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Servicing air cleaners

How is the air cleaner (filter) serviced? How often should it be serviced?

A properly maintained air cleaner is your engine's first line of defense against the destructive effects of dirt. When the air cleaner is in good condition, it keeps airborne dirt particles from entering through the carburetor. If the air cleaner is not maintained, dirt and dust will gradually make their way into the engine. And don't underestimate dirt's potential to cause damage. It can lead to a sharp drop in engine power or - worse - cause premature wear of critical engine components.

Many types of air cleaners are used in small engines. Most contain a foam or pleated-paper element.

Dual-element air cleaners contain a pleated-paper element with a foam pre-cleaner, offering two layers of protection. Discard the paper element when you can no longer remove dirt from the pleats by tapping the element on a hard, dry surface. You may be able to wash and reuse the foam pre-cleaner. Foam elements can be cleaned with hot water and liquid dish detergent that contains a grease-cutting agent.

Single-element air cleaners should be serviced every 25 hours (or once a season). In a duel-element system, the pre-cleaner should be cleaned every 25 hours. The cartridge should be cleaned every 100 hours.


Servicing A Foam Air Cleaner

  1. Loosen the screws or wing nuts that hold the air cleaner assembly in place (image A). Disassemble.

  2. Inspect the foam element. Replace it if it is torn or shows signs of considerable wear.

  3. If the foam element is in good shape, but is dirty, wash it with hot water and a liquid detergent containing a grease-cutting agent. After washer the element, wrap it in a clean cloth and wring it dry. NOTE: Do not clean the element with solvents.

  4. Saturate the element with engine oil (image B). Then, squeeze it to spread the oil throughout.

  5. Inspect the rubbery sealing gasket between the air cleaner and carburetor. Replace it if it is worn.

  6. Reassemble and reinstall the air cleaner.


Servicing A Pleated-Paper Or Dual-Element Air Cleaner

Dual-element air cleaners come in a variety of designs.

  1. With the cover removed, separate the pre-cleaner (if equipped) from the cartridge (image C).

  2. Tap the cartridge gently on a flat surface to remove any loose dirt. Inspect the element and replace it if it is heavily soiled, wet or crushed.

  3. Inspect the pre-cleaner, if equipped. Note the mesh backing, designed to act as a barrier between the oil pre-cleaner and the pleated-paper element. If the mesh backing is plastic, you can wash the pre-cleaner. Replace when soiled or worn or after 25 hours of use.

  4. Look for oiling instruction on the pre-cleaner (image D). If directed, lubricate the pre-cleaner with oil. NOTE: Not all foam pre-cleaners should be oiled.

  5. Clean the cartridge housing with a dry cloth (image E). Do not clean with solvents or compressed air.

  6. Reassemble the air cleaner. If the pre-cleaner is the oiled type, take care to insert the mesh toward the paper element so that the paper is never exposed to the oil.

  7. Reinstall, making sure that any tabs on the cartridge are in their slots on the engine housing. Gaps around the cartridge permit unfiltered air and damaging dirt particles to enter the engine.


For additional information, please view the following:


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NOTE: Please read and abide by any applicable Safety Information (PDF) before performing any engine work. This information is not meant to take the place of work performed by a Briggs & Stratton Authorized Dealer. Terms and Conditions apply to all of our information provided on this website. Always be sure to read and understand your engine Operator's Manual.

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