Save Preloader image


Backfiring Trouble Shooting Guide

Backfiring is a common issue with the installation of aftermarket exhaust pipes. But before you think it’s the pipe’s problem read the information below. You just might find that the problem lies elsewhere.

Backfiring in the exhaust system

Backfiring in the exhaust system of your motorcycle is created by the same three necessary elements for combustion inside the engine; oxygen, fuel and ignition. Because the heat of the exhaust will supply the ignition, let’s discuss the other two. The backfiring during acceleration is a serious engine related (cam timing, bad valve seat seal, etc.) problem and can not be fixed with air/fuel mixture changes.

Backfiring on deceleration is much more common and often occurs when exhaust and fuel mixture changes are made. This is what we are going to discuss.

All fuel injection systems turn off the fuel during deceleration when the throttle is fully closed, then turns the fuel back on down to idle once the engine reaches a predetermined RPM. This is a most important indicator of what is happening. If a motorcycle backfires down through the entire RPM range during deceleration, then most likely the injectors are not turning off as intended. This indicates a possible issue with the stock fuel injection system.

There are numerous possibilities, including but not limited to. Improper Throttle Position Sensor (TPS) setting, bad cold start and/or temp sensors, throttle cable adjustment, etc. Visit your dealership or shop manual and fix this problem or problems before proceeding. Remember that your bike may well have had this pre-existing problem. Adding the less restrictive exhaust or tuning fuel may just make it more noticeable.

Now, if backfiring is only present in the lower RPM. range usually the lower third of the full RPM. range, that is confirming that the injectors are coming back on and now that fuel is igniting in the exhaust. But, there has to be oxygen (fresh air) present to create that ignition.

Few ways oxygen can end up in the exhaust system

There are numerous ways oxygen can end up in the exhaust system, especially if you are riding a large V-twin motorcycle. On deceleration, with the throttle plate closed, the pistons are still pulling a large vacuum that is not being fed by the throttle opening, so any tiny opening at gaskets, seals, joints, slip fits, must be suspect. Even though exhaust is not coming out of a lose connection, it doesn’t mean air can’t be drawn back through under high vacuum.

So, first, what have you changed on your motorcycle? This must be the first place you look. Also, the exhaust system itself may be drawing fresh air back into the exhaust. Very short pipes/mufflers and/or no baffles can allow exhaust to rush out but fresh air to rush back in, along the sides of the inside of the pipes. This is known as fresh air inversion, and is common with very short exhaust pipes, large diameter straight pipes and/or no baffles. Also a one-into-two rear head pipe design on a stock Harley dresser allows fresh air to be drawn up through the left hand muffler.

The intake side also needs scrutiny; even if there have been no modifications. Fresh air can be introduced by intake manifold leaks, or in many Japanese bikes, exhaust gas emission systems.

Harleys have a rubber intake gasket that can become overheated and damaged and the slightest movement while changing an air cleaner system can open up a leak. The Japanese twins use reed valves or mechanical one-way valves that can get stuck, allowing fresh air to get past and into the exhaust. Some aftermarket air cleaner assemblies do not deal effectively with converting the original EGA hoses and valving.

Based on the above data, there are some simple tests you can perform to help you solve your motorcycle’s backfire issues:

  1. 1. Once fully warmed, decelerate the engine from a high RPM and listen for where the backfiring occurs. Fix any EFI issues first.
  2. 2. Add fuel to the cruise range, then ride the bike and see if there is a change. Worse means a big air leak, usually from the intake side. Better means a small air leak, usually from the exhaust side.
  3. 3. On Harley Baggers with dual slip-on exhaust, try plugging off the left muffler.
  4. 4. On very short or open pipes, try baffles or increasing the baffle effect.
  5. 5. On bikes with exhaust gas recirculation systems, try plugging off the feed tube to the system.
  6. 6. A step-by-step logical approach should help you solve and eliminate backfiring.