How to Change the Oil on a Harley Davidson Crankcase

by Chris Gilliland

Changing the oil on your motorcycle is one of the most important skills every motorcyclist should have. Harley-Davidson riders, however, should have a working understanding of how to change all three oils used by their steeds: engine, transmission and primary oils. For newcomers, changing the engine oil and filter is a good starting point, as regular replacement of the engine oil, which lubricates and cools the crankcase, is a must to prolong the life of a Harley-Davidson.


Locate your motorcycle's drain plug. While most Harley-Davidson motorcycles place their drain plugs on the underside of the motor, Sportster models are equipped with a drain hose leading from the oil tank.


Place a catch basin or container below the drain plug and remove the drain plug bolt. Allow the oil to drain completely from the motor and replace the drain plug bolt.


Move the catch basin directly under the oil filter in the front portion of the motor. Remove the filter with an oil filter wrench and discard the filter.


Fill your new oil filter with fresh oil until it is full. Using your finger, apply a thin coating of oil to the mating surface of the filter. Screw the filter on by hand until it is seated against the motor.


Remove the oil filler cap from the oil tank. Using a funnel, add fresh oil into the tank. Do not add more than three quarts of oil. Replace the oil filler cap and wipe away any oil spills.


Start the motor and slowly loosen the oil filter. Tighten the filter as soon as oil begins to seep out from between the filter and the motor. This will remove any air that may have been trapped within the oil filter.


Turn off the motor and wipe the oil filter clean.


  • check To speed up the draining process, warm the motorcycle engine before draining the oil.
  • check Refer to a Harley-Davidson factory service manual specific to your model for in-depth details regarding this process, as well as other maintenance routines.


  • close To prevent damage, do not use power tools to tighten the oil filter or drain plug bolt.
  • close Dispose of used motor oil responsibly. Have it recycled at your local auto parts store or city recycling facility.

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About the Author

An avid motorcyclist, Chris Gilliland has immersed himself into the two-wheeled world while balancing work life and raising three daughters. When he is not managing the parts department of a local, multi-line motorcycle dealership, Gilliland can often be found riding, writing or working on his motorcycle blog, Wingman's Garage.

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