What Happens If The Motorcycle Air Filter Gets Wet: Easy Fix


Motorcycles come with different types of air filters, and each one comes with its pros and cons. All of them are susceptible to getting wet but in varying degrees. 

If the air filter of the motorcycle gets wet, then the air won’t be able to flow efficiently to the engine. Air ( oxygen ) is a crucial component in the combustion process, an insufficient amount of air will result in a lack of horsepower and torque which will increase the temperature of the engine.

If you don’t know about air filters types, don’t worry we got your backs.
There are three types of air filters

  1. Cotton-Based Air Filter.
  2. Paper-Based Air Filter.
  3. Foam-Based Air Filter.
Note: Pod filters are small individual air filters and are usually used in custom motorcycles for performance and aesthetic purposes.

Cotton Based Air Filter

Cotten Air Filter gives the best performance, but it’s expensive compared to other filters. Most of the high-performance motorcycles ( sports motorcycles ) go for cotton-based air filters because of their air filtration at higher rates. This is exactly what these kinds of motorcycles need. They are also washable is a plus and good in the long run.

Paper-Based Air Filter

These types of filters are usually used in modern road bikes because of their easy access and affordable prices. Commuters’ road bikes are not meant to go on harsh off-roading as paper air filters are not very efficient in extremely dirty terrains. Paper air filters need replacement after certain miles/kilometers and are not washable.

Foam Based Air Filters

Foam air filters have strong and dense material, which is perfect for off-roading/adventure motorcycles. It comes at a reasonable price and offers much more with its long-lasting nature. Foam air filters are washable like cotton ones, which are also good in the long run.

So now you know the types of air filters, and maintenance for each one of them is not hard as you think. The cleaning process varies for each of them due to the difference in their build material. 

What If The Water Gets Into The Air Filter Or It Gets Wet

Keep in mind that some kinds of filters are more prone to getting wet than others. Motorcycles which has pod air filters are more prone to getting the filter wet or dirty depending on weather & surrounding conditions ( ex. heavy rain, muddy tracks, super dusty condition ).

There are tiny spaces in the motorcycle’s air filter regardless of the material ( Foam, Paper, or Cotton ). When the motorcycle air filter is wet, these tiny spaces get clogged and the air won’t flow efficiently.

Over time dust, debris, and other contaminants will get accumulated on the air filter if it’s not correctly maintained.
This can cause high engine temperatures, which can definitely damage the motorcycle’s engine. If you are still facing performance issues then it’s time to replace your air filter.

Here are some common signs you can look out for once the airflow is inefficient, which is caused by the air filter getting wet.

  1. Low Mileage – There will be a rich mixture running in your motorcycle because of the insufficient airflow, which will directly burn more gas/petrol resulting in lower mileage output.
  2. Poor Engine Cooling – The heat dissipation will be low because of the inefficient air (oxygen) required for combustion. The engine would heat up drastically, which may eventually lead to engine seizing. 
  3. Poor Performance – The engine will have to put more work in to produce the same horsepower, eventually leading to a drop in performance significantly.

Look out for these common problems you will face when you have doubts about your air filter. And it’s better to invest in a new air filter if you know it’s time to chuck the current one, there is no use in cleaning and maintaining it once it’s used for a pretty long time.

How To Dry Off Motorcycle’s Air Filters

Drying off a motorcycle’s air filters is a quick easy process. But there are different methods to dry each type of air filter.

So here are different procedures to dry each type of motorcycle air filter in an easy way.

Drying Off Foam Based Air Filters

As you know by now, Foam air filters are recommended to be used in off-roading motorcycles because of the filter’s dense material and washable feature.

Foam has the tendency to catch liquid in it. Air Won’t flow properly through the filter if the pores on the surface have water in them.

Don’t try force drying the foam by squeezing it hard or applying high heat temperature on it by using hair dryers. Also, avoid drying it with high air pressure.

Gently squeeze the water out of the foam air filter by covering it with a clean towel or cloth. Then you let it dry off under the sun for around 30 minutes. You can also use a hairdryer on a low heat setting while maintaining 5 to 7 inches of distance.

Keep in mind that don’t apply heat incessantly ( without taking a break ). Apply small bursts of heat for a few seconds covering all sides of the filter’s surface.

But it’s best to let it dry under the sun for good 30 minutes and if you feel the surface still has moisture in it, let it dry under the sun for another extra few minutes. Or you dry it off overnight.

Drying Off Paper Based Air Filters

For a paper air filter, it’s best to let it dry naturally under the sunlight.

Rapid air drying processes such as applying high heat via a hairdryer or using a high air blower device on the wet surface will damage the structure of the paper.

Don’t use cloth or any foreign material on the paper to dry it. If you can plan ahead of time, overnight drying can also be a good option.

Drying Off Cotton Based Air Filters

Cotton air filters give the best output, but it also comes with its downsides.

So if you are in a situation where your cotton air filter is wet, don’t go in willy nilly drying it off.

Let the cotton air filter dry under direct sunlight, which is the optimal method for these kinds of filters.

Also, avoid rapid air-drying methods such as using a hairdryer. Use a cloth to partially dry it off. Try placing it under the sun or let it dry overnight.

Using harsh drying methods such as using a hairdryer o high heat or squeezing too hard will drastically degrade the quality of the cotton. It will also damage the structure of the cotton material, which will make it highly prone to more wear and tear.

These are the most reliable ways to dry off the wet motorcycle air filters. Don’t rush into the drying process for these filters, avoid harsh rapid drying process as best as possible.

Motorcycle Air Filters Maintenace & Cleaning

Believe it or not, air filters need their fair share of proper maintenance & cleaning routine. Especially if you are riding like a maniac on dirt roads or rough terrains.

Here is a maintenance and cleaning routine for each type of air filter. Follow the instructions properly to avoid any complications.

Foam Air Filters Maintenace & Cleaning Routine

In foam based air filters, the cleaning is done with the help of a foam filter cleaner or detergent.

Foam filter cleaner is recommended, as they are manufactured for that specific purpose.

Add the foam filter cleaner to the bucket and let it soak for a couple of minutes. After letting the foam absorb the detergent squeeze it a little bit.

Avoid twisting the foam air filter cause it might damage the foam factor over time.

After this, put some dishwasher on the foam filter and wash it with warm water. Once cleaning is done, rinse it with warm water.

Inspect the filter, if it’s thoroughly cleaned you are good to go. Make sure that the filter is completely dry before oiling it.

There are different methods of oiling the foam. First, spray the foam with aerosol spray and oil it evenly. Make sure that the entire foam is distributed with an equal amount of oil. The other way is to submerge the foam completely in the oil tub and rinse the excess oil from the foam by squeezing it gently a couple of times.

Before placing a foam filter on the filter cage, clean the cage with a contact cleaner. Now put some baring grease on the edges of the foam, it makes sure that the grease is going to seal good enough around the edges.

There you go, you are done with the foam air filter maintenance and cleaning procedure.

Paper Air Filters Maintenace & Cleaning Routine

When it comes to paper air filters, shaking/flicking or blowing air on the filter are two methods to clean.

But if you notice that the air filter is not in optimal condition, you must replace it with the new one immediately.

In the flicking/shaking method, the paper air filter is gently shaken or flicked to get the dust and pollutants off the surface. This method is not effective if the surface of the filter needs some serious cleaning. If you just want to check up on the air filter’s condition, then this quick method can come in handy.

Whereas in the air blowing process the medium powered air blower gun is usually blown from inside out so that the pollutants can easily come off from the surface.

Avoid applying too much high pressure. Instead, go for a small burst of air covering the whole surface section by section. This might take some time, but it’s worth it because too much pressure can damage the air filter’s paper structure resulting in inefficient airflow.

So it’s best to replace paper air filter completely as it’s not very expensive and come’s at cheap prices compared to its counterparts.

Considering the damage which can be inflicted on the engine if the air filter is not in optimal shape, it’s best to buy a new paper air filter.

Most of the O.E.M recommend changing the paper air filter after 6000-8000 miles or 9000-12000 kilometers based on the usage.

Cotton Air Filters Maintenace & Cleaning Routine

For Cotton Air Filters, spray air filter cleaner on both sides of the filter’s surface and let it sit on it but don’t let it completely dry off.

Spray low pressurized water on both sides of the cotton air filter. Once you are done, shake off or gently squeeze the excess water and let it dry naturally under sunlight or overnight.

The filter must be completely dry before reoiling it ( oiling can be done with the help of an aerosol can ).

Spray the oil evenly along the crown of each pleat from 3 to 4 inches away. Allow the oil to absorb for 20 to 30 minutes to achieve an optimal result. Make sure there isn’t any excess oil dripping from the filter.

Manufacturers recommend changing the cotton air filter after 6000-8000 miles or 9000-12000 kilometers based on the usage.

Once the inspection is complete, install it back on the motorcycle and you are good to go.


Change your paper air filters when they are in a beat-up condition. It’s better to buy a new paper air filter than try to fix the old one, and it is not expensive as its counterparts. Pod air filters are cotton-based and don’t require any different maintenance and cleaning routine.

Don’t use any high kind of pressure or twisting motion to get the excess water out of the filter’s surface. Be methodical and use the right amount of pressure to get the water out of it.

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