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Air cleaners/air filters are an important part of your motorcycle’s carb system.
It does not take much dirt to damage an engine, so it’s important to keep your air filters clean.
The type of air system you have (airbox vs pods) will also have a big effect on your bike’s performance.
A good (and clean) air filter will keep your engine running smooth.
Remember, if you’re changing the intake setup from stock, you might need to retune and rejet your carbs.
Air Boxes Vs. Pod Filters
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Most old motorcycles were designed with relatively restrictive airboxes and air filters. When you start changing your intake setup, you’ll likely affect how your bike performs.
If you plan to change to a different type of air filter or swap out your air box for individual pod filters, you may initially create a fuel mixture condition that is either too lean or too rich.
You may need to re-sync and possibly re-jet your carburetors if you want the motorcycle to run well after changing to a different type of air filter set up. Changing to pod filters will usually require you to move up to larger jet sizes.
If you’re able to, you’ll save yourself some headaches by sticking with the stock airbox that your motorcycle was designed with.
Motorcycle Air Box Benefits
Compared to pod filters, an air box is better at:
- Regulating airflow in heavy wind.
- Preventing dust and debris from getting into the carbs and engine.
- Keeping water and moisture out of the carbs an engine.
- Maintaining consistent airflow for maximum performance.
What does a pod filter do?
A pod filter serves the same function as the air box and air filter element, but the design is different.
Instead of the air filter being protected and the air flow regulated by the air box, the pod filters are more exposed to air flow in all directions.
The result is that a greater volume of air is able to enter the carb circuit. If you fail to adjust for this, you’ll experience a lean air/fuel mixture.
Pod filters can also introduce issues in rain and wet conditions. Whereas an airbox will protect the air filter and carbs from water and moisture, pods are more exposed and run the risk of introducing water to the engine (very bad!).
Switching to Pod Filters
If you want to switch to a pod filter motorcycle:
- Spend the money on higher quality pod filters.
- Try to install them with protection from wind and rain.
- Spend some time figuring out the correcting jetting for your carbs so the bike doesn’t run too lean.
The biggest problem people face with a pod filter is their motorcycle running lean. A lean condition can cause:
- High RPMs.
- Poor throttle response.
- Holes in pistons.
- Loss of power.
Any time you start tweaking your motorcycle’s intake or exhaust system, you’re going to be changing the air/fuel ratios.
If you’re switching to pods or a high-flow air filter, you are probably going to need to do some work to tune and rejet your carbs.
While air filters can certainly have performance benefits, they are typically not plug and play. You’ll need to do a little work to get things just right for your motorcycle.
Running Pod Filters on CV (Constant Velocity) Carbs
If your motorcycle doesn’t have the stock airbox or you’re looking to switch to pod filters for some other reason, you may find the tuning and jetting CV carbs with pods can be frustrating.
If you are using UNI foam pod filters, you can try to alter the airflow restriction by using an aluminum can and/or PVC pipe.
Cut off the top and bottom of the can and cut a line up its side so it will fit into the inside of the pod filter.
The can/pipe acts to restrict and alter the flow of air to get it closer to stock conditions. Air has to flow through the foam filter, towards the back of the pod filter, and back towards the carb.
Do some plug chops and listen for performance throughout the throttle ranges to determine if you need to trim the can restrictor any more. More material inside the pod filter will make the air flow more restricted and cause richer conditions. Trim the can to allow more air to flow and lean out the mixture.
If you’re having trouble tuning and jetting non-CV carbs, this method still may help improve engine performance and fuel mixture adjustments with pod filters.
Types of Motorcycle Air Filters
Air filters are typically made out of one of the following:
- Oiled foam.
- Oiled fabric.
- Dry paper.
Oiled Foam Air Filters
These types of air filters must be oiled properly to work . The oil clings to the foam and filters out particles in the air. Oiled foam air filters can typically be cleaned and reused.
You can clean them with a solvent and a rinse. After you ring and dry them out, you can re-oil the foam filter and use it again.
You should replace the foam before it starts to break down and disintegrate.
Oiled Fabric Air Filters
Fabric air filters work similar to oiled foam filters. They typically come with a special air filter oil from the filter manufacturer, like K&N.
Fabric filters can be cleaned with soap and water and reused.
Paper Air Filters
Paper filters work by sitting dry in your motorcycle’s air box. Their filter abilities degrade as they pick up moisture from the air.
Paper filters should be changed out for new ones at regular intervals.
How to Clean a Motorcycle Air Filter
Under normal conditions, it’s recommended that you clean and oil your motorcycle’s air filter about every 50,000 miles.
However, you should inspect the filter often and especially after riding in dusty, dirty, or wet conditions. If you live in a place with lots of trees and pollen, you may need to inspect your filter more frequently too.
To clean and re-oil your air filter, you’ll need to:
- Spray on the air filter cleaning solution.
- Rinse thoroughly with water.
- Allow the filter to dry out completely.
- Apply with fresh air filter oil.
Doing this periodically will keep your air filter like new and help keep your bike running properly.
Read more: How to Clean a Motorcycle Air Filter