Updated November 15, 2023

How To Clean, Change Generator Air Filter in (6) Steps DIY

How frequently you clean the air filter affects the performance and lifespan of your traditional generator. A clogged air filter can decrease engine airflow, which can lead to poor combustion and diminished power.

But don’t worry. We’re here to be your sidekick in this guide and will help you through the entire process of a clean generator air filter. Your generator will be returned to peak performance by the time we’re finished, prepared to come to your rescue if the power goes out.

How To Clean Generator Air Filter Process

What is An Air Filter?

An air filter is a device that cleans the air of particles, dust, and other contaminants. It is typically used in conjunction with an air conditioner or furnace to improve indoor air quality. Air filters come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and types, and can be replaced as needed.

So, How To Clean Generator Air Filter in (6) Steps

Quick start, find the filter housing and open the filter cover, then remove the air filter and start cleaning using warm water with soap. After cleaning, dry the air filter and then apply a very little bit of oil around the air filter and reinstall the filter. Read the details below.

Tools and Materials Needed

  1. Screwdriver (if required for air filter access)
  2. Warm water and soap
  3. Little bit oil
  4. Compressed air (optional)
  5. New air filter ( if required )

Before you start the cleaning process, make sure the generator is turned off 30 minutes before to allow the engine to cool down and prevent accidents.

Step 1: Locate the Air Filter

The air filter box is typically located near the engine or close carburetor of the generator.  Otherwise, consult the owner manual if you are unsure about its exact location.

Step 2: Remove the Air Filter Cover

Unscrew or unlatch the cover to access the air filter. Some generators may have a clip or latch holding the cover in place, while others may require a screwdriver to remove the screws.

Step 3: Clean the air filter

1. Wet Cleaning (for foam filters): If your generator uses a foam air filter, clean it using a mild detergent and water. Mix a solution of water and detergent in a container. Immerse the filter in the solution and gently squeeze it to remove dirt and oil. Rinse the filter thoroughly with clean water until the water runs clear. However, if the air filter is too damaged, you can replace it new one.

2. Dry Cleaning (for paper filters): If your generator features a paper or pleated air filter, you can clean it by tapping it gently to dislodge loose dirt and debris. or use compressed air to blow out the debris.

Step 4: Dry the filter

After cleaning, allow the filter to air-dry completely. If your generator uses a foam air filter, do not use compressed air on foam filters and avoid using excessive heat or direct sunlight, as it may damage the filter.

Step 5: Apply Oil to Filter

A little oil should be added to the filter. If the filter is foam, you can pour a kind of oil upon it and gently squeeze it to spread the oil out evenly. For a fabric or paper filter, you can use a clean cloth or a brush to lightly apply the oil.

Make sure the oil is evenly distributed throughout the filter. It should have a slightly tacky or sticky feel, but avoid over-saturating it with oil. Sometimes your question arises why is there oil in my generator air filter? but a lot of reasons to present oil to your generator air filter.

Step 6: Reinstall the filter

Once oil to the filter, put it back into the filter housing. Make sure it fits securely and that the air filter cover is properly fastened. Verify again that every connection is tight and secure.

Note: Depending on your generator’s make and model, the cleaning process may vary slightly. Always consult the owner’s manual for specific instructions tailored to your generator.

Regularly cleaning the air filter is crucial to maintain the performance and efficiency of your portable generator. The filter should be cleaned at least once every three months or in line with the manufacturer’s instructions.

Related: How to Replace Your Generator Pull Cord?

What Are the Signs of a Bad Air Filter?

  • Dry Air Filter
  • Reduced Engine Performance
  • Engine Surge or Stall
  • Increased Fuel Consumption
  • Engine Backfire
  • Black or Gray Smoke From the Exhaust
  • Engine Warning Light

Dry Air Filter

Designed to safeguard the carburetor and fuel line, the dry air filter traps dust and debris. A telltale sign of a dry air filter is its grey and rugged appearance.

Reduced Engine Performance

When an air filter is dirty, it hinders the airflow to the engine, resulting in diminished horsepower, acceleration, and overall performance. Inadequate air supply to the combustion chamber may cause the carburetor to fail to maintain the correct air-fuel ratio, leading to incomplete combustion, lower fuel efficiency, and decreased engine runtime.

Engine Surge or Stall

A blocked air filter can induce frequent engine surges or stalls, especially under load conditions. Inadequate air intake prevents the engine from sustaining an optimal air-fuel mixture, causing it to run lean and potentially stall.

Increased Fuel Consumption

A contaminated air filter forces the engine to work harder, compensating for the restricted airflow by increasing fuel supply. This inefficiency leads to higher fuel consumption as the combustion process becomes less efficient.

Engine Backfire

A constricted air filter disrupts the balance between air and fuel in the carburetor, resulting in engine backfires. Inadequate air intake prevents complete fuel combustion, allowing unburned fuel to escape through the exhaust, igniting and causing a backfire.

Black or Gray Smoke From the Exhaust

Incomplete combustion due to a restricted air filter can produce black or gray smoke from the exhaust, posing health hazards. The unburned fuel also releases carbon monoxide, a colorless, odorless, and poisonous gas harmful to living beings.

Engine Noises: Struggling to draw in sufficient air, the engine may produce more noise than usual, accompanied by vibrations and unusual sounds.

Engine Warning Light

Some generators feature an engine warning light that signals a dirty or clogged air filter. When illuminated, it indicates the need to inspect, clean, or replace the air filter for optimal performance.

How Often Should I Clean the Generator Air Filter?

If you use your generator regularly, it’s important to keep the air filter clean. Depending on how often you use the generator and the environment in which it’s used, you may need to clean the air filter as often as every few weeks or as infrequently as once a year.

If you live in a dusty area or use the generator in a dusty environment, you’ll need to clean it more often. If you only use the generator occasionally and don’t expose it to dust, you can probably get away with cleaning it less often.


Regularly cleaning or replacing the air filter of your traditional generator is a fundamental part of routine maintenance. By following this process, you can ensure that your generator operates efficiently and reliably when you need it most.

Remember to consult your generator’s manual for specific maintenance intervals and recommendations related to the air filter. Taking care of your generator will extend its lifespan and provide peace of mind during power outages.

FAQs: How to Clean Air Filter Your Generator?

How Often Should I Clean the Air Filter Of My Portable Generator?

The frequency of cleaning the air filter can vary depending on the generator’s usage and operating conditions. However, as a general guideline, it is recommended to clean the air filter every three months or as per the manufacturer’s instructions.

Can I Clean the Air Filter With Water?

Yes, you can clean certain types of air filters with water. It is possible to clean foam filters by rinsing them in warm soapy water. However, it’s important to refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines to ensure that water cleaning is suitable for your specific filter type.

Can I Use Compressed Air to Clean The Air Filter?

Yes, compressed air can be used to clean certain air filters. Paper or fabric filters can be gently tapped against a hard surface to remove loose debris, or you can use compressed air to blow out the dirt. However, exercise caution and avoid using excessive air pressure, as it can damage the filter.

Should I Oil the Air Filter After Cleaning It?

Not all air filters require oiling. Some filters, particularly foam filters, may need to be oiled after cleaning. However, other types of filters, such as paper or fabric filters, are typically not oiled.

It’s important to consult the owner’s manual or manufacturer’s instructions to determine if your specific air filter requires oiling.

What Should I Do If the Air Filter is Damaged or Excessively Dirty?

If the air filter is damaged or excessively dirty beyond cleaning it’s recommended to replace it with a new filter. A damaged or heavily clogged filter can restrict airflow, leading to decreased performance and potential engine damage.

Consult the owner’s manual or contact the manufacturer to obtain the correct replacement filter for your generator.

About Saad Ahmed
Hi am Saad Ahmed and as you can see that i have been a generator mechanic for the past 12 years of experience in this industry. But now i am Full time digital marketer and affiliate blogger.