What Happens If The Air Filter Gets Wet? (Explained!)

Motorcycle riding in rain

Wet air filters are tricky.

You don’t know whether to leave it as it is or to make some efforts so that there is no impact on engine performance. But, the question still remains.

What happens if an air filter gets wet? If the air filter is slightly wet, there will not be much impact. But, if the filter is soaking wet, the water gets mixed with the dirt on the filter material to prevent air entry into the engine.

As a result, the engine will run rich, and the fuel efficiency will decrease.

Reasons For An Air Filter Getting Wet

Before diving into what happens to a wet air filter and the possible solutions, let’s first look at the reasons for an air filter getting wet.

#1: Heavy rains seeping into the air filter

Although air filters are covered components in motorcycles, heavy rain pouring can still cause problems in the filters.

Driving or parking the motorcycle exposed to heavy rains can result in water getting into the motorcycle components.

Oftentimes, the water infiltration is caused by water leaking into the crevices of seat covers and then into several components. Thus, entering into the air filter.

#2: Motorcycle washing

Another main reason the air filter can get wet in a motorcycle is during the motorcycle wash.

Oftentimes, a water jet is used either by yourself or by the cleaner to wash the motorcycle. While there is nothing wrong with this cleaning, too much water force can exert itself into the nooks and cranny of the bike. Also, into the air filter.

So make sure to be cautious on water spraying, especially near electric components and also, of course, air filters.

It needs to be mentioned here that, water into air filters is not that big a problem (we are going to discuss this later) when compared to electric components. So make sure, electric components are safe from any water contact.

#3: The air filter is not covered

Most motorcycles have their air filter covered. Air filters are either on the side or directly below the bike seat. As a result, they are not usually exposed to the outside atmosphere.

But, few motorcycles have an open air filter design. Air filters are exposed to the outer atmosphere and are vulnerable to getting wet easily.

In addition, there are few DIY riders who have modified or removed a few parts – resulting in the air filter getting exposed.

That is fine. As long as you are aware of the parts that might get wet easily. Be it rain. Be it some dirt. Or simple water spray. The air filter will get wet in the blink of an eye here.

What Happens When The Air Filter Gets Wet

Once the air filter is wet, which we now know the main reasons for, what happens to the filter and its effect on motorcycles is the question.

The effects vary depending on how wet the air filter is. Whether it is slightly wet. Or soaking wet. That forms the answer for what happens with a wet air filter.

#1: The air filter is slightly wet

If the air filter is slightly wet, either a few water drops or just not too much wetness in general, it is fine. Absolutely fine.

There is no need for any special steps to be taken to address the filter wetness.

The best thing to do here is – nothing. Nothing at all.

Just wait for the wetness on the air filter to dry up. Usually, a few hours would suffice. Also, do not run the motorcycle even if with this slightly wet motorcycle.

In short, keep calm and chill. Most likely, the filter will dry out the wetness naturally.

#2: The air filter is soaking wet

On the other hand, if the air filter is soaking wet – for whatever damn reasons – you need to look into the issue here.

Soaking wet air filters can trap the air dirt and dust to form a layer of dirt on the filter material. Over time, as the dirt accumulates, the air filter gets clogged. This results in the engine not receiving sufficient air and running on a rich fuel mixture.

Such a thing is not only bad for the engine but for the entire motorcycle performance as well. The fuel efficiency will go down. The exhaust might backfire. And the overall engine performance can easily decrease.

So, it is essential to take care of the air filter if it’s too damn wet!

Now, as for the solutions for a wet filter, let’s discuss now.

Solutions For A Wet Air Filter

Now that we know the effects of a wet air filter, especially a soaking wet filter, let’s look at the possible solutions to address them.

#1: Remove the air filter and dry it out

The first and foremost, and the simplest, the solution is to dry the air filter out.

If the air filter is soaking wet, it is much better to take out the air filter and dry it out in the open. And let natural sunlight do its magic.

This should be a simple step and a vital one. Whenever the filter is wet, it is always better to dry it out and then run the motorcycle. The wet filter is just a headache ready to explode soon.

#2: Replace the air filter

Not all air filters recover from drying out. Few air filters, which are already clogged up to an extent, need to be replaced as soon as it gets wet.

This is because the clogged dirt when mixed with water will further block the filter material from receiving air. As a result, the air filter will not be sending sufficient air to the engine. The combustion process will take a hit and so does the motorcycle performance.

So, be ready to replace your air filter. It need not be necessary if the filter is relatively new. But, if it has been some time, better to replace the dirty wet air filter.

Of course, if it is a reusable cotton gauze or foam air filter, you can clean the dirt and dry it up. No need for replacing the air filter.

#3: Use an air filter rain sock

This is specifically applicable for motorcycles with open air filters. Or motorcycle with modified air filters out in the open. Whichever may be the case, the air filter out in the open environment is the key here.

This is not exactly a solution, but rather a robust preventive measure if you don’t want your air filters wet at any time.

Use a rain sock cover for your air filter to protect it from getting wet.

Rain socks are not costly. And they can come in handy if you are living in an area where rains are common and frequent. You can check out a suitable rain sock here.

Related Questions

Can you run a motorcycle with a wet air filter?

You can. But it is advisable to not drive a motorcycle with a wet air filter.

The wetness will mix with the filter dust to clog up the air filter even further. As a result, the air filter might get clogged completely – resulting in the engine not receiving sufficient air for combustion.

Do I need a rain sock on my air filter?

There is no absolute need for a rain sock on your air filter.

Rain sock helps for sure. They protect your air filters from getting wet. Be it rain, bike wash, water spray, or any other water form. Rain socks prevent water from getting into the filter material easily.

But at the same time, they are not a big necessary accessory as well. Most motorcycles have their air filters covered. Even for the ones with open air filters, it is okay if you don’t have rain sock covered on them.