Will an ATV Run Without an Air Filter? How To Make It Work


An air filter traps harmful particles, protecting your ATV engine from dust and debris. But if your air filter isn’t functioning properly, these impurities can find their way into the ATV engine, causing extensive damage. So, will an ATV run without an air filter, and how can you make it work?

An ATV will run without an air filter, but it can shorten your engine’s lifespan. Dust, dirt, and bugs could get pumped into the engine, causing low performance and severe damage to internal parts. It’s best to buy an aftermarket air filter and clean it after a dusty ride for improved performance.

This article will discuss why it’s not a good idea to run your ATV without an air filter. Keep it here to learn all about air filters and why they form an essential part of your ATV’s smooth running.

Why Does Your ATV Need an Air Filter?

To produce the power needed to move, an ATV engine requires both fuel and air. As the engine’s intake system sucks air in, there’s a need to ensure that this air doesn’t come through with dust, debris, or insects. Air filters will trap these particles to keep the engine as clean as possible. All air passes through the air filter in the carburetor before reaching the engine.

What Happens When Your ATV Runs Without an Air Filter?

A good air filter can trap particles sized between 5-6 microns or more and up to 80-90% of particles a couple of microns in size. And high-quality air filters can filter up to 99% of contaminants. Without an air filter, your ATV will run better for a while since it breathes easier without the filter’s restrictions.

However, after some time, dust and debris get pulled into the cylinders, wearing down the walls. What’s more, the oil becomes contaminated with metals and continues to carry this contaminated oil through the entire engine, leaving behind a trail of worn-out engine parts.

The above scenario can also occur if a filter is:

  • Not working properly
  • Not installed correctly
  • The wrong type

All the above instances can expose your engine to harmful particle, resulting in irreparable damage to the following components:

The Turbocharger

A turbocharger enhances engine performance by forcing in pressurized air. However, if the air filter isn’t functional, dirt particles and other debris can get inside the turbocharger, causing extensive damage. Furthermore, if metal from the failed turbocharger happens to get inside the engine, it could cause total engine failure.

The Engine

During the engine’s intake stroke, it sucks air in. But without a functional air filter, dirt and debris can also get in. This could cause damage to internal engine components such as the pistons, valves, and cylinder walls. The result would be oil overconsumption, poor engine performance, and — ultimately — engine failure.

A severely restricted air filter allows contaminants to get into both the turbocharger and engine because the latter has to work doubly hard to pull in adequate air. The resultant vacuum effect pulls in the dust and debris.

Why Some People Run Their ATVs Without Air Filters

Some ATV riders chose to ride their quads without air filters to improve performance. Other riders hope to get loud sounds and good pickup. However, the gains don’t last long.

In any case, most modern ATVs have sport fuel-injected engines, so this won’t make a difference in the way they run. The computer adjusts the fuel and air mixture; hence the engine runs the same as before.

While a carbureted bike might run a little lean without the air filter, you run the risk of wearing out your engine faster. This is especially so if you’re traveling on dusty trails.

Other adverse effects include:

  • Weakening your ATV
  • Increased running expenses
  • Smoke emissions from the exhaust
  • Making your ATV vulnerable to the polluted air

Note that you can get enhanced performance and superbike sounds by buying an aftermarket air filter to replace your stock filter. Such custom air filters allow more air into the engine, helping burn more fuel, which translates to more engine power.

Thus, you’ll notice an immediate boost to your horsepower and fuel economy. Furthermore, they not only work better, but they also last longer than stock filters.

How To Keep Your Engine Safe From Harmful Particles

To maintain your ATV filter and keep your engine free from dust and debris, follow the below guidelines.

Use a High-Quality Air Filter

As a general rule of thumb, only use high-quality air filters. Also, get a filter that’s specific to your ATV to ensure it’s a proper fit. The thing is, your ATVs air filter is the machine’s breathing inlet. This means that if it gets clogged, the amount of air that gets sucked in reduces.

What’s more, more fuel than air enters the engine, and you run the risk of damaging the spark plug. More air and less fuel also cause the engine to run hotter, thus producing less power.

Your air filter’s sealing surface is also prone to leaking. Therefore, ensure the filter sits properly in the housing. This is essential in making sure that only clean air enters the engine.

Clean the Air Filter Often

Running your ATV engine with a dirty air filter is a surefire way to mess up your machine by inviting engine problems. This is because, over time, dirt and grit particles that get sucked into the engine tend to wear it out.

A dirty air filter cannot keep dirt out, and when these particles invade the engine’s inner chambers, your quad will no longer run as it should. This results in reduced horsepower and internal damage to the engine. Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is by installing a new engine.

How often should you clean your air filter? If you’re a casual rider, clean the air filter before the riding season begins and after a dirty ride if you go off-road often. A good rule of thumb is to always clean the air filter after a dusty ride.

The video below shows how to clean your ATV’s air filter:

Change the Air Filter Regularly

Changing your quad’s air filter regularly helps to avoid contaminant buildup. Besides, replacing the air filter only takes a couple of minutes and a small amount of money. Doing so makes a world of difference in how your ATV runs and also affects its long-term performance.

What To Do if You Accidentally Run Your ATV Without an Air Filter

If you happen to run your ATV without a filter, dust, sand, and other harmful particles in the atmosphere could work their way into the combustion chamber.

These particles would then start sanding down your cylinder walls, valves, rings, and valve seats. They could also clog the delicate parts, hinder smooth operation, and you could end up with combustion failure as well as damaged pistons, valves, and cylinder walls.

If there are no visible signs of engine damage, do the following:

  • Shine a light into the intake to check whether you can see any debris.
  • Change the oil to clean out the combustion area by getting rid of any potential contaminants.
  • Use seafoam to clean out carbs, valves, and the combustion chamber.

Final Thoughts

ATV air filters help prevent accelerated engine wear, increase engine life, and keep the engine going strong by filtering the air sucking into the engine’s combustion chamber. Running your ATV without an air filter- especially in dusty, dirty, and muddy environments – means that harmful material could get lodged inside the carburetor alongside the fuel and air.

To avoid unnecessary wear and tear and save yourself from engine trouble down the road, it’s best to run your ATV with an air filter.

Rob

That's me sinking another ATV. I love to ride no matter what it is, snowmobiles, four wheelers, dirt bikes, and anything else off-roading. I've experienced my fair share of machines, and like to share that experience here.

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