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An Investigation Into Polaris Ranger Air Filters

Mar 14th 2021

An Investigation Into Polaris Ranger Air Filters
An Investigation Into Polaris Ranger Air Filters

There are few things more frustrating than sitting behind the wheel of a Polaris Ranger that runs like a scolded dog. However one thing that’s unequivocally worse than that is being forced to rebuild your Polaris Ranger motor due to large amounts of sand or dust that found its way inside your UTV's engine. But why does this happen? Isn’t the Polaris Ranger air intake filter there to clean the air and remove any contaminants before it reaches the engine? After all, what more can riders do other than clean their reusable Polaris Ranger air filters or replace their one-time-use paper Polaris Ranger air filters at the appropriate intervals? Well, that’s what we’re getting into today. From aftermarket Polaris Ranger air filters to air-cleaning accessories like Polaris Ranger particle separators, here is what you can do to ensure proper airflow without exposing your Ranger’s engine to damaging dirt, dust, and debris.

Knowing When To Change, Clean, And / Or Replace Your Polaris Ranger Air Filter

The environment where you ride as well as the particular year and model of your machine will both play a significant role in the frequency with which you must change your Polaris Ranger air filter to avoid issues. Some riders swap out the air filters on their Polaris Rangers with every oil change, but if you drive primarily on gravel roads during dry summer days, your air filter can plug up in between oil changes. For those who own the 2018 Polaris Ranger XP 900, dust can be particularly pernicious, as the air intake for this edition is located on the side of the UTV by the riders hip.

One thing you can do is remove your Polaris Ranger air filter and hit it with some high-pressure blasts from an air compressor. However once the air filter material gets plugged initially, it’s much easier for it to get plugged again in the future. This is why many companies say that you should not clean a paper air filter for further use once it gets dirty and caked with gunk.

Pre-filters and products like Frogzskin air filter covers for the Polaris Ranger can also help to keep out dust, snow, water, and fine particles. And although they aren’t quite as effective as a Polaris Ranger snorkel kit, they are certainly better than nothing. The only caveat with Frogzskin air intake covers, however, is that they too can become blocked and prevent air from flowing into the engine.

Aftermarket Polaris Ranger Air Filters

The debate surrounding stock vs. aftermarket Polaris Ranger air filters still rages. And although many riders have their preferences and will stick to them despite the evidence, others are more open and willing to try new things if it means protecting their side-by-side’s engine.

K&N Air Filters

Despite what you might have heard, K&N filters aren’t bad filters… they’re just bad filters for the Polaris Ranger. K&N air filters are designed primarily for rally race trucks that only go one race before having their engines rebuild -- so the filter only needs to keep enough dirt out for the vehicle to make it through to the end of the race. For applications such as these, airflow is the most important factor. Most Ranger owners, however, don’t need extra airflow, they need extended engine life. And this means removing as much dust and particulate matter as possible from the air before it reaches the engine.  

If you go and look on the K&W website, you won’t be able to find what micron their filters are good for. And this lack of information is suspicious to some riders. Sure K&N air filters are reusable, but they don’t stop fine sand particles. So without a good pre-filter to catch the little stuff, you’re allowing small particles to pass through your K&N filter into the engine, which then gets inside the cylinders and causes the walls to score and the rings to blow by. If you’re looking to save money by running a reusable Polaris Ranger air filter without a good pre filter, you’d probably be better off by blowing out your old filter a few times with compressed air instead of using a K&N filter. That being said, the cleanable K&N filters can work in some situations, so long as you make sure that they’re constantly soaked with ample oil.

UNI Filter Air Filters

UNI Filter Air Filters

Unlike the oiled gauze-style pleated cotton filters by K&N, the oiled air filters like UNI Filter air filters for the Polaris Ranger are made out of a foam material. Like the K&N filters, however, UNI Filter air filters are also known to let fine particles through. With a good pre-filter or particle separator, this might be not be an issue. And as we mentioned earlier, it all depends on the application. Most Ranger owners are focused more on longevity and reliability, but for those who are concerned primarily with performance, a UNI Filter is a good choice to maximize the engine's power output. But over terrain such as dirt roads and dusty trails, riders are usually fine with losses in performance if it means extending the life of their engine!

R2C Performance Air Filters

Polaris Ranger owners like R2C air filters for various reasons. Not only are they easy to clean, but they also require no oil to mess around with. Many race car drivers use R2C filters, and in addition to not requiring oil, R2C Performance air filters also use a radial / axial sealing design to prevent leaking and eliminate dust ingress around the filter, and can hold 47% more dust than stock air filters. Plus, because they're reusable, RC2 filters will last for years!

GSE Performance Air Filters

Washable Polaris Ranger air filters like the ones by GSE Performance use the latest filtration technology to ensure that even the smallest specs of dust can’t make their way through. And in addition to Polaris Ranger air filters, GSE Performance also makes exhausts / slip-on exhausts for the Ranger lineup!

Polaris Ranger Particle Separators

Both Polaris Ranger pre-cleaners and Polaris Ranger particle separators like the ones by Donaldson and S&B are great for those who ride in dusty areas. They basically work like a dust bowl on a tractor, knocking most of the dirt out of the air before it ever reaches the filter. These add-on devices spin the incoming air like a Dyson vacuum cleaner. The dust inside pre-cleaners and particle separators is flung to the outside of the unit due to centrifugal forces generated by the spinning motion. On the inside sits a cone that takes the clean air from the center and directs it to the engine through your air filter.

In this way, not only will your Polaris Ranger air filters last longer, but with a particle separator, there’s also a reduced likelihood that small particles will slip through the filter. And because particle separators remove around 98% of dust from your intake air, you’ll go from changing your air filter every few weeks to only having to change it once a year! 

Closing Thoughts

Be it a Polaris Ranger air filter and pre-filter combo to extract every last bit of dust from the intake air your vehicle sucks in, or air-box cover sealing measures so that your paper Polaris Ranger air filter or foam Polaris Ranger air filter stays nice and dry, make the mistake of neglecting your machine’s air intake and air filtration system and you'll kick yourself down the line. You probably don’t like breathing in dust and dirt when riding, so why would you think it’s any different for your UTV?