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How to clean generator air filter

How to Clean Generator Air Filter is an informative guide that provides step-by-step instructions on maintaining and cleaning your generator’s air filter.

Table of Contents

The air filter on the portable generator is used to clear the air drawn into the carburetor before it is mixed with fuel and ignited to generate power. With this filter, the engine will get enough clean air and perform well.

If you work or live in a dusty area, you should frequently clean your filter. After some time, the air filter loses its ability to filter dirt and needs to be replaced. You should then select the appropriate filter for your generator type for the best experience.

Below, we’ve guided you on how to clean your generator air filter. While the method is the same for all types of generators, the generator air filter’s location, design and size may vary by brand. Finally, we detail how to get a new air filter when needed.

air filter display

Steps to clean the generator air filter

  • Locate the air filter assembly on the generator. It is a black rectangular part to the left of the recoil assembly.
  • Undo the clips on the casing; most air conditioner casings have upper and lower clips. Carefully remove the case.
  • Remove the foam filter just below the housing cover.
  • Clean the foam filter with detergent and water until it feels dry. Squeeze out excess water without twisting.
  • Once the foam filter is dry, soak one side of it in fresh engine oil, and then wipe out any extra oil with a fresh cloth. The foam filter shouldn’t leak any remaining oil.
  • With the greased side facing the engine, insert the foam filter into the housing unit.
  • At last, affix the air filter cover and tighten the clips once more.

Throughout the process, follow the generator manufacturer guidelines to avoid damaging any part of the generator.

steps to clean the air filter housing

Steps to clean the air filter housing

Just cleaning the air filter without cleaning the housing will not keep the filter clean. The dirt easily sticks back into the foam filter once the foam is in the housing.

To clean the housing, follow these steps:

  • Follow the steps above to locate the air cleaner assembly.
  • Loosen the clips on the air conditioner cover.
  • Remove the foam air filter.
  • Remove the metal grille from the air filter housing. It is usually held in place by two plastic pins. You carefully pull it off the pin to remove it.
  • Then, remove the three nuts holding the air cleaner housing in place. The three nuts are:
  • The middle of the air cleaner housing.
  • The upper left of the air cleaner housing.
  • The bottom back of the air cleaner.
  • Then remove the rubber hose on the left side of the air cleaner assembly. Before carefully pulling the hose out, you might need to use pliers to release the fasteners keeping it in place.
  • Remove the rubber hose at the top of the air filter assembly by slowly pulling the hose from the housing. You can then remove the entire air filter assembly from the generator.
  • Wash with soapy water and let it air dry until all the water is gone.
  • Slide the air filter unit onto the generator with caution. Ensure the alignment and orientation are correct when doing this.
  • Reinstall the three nuts are: Three are located inside the air filter housing: one in the center, one on the upper left side, and the last one on the bottom of the rear.
  • Insert each hose correctly. You can use pliers to hold the hose firmly in place.
  • Put the metal grill back in place. You can guide it by the two lines on either side of it. The metal grille prevents the foam filter from being sucked in and damaging the generator carburetor.
  • Replace the foam filter to its position as described in the previous series of steps.
  • Replace the air filter cap to complete the process.

The same method should be followed when replacing the air filter. Only a new air filter will be used this time instead of sending the old one back.

read instructions to see other methods

Other filter-cleaning methods

The procedure above works for a small generator for a home or RV. However, a large generator that runs on diesel and is used to power the entire house will use other cleaning methods, such as:

1) Water under pressure

The air filter can be cleaned with pressurized water at a maximum pressure of 40 PSI (276 kPa). Nozzles should be used to spray water in an up-and-down motion onto the surface on the clean side of the filter. Afterwards, the same process should be repeated on the dirty side of the air filter. Drying should be done by air. If you must use hot air, ensure the temperature does not exceed 70°C or 160°F.

Rinse the air filter with water up to 6 times before replacing the filter itself. This is because it can damage the filter media over time. While you may notice some wavy folds in the filter media, this is fine.

2) Air under pressure (with or without vacuum)

This method uses clean, dry air to blow the dust out of the air filter. The pressure should not exceed 40 PSI (276 kPa), and the nozzle should be no closer than 2 inches (50 mm) from the air filter face.

Compressed air is passed directly through the filter from the clean side. As air is blown against the blower’s nozzle, the filter element’s face ought to oscillate up and down. If a hoover is present, it should be placed on the unclean side so that it may draw in air and dust.

Getting the nozzle too close to the filter media can damage it and should therefore be avoided.

3) Vacuuming

For this method, you should be using a central vacuum supply or a standard shop vacuum supply. Then, move the vacuum cleaner up and down on the dirty side, avoiding contact with the nozzle of the vacuum cleaner with the surface of the air medium.

4) Non-sudsing detergent

In this method, you first need to clean the air filter using the above methods. Then you follow these steps:

Place the filter in a suitable water tank, open end up, with water temperature 37-60°C (100-140°F) and a non-foaming detergent.

Soak the filter for at least 15 to 30 minutes, then remove the dirt by gently swirling or shaking it. After that, soak for another 10 minutes.

Rinse the filter with clean water from the clean side until the water runs clear. Air dry at a maximum temperature of 70°C (160°F).

Due to the destructive nature of water-to-air filters, this process should be performed at most six times before the filter is replaced. Be careful not to immerse the air filter in the cleaning solution completely. The force of the water will cause wavy folds, which is not a problem. Also, use cleaning fluid sparingly.


What to do after cleaning the air filter?

After completing the cleaning process, do the following before reconnecting it back to the generator:

  • Place the filter in a well-lit area, and inspect all parts, especially the gasket, for cracks and tears.
  • Place the filter in a dark room and place a 60-watt light bulb in it. Spin the filter slowly to check for holes and weak spots in its media. Bright spots will identify defects. It cannot be used again if it is damaged and must be replaced.
  • Mark the filter indelible ink with the cleaning procedure, date, and frequency.

If you are not replacing it directly, wrap it in a plastic bag and a carton with details about the filter, such as the element’s part number and other information. These aspects can also help you get the most out of your air filter.

Essential aspects of cleaning or replacing air filters

Some important things to look out for when cleaning and replacing air filters on generators and other machines include:

  • To get the most out of your air filter, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations when replacing or cleaning it.
  • Cleaning the air filters will reduce their efficiency and make them worse at air filtration each time; cleaning them a few times will render them useless and risk damaging the generator. Some air filters lose as much as 25% efficiency after the first wash. Therefore, consider purchasing a new one after about three washes.
  • If the machine has two air filters, only replace the second one; never clean it. This secondary filter should be replaced after one year or after the primary filter has been changed three times. Whichever comes first.
  • Air filters should not be cleaned until they look new, as this can damage the air filter media, making it less effective.
  • Make the habit of inspecting the elements of the air filter after each cleaning to check their integrity as they filter airborne particles from the air.
  • Whenever you dispose of an air filter, you reduce its effectiveness at filtering the air. Therefore, only operate the air filter when necessary.
  • Please do not wait until the filter is out of service to replace it. Instead, replace it as often as the manufacturer recommends, even if you think it’s still working.
  • Cleaning filters is a risky job and should be done with extreme care. Damage to any part of the filter significantly reduces efficiency and increases the risk of machine damage.
  • If you’re not sure what to do and can’t clean the air filter yourself, it’s better to let an expert handle it than damage the filter and generator.
  • Always inspect your air filter thoroughly for damage before cleaning it. If you notice any damage, don’t clean it. Instead, replace it. This applies to end plates, gaskets and any other filter parts.
  • When disposing of any material on your air filter, always do so in an environmentally responsible manner.
  • These aspects will help you take good care of your air filter.
safety instructions for cleaning generator air filter

Safety instructions for cleaning generator air filter

a) Disconnect power

Always disconnect the generator from any power source before cleaning the air filter.

b) Wear protective gear

Wear safety glasses, safety gloves, and a face shield to remove dust and debris.

c) Be careful of hot parts

Be careful of the generator’s hot parts and moving parts to avoid burns or injury.

d) Read the manual

Before cleaning an air filter, always refer to the manufacturer’s manual to ensure you follow proper procedures.

e) Avoid overfilling

If using an oil-soaked foam air filter, be careful not to overfill; this can clog the engine and cause damage.

NOTE: These precautions may vary by specific make and model of generator, so consult the manufacturer’s manual for detailed instructions.

Tools required to replace generator air filters

To clean your generator air filter, you will need the following tools:

  • Screwdriver (to remove air filter cover if necessary)
  • Clean, dry cloth
  • A cleaning solution best for the type of air filter you have (e.g. soap and water for foam filters, degreaser for lint-free filters)
  • Optional: Air compressor or can of compressed air to blow out the filter.

Clean Generator Air Filter FAQ


To summarize, a dirty air filter can cause various problems, from reduced engine performance to increased fuel consumption, engine backfiring, and unusual engine noise.

Regular cleaning or replacement of the air filter is vital to maintain proper engine performance and efficiency.

Some areas to avoid when cleaning air filters include:

  • Do not scrape dirt or contamination from the surface of the media.
  • Do not loosen dirt from the filter by banging it against a hard surface or tapping it with a tool.
  • Never clean the foam filter or cartridge.
  • These precautions are only to avoid damage to the air filter components.

This means the generator has more oil than it needs or is leaning to one side, causing the oil level to rise too high.

You can replace the air filter by removing the housing, the foam filter, and then the air filter assembly, and replace it with this process, but in reverse order.

Signs of a bad air filter include stalled engine, Check engine light on, reduced power, reduced fuel economy, the gas smell when starting the engine, unusual engine sound, dirty flames, filter, or black smoke from the exhaust pipe, etc.

Generators can be run without a filter, but this is not recommended as the air filter will trap incoming dust and debris to protect the carburetor and combustion chamber.

If you remove the air filter, the following can happen.

  • Smoky emissions and excess hydrocarbon emissions
  • Extra fuel consumption
  • Poor engine performance
  • Damage to carburetors, pistons, fuel lines and cylinder walls.

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