The Polaris RZR air filter is an often under-appreciated component that is absolutely instrumental to both engine performance and engine protection. And while cleaning or replacing your stock Polaris RZR air filter is one thing, swapping your machine's air filter out with an aftermarket alternative or adding something like a particle separator, a pre-filter, or an outerwear cover to the mix is a different thing entirely. Achieving that delicate balance between filtration and airflow can be tricky, and with so many air filter options out there for the RZR Pro, RZR XP, and RZR Turbo, it’s easy to be confused about when to change your Polaris RZR air filter, why to change your Polaris RZR air filter, and which Polaris RZR air filter performs best under specific circumstances. But whether you’ve got an RZR Turbo that you ride competitively on dusty off-road tracks, or an RZR 1000 XP that sees its fair share of sand at the dunes, below is everything you need to know about Polaris RZR air filters, Polaris RZR air cleaners, and Polaris RZR particle separators!
Polaris RZR Air Intake Issues
You could be using a futuristic Polaris RZR air filter with new-age technology that blocks every last speck of dust and sand, but if there’s a crack, leak, or loose fitting in your intake system somewhere behind the filter, it won’t matter a lick what kind of air filter you’re running. In addition to using accordion-style sections that disturb airflow, the factory Polaris RZR air intake tubes are also prone to leak. Instead of using a silicone rubber conduit like the aftermarket J-Tube system by EVO Powersports, the plastic material used to make the stock Polaris RZR air intakes does not positively seal. Furthermore, parts of the factory intake system can also crush when exposed to high volumes or extreme temperatures, which then allows particles to infiltrate the intake air.
If your air filter is super dirty but there are almost no particles of dust on the inside of the intake tubes, you probably have a leak. To know for sure, you can smoke test your intake system with a vacuum or EVAP tester to determine where, if at all, the leak is located. You can use a pressurized smoke machine to do it at home, or take your bike to a mechanic who does that kind of work. Ensuring that the intake boots are solid and the air filter is properly sealed is important, but you should also check your filter and intake after every ride for downstream contamination. If there is no debris downstream of the air box until the intake boots, than that is likely the source of the leak.
Stock Vs. Aftermarket Polaris RZR Air Filters
Polaris uses Donaldson air cleaners in their RZR lineup because they’re among the best in the business. Look at any commercial piece of heavy equipment and you’ll likely see a Donaldson air filter in there. But if you’ve ever serviced farm equipment with Donaldson air filters, you’ll rarely see any dust beyond the filter. Something to consider when debating which Polaris RZR air filter to use is the vehicle’s warranty. Many dealers will try to void your warranty if you use an aftermarket Polaris RZR air filter that hasn't been approved by Polaris. But if you've already modified your rig with lift kits and large tires, your warranty might already be null and void.
Knock-off paper air filters like the ones you might find on Amazon or Ebay should be avoided at all cost. Although some might be identical to the stock Polaris RZR air filters -- and even made by the same manufacturer -- others come with quarter-inch unfiltered gaps between the paper and the housing. Use one of these and it’s just like not using a filter at all! And when it boils down to it, you’ve gotta ask yourself, is blowing your engine worth saving 25$ on an air filter?
Among the best aftermarket air filters for the Polaris RZR are R2C Performance filters. A large number of dirt track racers run filters like the R2C because they’re washable and reusable. And on top of being cleanable and requiring no oil, R2C filters won’t let contaminants pass through to the carb or engine valves. You can use a vacuum, an air compressor, or even a leaf blower to clean R2C air filters -- just don’t use too much power, lest you tear the element. R2C filters are also waterproof, so if they’re super dirty, you can clean them up with some Simple Green and water. Be it their OR10508 filters for your RZR XP / RZR Turbo, or their OR10513 filters for your RZR 800, the Polaris RZR air filters by R2C Performance won’t let you down!
Some riders are under the impression that foam Polaris RZR air filters like the UNI Filter are garbage and will ruin the engine valve seals / rings. But if they’re oiled correctly (with something like PJ1 filter oil), maintained, and properly cleaned, you can get thousands of miles out of a UNI Filter without any issues whatsoever. Some of the air filters by UNI Filter come apart for cleaning, but you can also dip the entire filter in gasoline if you so choose and it'll come out crystal clean! If you aren’t down to clean your air filter after every ride, a disposable paper filter is your best bet. But as long as you clean it, an aftermarket Polaris RZR air filter like those by UNI Filter, S&B, and R2C are great! And when it comes to water, paper air filters just don’t cut it.
S&B Polaris RZR Filters
When paired with a particle separator, it’s hard to beat an S&B air filter for the Polaris RZR. They breathe better than stock filters, and are also washable with water. So long as you let it dry completely, an S&M air filter will be ready to rock! We’ll get into S&B particle separators later on in this article.
Products like pre-filters and outerwear covers can be used to turn an average air filter into an amazing air filter. Although the blowout process can be dusty and far from fun, Polaris RZR outerwear covers will save you from having to buy new air filters all the time. With the right outerwear, even the notoriously porous K&N filter won’t cause harm to your engine. To prevent dust from slipping past your air filter outerwear, you can put grease on the lip of your filter, spray filter oil on the inside and outside of the filter, and then spray a bit more oil on the outerwear after putting it on.
If your ride with a crew, following a few minutes behind everyone else will allow the dust to settle before you ride through it. But if you’re the team tail gunner who isn’t afraid to go fast through limited-visibility dust plumes, do right by your rig and install a Polaris RZR particle separator. Vehicles like helicopters use particle separators for when they land in dirt fields, so you know that the nastiest of silt and dust won’t do jack against your engine with a particle separator installed.
You still have to take Polaris RZR particle separators apart to clean them once and a while, but you won’t have to clean / change your air filters as often with a particle separator installed. Add a puke tank / Polaris RZR catch can with an S&B particle separator to remove the positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) vapor and your intake air will be clean as a whistle!