Updated March 11, 2024

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 generator. A clogged air filter can decrease airflow to the carburetor, resulting not only in generator misfires but also in noticeable symptoms such as the emission of black smoke and the scent of gasoline. Keep your generator breathing easily with a clean air filter to ensure optimal performance.

But don’t worry. We at “Mechanic Guide” are here to help you through the six-step process of how to clean generator air filters, and both open-frame generators like Honda, Champion, Duromax, and Generac follow the same process.

But when it comes to closed-frame inverters, the process is a bit different. 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

What is An Air Filter?

An air filter is a component of a generator that helps to clean the air before it enters the engine for combustion. Just like a car engine’s air filter, its job is to take out any dust, dirt, or other tiny bits from the air. This is important because clean, and enough fresh air keeps the engine running smoothly and protects it from getting damaged by any junk in the air.

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

Find the air filter assembly and open the filter cover, then remove the air filter and start cleaning using water and soap. After cleaning, dry the air filter, and then apply a very little bit of oil around the air filter and reinstall it.

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 )

Safety first, Before you start the cleaning process, unplug spark plug wire boot to prevent any unexpected auto-start, and make sure the generator is turned off 20 minutes before to allow the engine to cool down and prevent accidents.

Step 1: Locate the Air Filter

The air filter box or assembly is typically located near the engine or close to the carburetor of the generator.  Otherwise, consult the owner’s 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

There are two basic types of air filters, (Foam or Paper) Each type demands unique cleaning processes for both filters. You can understand your generator’s air filter and then apply this suitable cleaning process.

a. 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 with a new one.

b. 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.

Gently blow dry air (up to 100 psi) through the air filter in the opposite direction of its usual flow. After cleaning, check closely for any holes or cracks. If you find any damage, replace the filter.

Step 4: Dry the filter

After cleaning, allow the filter to naturally 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 bit of engine oil should be added to the filter. If the air 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 this question arises, why is there oil in my generator air filter? but there are a lot of reasons to present engine oil to your generator air filter.

Step 6: Reinstall the filter

Once the oil is in the filter, put it back into the filter assembly housing. Make sure it fits securely and that the air filter cover is properly fastened. Verify again that every connection is tight and secure. If you see that the filter assembly is broken or damaged, it is recommended to replace the air filter assembly.

Finally, reconnect the spark plug wire and start the generator with a generator rope or ignition key.

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.

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 Noises
  • 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 backfiring. Inadequate air intake prevents complete fuel combustion, allowing unburned fuel to escape through the exhaust, igniting and causing an engine to backfire.

Black or Gray Smoke From the Exhaust

Incomplete combustion due to a restricted air filter can produce black smoke 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 or broken filter assembly, and the best practice for checking engine oil levels may need to be a generator oil change for best 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.

Video Guide to Clean Air Filter

If you encounter any issues or challenges while performing the cleaning procedure at a specific point, fret not, check out this handy video guide for seamless solutions and expert tips.


Filter cleaning or replacing your open-frame traditional generator is a fundamental part of routine maintenance. By following the above easy 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 for overall performance related to the air filter. Taking care of your generator will extend its lifespan and provide peace of mind during power outages.


Should I Oil My Generator Air Filter?

Yes, it is recommended to oil your generator air filter to enhance its performance and protect the engine. Without oil, the particles pass through the filter, potentially being drawn into the engine.

What Oil Can I Use For the Air Filter?

Use specific air filter oil designed for this purpose. Otherwise, you can use a little bit of engine oil or check your generator’s manual for recommended products.

What Happens If I Don’t Oil My Air Filter?

Without oiling, the air filter may not effectively trap particles, leading to increased engine wear and reduced performance.

Is Air Filter the Same As An Oil Filter?

No, air filters and oil filters serve different purposes. The air filter traps airborne particles, while the oil filter removes contaminants from the oil circulating in the engine.

Can You Run Generator Without Air Filter?

No, it’s not safe to run a generator without an air filter. The filter keeps dirt and debris out of the engine, preventing damage and maintaining performance. Always use an air filter when running a 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.