in color, a light layer of dirt can be removed easily by tapping on the surface of the filter to free trapped particles. However, if there is a thick layer of gunk that has covered the inlets of the air filter, then it is time to replace the filter.
Every engine has a different air filter depending on the manufacturer. It is best to refer to the manual of the motorcycle for a clear idea in such cases. You can also contact the mechanic who regularly services your ride. This way, you will have a service schedule designed specifically for your motorcycle.
If you notice a significant drop in engine performance while riding, make sure to check the air filter. If it is clogged or damaged, you will have to get it replaced irrespective of when the next service is scheduled.
There are many aftermarket air filters available for each motorcycle, but there for Harley Davidson motorcycles there are thousands of options to choose from. Only Harley motorcycles has most easily available after market products.
And this is same for the air filters, there are different shapes, and kinds of air filters available. And we have found a detailed list of some of the best stage one air filter for Harley Davidson motorcycles.
Can I Run a Motorcycle Without an Air Filter?
It is practically possible to ride a motorcycle without an air filter. Air will still be sucked into the engine through the intake system of the engine, allowing the engine to produce power.
A motorcycle engine does not necessarily need an air filter to function. The intake system is primarily responsible for delivering air to the internal combustion chamber for the ignition process. This will continue to work without an air filter, allowing the air to be sucked in.
What Happens if we Remove Air Filter from a Bike?
The engine consists of a number of sensitive internal components that are designed to perform efficiently. This includes seals and clearances that are designed to control the combustion process within the chamber.
Removing the air filter can cause severe damage to the engine in a very short span of time, while also increasing the fuel consumption by a considerable amount. The engine will also have a much reduced pick up as well.
Riding without an air filter can allow dust and debris to enter this chamber, which can lead to scratches and dents within the surfaces of the engine. It can also clog valves and increase the friction within the engine. These factors can combine together and cause serious issues very quickly. In some extreme cases, it can cause complete combustion failure.
The lack of an air filter will also result in a leaner fuel mix. This means the mix in the combustion chamber to be ignited has more fuel than normal. This increases the consumption of gas, reducing the mileage your motorcycle provides you.
The last aspect that is severely impacted is the acceleration. The engine will struggle to deliver power initially, especially in standing start applications. This is because there will not be enough clean air to supply the combustion within the engine. The airflow is increased when the motorcycle is in motion, reducing the impact of this issue at higher speeds.
Types of Motorcycle Air Filters
There are three main types of motorcycle air filters. They are OEM paper filters, oiled cotton gauze filters and oiled foam filters.
OEM paper filters
These filters are the most common types of filters that are provided by the manufacturer. These filters are found on commuter bikes and cruisers commonly.
They are similar to coffee filters, with pores allowing air to enter while keeping dust particles out. They also have a viscous layer to trap fine dust from entering the engine. They are cheap, easy to install and clean. However, they do not perform well in dirty conditions such as off-roading and need to be replaced frequently.
Oiled cotton gauze
The pleats of this type of filter are made of cotton gauze that is covered in oil. It allows for increased airflow due to the porous nature of cotton. The oil helps trap fine dirt, helping maintain the purity of the air going into the engine. The major advantage of this type of filter is that it can be washed and reused again.
Oiled foam filters
Oiled foam filters are made of foam that is up to an inch thick. The foam is dipped in oil, allowing it to capture the most dirt out of all the existing air filters. However, it requires frequent cleaning to ensure proper functionality.