How to Service a Harley-Davidsonby Kyle McBride
Harley-Davidson publishes well-defined maintenance schedules and service intervals in every service manual. The maintenance schedule is based on years of experience with the product and is designed to keep the bike operating at peak efficiency while maintaining the safety of the rider. Properly following the service intervals and performing the maintenance will help prevent costly engine damage and unsafe riding conditions. The maintenance schedule is the same across the recent model families and years, although the actual procedures will vary depending on year, model and engine family.
Remove the engine oil drain plug and drain the oil. Replace the drain plug gasket and install the drain plug. Twist the engine oil filter off the filter base and discard the filter. Lubricate the filter gasket with a light coat of fresh engine oil. Spin the filter onto the base until the gasket makes contact, and then turn it an additional one-quarter turn. Refill the engine oil. Perform the oil change every 5,000 miles.
Remove the air cleaner filter and inspect it for damage or clogging. Gently blow the filter out using compressed air to remove excess dirt and replace it if damaged. Do not bang the filter against a hard object to dislodge debris.
Inspect the tires for damage or tread wear and replace as necessary. Check the tire pressure and adjust as necessary.
Readjust the clutch every 5,000 miles according to the procedures for the year and model of your Harley.
Inspect, adjust and lubricate the throttle, clutch and brake controls every 5,000 miles. Remove tension from the cables and remove the cables from the throttle grip and clutch lever. Install a cable lubricator tool on the end of the cables and then spray lubricant into the cables. Reinstall and adjust the cables according to specification for your year and model of Harley.
Check the level and condition of the brake fluid in the master cylinder reservoirs. The type of brake fluid required for your Harley is embossed on top of the master cylinder reservoir cap.
Inspect the brake pads for wear. Replace the brake pads if the friction material reaches 0.04 inch. Look for damage, such as scoring, on the brake discs and replace the discs as necessary. Harley-Davidson does not allow turning the discs on late-model bikes. Check with an authorized service center to determine whether your discs can be turned on a lathe.
Remove and inspect the spark plugs for damage, wear and fouling, and replace as necessary.
Inspect the exhaust system for damage, leaks and missing fasteners and heat shields. Leaks usually develop at the exhaust gasket where the exhaust pipes meet the heads. Carbon appears on the chrome pipes when leaks are present.
Inspect the rear drive belt and pulleys for wear or damage and replace as necessary. Locate the debris deflector viewing window on the rear drive belt guard. Place the belt tensioner gauge against the underside of the belt next to the window and press the gauge upward until it reads "15 pounds." Look through the debris deflector viewing window and note the amount of belt deflection as indicated by the graduations marked on the sight glass. Check the belt tension and alignment and adjust as necessary according to the specifications for your year and model of Harley.
Strike each spoke on the wheels with a spoke wrench and listen to the resulting tone. A low or dull tone indicates a loose spoke. Tighten the spoke with the wrench until it rings with the same tone as the rest of the spokes. Check the wheel spokes for tightness at the first 5,000 miles, and every 15,000 miles thereafter. For safety reasons, Harley-Davidson recommends spoke adjustment be performed by an authorized service center if more than one or two spokes require tightening.
Check all electrical switches and devices for proper operation. In basic terms, this is a light and horn check.
Check the oil lines, brake hoses and associated fittings, as well as the fuel lines and fittings for cracks or leaks. For safety reasons, Harley-Davidson recommends these checks be performed by an authorized service center.
Drain the primary chaincase and replace the chaincase drain plug gasket. Refill the primary chaincase with primary chaincase lubricant.
Inspect the jiffy stand for cracks or damage and lubricate it. Cracks can develop on the stand itself rather than on the stand’s swivel mount. This damage is usually caused by resting the bike on the jiffy stand and then sitting on the bike. For safety reasons, Harley-Davidson recommends jiffy stand inspection be performed by an authorized service center. If a damaged jiffy stand breaks under load, personal injury and damage to the bike can be severe.
Check the tightness of the critical fasteners, such as the motor mounts, transmission mounts and stabilizer links. For safety reasons, Harley-Davidson recommends this check be performed by an authorized service center.
Drain and replace the front fork oil and replace the drain plug gasket. This procedure requires the use of a fork holding tool. This is a specialized tool that most bike owners will not have and are not qualified to operate. Do not attempt to drain and replace the front fork oil if you are not qualified to perform this procedure.
Adjust the steering head bearings for fall-away. Most bike owners are not qualified to perform this procedure. Do not attempt to assess or adjust fall-away if you are not qualified to perform this procedure.
20,000-Mile and Over Service
Drain the transmission and replace the transmission drain plug gasket. Refill the transmission with transmission lubricant every 20,000 miles.
Replace the spark plugs every 20,000 miles. Do not overtighten the plugs. Damage to the aluminum engine can result if the plugs are overtightened.
Replace the fuel filter every 25,000 miles. The filter is located inside the fuel tank. On recent year, fuel-injected models, the filter mounts on the fuel pump. On earlier, models with carburetors, the filter mounts on the petcock at the bottom of the tank. If you are uncomfortable performing fuel system procedures, Harley-Davidson recommends the fuel filter replacement be performed by an authorized service center for safety reasons.
Inspect the rear fork bearings every 30,000 miles for signs of damage or cracking. Most bike owners are not qualified to replace the rear fork bearings. Do not attempt to replace the bearings if you are not qualified to perform this procedure.
Disassemble, inspect and lubricate the steering head bearings every 30,000 miles. Most bike owners are not qualified to perform this procedure. Do not attempt to disassemble or lubricant the steering head if you are not qualified.
Inspect the battery for cracks or damage and clean the battery and battery cable terminals once a year. Clean the battery with a solution of 5 teaspoons of baking soda to 1 quart of water.
Perform a road test to check the operation of all systems after every service. Perform a low-speed test in a controlled environment, such as a parking lot, before taking the bike into traffic.
- check Procedures and parts needed for required and suggested maintenance may vary slightly among years and models. Refer to model-specific service information for relevant service procedure details and fluid requirements.
- close If you are uncomfortable performing any of these procedures, take the bike to an authorized Harley-Davidson service center for service. Improperly performed service on a motorcycle can result in an unsafe riding condition, severe personal injury and death.
Items you will need
- photo_camera Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images