Is It Ok To Run ATV Without Air Filter? | Hunt or Shred

If your air filter is clogged, ruining your riding experience, you might be tempted to remove it. But is it okay to run an ATV without an air filter?

While you can ride your ATV without an air filter, you definitely shouldn’t. The air filter is there for a reason. It protects your engine from harmful particles that can cause it to seize. Removing the air filter can improve performance in the short term but will ruin your engine after a while. 

Most air filters are made of paper and synthetic fiber that can trap particles that are five to six microns large or more. The majority of the air filters can trap 80 to 90% of the harmful particles of your engine. However, these filters can get clogged, ruining the entire riding experience. So, can you remove your air filter and still ride our ATV?

As an ATV enthusiast and an experienced rider, in this article, I will tell you why air filters are important for the health of your ATV and how you can make sure that your air filter does its job efficiently.

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What Happens If You Run Your ATV Without an Air Filter?

When the engine’s intake system sucks in air, all the particles in the surrounding air are vacuumed in. That is where the air filter is required to filter out the contaminating particles such as dirt, debris, and tiny insects before the air reaches the engine chamber.

If you run your ATV without an air filter, these particles and debris will ruin the engine by mixing in the oil, which will add friction to the engine mechanism. When the contaminated oil with debris and toxic metals runs through the engine, it wears down the engine walls, rings, valves, and cylinders. The air filter keeps your engine clean and allows it to function smoothly and frictionlessly.

Your engine will suffer if your air filter is:

  • Not working properly
  • Not installed correctly
  • Not compatible

A malfunctioning air filter also harms your engine performance by affecting the turbocharger. The turbocharger forces pressurized air into the engine to boost its performance – absorbing unfiltered air will damage the engine, drastically shortening its life. Without an air filter, your engine could suffer from an excess of oil consumption. If not treated in time, it could lead to engine seizure.

Why Do Some People Drive ATVs Without an Air Filter?

Some ATV riders run their ATVs without an air filter for enhanced performance as the engine breathes better without an air filter blocking some of the airflows. Taking the air filter out also makes your ATV roar louder and supports a better pick. However, the benefits are extremely short-term.

While most people look forward to these exciting prospects, they are unaware that most modern ATVs use engines that are fuel-injected. It adjusts the fuel and air mixture according to its predefined setting, no matter the intake – so this kills the purpose of running an ATV without an air filter.

In contrast, if you have an older ATV with a carburetor-based engine, you will have a slight increase in performance but will also have to take on the cost of a damaged engine. If you ride your ATV on dirt tracks and beaches, the damage will occur sooner and be more severe.

Keeping Your Engine Free from Particles That Could Harm It

You can keep your engine safe from dirt and debris by maintaining your air filter with these steps:

Use a High-Quality Air Filter

A high-quality air filter ensures that your engine gets the purest air. Therefore, make sure to install only the best quality air filter. However, do not use an air filter that does not fit the design of your ATV’s air filter box. A high-quality filter that someone may have recommended to you might tempt you, but using an incompatible air filter will allow leaks in the housing and let unfiltered air pass the trap.

The air filter is the gate through which air enters the engine. If it gets clogged, the engine will have an imbalanced fuel and air intake, leading to insufficient power generation. So make sure you change your air filter on time and use only the best ones.

Clean Your Air Filter Frequently

Running our quad-bike on a clogged air filter is an imminent way to damage your engine for good. A dirty air filter will lose its ability to trap dirt and other harmful particles, letting them through to harm your engine. Moreover, a dirt-filled air filter makes it harder for the engine to breathe, often stopping the engine from generating enough horsepower to run itself.

Whether you are a casual rider or someone like us who takes their ATV out every day, make sure to clean the air filter often and after a ride in the dirt tracks.

While cleaning a paper filter is a simple process that involves blowing it with pressurized air, the synthetic foam filter requires multiple steps for optimum performance. The steps are as follows:

  • Make a tidy and dirt-free space your spot to clean the air filter.
  • Gather the required equipment, i.e., rubber gloves, a cleaning bucket or a tub, filter oil, filter cleaner, waterproof grease, and cleaner for the airbox.
  • Start washing your filter gently with the filter cleaner in the bucket. Make sure you use a high-quality cleaner that does not break down the glue that holds the foam together. You will see oil and dirt coming out of your filter.
  • After you have cleaned all the oil and dirt out of our filter, let it dry.
  • Once the filter is dry, oil it gently with the filter oil, ensuring every part is covered.
  • After oiling the filter, let it sit for a couple of hours, and meanwhile, clean your filter box with the spray cleaner. Spray it all over, and absorb the residue, which gathers at the bottom, with a sponge or a clean cloth.
  • It’s almost time to put our filter back in. Before that, apply the waterproof grease on the edges of the filter box to keep out any particles that might leak in.

Caution: Remember to keep your throttle and plugs covered while applying spray or liquid cleaners on the filter box so it does not harm your vehicle.

There you have it. An excellent and clean air filter that is ready to support your engine performance by providing it with clean air.

Your quad-bike deserves a clean air filter that lets it breathe without blockage and keeps the engine’s life from accelerating quickly towards damage. Running your ATV without an air filter means that your engine will collapse inevitably. To avoid any unnecessary trouble and embarrassment while you are on a ride out with your friends or casually strolling in the city, run your bike with a clean air filter.




23 years old. I work at a motocross store where we specialize in gear, parts, and apparel for ATV and UTV riders.

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