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Tips Before You Buy an Air Cleaner for Your Harley Motorcycle

You know how people actually work behind the scenes, and hardly gets recognized? Well, meet the air filter, the often-overlooked part of a motorcycle who does most of the cleaning job. Without it, your engine will wear out from accumulating dust and dirt, and though it prevents that from happening, if it is not frequently cleaned or changed, you spend more on fuel for low power output from your bike.

So, what exactly does the air cleaner does? Well, as the name implies, it simply cleans the air around the engine by filtering the dust and debris so that the engine can function properly. Just relate it to how you breathe in and out and the nose hairs trap dirt and dust from entering into the lungs. That’s exactly what the air cleaner does. 

However, air cleaners come in different types; the oiled foam, the OEM paper and the oiled cotton gauze. And while all types have their pros, the OEM paper filters have tiny pores which are efficient in filtering the air but poor at allowing the filtered airflow into the engine. And because the tiny pores get easily clogged, it may require constant changing which may cost you some bucks.

The oiled foam can, however, hold dirt for a long time and still allow air to flow without restrictions, so it is a better alternative to paper filters especially if you ply a dusty area frequently. Unlike the paper filter, the oiled foam filter can work properly when wet because the oil and form are not porous but wet paper filter may impair the function of your bike engine.

The best of the three is the cotton gauze and this is so because it can be washed, dried and reused, so you don’t have to worry about buying new air cleaners every time the former gets clogged. The K&N is the most popular after-market oiled cotton gauze filter. 

The oil holds the dust and because it can hold lots of dirt, it means you can travel a long distance before you wash, dry and set it up again. And that’s the key advantage of the cotton filter, it is simply reusable and less expensive, so it’s like saving extra bucks at the same time saving extra trash. That’s a win-win.

With the description and introduction given above, I have laid a foundation especially when it comes to choosing the right type of air cleaner, but there are also some tips you might need to consider again before you buy an air cleaner for your Harley


This is usually the first thing that comes to mind when you intend to buy a new product. How easy is the maintenance process? Does it require any special procedure or incur an extra cost of maintenance? And from the description above, you have an idea which of the three types of air cleaner will require less maintenance. 

The cotton gauze filter even though its easier to use and clean may require frequent washing and drying, especially as it gets older, but an OEM paper filter can actually take long before its due for a change.


You know by now that the dustier the environment you ply frequently, the more work the air filter which might require you to constantly change filters, however, cotton gauze or OEM paper filter might be just perfect for such environment, because you will also need a filter with tiny pores to keep the airflow free of debris. 

But if you ride in a less dusty environment, you are lucky because you won’t have to constantly change or clean your air filters, but that doesn’t remove the need for a change or cleaning.

Ease of changing

The location of your air cleaner will either make changing or cleaning easy or difficult. You might want to consider air cleaners that are easily accessible and easy to setup after removing. You should also pay attention to the screws and settings so that you know what goes where once you are ready to re-install the air cleaner.

Frequency of cleaning or changing

Before you buy that air cleaner, you have to consider your environment and how regular you have to change, then ask yourself if you have the extra $20 bucks or you’d rather stick to washing with soap and water then drying and replacing. This will guide your choice of what air filter to buy.


This is another important point of consideration for buying a new air cleaner. It’s not only about how much dust the air cleaner can filter but also about how much-filtered air goes into the engine.

Does the air get clogged up by dirt? Do you have to clean the filter before you can get enough air to start the engine? All these and more are questions you may want to ask yourself before buying an air cleaner. For instance, even though a paper filter cleans more air, the pores are easily clogged and end up trapping air meant to flow into the system, but the oil foam and cotton gauze are more efficient with free flow of air.


So, now you get to choose which filter is best for your bike which totally depends on what and where you use your bike. If you travel a long distance and want full protection, the paper filter is your best bet, but if you travel through a dustier route an oiled foam or oiled cotton gauze filter is highly recommended. Now that you know, you get to choose the best for your motorbike.

About YouMotorcycle

YouMotorcycle is a lifestyle motorcycle blog to be appreciated by those who see motorcycling as a lifestyle and not simply a hobby, sport, or method of transportation. Most of the posts on the site are written by past and present motorcycle industry staff. We remain fiercely independent, innovative, and unconventional. Our goal is to encourage more people to enjoy the world's greatest outdoor sport by helping new riders get started and inspiring current riders to get out more. We motorcycle, do You?

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