How to Adjust the Rear Shock on a Harley Softail

by Thomas West

By trying to make the Softail frame look like a rigid or hard tail frame but still have ride and comfort of a modern suspension, the folks at Harley-Davidson had to change the way the shocks mount and function. The shocks on your Softail are different from other bikes in that the shocks are hidden under the transmission. Where "regular" shocks cushion the ride by resisting compression, the shocks on your Softail cushion the ride by resisting extension.

1

Place a hydraulic motorcycle jack stand under the frame rails of the motorcycle. Lift the motorcycle off the ground by pumping the jack stand with the jack handle. Raise the jack until the rear wheel of the motorcycle has cleared the ground

2

Make a reference mark with a dab of paint on the shock adjuster plate of both rear shock absorbers. Loosen, but do not remove, the jam nut on each shock absorber in a counter clockwise direction with an open-end wrench.

3

Using a shock-absorber-adjustment spanner wrench, turn the shock adjuster plates an equal number of turns and in the same direction on both shock absorbers. Always turn the adjuster plates at least one full revolution. Use the reference marks as your guide.

4

Turn the shock adjuster plates outward -- counterclockwise -- towards the jam nut to raise spring pre-load for heavier loads. Turn the shock adjuster plates inward -- clockwise -- away from the jam nut to lower the spring pre-load and smooth out the ride for lighter loads. Make sure you turn the shock adjuster plates an equal number of turns for each shock.

5

Tighten the jam nut on each shock absorber in a clockwise direction. Lower the motorcycle to the ground and remove the hydraulic jack stand from underneath the motorcycle.

Tip

  • check The shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench is available from your Harley Davidson dealer.

Warnings

  • close Be careful when placing the hydraulic jack underneath the motorcycle. Do not place the jack underneath the brake pedal.
  • close Failure to adjust both shock absorbers to the same pre-load could adversely affect the handling of the motorcycle.
  • close Be aware of handling changes in your motorcycle after changing the shock absorber pre-load.

Items you will need

About the Author

This article was written by the It Still Runs team, copy edited and fact checked through a multi-point auditing system, in efforts to ensure our readers only receive the best information. To submit your questions or ideas, or to simply learn more about It Still Runs, contact us.