The Harley-Davidson Sportster started out in 1957 with the product code XL. This innovative line changed the previous side valve “flat head” engines with the new overhead valve design. While the engine was different, the design features of the body remained similar to the older KH models.

When you choose an air cleaner you have to consider three characteristics or functions, these are the model variant, and that is very specific, the role or stage you want, and the overall design features. There is a vast array of air cleaning options to choose from, and I have assembled a quirky assortment of the 5 best air cleaners for Harley Sportster models taking into account brand, performance, and design.

The 5 Best Air Cleaners for Harley Sportster:

  1. K&N 63-1126 Harley Davidson Performance Intake Kit – the best air cleaner for Harley Sportster
  2. Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits For Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Chrome
  3. Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits For Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Black
  4. Arlen Ness 18-326 Black Big Sucker Stage I Air Filter Kit with Cover
  5. Vance & Hines Naked XL883N VO2 Air Intake 2015-2018

List of Top-Rated Air Cleaners for Harley Sportster Comparison Table:

Preview
K&N Air Intake System: Air Cleaner Kit for Harley Davidson 2004-2019 Sportster XL883 XL1200 Air Cleaner Kit 63-1126
HTTMT MT227B- Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Chrome
HTTMT MT227-BK Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Black
Arlen Ness 18-326 Black Big Sucker Stage I Air Filter Kit with Cover
Vance & Hines VO2 Naked Air Intake for 10-20 Harley XL1200X
Name
K&N Air Intake System: Air Cleaner Kit for Harley Davidson 2004-2019 Sportster XL883 XL1200 Air Cleaner Kit 63-1126
HTTMT MT227B- Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Chrome
HTTMT MT227-BK Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Black
Arlen Ness 18-326 Black Big Sucker Stage I Air Filter Kit with Cover
Vance & Hines VO2 Naked Air Intake for 10-20 Harley XL1200X
Our Rating
Prime
-
-
Year
2007-2014
1991-2006
1988-2018
1988-2018
2015-2018
Style
Cone
Cone
Cone
Round
Round
Preview
K&N Air Intake System: Air Cleaner Kit for Harley Davidson 2004-2019 Sportster XL883 XL1200 Air Cleaner Kit 63-1126
Name
K&N Air Intake System: Air Cleaner Kit for Harley Davidson 2004-2019 Sportster XL883 XL1200 Air Cleaner Kit 63-1126
Our Rating
Prime
Year
2007-2014
Style
Cone
Details
Preview
HTTMT MT227B- Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Chrome
Name
HTTMT MT227B- Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Chrome
Our Rating
Prime
-
Year
1991-2006
Style
Cone
Details
Preview
HTTMT MT227-BK Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Black
Name
HTTMT MT227-BK Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Black
Our Rating
Prime
Year
1988-2018
Style
Cone
Details
Preview
Arlen Ness 18-326 Black Big Sucker Stage I Air Filter Kit with Cover
Name
Arlen Ness 18-326 Black Big Sucker Stage I Air Filter Kit with Cover
Our Rating
Prime
-
Year
1988-2018
Style
Round
Details
Preview
Vance & Hines VO2 Naked Air Intake for 10-20 Harley XL1200X
Name
Vance & Hines VO2 Naked Air Intake for 10-20 Harley XL1200X
Our Rating
Prime
Year
2015-2018
Style
Round
Details

REVIEWS YOU CAN TRUST 

All the information and opinions you find on Mechanicguides.com come from a team of automotive journalists and an independent mechanic, Steve “Whip” Whipple with 11 years of auto industry experience. We look at the latest market research, talk to experts, and draw from our own practical experience to bring you reviews and guides that reflect what you’ll encounter in your garage. For more information about the team, see here.

The Air Cleaners for Harley Sportster Reviews & Buyer’s Guide:

1. K&N 63-1126 Harley Davidson Performance Intake Kit – the best air cleaner for Harley Sportster

K&N Air Intake System: Air Cleaner Kit for Harley Davidson 2004-2019 Sportster XL883 XL1200 Air Cleaner Kit 63-1126
  • Estimated horsepower gain of 8.57 HP at 5533 RPM
  • Designed to improve throttle response and engine sound
  • Easy to install, usually in 90 minutes or less
  • Washable and reusable lifetime air filter
  • Not legal for highway use in states adopting California emission regulations

Description

This is the K&N 63-1126 Air Intake that fits most Harley XL1200 models from 2007 to 2014.

Performance

This is the classic K&N cone-shaped AirCharger Air Intake model 63-1126 that comes as a full replacement for the Harley factory air cleaner kit. The AirCharger comes with a mandrel-bent aluminum intake tube that is engineered to provide significant improvements in airflow that leads to an unobstructed output of additional torque.

The AirCharger is made with a billet aluminum throttle-body mounting plate, and it comes with a complete set of mounting hardware.

The K&N red cotton gauze pre-oiled filter is washable and reusable and will last up to 100,000 miles in certain conditions.

Consider that this is a basic design, if you want to make the cone appear with more charisma, you will need to consider buying an aftermarket filter cover. Whatever you decide, it won’t change the filter kits performance as a great stock replacement component.

Features

  • Increases horsepower
  • Improves throttle response and engine sound
  • Black finish aluminum tube
  • Washable and reusable air filter
  • Not legal for sale or use in California
  • Lasts up to 100,000 miles
  • Easy to install in under 90 minutes

Recommendations

This is a classic high quality, high grade, rugged performer that delivers factory style performance. If you like the feel of your ride and don’t want to touch it, this is the kit to install.

2. Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits For Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Chrome

HTTMT MT227B- Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Chrome
  • High Quality Chrome Billet Aluminum Cone Bullet Spike Air Cleaner Kit
  • Features an Aggressive look and Performance Gain
  • 360 Degree Slotted Spike Cover
  • Washable Filter
  • High Quality Chrome Billet Aluminum Cone Spike Air Cleaner Kit,Features an Aggressive look and Performance Gain,360 Degree Slotted Spike Cover,Washable Filter,Generic Brand Filter can be replaced with a K&N,No installation guide,Color: the same like picture show,Material: High Quality Billet Aluminum,Filter Size: 4.9" Diameter and 9" Length,Condition: 100% Brand New,,,,

Description

This is the Bullet Air Cleaner Filter Kits For 1991-2006 Harley Davidson XL Models Sportster.

Performance

I have to start out with the design features of this exceptional air cleaning kit. To start off with what you have here is chrome finished, gothic style design, a complete 360 Degree Slotted Spike Cover air filter head with that is made of High-Quality Chrome Plated Billet Aluminum and contained a washable red filter. The filter is a K&N KN-SP3301 model.

It is recommended that you get this filter installed professionally, but if you are an enthusiast with great hands and good vision, then installing this baby will take under 90 minutes.

The spike cone attachment needs to be screwed in correctly, and the supplier suggests that you alternate between the set screws, and turn each one a quarter turn between each screw until the spiked cone is tightly secured. Apply enough torque to assure a tight fit.

Features

  • All Aluminum tube and frame
  • Exceptional bullet design
  • Chrome polished finish
  • Aluminum body and tubing
  • K&N Red cotton gauze washable filter

Recommendations

Yup, I started with a great vision of beauty, this shiny bullet shaped air cleaning system is about as classy as you can get, and it sits on many models with a style that calls for attention.

3. Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits For Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Black

HTTMT MT227-BK Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits Compatible with Harley S&S Custom Cv Evo Xl Sportster Black
  • High Quality Chrome Billet Aluminum Cone Spike Air Cleaner Kit
  • Features an Aggressive look and Performance Gain
  • 360 Degree Slotted Spike Cover
  • Washable Filter
  • High Quality Chrome Billet Aluminum Cone Spike Air Cleaner Kit,Features an Aggressive look and Performance Gain,360 Degree Slotted Spike Cover,Washable Filter,Generic Brand Filter can be replaced with a K&N,No installation guide,Color: the same like picture show,Material: High Quality Billet Aluminum,Filter Size: 4.9" Diameter and 9" Length,Condition: 100% Brand New ,,,,

Description

This is the black Spike Air Cleaner Filter Kits for 1988-2018 Harley Sportster models

Performance

This is the mean version of the bullet. It’s a black mat spike for your matt black Sportster models, such as XL1200N “Nightster” and the XL883N “Iron 883”.

What you get is a matt black finished, gothic style design, a complete 360 Degree Slotted Spike Cover air filter head with that is made of High-Quality Black Finished Billet Aluminum and contains a washable red filter. The filter is a K&N KN-SP3301 model.

It is recommended that you get this filter installed professionally, but if you are an enthusiast with great hands and good vision, then installing this baby will take under 90 minutes.

The spike cone attachment needs to be screwed in correctly, and the supplier suggests that you alternate between the set screws, and turn each one a quarter turn between each screw until the spiked cone is tightly secured. Apply enough torque to assure a tight fit.

Features

  • All Aluminum tube and frame
  • Exceptional bullet design
  • Matt Black Finish for the Darker models
  • Aluminum body and tubing
  • K&N Red cotton gauze washable filter

Recommendations

If you want to scare little kids and old grannies, make sure they aren’t biker kids or old biker grannies because this awe-inspiring air cooling unit is about as dark as it gets. Talk about steam-punk Harley style.

4. Arlen Ness 18-326 Black Big Sucker Stage I Air Filter Kit with Cover

 
Arlen Ness 18-326 Black Big Sucker Stage I Air Filter Kit with Cover
  • Features a one-piece aluminum backing plate/carb support bracket with patented hidden Breather technology and radius air inlet
  • Eliminates the need for banjo Fittings, Hoses and filter
  • Breather passages exit at the mouth of the carburetor/throttle body, creating a virtually closed-loop system
  • Kit Includes high-performance filter, backing plate and Steel outer cover
  • All necessary hardware and instructions are included with each kit

Description

This is the Arlen Ness 18-326 Big Sucker™ is a stage 1 kit and a popular bestseller for a very long time. The Big Sucker™ is a performance upgrade that will increase your torque by 21%, for all 1988 to 2018 Harley Sportster models.

Performance

The Big Sucker™ is engineered to perfection and is made to deliver maximum airflow continuously to the engine through its one-piece billet backing plate that comes with the Arlen Ness patented hidden breather technology.

The Arlen breathers have throttle body mouth head and exit o-rings, these rings eliminate the use of external hoses or hardware, delivering a one flow seamless upgrade.

The backing plates come with a smooth radius air inlet which delivers a full flow of unobstructed air via the filter and into the engine.

You get to choose from two different filter media; the standard red pre-oiled cotton that is washable and reusable, and the washable and reusable black synthetic filter elements which come contained in a stainless-steel jacket. The synthetic filters do not need a rain sock and don’t use oil.

The big sucker is a top-level performer in a modest package, it doesn’t look even a tenth as impressive as a bullet or spike, but it delivers power and performance beyond most models. You can always find a fancy cover if you want that special look to go with a special filter.

Features

  • Stage 1 kit
  • One-piece aluminum backing plate
  • The increase of 21% torque

Recommendations

If you want to add enough torque to your Harley with just one upgrade part, this would be the one to get. Inexpensive, reliable, rugged and high-grade performance delivery.

5. Vance & Hines Naked XL883N VO2 Air Intake 2015-2018

Vance & Hines VO2 Naked Air Intake for 10-20 Harley XL1200X
  • For those wanting to keep the stock look, but not necessarily the stock performance, Vance & Hines now offers its VO2 Air Intake as a high flow replacement kit for use with your stock air cleaner cover.
  • Utilizing a sleek dual-port venturi machined from billet aluminum, the VO2 Naked is a direct bolt-on to the factory throttle body.
  • Combined with its high-flow washable filter element, the VO2 Naked air intake kit produces strong performance gains across the entire power curve when paired with Vance & Hines Fuelpak and Twin Slash Staggered exhaust system or Competition Series slip-on
  • The VO2 Naked can be run with no cover, allows reuse of the O.E.M.
  • cover (unless noted), or dress it up with one of the many optional VO2 Skullcap covers (sold separately).

Description

This is the Vance & Hines Naked XL883N VO2 Air Intake for 2015-2018 Harley Roadster models.

Performance

When it comes to OEM and factory replacement kits, this is the classic OEM replacement part, it provides stock performance and is designed to maintain the original feel and style of the ride.

This Vance & Hines Naked XL883N VO2 Air Intake model is designed to fit right into place using the original filter cover. If its more beauty and appearance you need, you can always buy an aftermarket filter cover to spruce up the image of your ride.

The bottom line is that this is an extremely reliable model, it combines performance with design, and it sits perfectly on all Harley Davidson Roadster models.

Features

  • Enhanced Air Flow Over Stock
  • Washable High Flow Filter
  • Larger Backing Plate
  • CNC Machined Venturi

Recommendations

If you want a stock replacement item in an aftermarket body, this is the kit to get, and you can play around with the covers to make it look more than it is.

What Models are Compatible with these Air Filters?

The air filters I present in the article today are all designed to fit some of these applications.

Models

  • XL900 Series including XLH900 (High Compression engine) and the XLC900 off-road version of the XL. The
  • XLCH900 off-road version of the XLC.
  • XLX-61 an entry-level “Ironhead” era Sportster.
  • XLS1000, XLT1000 “Tourer” 1977, and the XLCH, XLH and XT models of the 1977 Harley-Davidson Confederate Edition.
  • XLCR1000 “Cafe Racer” is the 1977 and 1978 Cafe Racer model.
  • XR1000
  • XLH1100
  • XLH1200
  • XLH883 “Deluxe” and the “Hugger”
  • XL53C “Custom 53”
  • XL883 “Sportster 883”, XL883C “Custom,” XL883L “Low, XL883R “Roadster”
  • XL1200C “Custom” XL1200L “Low”, XL1200S “Sport” , XL1200R “Roadster”
  • XL50 1200 “50th Anniversary” 2007 limited production came out with only 2,000 models
  • XL1200N “Nightster” first of the Dark Custom Models.
  • XL883N “Iron 883”, blacked similar to the Nightster.
  • XR1200 “Euro”, XL1200X “Forty-Eight”,
  • XR1200X Starting as an XR1200 with piggyback/fully adjustable shocks, fully adjustable front end, available in either Black Denim or White Denim paint colors
  • XL883L “SuperLow” from 2011
  • XL1200C “1200 Custom” also from 2011.
  • XL1200V “72” Radical Chopper

Roadster

The XL1200CX “Roadster” model was introduced by Harley-Davidson in 2016. This is a Sportster model made even sportier. This design uses a has café bike styling and stance, and comes with mid-position pegs and with a slammed drag bar. There is a 43mm inverted cartridge fork. It also comes with a twin 300mm floating disc and a tach with the speedometer. This version gives you HP of 65.4 hp (48.8 kW).

Current Models

The current models on the market at most distributors are the:
SuperLow -- XL883L, Iron 883 -- XL883N, Iron 1200 -- XL1200N, 1200 Custom -- XL1200C, SuperLow 1200T -- XL1200T, Forty-Eight -- XL1200X, and the Roadster -- XL1200CX.

FAQs


Do I need to tune my Harley if I add an air cleaner?

Yes, it is recommended that you re-tune your Harley if you’re installing an aftermarket air cleaner because you’re adding more air for the combustion.

How often should I change my Harley air filter?

The interval depends on what model you have although realistically you are looking at an average of around 5,000 miles before replacing the filter.

Can you wash a Harley air filter?

Yes, you can wash it and reuse it by cleaning it using soapy water and letting it dry out.

How to change the air filter on a Harley Sportster?

Tools needed

  • A ratchet screwdriver set
  • Allen keys (also known as hex keys or Allen wrenches)

Replacement air filter

Step 1

You need to start by locating the air box on the right side of your motorcycle and unscrew the cover using the Allen keys. As for the right spec/size of replacement air filter, all you need to is find out the model year of your motorcycle and communicate it to the dealership for them to give you the perfect replacement filter. (Or, if you want to buy it yourself, you can read up on our review above.)

Step 2

To remove the air filter from the casing, you need to unscrew the three torque spits which hold it in place. Get the appropriate size screw and unscrew them. Make sure to keep these in a safe place because most replacement air filters don’t come with the screws.

Step 3

Wipe off the dirty insides of the air filter cover using a cloth or a rag before installing the new filter. Next up, line up the mounting points on the air filter with the ones on the air box and just set it in. It’s as easy as that. Finally, put all the bolts back in and screw them in place before putting on the cover and you are done.