How to Change the Transmission Fluid in a 883 Sportster Harley Davidson

by Chris Gilliland; Updated November 07, 2017

Items you will need

  • Hex head socket set

  • Socket wrench

  • Catch basin or container

  • Shop towels

  • Torx driver set

  • Transmission fluid

  • Anti-seize compound

Unlike its larger brethren, Harley-Davidson's 883 Sportster employs a smaller motor that houses two separate fluids rather than three. The first, engine oil, is kept in an oil tank that facilitates an easy oil change. Replacing the primary/transmission fluid, however, often leaves DIYers confused. Fortunately, changing a Sportster's transmission fluid is much easier than it appears, requiring only a few tools to accomplish the task. Please remember to dispose of your used transmission fluid responsibly by having it recycled at your local auto parts store.

Locate the drain plug bolt beneath the motor's primary cover. Place a catch basin directly below the drain plug. Remove the drain plug bolt using a hex head socket and allow the transmission fluid to drain completely. Replace the drain plug bolt when the fluid has reduced to a thin trickle and wipe the surrounding area with a shop towel.

Remove the derby cover and its gasket from the primary cover with a Torx driver to remove the derby cover bolts. Add fresh transmission fluid into the primary through the derby cover hole. Continue to fill the primary until the transmission fluid level rises to the base of the round clutch assembly.

Install the derby cover and its gasket onto the primary cover. Apply a small amount of anti-seize compound to the threads of the derby cover bolts and tighten into place with a Torx driver. Wipe away any spilled transmission fluid with a shop towel.


To prevent the derby cover from warping, alternate between the derby cover bolts when tightening, using a criss-cross pattern, until all bolts have been tightened.

Refer to a Harley-Davidson service manual for in-depth details and additional information.

If you do not feel that you can perform this task, have the work completed by a qualified Harley-Davidson technician.


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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