Modifying The Air Filter, (Using An Automotive Replacement)


A lot of the riding I do takes me to remote places; or to places that don’t have a local motorcycle dealership nearby. This is the number one reason I WILL NOT purchase and ride BMW motorcycle! In my area of New England, and in the provinces of Québec and New Brunswick, Canada, BMW dealerships are sparsely located. It would be very expensive to buy, or to have parts shipped to a rural location, if I needed them. I have a much greater chance of finding a Suzuki dealership, then a BMW dealership where I ride!

A couple of weeks ago, when I dumped my bike into the, “Moncton Mud Puddle“, I didn’t have a clue of what I was going to be up against financially in repair costs. But, back in the woods, literally “up the creek without a paddle”, I was feeling relieved that, “It could be worse. I only own a Suzuki and not a BMW.” I felt fairly confident that, once I got out of the woods, and got some help, I could make the repairs myself. About $75 and 6 hrs of work, I was riding home, and grinning from “ear-to-ear”! My bike and I survived another adventure together!

I did not get any water into the bike’s air box. It was clean and bone dry. But, what if I did? At the very least, I was going to need a new air filter. At a Canadian dealership, my guess is, that would cost around $65. That’s IF I could find a dealership! But, I can find an auto parts store, or a Canadian Tire, or similar store, like a Wal-Mart. If I need to, I can now fit a new air filter to my bike from nearly every geographical location I currently ride in!

I spent quite a bit of time at my local Wal-Mart going through all of the Fram air filters they carry. The CA3916 is the standard paper Fram filter that fits nearly perfectly over the OEM filter hole. I decided to purchase the Tough Guard version. It is a pre-oiled filter designed for SUVs and pickup trucks, where their working environment is dustier then normal, street use. That part number is: TGA3916.

I saved my old air filter from my last change 30,000 miles ago. I have modified it using the techniques I describe below.

I used a utility knife to cut the old OEM filter media out of the filter throat.

I removed the old media.

I tried using my utility knife to cut the “throat” off of the filter flange. The plastic is too hard. It’s the kind of cutting that leads itself to slicing a thumb or finger…..

I switched over to my Dremel tool; using a “fibre-reinforced” cut-off wheel.

Once the throat was removed, I sharpened up a paint scraper with a file and “cut” what remained of the throat down to the flange; making everything flat and smooth and removing any plastic burrs.

Here is the OEM filter, with the throat removed, and the flange scraped flat. I decided to leave the OEM screen in place.

I spent quite a bit of time ruminating on what adhesive to use to bond the new filter to the OEM filter flange. I work in the marine industry and I have access to some “bomb proof” stuff, but I decided to again, “keep it simple”; thinking about future maintenance and subsequent changes.

I chose the below product. It is a very thick, very tough contact cement. I purchased it at my local Lowe’s.

I squeezed a nice bead of the cement around the base of the Fram filter and also around the filter flange. I let these two surfaces dry about 10 mins as per the adhesive’s instructions.

After the allotted drying time had passed, I “mated” the two parts together and placed a firebrick on top. I let the “new” filter sit overnight.

When I got home from work the next day, I examined the glue bond. I gave the filter a really good tug to try and tear it apart. It wouldn’t budge. But, I decided, as a precaution to put another bead of the cement around the edge of the filter creating a “filet”.

Here is the filter being installed into the air box.

EDIT:  This year, for the 2012 riding season, I decided to take advantage of Napa’s, “Gold Filter” Sale. Cross referencing the Fram Tough Guard air filter with Napa’s Gold Filter, combined with a 50% off discount, I purchased four air filters for a total of, $21.00. They will last me more then two seasons.

Categories: Modifications | 5 Comments

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5 thoughts on “Modifying The Air Filter, (Using An Automotive Replacement)

  1. Bob DeGrishe


    Thanks for doing the time-consuming job of finding a Fram (and Napa) air filter element that will fit the stock frame. And for posting the pics to show how you did it. I’ve been wanting to do the same to my old filter when it comes time to change it. Looks like it will work wicked good!
    I thought you’d like to see photos of my last project making a radiator guard from a stainless BBQ grill found at Home depot. Cut & paste this link…

    I’ve learned a lot from your site. I appreciate that.

  2. kelvin

    Really like your tutorials; especially your non scientific approach. The steering bearing one was just what I needed. Cheers from Alberta

    • Thanks for touching base, Kelvin. I have just tried to keep things pretty darn simple in my life, and try to pass those experiences on to others so that a broader group of people can benefit from them.


  3. Gary

    Very cool money saving idea! But how difficult will it be to remove the new filter media from the OEM screen with the type of adhesive you used? What about using RTV (silicone sealant) instead? I think the silicone might be a bit easier to remove when it comes time to replace the media. Good job on your tutorials, I really enjoy them.


    • Hello Gary, I had no problems removing the used filter medium when it was time to “install” a new filter. I have also used a silicone adhesive as well. The type of product I used was for sealing up fish tanks to keep them from leaking.

      Whatever adhesive you choose to use, you don’t want it to loosen between filter media changes, that is why I err on the stronger side of adhesives.

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