One of the things that tend to get ignored on small engines is the air filter. We forget about them in our cars as well, but your small engine filter is working in conditions that would probably make your car cry. Motorcycles, mowers and other power equipment are used in dusty, hot conditions. Over time ignoring your filter can lead to some pretty serious problems like hard starting, poor performance, fouled spark plugs and even engine failure.
As a general rule, outdoor power equipment (like lawn mowers) should get a new filter element every year. If you are using your equipment in dusty, harsh conditions it should be changed more often. On dirt-bikes, if you are riding here in Sunny Central Washington, you may need to service your filter after every ride in the summer. If you are riding in conditions that are not dusty you can go longer. But you should inspect your filter after each ride and service it sooner rather than later. Don't wait for it to turn into a blob of dirt.
Depending on the equipment there are different types of filters and ways to service those filters. Many pieces of outdoor equipment use a double filter system; a pre-filter and a paper air filter element. The pre-filter is typically made of foam or a combination of foam and mesh. In most cases these filters can be blown out with air or even better washed with soap and water. If you choose to wash your pre-filter make sure it is completely dry before installing back on your machine. The paper filter element can be serviced if it is only slightly dirty. Simply blow it out with compressed air. However, be careful; these filters are made of paper and are easily damaged with high pressure air. If the filter is very dirty, oil fouled are starting to look gray, replace it. When in doubt throw it out. Just be sure to replace it before use. Don't be tempted to run your engine without an air filter.
Off-road motorcycles and ATV's often use a two stage oiled foam filter. These filters are meant to be washed and oiled regularly. If you have never washed one there is much too it, but there is more than one method. The safest is to purchase a commercial foam air filter detergent, always follow the directions on the packaging. But to give you a general idea, wash to the filter with detergent, rinse thoroughly, allow to dry completely (overnight in a warm place) and apply filter oil. The "other" method which is cheaper, but requires a bit more caution is to wash the filter first in solvent and then in hot soapy water. Dawn liquid dish soap or a similar product works well. Rinse completely and then allow to dry over night. If you go the solvent route it's important to wash the solvent out as quickly as possible. Over time the solvent will start breaking down the glue and even the foam of the filter.
When it comes to oil there are lots of products on the market, just be sure it is the appropriate oil for your filter. K&N oil for example is designed for a specific type of filter and should not be used on a foam filter. When you are applying the oil, be sure to saturate the filter and squeeze out the excess. Some instructions will say to submerge the filter in oil; you can do that but it requires allot of oil, is messy and not really needed. Make sure to apply the oil extra thick on the sealing ring, or use filter grease to insure a complete seal.
If you are thinking of skipping the oil and just running the foam filter dry, stop right there. If you choose to go that route the filter will only catch the large particles and allow the fine dust to pass right through and into your engine. We have done some very expensive repairs for customers who have gone this direction.
If you have a K&N filter or similar product it's recommended that you use K&N filter cleaner and oil. Pleated filters are great but require an extra measure of care when cleaning and oiling. Always follow the manufactures instructions.
Last but not least, always remember to wear appropriate gloves and eye protection and avoid skin contact with cleaning chemicals, solvents and oils. Those warnings on the label should be taken seriously, even outside the state of California!
Keeping your air filter clean can be the difference between a good day and a bad day with your equipment. It's one of those maintenance tasks that don't require much mechanical expertise or time. But as always, if you don't feel comfortable taking care of it yourself or just don't want to do it, give us a call and let us take care of it.
For many people the Desert 100 marks the start of the riding season. My advice to any dirt bike rider is to go at least once. Not to race, unless you are an experienced rider, but to experience the event. I am a firm believer that if you like bikes, and things related to bikes this is one of the best events to attend. You will see just about every make and model of bike you can imagine. Everything from tiny little pit bikes to big adventure bikes. And riders of all shapes and sizes.
Over the years I have talked with quite a few would be racers and my advice is always the same. Go, do the poker run, watch the race and if you still think you want to race do it the next year. I am no expert, but I have competed in the race several times and I can say it is exciting and fun, but one of the most physically challenging things I have ever done. It's one thing to go for the day riding in Mattawa with your buddies and put on 50 miles. It's something else entirely to ride 30 or so miles on Saturday with several hundred other people, get up early and race 100 miles the next day with several hundred people. The race terrain is extremely varied; ranging from tight technical sections with lots of rocks to open fast sections through sand. Mix that with the fact that you are physically and mentally tired and sometimes surrounded by riders who are feeling the same way. It's easy to make a mistake and get hurt. Having said all that, I am firm believer that if you are inclined to race at all you should at least try it once.
Once you decide if you are ready physically and mentally you need to decide if your bike is ready. Just like you, your bike will be put to the the test both on the Poker Run as well as The Race. Every year I see people broke-down on the side of the trail or simply out of gas. Here are some things to check and consider as far as your bike is concerned.
First off, Odessa tends to be windy and very dusty. If you don't have an extra air filter, get one. You will be amazed at how quickly your filter will plug with dirt. This leads to your bike running very rich, using more gas, and possibly fouling spark plugs. Along with that, do you have an extra spark plug and the correct tools to change it in the field? No one likes carrying extra weight. But the reality is there are no mobile mechanics running around to help you. You might get lucky and one of the sweep riders might take pity on you and/or might have the correct tools and spark plug. Did I say "might" enough times? Don't assume someone will be around to help, otherwise you may be pushing your bike a long long time, uphill both ways.
How about your chain and sprockets? This is a big one that we often don't think about much. If you sprockets are looking like little shark fins or sharp little ninja stars; change them and your chain before you get there. You might get lucky and find a vendor that has the correct parts, but don't hold your breath. While you are at it, check your bearings and spokes for play. A little bit of play now, could lead to an early end to your day and a very expensive repair when you get home.
When was the last time you changed your engine oil and filter? Or your transmission oil? Frequent oil changes is probably one of the cheapest and easiest maintenance tasks that gives the most bang for the buck. Most dirt bikes hold somewhere around a quart (1 liter) of oil, which isn't very much. Just because you are running the latest and greatest, most expensive synthetic oil doesn't mean you don't need to change it. I could go on and on about oil changes but I will spare you the rant and just leave it at this. Change your oil and filter before you go. If you old oil is black, flush the crankcase.
Last but definitely not least is your tubes and tires. I strongly recommend a good desert tire with a stiff sidewall along with a heavy duty tube. Pinch flats are extremely common on this type of terrain. Lots of sharp pointy rocks, high speed whoops, etc. Next thing you know, you have a flat. If you have the skill you can patch it on the side of the trail but that means you need to carry the appropriate tools. Remember to run your tire pressure a little higher than you might normally. If you do get a flat and have to ride it out you can use zip ties (lots and lots of zip ties) to hold the tire to the rim. This of course means you need to carry zip ties!
A final thought; there are many good vendors on-site that can do repairs and sell you parts. But don't assume they will have the parts you need or the tools to fix your particular problem. But if you do find yourself needing something, stop by and see us in vendor row and we will do our best to get you back on the trail!