How do I Tune Up a Harley 883?

by Chris Gilliland

Regular tune-ups can prolong the life of your Harley-Davidson XL883 Sportster, preventing excessive wear from damaging the motorcycle's motor and transmission. However, a tune-up should cover more than just oil. The motorcycle's brakes, spark plugs, air filter and even the electrical system should receive attention routinely to help you catch problems before they cause serious damage on the road. Expect to spend at least one and a half hours on the job to give each component the proper amount of attention.

Step 1

Locate the oil tank's drain hose on the left side of the frame. Loosen the hose's clamp with a flat screwdriver and pull the hose off of the frame. Drain the oil into an oil pan and reattach the drain hose to the frame. Tighten the hose clamp with a flat screwdriver. Unscrew the oil filter from the motor and replace it with a fresh oil filter. Tighten the oil filter by hand until the base of the filer is touching the motor, the tighten it an additional half turn. Fill the oil tank with three quarts of fresh 20W50 oil.

Step 2

Unscrew the drain plug from the bottom of the transmission unit with a socket wrench and drain the transmission fluid into an oil pan. Screw the drain plug into the transmission and tighten it with a socket wrench. Refill the transmission with 1 qt. of transmission fluid.

Step 3

Remove the bolts from the outside of the air cleaner cover with a Torx screwdriver. Pull the cover off of the air cleaner. Remove the filter element from the air cleaner base and replace it with a new filter element. Place the cover onto the air cleaner base. Tighten the air cleaner cover bolts with a Torx screwdriver.

Step 4

Pull the spark plug wires off of both of the motor's spark plugs. Unscrew the spark plugs with a spark plug socket. Set the new spark plugs' electrode gap to 0.40 inches with a gap tool. Screw the spark plugs onto the motor with a spark plug socket. Push the spark plug wires onto both spark plugs.

Step 5

Inspect the brake pads on the front and rear wheels. Use a flashlight to illuminate the area where the brake pads meet the brake rotor. Replace the brake pads if there is less than 1.8 inch of pad material left.

Lift the battery cover's lid to access the battery's terminals. Test the battery's charge with a multimeter. Ideally, the battery should have a minimum charge of 12.8 volts. Charge the battery with an automatic charger and retest the battery. Turn the motorcycle's ignition on and check that all lights and indicators operate properly. Replace any burnt-out lights. Start the motor and test the battery with a multimeter to check the charging voltage. Ideally, the battery should have a minimum voltage of 14.1 volts. Stop the motor and close the battery cover's lid.


  • Contact your local Harley-Davidson dealership if the motorcycle's charging voltage is below 14.1 volts. A problem may exist within the charging system's stator or voltage regulator.
  • Warm up the motorcycle before changing or checking its oil. Warm oil provides an accurate oil level reading and will flow better during the draining process.

Items you will need

  • Flat screwdriver
  • Oil pan
  • 3 qts. 20W50 oil
  • Socket wrench and sockets
  • 1 qt. transmission fluid
  • Torx screwdrivers
  • Air filter element
  • Spark plug socket
  • Spark plugs
  • Spark plug gap tool
  • Brake pads
  • Multimeter
  • Automatic battery charger
  • Light bulbs

More Articles