How to Clean Generator Air Filter? – [Step By Step Guide]

As the generator’s engine is its heart, the air filter is its lungs. Without lungs, how can the generator breathe uncontaminated air?

Well, an air filter needs cleaning or replacement after a certain time to work properly. 

A choked dirty air filter will cut off the flow of fresh air to the carburetor drastically, as a result, you will face several problems like miss firing, black smoke, gasoline smell, black smoke, etc.

In this article, we will reveal our step-by-step guide to cleaning your generator’s air filter safely with some prevention tips to save your generator’s air filter from dust and debris.

Tools You Need to Clean or Replace the Air Filter

  • A pair of Protective gloves
  • Goggles
  • Kitchen towel
  • Detergent or dish soap
  • A few drops of Engine oil

Safety Precautions

  • Give a read to the user manual first.
  • Work shouldn’t be started while the generator is running
  • Don’t start the work if the engine and other parts of the generator are warm; keep it well-ventilated area for about an hour.
  • Fire sources like cigarettes, sparking, hot pipes, etc. should be away from the generator to avoid explosion.
  • Unplug the spark plug first

How to Clean Generator Air Filter? 

Cleaning the air filter of the generator isn’t rocket science, all you have to waste your 20 – 30 minutes.

If you haven’t read the user manual yet, please do so before following our step-by-step guide.

1: Turn off the Generator:

If the generator is running for a long time make sure to turn it off and transport it to a well-ventilated area so that the engine and other components come to the normal temperature.

2: Unplug the Spark Plug:

Unplugging the spark plug is necessary to avoid any accidental starting; for unplugging the spark plug you have to go through the user manual.

you can follow this guide to change the spark plug.

3: Locate the Air Cleaner Box:

Air Filter Hose of the generator

You will find a black rectangular box near the recoil housing, undo the clips, and remove the air cleaner box cover. Now carefully remove the air filter.

4: Inspect the Condition of the Air Filter:

Carefully examine the condition of the air filter if it’s damaged or you find that some foam particles or chips are coming off, make sure to replace it. Foam filters are not that expensive they will hardly cost you $5.

5: Clean Out the Air Filter:

Washing the air filter with detergent or dish soap

If the air filter is in good condition make sure to place it under the pressurized water for a few seconds until the dust and debris fall off. Apply the detergent and wash it gently.

Squeeze the detergent with a soft towel and wash it again with pressurized water so that the remaining particles of detergent will be vanished.

Avoid the following things during the cleaning.

  • Air filters shouldn’t be scraped or rubbed on rough surfaces
  • Never remove the stains with nails otherwise the foam chips will fall off
  • Don’t hit it with a wall to remove the dust and dirt

6: Apply Engine Oil to the Filter:

As the foam filter becomes dry after washing it with the detergent, make sure to pour some fresh engine oil on one of the sides of the air filter that faces the engine. 

Make sure to squeeze the excessive engine oil with a clean towel. The engine oil shouldn’t be dripping from the air filter.

here is the guide to changing the engine oil of the generator.

7: Replace the Air Filter and Connect the Spark Plug:

Replace the oil filter in the air box and make sure that the oiled side should face the engine. 

Close the cover and fasten the clips. Also, reconnect the spark plug as well.

Congratulations you have cleaned the air filter of your generator successfully.

How Often Should I Clean the Air Filter of My Generator?

It depends on the usage of the generator and the place where you are going to use it.

If are going to use it regularly you have to do cleaning more often, also if the generator is placed in a dusty area, you have to clean it regularly, however, on a cleaner surface, it needs a bit less cleaning.

You can find the exact instructions and time frame for cleaning the air filter in the user manual or on the top of the air box.

Instructions written on the Air Filter Hose of the generator

The bottom line is you have to examine the condition of the air filter after 2 – 3 weeks, if it is dirty make sure to clean it.

Signs of a Dirty Air Filter

 1: Dirty Air Filter:

Dusty Air filter

Over time air filters accumulate dust to protect the carburetor, fuel lines, etc. Make sure to inspect the air filter during the daytime right after 2 – 3 weeks. 

If you find the dust, debris, or grayish dusty color of the air filter clean it out because the air filter has a single solid color.

2: Lower Runtime/Lower Fuel Efficiency:

If you are getting low fuel mileage make sure to inspect the air filter, it may be due to the lack of fresh air blocked by the air filter.

Since the carburetor needs a certain amount of oxygen to do proper combustion, if the air filter is choked, you will face lower fuel efficiency.

The improper Air fuel ratio will lead your machine to combust more fuel or maybe improper combustion occurs, which will result in a low fuel average and poor performance as well.

3. Generator’s Engine Misses or Misfires:

Since the dirty air filter blocks the flowing air, improper combustion with an imbalanced Air-fuel ratio will occur and the generator starts misfiring.

Misfiring is pretty dangerous for your voltage-sensitive appliances; make sure to pull the load once the RPM of the generator is stabilized.  

In worst cases, if the air filter is choked/clogged, your generator may not even start.

4: Strange Noises:

If you find unsteady strange noises and vibrations, make sure to check out the air filter.

Though the common culprit of this issue is a polluted spark plug, still, if the flow of air is blocked, improper combustion may occur, and as a result, the engine starts knocking.

5: Reduction in Horsepower: 

As the air filter is the lungs of the generator, the dirty or insufficient flow of air can cause a reduction in RPM, as a result; you will get lower running/starting wattages with fluctuated voltages. 

If your generator produces lower RPM or is constantly hiccupping, check out its air filter.

6: Releases Black Smoke from Exhaust:

If the carburetor doesn’t get a sufficient amount of air the fuel may not be burned properly, and some of the fuel leaks through the exhaust in the shape of black smoke which not only hurts your generator, and appliances but also the environment. 

Moreover, the unburned fuel may drip from the exhaust pipe and may catch fire if it touches the hot exhaust pipe.

7: Strong Fuel Smell:

The unbent or partially burnt fuel may produce a strong gasoline smell due to the leakage of fuel from the exhaust.

Caution: when you smell a strong smell of gasoline, make sure to inspect the whole generator may be, there is leakage in the fuel tank carburetor, etc.

Tips to Save Your Generator’s Air Filter From the Dust

  • Place your generator in a clean place.
  • Place your generator on a rubber mat or an even surface with fewer dust particles if you are camping.
  • If you are living in a windy or stormy place, make sure to build a clean shelter for your generator.


Cleaning the air filter will not only prevent problems like misfiring, strange noises, black smoke, etc. but also prolong the life of your generator.

Cleaning the air filter after a specific time is necessary for every user to avoid big repair costs.

I hope You are now able to clean your generator’s air filter by spending hardly 30 minutes.

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Should I oil my generator air filter?

Yes, the purpose of dropping some drops of engine oil on the air filter is to prevent debris and large particles of dust from entering the carburetor and fuel lines.

When should I change my generator air filter?

Changing the air filter right after 100 hours of running is necessary as the air filters are built from a high-grade material that can’t last long.

Can the generator run without an air filter?

Yes, but it should never be attempted, as the air filter resists the dust and debris entering the engine and fuel lines, the following consequences may be faced if you are going to run your generator without an air filter.

Damage the internal lines, piston, cylinder walls, carburetor, etc.
Poor engine performance
Excessive emission of Hydrocarbons
Excessive fuel consumption
In the worst case engine failure

josh Milan


Josh is a highly skilled electrician with specialized expertise in the field of generators. With years of experience under his belt, he has established himself as an expert in all aspects of generators, ranging from installation and maintenance to troubleshooting and repairs. Josh’s in-depth knowledge of electrical systems and his commitment to staying updated with the latest industry advancements make him a reliable and sought-after professional.

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