Advice For Harley-Davidson Riders

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Let's Talk Harley - by James Russell

 If you have read the other Harley-Davidson articles on this Website, here, you will find general advice regarding all Harley-Davidson issues in Question & Answer format.  Not too technical though... let's keep it light and interesting for the average rider.  On thing I promise, you'll learn a lot reading these pages!

1.  Question:  Your article on buying Sportster's is great, but I have fitment concerns.  When I sit on one it feels too small for me.  What can I do to get one to fit me?

Answer:  I know what you are saying as a many prospective buyers in a dealer showroom do not realize a Sportster can be customized to fit you.  For some reason or another this totally escapes their mind.  It also does not help when salespersons steer customers to the awful Twin-Cam defect-plagued heavy, unstoppable behemoths (more on this later).  First start by finding a new Sportster 1200 Custom with mini-ape handlebars and extended foot controls for this is very important.  The other models of Sportster's can not be used for comparison as they all feel awfully cramped and grossly confined even if you are short in stature.  Those bikes never fit anybody except beginners who do not know better... they are what I call "ignorance bikes" and Harley-Davidson should be duly scolded for creating these irons of junk.  However, great strides have been made to the Sportster 1200 Custom that turns it into an affordable cruiser bike or small bagger and that is why you must use that model of bike to begin a comparison.  By making some economical and easy to do alterations the bike can be made comfortable.  However, there are limits.  If you are over 6 feet tall and weigh over 250 lbs or always touring with a passenger a larger bike may be your only option, maybe!  Sportster 1200's are very powerful so do not underestimate them as the total weight of the bike is far lighter than the big touring models.  For most, it a comfort thing and it usually requires a shallow-pocket custom seat so you can sit further back, 4" to 6" pull-back risers and mini-ape handlebars so you can sit further back, along with extended foot controls so you can sit further back... you get the idea.  All of the these items are available from H-D and aftermarket.  I find the Mustang seat is a better deal and a better fitment selection.  You will need Progressive Suspension rear shocks (#430 stock length size are fine) as the poor quality of the stock shocks are horrible spine-slammers and, I loudly proclaim, are outright dangerous to a backbone's health... get rid of those stock shocks!  H-D does make nice saddlebags, sissy bar and racks.  A Windvest brand windshield not only looks great, they are small, wind-quiet, non-turbulent so there is no head buffeting, fully adjustable angles and highly functional.  Now, if you add up the cost with all the accessories it is still far less than a Twin-Cam beast and you have no engine, primary, transmission and frame defects to come back and haunt you.  Now the bike may still feel narrow and thin... think of a chopper.  You can add a fat gas tank to a Sportster and it will feel wide like a Twin-Cam.  Consider make a custom bike of a new Sportster 1200.  To see some amazing Sportster custom bikes go to Atlas Precision.  I bet you will fit on one of these!

2.  Question:  You mention to buy a new Sportster.  What year?

Answer:  2012 is the year to begin with.  Anything after that will be just fine.  I do not recommend any other Sportster model than the 1200 Custom.  All the other Sportster's are just not suitable for long rides or touring service.  You could customize the other new 2012 and later models to your liking and to your fitment... no doubt about that!  The 1200 Custom is an "almost there" touring bike and it is with just a few minor additions/alterations for comfort as described in Question #1.

3.  Question:  You mention parts are cheaper to buy for a Sportster.  Why?

Answer:  Most Sportster riders are young (at heart) and many no so rich so the market adjusts the pricing.  You will be amazed just how low the pricing is!  A Twin-Cam seat may cost $650 but a custom Sportster seat only $160... from the same manufacturer, same style, etc.  Exhaust pipes follow the same discounting policies.  Shop around and compare and you will fall even more in love with your Sportster.  

4.  Question:  I have 88c.i. TC.  Can I use 96c.i. TC engine parts in my engine?

Answer:  No.  The heads, cams, pistons, crankcases are all different.  You should just use parts specifically designed for your size engine.  Each year Harley-Davidson improves its engines trying to fix those nagging engine defects to some degree or another and it becomes a nightmare to try to interchange parts.  Just because a engine is a Twin-Cam does not mean parts will fit the 88, 96, 103, 110, etc.  This is not a bad thing.  Every improvement H-D can make is just one less problem us riders need to endure. 

5.  Question:  You are harsh on Harley-Davidson.  Do you hate their bikes?

Answer:  I love Harley-Davidson motorcycles.  I like the sound, feel, the looks, the ride, those pulsing power throbs hammering the frame... it is what riding a Harley is all about.  But, I do hate those horrific defects the Twin-Cam models have.  H-D could fix all of them, but for some reason or whatever they don't or delay doing so.  They rather sell you a Screaming Eagle racing part to fix the problem(s).  The aftermarket industry is making millions of dollars due to these defects as they come up with devices to fix the problem... but the rider is the one doing all the paying.  So, I do go on record that I despise the Twin-Cam nonsense and advise riders to seriously consider getting rid of their TC and switch to a Harley-Davidson Sportster 1200 as soon as possible.  Until then, stay away from those Twin-Cam bikes.  I also advise to not buy a V-Rod with the Revolution engine until they, the factory, increases frame clearance so the valves can be adjusted without lowering the engine out of the frame... that is sheer ridiculous and absurd and consumer/owner unfriendly.  Then you have to remove the cams to replace the shims under the buckets.  Fuel mileage on that bike is horrible High 32.7 Low 17.75 and Average is only 26.75 miles per gallon of premium fuel.  Valves to be adjusted will cost over $350.  I do not believe I will be buying any more Twin-Cam engine motorcycles... not after owning the powerful and defect-free perfected stock Stage-1 Sportster Evolution engine.  It is awesome!

 6.  Question:  When would you advise buying a TC?

Answer:  Not until all the serious defect problems are fixed.  Let's assume all the engine, primary and transmission and frame problems have been finally fixed.  Harley-Davidson will still need a engine/transmission redesign so the belt drive is on the right side of the frame, like it is on the Sportster models.  As it is now, the TC primary chain, clutch and inner primary cover all must be disassembled, and the swing arm taken apart too, just to replace the rear drive belt.  The time, money, grief to change a drive belt with the TC is awful.  You will pay dearly to have the drive belt replaced due to wear, vandalism or bet failure.  I have seen riders riding two up go over a small, but prolonged, lump in the road intersection and the belt slip right off the rear pulley stalling them out in traffic.  Not only is this dangerous the belt can be torn in two causing a major breakdown expense; repair bill, motel, towing, meals, loss time on the job, etc.  On a Sportster the belt is changed in about 30 minutes and you can do it yourself with great ease and I have never seen a belt come flying off on any Sportster at anytime, but I assume it could.  Even if it did you can fix the problem yourself or have a dealer fix it in no time at all at low cost to you.  You can fix a TC bike to have a right-side drive as there are aftermarket kits to do this.  You can fix many of the TC engine defects too, but the cost is just unbearable and is not worth the effort, at least in my opinion.  If you got money to burn, then go ahead, but realize you are voiding your H-D factory warranty too!  The only way I would own a Twin-Cam engine motorcycle is it would have to be brand new and always under warranty, then trade it in and buy another new Harley before the warranty expires.  This method is expensive, but so it keeping a Twin-Cam out of warranty which can result in financial ruin. 

"Do not rely on the Twin-Cam water-cooled cylinder head to cool the engine as it won't stop engine damage."  See #146

7.  Question:  What are the cc's in Harley motors?

Answer:  First, a motor is an electric motor.  A gas or diesel internal combustion prime mover is an engine.  With electric motorcycles now arriving on scene learn the difference between motor and engine to avoid the confusion many riders will soon be dazzled by.  Here's the equivalent engine sizes: 61ci = 1000cc, 74ci = 1200cc, 80ci = 1340cc, 88ci = 1450cc, 96ci = 1585cc, 103ci = 1690cc, 110ci = 1800cc.  As you can see many metric bikes have larger engines than Harley-Davidson's 110 cubic inch size, but they don't have the feel and the sound of a Harley.    

8.  Question:  My Touring model has a wobble on deceleration or when I take my hands off the handlebars.  What is wrong?

Answer:  Be aware that Harley-Davidson will not fix your bike if you tell them it wobbles when you take your hands off the handlebars so never say that.  But if the bike wobbles it can be a few things.  If you have spoke wheels it can be the sprocket or center spool offset are out of alignment or just loose spokes so you need to have the wheel's trued.  If you have cast wheels?  Start with the simple things first.  Empty out the saddlebags and luggage.  Just loading up a slight weight shifting unbalance can cause a wobble, usually at a steady state speed with hands off the handlebars but it can happen on acceleration and deceleration.  It only happens when you take your hands off the bars.  Check for broken or loose motor mounts.  Assuming your tires are new, but if they are worn to about 4,000 miles on them a wobble can occur along with some road noise.  Nothing to worry about there.  The odds are your steering head bearing needs adjusting and this is not a warranty item so you learn to do it yourself or pay, pay, pay!  You can't, like the old days, grab your front forks and feel for a looseness in the bearing.  You got to disassemble all that fairing junk on your Touring model which can take hours of your time just to get to the steering head bearings to make the adjustment.  A service manual will then show you how to adjust the bearings. It can even be a Harley-Davidson high speed wobble which is a defect.  You will need to purchase an aftermarket engine/frame stabilizer such as the Touring Link - Stabilizer by Progressive Suspension.  Read this article: What You Need To Know Before You Buy A Harley-Davidson Motorcycle You may also want to see if a new TourTrac Tree will solve your wobble problem.  Also consider True-Track who makes products to stabilize the engine and swingarm.

9.  Question:  My belt drive makes a squealing noise.  How do I stop it?

Answer:  Could be the belt is out of alignment.  You can adjust the rear belt adjusters to move the drive belt back toward the center of the pulley.  Now, just because you see your belt touching the edge of your rear wheel pulley does not mean this is a problem.  The belt should not be rubbing hard against the pulley's side edge as that will cause a squealing or rubbing noise and it can cause wear on the belt.  In most cases, just take a contractor's pencil and write some of the graphite lead on the edges of the pulley where the belt is rubbing and the noise should go away.  If not, or the noise returns in one week or a couple hundred miles, then check for belt alignment between both pulleys.  You only need to get the belt to not ride hard against the pulley's shoulder edges.  If you look at new bikes on the showroom floor you will see many belts are not perfectly centered on the pulley.  These pulley's are not crowned so the belt can slide from left to right on the pulley. It may touch the pulley edge, but it should not be driven hard against the edge due to misalignment.  If the belt is adjusted to tightly it may squeal. 

10.  Question:  My disk brakes squeal at low speed.  How do I stop it? 

Answer:  Now, if you can see brake pad material on your brake pads on both sides of each disk rotor the squeal is not dangerous.  Some riders neglect their brake pads and the squeal is actually metal to metal contact on the brake rotor.  Glazed brake pads will squeal.  The pad surface become hard and slick smooth due to "soft" braking.  You need to do some "hard" braking too so pads to do not glaze over with a hard-shell coating.  Once the pads are glazed the cure is often to renew the brake pads.  You can use the same trick as in answer #9 to write some graphite on the disk rotor as this will lubricate the disk and pads a bit to reduce squeal.  You can also take some fine sandpaper and remove some of the glazed material off the disk rotor and do the same on the brake pads.  Odds are the noise will return.  If you have this problem do not replace the pads with stock pads, but rather go with some HH racing pad blends or carbon fiber.  You should apply to the metal brake pads, not the friction side of the pad itself, with a high temperature brake pad grease lubricant to prevent chatter and squeal.    Yes, these pads will be a bit harsher on the brake rotors, but you will love the increased stopping power and the fact they are usually not noisy. 

11.  Question:  I hear a rattling noise in my engine.  What could it be? 

Answer:  Too many things can go wrong to create a noise inside the engine.  You need to have it diagnosed.  Do the easy things first.  Check the oil level in all compartments as low oil will create noises.  A broken motor mount could be causing the noise.  Use a screwdriver and place the handle end to your ear and place it around the engine to see if you can isolate where the noise is the loudest.  This may help you determine if it is broken lifter, rocker arm or wrist pin or camshaft bearing has failed.  Even using low quality or low octane fuel can cause a rattling noise on acceleration.  Do not ignore and ride the bike as that rattling noise is a failed part.  It is easy to fix now compared to if it fails and totally destroys your engine.  Catastrophic engine failure on Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam engines are not uncommon.        

12.  Question:  Is there an alternative source of engine parts other than Harley-Davidson?

Answer:  Try this:  Viola V-Twin

13.  Question:  I need deep and long saddlebags for my Sportster.  Who sells them?

Answer:  Cycle Visions has bagger style hard bags for Sportster, Softail and Dyna.  You can also see them in the Drag Specialties catalog.  Check with Leatherlyke as they sell affordable high-quality hard bags that always look new even when exposed to strong Arizona sunlight over many years time.  I have them on my new Sportster.

14.  Question:  I am not certain which torque value I should use on a bolt that has a range to it like, 15-25 inch pounds.  Which value do I use?

Answer:  The male thread bolt and female threads both must be lubed with oil before assembly then torque that bolt to the middle number of 20 inch pounds.  This will allow for any minor calibration errors in your torque wrench so the bolt will still be "in range".  Never assume a torque wrench is accurate unless you have had it calibrated or you have checked the tested torque applied yourself using a second torque wrench, they both should be very close in values or one is giving unacceptable errors.

15.  Question:  Can you explain the low oil pressure problem in the TC engine?

Answer:  It is a bit complex.  Go to Feuling for a better explanation.  Generally speaking in the cam plate there is a pressure relief valve that can fail.  Some mechanics try to fix it by stretching the spring or installing a stiffer spring, but it is not the spring alone that is causing the problem it is the valve ball and seat leak and that needs to be addressed.  Also, stock H-D oil pumps just don't move enough oil causing low oil flow in the engine.  This relief valve and oil pump is in the Twin-Cam engine cam chest, which I have described, as a disaster zone due to its total dysfunctional design.  This is where those problematic cam chain followers are residing.  If you decide to go with gear-driven cams consider also buying a Fueling oil pump and cam plate to put a stop to defects in this area of the engine.  

 16.  Question:  I was told not to use brake cleaner when cleaning my brakes.  Why?

Answer:  These harsh cleaners are so mean they can dry-fry the rubber seals in your brake calipers.  As long as you do not use these brake cleaners on the caliper pistons you will be okay.  To clean the pistons just use a soft nylon brush (not wire) with some degreaser such as the orange citrus household cleaner.  That orange stuff really does work well on engine parts.  After cleaning the caliper pistons put a drop of the proper brake fluid on each piston where it meets the rubber seal.  Yes, you can use brake cleaner on a metal disk brake rotor, but not on any nearby electrical sensors.

17.  Question:  I plan to install a large 26" front wheel on my bike.  Will it upset handling?

Answer:  It will ruin the bike's handling.  That big wheel is a giant gyroscope and it is going to be tiresome to break it's gyro power effect on each turn or lane change you make.  It will be a big mistake, but to those who love that look the handling tradeoff will be absorbed.  A big fat rear tire does the same thing and yet many riders installed them anyway to look cool.  The contact patch to the road on that front wheel is tiny which makes the likelihood of crashing from loss of traction is vastly increased.  Hitting an object with a low profile tire can bend that expensive wheel and even cause a devastating blow out.  Those rims are not DOT legal, so any cop can make you tow the bike off the road and give you a repair ticket if they want to.  A better option to consider is to go with a 23" wheel and install a Bolt On Bagger 23" Tree with a matching front fender.  Contact Pickard Bagger Parts

 18.  Question:  What is a go/no-go feeler gauge?

Answer:  These feelers are usually used to measure valve stem clearances.  The first section of the feeler gauge is the correct size.  You insert the first half under the cam follower and over the valve stem.  If you push the feeler gage further and it does not go further then you know the clearance is just right.  That second portion half of the feeler gauge is .002 larger.  If the second half does go further it means the clearance is too loose.  You don't need to use these dummy devices.  If there is a slight drag to the feeler gauge when inserting and removing the feeler gauge that is the correct way to perform the measurement.  Some bikes may make it easier and quicker to use the go/no-go gauge if getting the feeler into position is tough to do then by all means use them. 

 19.  Question:  Do I have to purge air from the oil drain line on a Harley Sportster?

Answer:  You should.  Just remove the engine oil drain plug after filling the oil reservoir with oil until oil comes out.  This will purge the line of air that could be sucked into the oil pump to cause and air-bound situation where the oil pump is starved of oil to pump.  Some people use the word "cavitation" for this air-bound condition and it is wrong terminology.  Cavitations is created from suction that is so strong that vacuum bubbles form in the fluid being pumped.  Think of a fast rotating propeller under water putting out a foam of bubbles filled with nothing in the fluid directly behind it.  That is cavitations.  In fact, cavitations actually takes place before the propeller not after it, but it looks like to the naked eye that it is created after it.  However, when pumping fluids both air and cavitations will prevent the pump from moving the liquid being pumped causing fluid to stop flowing.  Both are bad news, but only air-binding will occur in your engine.  For the same reason to prevent oil starvation you must "prime" the oil filter with oil before installing it or the engine will be running without oil and damaging your engine until that air is purged.  Don't assume this is being performed if you pay for oil changes because a lot of mechanics/oil change personnel forget to do it, don't know better or both.

 20.  Question:  Do you know where I can buy a tent trailer to tow behind a motorcycle?

Answer:  Bunk House Camper has them.  Also, Lees-Ure Lite.

Install Tires On Motorcycle book

"Learn to Install New Tires on Your Motorcycle and Fix Flat Tires"  click to learn more.  Even Installing and Balancing Harley-Davidson Tires Too... stop paying, do it yourself... it's easy.


 21.  Question:  What is your opinion on Kevlar motorcycle jeans?

Answer: The only ones I found to be good are the Slider 4.0 series for they have the most Kevlar and they have knee armor which is very important to prevent kneecap crush injury.  They are also economical and fit well.  The jean's cotton outer is a tad thin for my likes, but considering they have to keep it thin to fit the Kevlar is understandable and a wise tradeoff otherwise the jeans would not flex and be too stiff.  Some riders complain that Kevlar jeans are too hot to wear.  I have used them in Nevada cold and California heat and they are warmer in winter and in summer I find them pleasant to wear up to 110 degrees.  Beyond that temperature even riding naked is too hot.  You can buy the jeans online.  You may consider ordering the jeans two sizes larger as I think the sizing is made for tiny Chinamen, not taller and wider Yankees like us.  See #24 below for where you can buy the riding jeans.

 22.  Question:  Are the swing arm bearings bad on all Harley's?

Answer:  No, just the Twin-Cam bikes have cheesy bushings, so that means all the V-Twins except the V-Rod and Sportster's are okay.  Contact Custom Cycle Engineering for upgraded bearings to replace weak or failed stock bushings.

 23.  Question:  What is a bagger motorcycle?

Answer:  You can say any big, fat, heavy, Touring bike with a Batwing-like fairing with stretch hard saddle bags qualify.  Even Honda in 2013 came out with what they call a Goldwing bagger, imagine that!  But, "real" baggers are turning out to be American V-Twin engine custom bikes with a bagger theme including custom paint, large bicycle-like front wheel, slammed low, raked fork with humongous saddlebags, fat gas tank. boom-box stereo system and illegally tall ape hanger handle bars with deep and long wheel fenders, lots of custom engine bling covers, low profile tires and custom seat is the "bagger look" these days, but it is still not a true bagger unless the engine is bored out for power.  A stock engine bagger is a thing of shame!  My advice?  Stay away from these monstrosities.  They will soak your savings account dry in no time at all and nobody will be impressed with your bagger 'cause there's too many of them already out there.  However, the fad must go on, for now at least, until the next fad comes around and when it does nobody will want your bagger and you'll be stuck with it.  The guys making the money are those who sell new Harley's and those who sell bagger parts and accessories.  Believe me, you won't earn a dime with your bagger unless you build a one-off custom and win the Sturgis bike show.

 24.  Question:  What about accessories for motorcycles, a source that is not Harley?

Answer:  Go to a independent motorcycle parts store or repair shop and look at their counter parts catalogs.  You will see rows of them.  From there, get the names of the catalogs then search the Internet and request catalog or download a PDF catalog.  Motorcycle rallies also have some catalogs available, but not all.  The Internet also has many parts suppliers but can be hard to find even using search engines.  Competition Accessories is a good company along with Motorcycle SuperstoreJC Motors. Try not to do business with companies that charge restocking fees as they earn profits at your expense even when they make mistakes.  Buy elsewhere.  Check their FAQ and Return Policy online before you place an order.  Just say no to restocking fees.  I won't do business with those firms that rob their customers.  What arrogance to charge restocking fees when returns is simply the cost of doing business.  The poor consumer who is buying online to save some money ends up paying more than buying local.  Who wins?  The online or local store that charged the restocking fee.  Those fees can be expensive and no small change.  And never trust any verbal "override guarantee" for the written policy always rules and always wins if your salesperson lied to you and you have to return the product.  Also  use a credit card so you have dispute protection and make sure they don't charge you any fees for using your credit card to buy merchandise.  The two businesses I listed above I have had good experience with for over eight years.  No hassle returns, no restocking fee, no hidden fee.  Things could change and if they do for the worse I will delist their links.  Let me know if you run into trouble so I can remove the links from this site.

 25.  Question:  I was told the best tire is the tire that came with the bike.  True?

Answer:  I have found this to be untrue.  The tire that comes with your Harley-Davidson is likely a Dunlop tire.  They are good tires, made in USA and they are okay.  I still use Dunlop tires, but there are better tires at lower cost that ride better, wear longer and you can be so rewarded.  Dealers and tire shops will push on you certain brands of tires that are not the best for you, but best for them... tires that wear down quickly so you come back frequently for more new tires.  It is very profitable for everybody except for the rider/buyer.  Read Internet and magazine product reviews and take a chance and buy other brands that fit your rims.  Fitment is key as not all brands make tires for Harley-Davidson.  Even if the tire sizes stamped on the tire are the same, one may still not fit and hit the belt drive, fender, frame, swing arm, etc.  So make sure you buy a tire that is designed to fit your bike, not just the rim.  Stop being fooled by slick salesman and dealers hype.  Some tires out there will give you better handling, braking, acceleration and twice the tire life at less cost than what you use now.  Yes, twice the tire life can be had. 

26.  Question:  Is it true a 16 inch rim will let tires last longer?

Answer:  Yes it will due to the slower rotation of the tire at a given speed and the large tire size and the wide rim act as heat sinks keeping temperatures down which reduces wear dramatically.  Just about everybody with 16" wheels gets great tire longevity over 10,000 miles with ease even when riding on rain grooves and sun-baked hot pavement in the southern and western states.  However, this hold true to cast wheels.  If you have spoke wheels you will get higher tire wear as the inner tube acts as a heat trap insulator (dead air space) preventing heat to flow to the rim and spokes so the tire stays hot and wears out quickly.  Also, tube and tire friction creates even more heat that is not shed from the tire.

27.  Question:  What advice can you give on buying exhaust pipes?

Answer:  Examine the location of the pipes so they do not block access to removing the rear axle or you will pay an extra labor charge on each tire change to remove the pipes to gain access to the rear axle.  With new law enforcement on the horizon related to loud pipes consider buying Supertrapp brand pipes that have removable and tune-abled baffle plates.  Not on are these pipes superior in performance and fine tuning they look good, sound nice and put out awesome power.  Some pipe manufacturers advertise a choice of baffles, but do not be fooled by these guys, they give you a baffle that is still way too loud so it will do you no good if you get a fix it ticket.  With Supertrapp removable baffle plates you can tone down the sound to meet legal repair and inspection without having to throw away your expensive pipes and they cost less than other brands despite they are made of high-grade stainless steel.

28.  Question:  What oil filter do you feel is best?

Answer:  The best oil filter you can buy is the filter that comes with your bike.  Why?  Because if your bike is still under warranty protection and that oil filter fails to deliver oil for any reason the bike manufacturer will void the warranty for that event leaving you to go after the oil filter company for repair bill compensation.  Has it happened?  Yes, it has.  K&N makes a "wrench-off" oil filter with a very thin and weak stamped metal nut on the end of the filter that they advertise for a quick oil filter removal, but don't be fooled.  I have used these filters and find the "hollow nut" will collapse and you got a real mess on your hands.  On some bikes like Harley's the oil filter is in tight spots and to get that ruined and stuck oil filter off you have to drive screwdrivers through it with a hammer and you got to be extremely careful not to penetrate past the filter and hit your engine case.  You will also have limited room to rotate a screwdriver to unscrew the oil filter.  What a horrible mess!  These filters do not even have a backup system with a traditional oil filter wrench notch pattern so you can't resort to a filter wrench.  A strap wrench will not work as there is no room to rotate the strap wrench.  Do not use these filters is my advice.  Buy a Harley-Davidson oil filter and be done with it.  Also, when it comes to oil and oil and air filters support H-D by buying their product.  Everybody else just wants to make a buck at your expense.  At motorcycle rallies I repeatedly complained to K&N personnel and at each time I was 100% ignored about this horrible defect.  They were not interested in making the product better and they never bothered to have corporate contact me.  It means you will be their next victim.  You just wait until that nut fails on you... be prepared for a major battle to get the filter off your bike especially if it is a Harley engine.  Believe me, those K&N oil filters were not easy for me to remove when that inferior hollow nuts failed.  Good luck.  Better to pay a tad more for a Harley filter and not go through horrific grief like this.  Imagine if you damage your engine cases?  Will K&N come to your rescue?  I think they will ignore you like they did to me.  Buy genuine Harley-Davidson when at all possible.  They make good air filters, but stay away from their oil filters that have those "wrench-off" hollow nuts despite the aggressive advertising they do to convince you their oil filters are better. See #54

29.  Question:  What is a good Stage 1 tune up I can do myself?

Answer:  Buy Supertrapp pipes with removable tune-able baffle plates, hi-flow air filter and get a Cobra Fi2000 PowrPro that is a easy to install plug and play fuel management tuner (RCXcelerator does the same).  What is nice about this system is if you later decide to put in big bore pistons, stroked crankshaft, cams, ported heads or whatever your heart desires the pipes will adjust and so will the Power Pro tuner.  Think about that!  And if you decide to sell the bike and buy another model Harley that the pipes and air cleaner will fit then the fuel tuner will also go with you too.  Just make sure these items will fit your new bike.  If you are buying the same model bike you will have instant Stage 1 kit ready and paid for.  As you can see, the fuel tuner is not "married" to the bike and can be removed unlike some other major fuel tuners that burn you as once the product is installed it can not be removed and reused.  What a lousy situation that is.  Don't buy their product.  It is not a consumer friendly company that does things like this to us riders.  They just want to bilk the rider of every dime they have, and do so without mercy.  So, buyer beware!  Some big name fuel management companies are going to stick you with a bad deal if you are not careful.  Make sure you ask if the product can be removed and reused or sold on the used market.  If not, buy elsewhere or you will be ripped off. 

30.  Question:  How wide a rear tire should I go with my Harley?

Answer:  The general rule for H-D bikes is not to exceed 180mm wide because that is as wide as H-D makes on its Twin-Cam bikes.  On other brands of bikes 200mm is the maximum as a general rule.  But this does not mean you can go buy a 180mm tire and install it on your rim and put that wheel/tire on your bike for it may hit and rub on frame components.  Best bet is to go talk to your local dealer and figure out the correct size tire that can be installed on your bike.  As a good rule of thumb for an example if you have a 180mm tire that came stock on your bike you could increase the width by 10mm and all should be okay, but do not go more than that.  Even then, you still must check tire/frame/belt/fender clearance.

31.  Question:  What is your opinion on the oil scavenger pump advertised that removes more dirty oil from the Twin-Cam engines?

Answer:  I have not tried the product, but if it can remove more dirty oil than traditionally then that is a good thing.  Only problem is, I never let oil get that dirty and if you have an external oil cooler the product will not remove dirty oil from those oil lines so you still have dirty oil being injected into your engine at each oil change.  A better method is free and keeps your oil incredibly clean.  The perpetual oil change method is revealed in the How to Change Oil on Harley book which will save you a ton of money.  Buy the book... you won't be sorry.  It also reveals more than just oil changing.

32.  Question:  Will ethanol in fuel ruin my Harley-Davidson?

Answer:  Depends on the percentage being delivered at the gasoline pump.  Late model Harley's will run on 10% with little problem as long as you do not store the gasoline without treatment over the winter or if the bike is going to sit for a couple weeks time or more.  If so, use a ethanol fuel treatment such as Star Tron Enzyme Fuel Treatment, Sta-Bil Ethanol Fuel Stabilizer or Lucas Ethanol Fuel Conditioner With Stabilizers.  The problem with ethanol it absorbs moisture and forms a thick sludge in the fuel that can clog fuel injectors.  It can even cause build up of dirt and rust and move it into the fuel pump and injectors for ethanol is corrosive.  If a fuel pump put out 15% ethanol the sludge forming problem gets worse and even detonation can occur which can blow a hole in your pistons.  It is wise to treat the fuel when the bike is being stored, but also use some treatment in your normal daily riding, say at least once a week or two, just to stay ahead of any ethanol-related sludge that may be forming in your gas tank and fuel lines without your knowing about it.  This stuff is sneaky as one day you will ride and the next day the bike will stall out from a clogged fuel system leaving you stranded.  Good fuel treatment use will keep this problem at bay.  I definitely use it.

33.  Question:  Can I use regular gas in my Harley?

Answer:  Harley-Davidson say's no, but you can use regular grade fuel if you ride a stock engine in higher elevation of 3,000 feet or more.  Or, see if you can ride the bike where you live and not hear any pinging noises when operating the throttle.  If you hear pinging you can purchase fuel octane booster additive to increase the octane to stop the pinging.  The amount you need to use may vary so you need to experiment to find what formula works for you.  Octane boost is expensive, but if you buy it in larger container sizes the cost comes way down and you can save money instead of buying premium fuel.  And for those riders using single hose blender pumps you are getting less octane due to the purge of the hose pumping low grade fuel as much a quart or more watering down your gas tank.  Octane boost will restore the octane.  Blender pumps should be outlawed as they cheat the customer in weights and measures... you are not getting what you pay for.  The scale is crookedly rigged right from the start.  The oil companies and gas station owners have found a way to rob people and our government turns a blind eye.  Not even a supermarket would dare jilt their scales!  You are buying a quart of fuel on each fill up, but paying premium price for regular grade gas.

 34.  Question:  How does the flywheel slip out of alignment on Harley-Davidson TC's?

Answer:  It just happens to slip for no specific reason and when it does the crankshaft flywheels runs out of balance causing severe engine shaking and vibration.  The flywheels should be welded to the crank pin and this would never happen.  It is an engine defect H-D has refused to fix to stop this ongoing nonsense.  Every car has welded webs on the crankshaft.  What is going on here?  Could it be that H-D desires component failures to sell more parts?  It has got to make you wonder.  It is a mystery as to why so many defects are not remedied and are allowed to persist. 

 35.  Question:  What is an INS bearing?

Answer:  It is a company name that makes a needle bearing for the Twin-Cam camshafts.  These bearings are weak and fail and should be replaced with a upgraded Torrington needle roller inner cam bearing.

36.  Question:  I need advice on installing taller handlebars.

Answer: Generally, you got to find some bars that are ergonomically correct.  I bought a new Victory motorcycle designed by Arlen Ness Company and the handlebar angles were killing my wrists badly with horrific pain even when just riding and were even more painful when operating the clutch and brake levers or turning the bike at slow speed.  Just plain horrid design.  Beware of good looking products that do not function.  After finding bars you will like.  If they are Harley-Davidson bars they will likely be a perfect fit and comfortable.  You need to cut cables, electric wires and brake lines and lengthen them.  There are kits you can buy for this at H-D dealership and aftermarket.  Sometimes just installing 3" pull-back risers is all you may need and by rerouting cables and wires you may not need to cut anything.  If not, then get ready to spend some cash for new cables, brake hose and wire.  You can do this job yourself if you have the time to spare.  Ape hangers that are taller than your shoulder will give you that extreme outlaw look, but hanging so far out in the wind your arms will suffer on long rides.  

 37.  Question:  What is a Cruiser?  Is it a Bagger?  A Touring bike?

Answer: A Touring bike can be a bagger.  It all started out that way.  Take any V-Twin engine bike put large saddlebags and a windshield and it becomes a bagger.  Is the German BMW a bagger?  Is a Japanese Honda Gold Wing a bagger?  Not!  They will always be Touring bikes.  It is the V-Twin engine that makes a bagger a bagger, at least in the American sense.  Is a Jap bike with bags and windshield a bagger if it has a V-Twin engine?  It can, but is it really a bagger?  The bagger is a Harley-Davidson related thing so I would say it's really got to be a Harley to be a bagger.  But what about Victory V-Twins?  I think they too are permitted access to the bagger club simply because it is an American made bike.  Some will take exception to the above as it is all murky water to wade through.  I believe a better description of a bagger is in Answer #23.  Baggers are evolving into their own set of qualifications. 

38.  Question:  The Quad Ring on my H-D derby cover keeps falling off.  How do I install it?

Answer:  If the o-ring is used it likely has been deformed from heat and will not fit back into the primary cover groove.  Make sure you use a new o-ring.  Even then, the o-ring can keep falling out of the shallow groove when installing the derby cover.  You can put a thin smear of clear Silicone gasket sealer on the o-ring to hold it into position.  Some mechanics use a tiny speck of Superglue to keep the o-ring in position.  I prefer the Silicone.  Can you smear a lot of Silicone sealant over the o-ring?  Use as much as you need, it won't hurt a thing.  

39.  Question:  There is a rattle noise inside my primary case especially at idle in neutral.  What could it be?

Answer:  It is likely a loose primary chain needing adjustment.  If you have a new H-D with an automatic adjuster it may need to be forced to make an adjustment.  You do this by accelerating the bike hard then back off the throttle abruptly a few times and the adjuster should take up the chain slack.  If not, the thing is broken or it could be the compensator sprocket is outright loose or the spring has failed or has weakened.  Keep in mind these automatic chain tensioners have a short lifespan of about 40,000 miles and need replacing at that time.  Tell your friends about this or send them here to read it for themselves.

40.  Question:  I had the transmission seal replaced twice and it still leaks oil.  Now what?

Answer:  The rubber shaft seal may have been installed incorrectly or even put in backwards.  But if the shaft is scratched, dirty, scored or bent every new seal will leak oil.  Make sure the pulley retainer nut is tight or oil will seep on by.

 41.  Question:  Where can I purchase a back support for my aching back?

Answer:  Back-A-Line sells them for around $50 and a good quality product too.

42.  Question:  Who makes safety running lights for Harley's?

Answer:  Badlands Motorcycle Products makes very bright LED stop and turn signal lights.  I have them on my Harley.  The lights have proven to be trustworthy and reliable.  Cars will see you if you install their lighting products.

43.  Question:  Did Harley move the primary case drain plug?  

Answer:  Most oil drain nuts or screws are under the primary case under the derby cover on Twin-Cam engines.  Some may be located on the front side of the primary case under or to the left of the derby cover.  It can be anywhere as Harley-Davidson is constantly making little changes like these year-over-year.  The Sportster drain is actually a rubber hose from the oil tank dangling under the engine with a plastic plug in the hose secured by a hose clamp.

44.  Question:  A mechanic told me that he would still have to charge me labor to install cam gears only to discover my engine could not accept the gears due to a crankshaft run-out problem.  Is this true or what?

Answer:  The mechanic is correct.  The end of the crankshaft pinion shaft is narrow and subject to bend or warp out of concentricity, so a dial indicator has to be placed on the shaft to measure how much it is wobbling.  If it hops too much the entire crankshaft will need to be replaced before gears can be installed otherwise the gears will clash and further bend the pinion shaft to the point the engine will run awfully bad or not at all.  So you see installing cam gears can be a disaster if your crankshaft is out of whack.  And you can imagine what will happen if the pinion shaft again bends?  Yep, another new crankshaft with the threat it is going to keep happening to you.  Can you really afford this?  It will wipe out most savings accounts!  Yet, all along, the Sportster engine has none of these problems.

45.  Question:  Do you recommend an oil cooler?

Answer:  The one I use is a Jagg.  All air-cooled engines must have an oil cooler.  Just because you can buy a brand new Harley without an oil cooler does not mean you don't need one, you do.  Heat kills air-cooled engines.  Keep the oil cool and you'll stave off many troubles  Pistons score cylinder walls and heads crack and valves bend and warp and bushings and bearings score with high engine heat.  Even the new 110ci and larger Harley engines have oil coolers, but they are way too small and should be replaced with larger radiators.  Buds Biker Parts and  Ultra Cool has a fan assisted cooler for hot-running baggers.  I have had trouble with Jagg leaking oil from the adapter/hose bib threads.  Not serious, but is not fun to deal with having to struggle with fixing these course thread-related leaks.

46.  Question:  I need better braking power.  What do you suggest?

Answer:  Harley-Davidson has good brakes.  Even the sintered metal pads are fine.  But you can get more braking power just by changing out the brake pads.  Try the black carbon fiber organic pads.  They will never fade as they get stronger the hotter the brakes get.  They use them to stop aircraft and passenger trains.  The cost is the same or less than stock pads.  They do not squeal or bit the rotors hard.  The only problem you may not enjoy is the black dust haze they produce on the wheel.  The black dust comes off easily, so there is a price to pay after all.  No big deal.  HH sintered metal pads are racing formula pads that are also big on stopping a bike, they produce little dust and no noise.  Crotch rocket sport bikes use them.  What you won't like is that they do wear the brake disk rotors a bit more than what you may be used to.  It's not a horrible wear.  You'll still get 50,000 out of your rotors but at 65,000 you may have to replace the rotors on the front wheel.  The rear wheel rotor will not wear any faster than using stock pads as most braking power is in the front anyway.  Still, using these more aggressive pads is cheaper than buying a four piston caliper set.  Try both types of pads to see which one you like best.  I like them both, but the carbon fiber takes the edge despite the dirtier wheel dust.  On my Sportster I just stay with sintered metal stock pads or aftermarket stock replacement pads.  I don't need extra braking power on that lighter weight bike.

 47.  Question:  I purchased a Kenda Kruz brand rear tire, but it will not fit my Harley Fatboy but the tire size dimensions are equal.  What did I do wrong?  I really want to use these tires! 

Answer:  You did nothing wrong.  The tire does not fit because the sizing numbers on the tire are wrong.  Believe it or not there is no solid standard requirement for truth in tire dimension labeling for tire manufacturers.  As a result, this creates chaos for us.  You can use the tire if you return it (and pay restocking fees, ouch!) and reduce the width of the tire by at least 10-20mm.  Lesson learned the hard way.  I write about this in my tire change book and other important things.  You should read the book as it will save you a lot of time, money and grief.  I would complain to the retailer who sold you the tire the advertising is misleading due to improper tire labeling, truth in advertising issue to waive any restocking and return shipping fees.  It really is false advertising from the manufacturer doing.  Kenda is not the only company that mislabels tire sizes.  The advice I give in my tire change book is to look in retail, wholesaler, distributor tire catalogs and only buy tires that are "specific fitment" for Harley-Davidson's.  That, then, solves the problem.  Did you try the Michelin Commander II tires yet?They are awesome on all levels of performance, they wear like iron and are designed to fit Harley's.  They look great too!  Just order the correct stock tire size that originally came on your bike from Michelin and they will fit your bike like a glove.

48.  Question:  Why do riders buy motorcycles locally and not out of state?  

Answer: To many don't because it never crosses their mind that out of state dealers are very eager to sell at deep discount to out of state customers.  I have highly recommended it and I have saved from $3,000 to $6000 on motorcycles and even more on cars/trucks.  Yes, even on brand new Harley's.  Another reason people buy locally is they fear if they don't they will be treated badly by the local dealer.  They won't be or they can be sued or prosecuted by the Attorney General and even lose their dealer's license and Harley-Davidson corporate office will not tolerate such unlawful retaliations and sanction the dealer or worse.  Another reason is local riders have formed "close friendships" with the dealer's personnel and that is outright foolishness for a business can't be a true friend.  If they were your friend you would be paying thousands of dollars less than what they charge you and they would give you, their loyal friend, discounts on all parts and accessories.  How many dealers you know do that?  If you buy out of state, you may pay sales tax in that state that may even be higher so the dealer gives a deep discount to ease your pain and suffering.  You can even buy the bike far away and hire a transport firm to ship the bike to you.  Motorcycle Shippers, Federal Motorcycle Transport and you can still save thousands of dollars.  Once you buy out of state it is hard to buy local.  I find it unprofessional and insulting the way I get treated by local dealers regarding the exorbitant prices they quote to me.  Even buying a new motorcycle each year does not make them consider dropping their prices, so I go out of state and I get incredible deals.  Yes, even in California fabulous deals can be made.  Try Harley-Davidson in Folsom, CA  try Twin Rivers Victory in Yuba City, CA 

49.  Question:  What can I do to stop paying for brake jobs so often?  

Answer: Most Harley's (except Sportster's) are all too heavy for their brake rotors to handle.  The rotors are too thin to start with, they could be thicker, but they do work even though the rotors are thin and soft.  A lot of bike are like this so it is not just H-D's problem, but H-D's are heavier than most.  Installing aftermarket rotors will give you options to purchase stronger steel brake rotors, but they won't be cheap in most cases.  I will tell you my solution.  You need to learn to replace your own brake disk rotors.  Can you unscrew a few bolts?  If you look at your rotors they are only held on by a few bolts.  Removing a front wheel on a Harley is easy.  Just lift the bike with a ATV/Motorcycle frame lift, tie the bike down so it won't slip off the jack, remove front wheel, replace rotor(s).  Piece of cake.  It is your option to install new brake pads at this time... it is generally proper to install new pads with new rotors.  If you don't?  The bike will still stop after they adjust to the new rotors.  I only mention this due to some people are on tight budgets and just may not be able to afford rotors and pads.  In the real world you can do many things you are not supposed to do, technically speaking.   Example: When you replace brake pads do you replace the rotors too?  Of course not.  The rotors normally last two to three or more pad replacements.  You should put in new pads with new rotors to get a nice new brake job so the new pads will bed into the new rotor.  If you do not want to learn to replace disk rotors and brake pads yourself dealers are going to soak you each time. 

50.  Question:  How can I tell if a brake rotor is warped?

Answer:  Some riders will tell you to place a straight edge on the disk and slip a feeler gauge or piece of paper between the edge and disk to measure for gaps.  In reality you need to mount a dial indicator to the disk and slowly rotate the wheel and check for run out that way.  The service manual for your bike will tell you how much run out/warping is allowed.  A little bit of warpage can be considered okay, even if you can feel a slight pulsation in the brake lever.  You also need to measure rotor thickness.  These limits are usually stamped on the rotor and you just  use a micrometer to make your thickness measurement where the brake pads work and wear on the disk.  If the disk is too thin, it is time for a new rotor/disk.  Can you replace just the left rotor?  Yes, you do not have to replace both rotors at the same time, but you will find both front rotors do tend to wear out at the same time.  As you can imagine intense heat of braking will overheat pads and glaze them over and warp disk brake rotors.  The heavier the bike the worse it gets for your brakes. 

 51.  Question:  I need more stopping power.   What advice can you share on brakes?  

Answer:  You can still use stock brake rotors if you wish and just switch to stronger more powerful brake pads.  They will be more harsh on your rotors, but safety to stop sooner has no price.  See #10.  You don't have to invest in expensive multi-piston calipers and floating disk rotors.  They will give you more stopping power, no doubt about that, but not many people can afford the bill... even if you do it yourself.  If you do, just upgrade the front wheel not the rear (unless you want to spend money).  Be aware if you have skinny set of tires like those 21" on the front you lose a lot of braking power due to a loss of tire contact patch.  Touring and Cruiser bikes normally have fatter tires.  Sometimes brake levers can give you more leverage to increase braking power, but be careful as skidding or locking up the wheel is not what you want!  Explore custom brakes as larger size rotors and multi-piston calipers will give increased braking power.  If you have only one disk brake up front converting to a duel disk brake system will be ideal.  You will be surprised to see increased braking power just by switching to high performance brake pads.  Try that first.  If aggressive HH and carbon fiber pads are not enough then you need to consider 4 or even 6 piston calipers, floating disk rotors and larger diameter rotors.  Consider shedding weight as a heavy bike is tough on brakes.  Jay Brake, Performance Machine,  makes a six piston caliper that will give you all the stopping power you can handle.  A four piston caliper is plenty of stopping power if you have duel front disks.  For light weight metal composite rotors that fit Harley's visit Rush Racing Products   

52.  Question:  My dealer told me I need new rotors because they are scratched.  How can I know if this is legitimate I need new brake rotors?    

Answer:  All brake rotors scratch and score like a phonograph record showing many grooves.  Most will be shallow, but even deep grooves can be fine.  If the disk is not showing overheat bluing in color and the grooves are still in spec with a micrometer thickness check and the rotor is not warped out of spec the disk rotor is fine, unless it is cracked.  Some dealers are not to be trusted.  The mechanics may just tell the service writer the bike needs brakes when it does not and business is drummed up that way making you "concerned" something is wrong.  Get a second opinion at another shop, but even then, you could be lied to over and over.  It is tough out there!  To find honesty is very difficult in the auto/motorcycle/power sports repair industry.  Most are crooks that should be shut down and put out of business.  The repair industry reeks with corruption and dishonesty and it is horrible the scams taking place on people.  Learn to fix your own bike.  It can begin today.  Just begin.  That's the only way to insure you will not be scammed. 

53.  Question:  Is the article Join a Motorcycle Gang for real?  

Answer:  Yes, it is!  You ride a Harley-Davidson motorcycle to appear cool, tough, wild and lawless, right?  Of course you do!  So, for you, this is your chance and your golden opportunity to join a motorcycle gang.  Fill out the application and gang members will reply by return mail.  This is the only way to find out if this article is true or not.  I was told not to reveal any more information about this... secrecy must be guarded.  After all, you could be a cop!

54.  Question:  What's your opinion about permanent cleanable oil filters?  

Answer:  I do not use them.  I prefer to not waste time having to clean the oil filter element screen, but I see advantages as you don't need to buy oil filters anymore, just clean the thing and reinstall it.  They also have heat sink cooling fins on the filter and this is good to cool the oil.  Problem is you can't use the filter if you buy a different motorcycle that has a different size mounting thread or spin-on o-ring sealing face.  Scotts is a popular manufacturer. Wait until your motorcycle warranty has expired before installing permanent or other brand oil filters.  If anything mechanical fails in the engine I can see a fight rising as the warranty claim is denied blaming a faulty oil filter for the engine damage.  I believe in staying with the motorcycle's manufacturers brand oil filter when the motorcycle is under warranty.  When the warranty has expired do as you wish, but damage to your engine could take place.  How can you tell if a permanent oil filter is actually working or not?  You can't tell once installed on the engine.  This is true with disposable spin-on oil filters, but the odds are if you did get one defective filter stuck in by-pass mode, the second filter you install won't.  I just do not trust permanent oil filters and I do not think they save money or give better filtering.  If Harley-Davidson offers a new filter medium you'll have to put your expensive permanent filter in storage.  But if you do use any oil filter make certain you use the proper oil filter as some Harley-Davidson models require no anti-drain-back valve, but modern engines do.  If you see a lot of oil dripping from your air cleaner it may not be a breather blockage or worn piston rings issue.  It can be simply a wrong oil filter as late model filters are less restrictive to oil flow that can build up in the crankcase and cam chest and blow upward into the breather system passageways.  Even modern Sportster and Twin-Cam oil filters are different from each other in regards to dirty oil micron entrapment and oil flow rates.  Engine damaging oil starvation or crankcase oil flooding (piston destruction from hydraulic action) can result if you install the wrong filter.  This is why I recommend you only purchase Harley-Davidson oil filters.  Why buy aftermarket and take a chance something goes wrong?  People have lost their warranty coverage from defective aftermarket oil filters.  Buyer beware!    See #28 above. 

  55.  Question:  You recommend Progressive Suspension shocks?  

Answer:  For three reasons.  They have a large selection of shocks for Harley's and their cost truly is reasonable and they work as advertised.  They actually have more shocks and more optional features than Harley-Davidson has for their own bikes.  My advice is to remain with the stock length size.  Do not lower or raise the bike.  Lot's of riders want to lower their bike, but Harley's (Touring and Baggers) are already low and to lower the bike any further will prevent deep cornering without scraping pipes, frame, etc., on the pavement.  There are more expensive shocks you can buy from other companies but Harley's don't need such fine tuning as lighter sport bikes.  To save money buy the mid-range Progressive Suspension brand shock available for your bike and you will be satisfied with the ride and improved handling quality.  If your bike bottoms out or hits you hard in the butt and back do yourself a favor and get some quality new shocks on your bike.

 56.  Question:  Every time I bring my bike in to my dealer I get bad news of one sort or another that there is something wrong with my bike I did not know I had.  How can we protect ourselves from scams?  

Answer:  Welcome to the power sports world where cheats thrive and devour the innocent.  The motorcycle industry is inherently corrupted just as the automotive repair industry.  There is something wrong with every motorcycle and dealers have a keen eye to remind you of every itsy-bitsy thing they can milk you for.  Even oil changes can't be trusted as inferior oil is added, but you are billed for the good stuff.  Used chrome and repainted oil filters have been installed while you are billed for a new filter which will enter by-pass mode and stop filtering the oil wearing out your engine.  Guess who gets to fix it?  Yep, the nice guys who do your service work!  It is a shame, but this is one industry you do not want to trust.  Many mechanics earn their money on percentages related to the job.  It is an incentive for them to cheat.  The mechanics can become so powerful that they actually hijack the dealership from the owners and can blackmail them too threatening to spill the beans.  It happened to a motorcycle dealer in California that so many scams took place of cheating customers the owner had to shut the business down and fire everyone to clean up the place.  All the employees from the sales and parts departments and mechanics were on the take and bankrupted the business are now working at some other dealership fixing the customers (pun intended).  We are talking false billing, engine overhauls that never happened, oil changes with inferior oils, all sorts of wickedness.  If you read Motorcycle Dealer News Magazine they report on things like this to expose the bad guys... if they can catch them!  Most con artists today are not so sloppy and the cheat system they use is iron clad and fool proof as much as feasible.  After all, lawyers and cops also ride bikes and they often can smell a rat, but the mice will play and not be caught.  If you only knew what was going on you would learn to fix your own bike!

 57.  Question:  I was told I need to sit on the bike to check tire pressure.  I never heard of this before, but it sounds proper.  Is it?  

Answer:  Your pressure gauge will not reveal a difference in tire air pressure whether you are on or off the bike.  Maybe riding two-up you may see couple pounds increase, not enough to be concerned of.  The reason is the rubber tire simply expands or contracts adjusting air volume so the air pressure does not rise or fall much at all.  Just check the tire pressure with the tires cold with nobody sitting on the bike.  You'll be fine. 

 58.  Question:  When will Harley-Davidson build a water-cooled V-Twin engine?  

Answer:  The V-rod is one, but I know what you mean.  You will likely see a air-cooled finned engine as we do now, but hidden will be an internal water jacket passageways removing heat from critical areas like valve seats, heads and cylinders.  I think the radiator will be the frame so nobody is going to see or know the engine is water cooled.  There are no guarantees, but this is my prediction for the future.  The V-Rod is a failure in the USA (but not in Europe) so the American market is old school.  Also, fully flooded water jackets will absorb that Harley sound, so that will be avoided.  I think if Harley had drilled water jacket passages they could solve heat problems they are having.

59.  Question:  Jims is building a 135ci engine for Harley.  What do you think about that engine?  

Answer:  That engine is a racing only engine.  It means what it means.  Yes, H-D dealers will put that monster (136 HP, 135-foot-pounds torque) in your frame and let you go have fun.  I do not know of racing engines with a useful warranty, so if this holds true you are on your own if that engine fails (be aware all racing engines fail sooner than later).  What I saw so far is the engine is a Twin-Cam format and what I do not like is the cams are chain driven with nylon shoes.  They are not gear driven like all true racing engines are.  Even super bike race engines have no cam chains.  They install a cascading gear set from the crank all the way up to the cams.  Jims makes good stuff, but I have reservations at this point.  What I would like to see is a S&S X-Wedge engine swapped into a stock Harley frame.  Now that will be the cat's meow.  Even the push rods are straight vertical risers, like the Sportster engine, and they are geared cams (even a cam belt drive is gear behaved). 

60.  Question:  Which Website is the best for bikers?  

Answer:  JC Motors has exceptional consumer friendly policies.  They will even buy back your product in your lifetime... that is amazing.  No restocking fees, no hassle returns.  was a favorite site, but now they are charging restocking fees and not even accepting returns on electronic items even if defective and that is bad business!

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61.  Question:  My Harley's cam chain tension shoes were inspected at 30,000 miles and were found good.  When will I need to replace them?  Also, other bikes use cam chains and tensioners devices with good success, so what is the problem?   

Answer: Tough question regarding when shoes will fail for even Harley does not know!  These shoes wear fast, as quick as 12,000 miles on some bikes and some engines go on for tens of thousands of miles with little wear.  I suspect synthetic oils prevent failure.  That's the inconsistency of the problem, but the cam shoes will fail... no doubt about it and it will devastate your engine when it does fail.  There are inner and outer shoes, so make sure the entire cam chest plate is pulled away from the crankcase during inspection.  Some shops only examine the outer shoes and the inner shoes have been known to wear out faster than the outer.  Both inner and outer shoes must be inspected.  These shoes are not like other bikes like Honda, BMW and other metric bikes.  These shoes are tiny in comparison to other bikes and under extreme spring tension pressure.  The hydraulic upgrade removes the springs reducing pressure and wear, but those shoes are still tiny and will wear out so the problem is not fixed it is only pushed down the road.  Other bike brands use cam chains with very long chain guides and the chain is not subject to serpentine loops like a Harley Twin-Cam is.  You can't compare this cam chain problem to other motorcycles. 

62.  Question:  My dealer told me I need to change the brake fluid on my new bike.  This confuses me, please explain?  I only have 8,000 miles on the bike.

Answer:  The system is sealed so air should not have gotten into the system and if it did it would be a warranty problem.  The only instance I can see is the calipers are sticking due to pressure wash fluid pushing water past the piston seals causing corrosion on the pistons.  A brake line could be damaged leaking or collapsed causing piston drag. Get a second opinion.  Do not accept repairs just because some dealer or parts or service writer relays a message to you of a problem.  A lot of people are being burned with false diagnosis and unneeded repairs.

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Change Engine Oil
Check Charging System
Check Battery
Change Transmission Oil
Check Clutch Adjustment
Inspect Air Cleaner
Change Primary Oil
Check Throttle and Cable
Inspect Clutch Cable
Check Tire Pressure
Test Wheel Spokes for Looseness
Check Headlight Aim
Check Turn Signals & Brake Lights
Replace Oil Filter
Inpect Tire Wear & Damage
Examine Wheel Rims
Examine Wheel Bearings
Check Brake Function

Same Day Service Only $10 more!

Nasty Mc'Nasties Cycle Repair
148 Fallen Angel Avenue
Reno, Nevada

  The problem with the above advertisement is filled with Tomfoolery nonsense.  The only thing being performed is a routine oil change... and the quality of the oil and filter is unknown.  Odds are you will get inferior oil and pay $100 for the privilege.  The ad is trying to mimic the "Service Intervals" dealers enjoy posting that also list a bunch of things that do not really need to be performed by anyone else but the "owner" as non-technical in nature.  Look at the ad one more time and imagine if each item needed "attention" such as oil, lubing, adjusting and you can see your $100 oil change will soon be a $350 or higher repair bill.  Hey, this is how the industry bilks people.  Wise up to it.

  I will give you a great tip of advice.  When you pick up your bike, make sure you only pay and agree for the oil change.  The inspection was to be free.  Any problems they show you have them subject to a second opinion at another shop, but do not fall for getting the bike fixed at that first shop or you will be bilked.  The free inspection service is just a scam to look for little defects or wear items then scare you into getting them fixed ASAP.  So, here's the end result you need... you pay only for the oil change and get out of there!  Deal with the other problems at another time and place.  The ad you see above is a come-on scam advertisement.  The moment you walk into the door asking about the service special they label you as a "sucker" and they will turn the screws.  And they do it with a smile and with great politeness.  Smiling assassins they are!  

63.  Question:  A repair shop told me I need new brake lines.  They did not seem damaged at all.  Are they scamming me or what?

Answer:  Maybe they are shot.  It is a common practice by dealers to push new brake lines when overhauling calipers.  If you see no exterior damage that does not mean damage is not present.  If the inner liner is collapsed it will prevent brake fluid to flow in the brake line and the caliper pistons will not retract and will not have strong braking power, so this could be the reason you need new lines.  Another reason is the brake lines over 10-years old?  There is a date stamped on the lines.  After ten years replace the lines.  Why not upgrade and replace the brake lines with stronger metal braided lines?  They are much better than rubber/plastic coated lines because the hose can not expand giving you firm and quick braking contol.

64.  Question:  Can I install carbon brakes on my bike?

Answer:  Carbon/carbon brake "rotors" are racing only and they need heat to work, they wear out fast and they absorb water so they are useless in the rain.  A company is making street rotors of a carbon matrix that wear as well as metal rotors, work when cold and in the rain.  Brake Tech USA they may have rotors to fit Harley-Davidson so check with them and other companies.  Yes, you can absolutely use carbon fiber brake pads on your Harley and you will love the stopping power they will give you, but black dust will dirty your wheels.  The dust comes off with one wipe, but it does get old trying to keep the wheel rims and calipers.  It will not hurt to try them!  Ferodo makes brake pads that Ferrari uses on their cars.  I have used them on my big bikes and they are wonderful brakes, but they are hard on the rotors.  I would say you get 1/3 less life on the rotors.  But, if you need stopping power something has got to give!  I would first try carbon fiber as I found them to be just as powerful if not better and less wear on the rotors.  Thankfully, H-D solid-disk non-floating rotors are generally inexpensive to replace.  I find the best place to find brake pads, rotors and calipers is with those huge motorcycle catalogs accessories stores have such as, Drag Specialties.

65.  Question:  I need compression releases and my mechanic needs to drill holes in my cylinder heads.  I can't afford this!  Help.

Answer:   To the rescue!  All new 103-inch Harley's come with electronic compression releases.  If your engine does not have them there is no longer any need to drill holes in the cylinder heads to install compression releases to make starting easier.  You can install S&S cams with automatic compression releases built into the cams and this is the best route by far to go for reliability.  A cheaper alternative (no repair shop will tell you) is that there is a product that screws into the existing spark plug hole!  Imagine that.  Now imagine the hundreds of dollars you save!  And, you can do it yourself.  Spyke FyrStryke makes them and even sells them.  As with all "threaded" compression release products carry a spare compression release.  With the Spyke FyrStryke carry a standard set of spark plugs in case it too fails when you are touring or far from home.  Also, make certain you get the proper thread hole and thread pitch size and use a torque wrench to install or the device will blow right out of the cylinder head and it could damage the spark plug hole threads.  Assuming this is the worst case you can install a Helicoil to fix the head threads.  Since the heads are made of soft aluminum you just coat the tap with grease to catch the larger metal chips, vacuum out the chips on top of the piston to fix it.  No need to remove the cylinder head.  Tiny aluminum chips will just melt and blow out the exhaust pipe damaging nothing.  See Question #73.


FirestrikeSpyke FyrStryke Compression Release

66.  Question:  Should I have my bike repaired at a dealership or at an independent shop?

Answer: If your bike is still under warranty you should use the dealer.  Use an independent shop you trust, but know that if something goes wrong you are stuck dealing with that little shop and maybe some thug characters at that.  You may not like the way they treat you.  You may not like their policies.  They may blame you for the problem and not honor their verbal warranty they gave to you.  I would suggest you bring your bike to a authorized Harley-Davidson dealership.  Yes, you will pay more, but you will get the job done right the first time and if something does go wrong you got recourse to grieve your case to Harley-Davidson corporate customer service to get a resolution. 

67.  Question:  What causes the "death wobble"?

Answer: Dynas and baggers rubber-mounted engine and drivetrain is not rigidly attached to the chassis.  The engine can flex front to rear but it can not roll or yaw and this permits the rear wheel to not track true with the front wheel and a severe wobble occurs.  It is caused a death wobble for a reason for it has killed riders from severe out of control oscillations.  The bike will actually wobble and leave the road and crash.  It really is a serious problem few desire to talk about.  It affects bikes 1994 and up until H-D decides to fix it.  So far, there is no real cure.  Aftermarket stabilizers can be installed to help stiffen the engine to the frame, but it is not the perfect fix although way better than nothing.  The death wobble can occur at normal highway speed or when passing cars.   FL touring models have a thin and weak triple tree that can create ill handling problems.  Install a strong Tour Trac Tree to fix that problem.

 68.  Question:  I had my bike dyno-tuned and when I came to pick up the bike I was told bad news.  The belt drive broke.  Who is responsible for this?

Answer: You are.  You should never put your bike on a dyno.  I know it is common practice today, but the stress and strain on your engine, transmission, frame and tires and belt is brought to punishing and severe service.  So much stress is applied to the rear wheel the belt can snap in two.  Again, this is dangerous as the belt may not break and be severely damaged and you ride away and the belt breaks in traffic or on the freeway.  It can also wrap around the rear wheel pulley and lock it into a nasty skit and crashing or wrap around the transmission pulley and snap, bend, warp the transmission shaft, knock the crankshaft out of balance crack engine/transmission cases.  Nasty stuff.  Dynos also damage the rear tire internally and that's why tire manufacturers warn they void the warranty if you dyno the bike with their tires installed.  And... engines can break badly when dyno stress is applied.  It is not like driving a bike on the street.  The dyno overloads the rear wheel, transmission and engine way beyond what you could do on the street.  It is worse than racing your bike on a drag strip.  Horrific forces are applied by the dyno your motorcycle was never designed to endure and that's why you bike broke.  It is also why dealers and shops love dynos for they stress your bike and you'll be back soon enough for repairs.  Plus, they charged you good money for the privilege!  Yes, you can install high performance parts without using a dyno.  When you map the ECU you simply use a certified matched profile for your power kit installed.  Dynos are being used to make money for those who own dynos.  My advice is to stay away from dynos.  When we built drag racing engines years past we didn't have dynos, nobody did.  Now every shop has one and they are "dazzling" the masses of riders thinking they are needed.  Magazines also dyno bikes a lot but they are finishing their article to measure horsepower change from stock.  The Horse Magazine, February 2013 issue on page 80 shows a mechanic holding up a broken clean drive belt snapped-in-two when they were using the dyno.  It happens.  And most Harley riders do not understand dynos.  Not all dynos can accurately simulate actual riding conditions.  Only the newer dynos can automatically adjust load and inertia to any variable speed or torque and these that do are the water brake, DC or AC electric intelligent dynos.  They are the only dynos that can accurately MAP the bike's ECM.  And here's the catch... not many shops have one!  It means you are getting shoddy dyno work and print out reports and you need to know one more thing... a lot of shops have dyno operators who do not know what they are doing!  It means you are paying for inferior dyno work.  I have seen dealers sucker people into having their bike dyno-tuned and for no other reason but to tell the customer it is needed and bill the customer $170 or more.  It is a scam, so beware.  Today you can flash your ECU with beautiful custom fuel management maps without using a dyno because the dyno work has already been done by the people who wrote the maps.  Only really big inch custom engines with strange components may need a dyno turn, and that can be performed on an "engine dyno" that will not stress the transmission, drivetrain and tires and will measure "true" horsepower at the crankshaft.  If you are lured to get your bike dyno-tuned run for the exit or pay the man.

 69.  Question:  What do you say about installing a 21" front tire on a bagger?

Answer: Are you nuts?  A huge, heavy bike needs a wide tire contact patch.  The tiny patch a 21" wheel meets on the roadway is straight out dangerous.  When braking or cornering the heavy rear of the bike transfers weight to the front wheel and that can cause the front wheel to skid and the bike will fall down or exit the road to crash.  The custom bagger craze is ridiculous the things they are doing for eye candy but can kill you.  Any bike with a 21" wheel is dangerous and give a horrible quality ride for the tire is narrow and grabs road imperfections to wobble the bike.  You always fight the bike with the handlebars to stop wandering tiring out your arms even on small 100 mile rides.  Install a 19" minimum or a fat 16" on the front.  Forget about looking cool.  Nobody really cares anyway if you look cool or not.  Better to be safe, sane and live to ride another day.

70.  Question:  How do I gain confidence to fix my own bike?  I just do not know how to go about it.

Answer:  You start like everyone else, one small step at a time.  You can take a trade school course if one is available.  That is the best and quickest way.  If no school?  You could volunteer at a local repair shop as an apprentice.  This is slow and agonizing method and likely you will be abused to clean floors, parts, restroom and not learn too much.  You could buy a used bike to learn how to take it apart with a service manual.  That method works.  I started on my own bike when I was in my young teens learning how to repair everything on the bike and overhauling the engine.  It is amazing how fast you can learn by just diving in.  I had no service manual.  Today there a fine service manuals sold to guide you.  Confidence only comes by doing.  Learn to change the oil compartments on your Harley then graduate to tire changing and then top-end overhaul.   Then you will be ready to split cases and do transmission work.  Just take your time and enjoy the learning process.  I say, just begin with a service manual.  The service manual also has a lot of safety tips so you don't cut a finger off by accident or start a fire in your garage.

Free Oil Change
When You Buy Oil & Filter

Fast Free Same Day Service at:
Big Dealer Cycles
666 Lucifer's Lane
Mt. Diablo, California

  The above advertisement sounds great, but if these guys are thieves watch out!  This advertisement is very powerful to draw new customers and it is a good deal at first glance.  But one has to now wonder what is really going on here.  These guys are willing to work for free?  Seems that way, right?  No labor charge!  But what if they tell you they are putting in quality oil when in fact they are installing inferior oil?  There's no way to tell for sure. Even if you bring in your own oil they can switch the oil in the back room with containers filled with cheap oil and you will never know as they pour it into your engine.  I have seen these rotten tricks working in motorcycle shops!  So, how does a shop like this benefit working for free?  To build up your trust and earn your business as the same time damaging your engine so you will bring your bike back to them for repairs.  What if they put a bit of valve grinding compound in with the oil, huh?  Yeah, it will scratch critical engine components wearing out the engine.  Con men operate by earning your complete trust letting you believe they will never harm you, but they are out to get you.  The repair industry is full of crooks, liars and con artists.  You think all those mechanics heavily tattooed like prison inmates are your friends?  That they are upstanding law-abiding citizens?  Get real.  Many have criminal records and have now found a way to steal, rob and connive operating a vehicle repair business that won't send them to prison even if they do get caught scamming customers.  And the same goes for those bare-skinned nice guys who look like clean-cut talk show hosts on TV.  These guys can con you just as badly and often even more boldly.  There used to be a time people could watch repairs being performed on their vehicles behind a glass wall window.  Notice today how those glass windows are now concrete walls sealing your eyes away from what is really going on in the back?  There is a good reason for it... they don't want you to see and learn what is really going on back there!  Just search on the Internet "Auto Repair Scams"  "Auto Fraud" or go to sites such as, Consumer Defense Law.  There is one sure way to stop being defrauded and that is to learn how to fix your own motorcycle.   

71.  Question:  Any advice on motorcycle clothing?

Answer:  Yes, buy a riding jacket that has 3DO or similar protective armor.  Buy Sliders Kevlar jeans with optional knee armor.  They have the most protection and are economically priced.  If you ever do fall off your bike for any reason you will be glad you had these items.  I also ride with a full-face, modular (flip-up) helmet.  I don't want my face slamming into pavement or grinding on it.  Many Harley riders want to look cool and many of them die and are disfigured for the privilege.  Wear protective equipment.  Be professional.  More and more Harley riders are getting wise and wearing protective gear. 

72.  Question:  I have a H-D Touring model and I hear a clicking noise and sometimes some whiplash in my drive system.  What is the cause?

Answer:  Late model Touring bikes have a "cush" cushion drive in the rear wheel.  It is just rubber isolators set in the wheel and the rear drive pulley inserts into the rubber gaps to take out nasty shocks to the rear wheel and drivetrain.  If the rubber isolators fail you will hear a clicking noise and harsh shift transitions when accelerating and decelerating.  It is called a "death rattle" by some because it sounds like the death rattle of cylinder detonation, but eminating at the rear wheel.  You can easily repair this yourself.   Of course, it could also be a loose brake pad, brake caliper or worn rear wheel or swing arm bearing.

73.  Question:  The starter has failed three times on my bike.  I am tired of this expensive $700 breakdown leaving me stranded for a tow truck and motel room, etc.  What can I do?

Answer:  If your starter motor fails you should still be able to roll the bike in gear with clutch disengaged, pop the clutch to engage to start the bike.  Try that next time.  It will save you from a tow.  Listen to your starter when you start your bike.  If you get hesitation to start when pressing the start battery you may have a weak battery or a dirty connection.  It can also be bad copper shoes in the starter solenoid itself worn and burned out.  Listen also for any grinding noise as this indicates worn starter and clutch gear teeth.  Could even be a bad primary cover bushing causing misalignment of the starter gear.  Most of the time it will be a failed starter clutch.  You should invest in buying an upgraded aftermarket one that is much stronger than the stock item.  If you do not have compression release installed on a hopped-up engine you will get starter failures.  You may only need one compression release, but two are better for big overbore engines (103+cubic inch) with high compression ratio over 9 to 1.  See question #65.     

74.  Question:  A dealer told me if I allow non-H-D shops work on my bike it can lose that classic Harley sound.  Is this true?

Answer:  No.  The dealer is just using scare tactics to keep you coming back to his dealership.  The only way you could lose that Harley sound if you had installed exhaust pipes not designed for Harley's like installing a pipe with an expansion chamber on it like two-stroke dirt bikes.  I don't know anybody in the industry who would dare do such a thing.  The dealer is just giving you a line of bad advice for his benefit.  Installing pistons, cams, crankshaft, transmissions, wheels, tires will not alter the sound of your Harley except to make it sound even better.

75.  Question:  My dealer told me not to worry about the transmission rattle I have coming from the clutch throw out bearing on my brand new 2013 Touring engine.  I think it is a defect and they don't want to fix it.  What can I do?  

Answer:  Fear not.  There is nothing wrong with the bike.  That sound you hear is actually deep inside the transmission's straight-cut first gears, but sound emits from the right side trap door area especially in neutral gear.  It is just gear rattle.  Some bikes have it, some don't, but all eventually will.  Your bike just has a bit more "slop"backlash play between the first gear pair and these gears will "chatter" and make you think it is a serious defect.  Is it a defect?  Yes, due to the design of the transmission.  Can it be fixed?  Yes, but it is not needed because the chattering noise is just that, noise.  It will not harm the transmission until a million miles is put on the transmission!  H-D is working on a fix for future models only because the EPA will force them to eventually stop the noise, not that the rattle is a reliability issue.  This rattle noise, for now, is nothing to worry about so just get used to it.  I know this is hard to do, but once you realize all Harley Twin-Cam overdrive transmissions will begin to chatter it may soothe the pain.  Also, most Harley riders install louder pipes that drown out the noise.  If you don't hear the rattle, it won't bother you anymore.  Now, if you feel strong vibrations when riding and/or hear loud grinding noises that is a defect from a failed shaft bearing.  Now, if you just can't stand the rattle noise you can do what other riders have done, switch to a heavier grade motorcycle specific transmission gear oil like 75W-90 or 80W-90.  The thicker oil dampens the noise a lot, but it will be a drag on fuel mileage as the oil is resistant to flow even at high temperatures.  Now don't think thicker oil is better oil.  If you install 70W-140 oil it will be so thick it may not be thin enough to lubricate fast moving parts like ball bearings and will not permit metal filings from being captured by the oil drain plug magnet and that will ruin your transmission.  Keep in mind Sportster engines do not have this transmission chattering problem, just the Twin-Cam models.

76.  Question:  What is an index washer for on a spark plug?

Answer: This is a special washer that is mounted between the shoulder of the spark plug and sealing gasket.  Its purpose is to align the spark plug's ground electrode to face away from the center of the combustion chamber.  This positions the electrical arcing spark in full unobstructed view to better ignite the fuel mixture.  Each indexing washer is of a different thickness and by varying the thickness the ground electrode is rotated away from the view of the combustion chamber, but the spark is in full view.  When you remove your spark plug just draw a line down the porcelain insulator indicating where the "L" shape electrode is located, then use a index washer to see if the size you selected will relocate that electrode.  TC and Sportster engines can get 8 horsepower with a increase in fuel mileage using this very simple technique.  That is like a free Stage-1 tune up for a couple dollars.  Believe it or not!  Drag racing guys use this indexing all of the time.  There are no bad effects, just more power and works with all motorcycle engines.

 77.  Question:  A mechanic told me they don't let the oil drain for 30 minutes from the engine compartments because they do not have time to waste.  That made me think that perhaps they are doing it wrong?

Answer: I can tell you from experience what that mechanic says is true.  They don't have time to waste.  They just remove the drain plug, drain the oil and replace the drain plug and move on to the next oil compartment.  They don't even level the bike and let more dirty oil drain out.  Is it harmful?  Yes, because the most dirtiest oil is always the last to be removed.  If this dirty oil is not removed it will contaminate the new clean oil with gritty abrasive material that will wear your engine out.  Good for the engine repairer, not good for you wallet.  Harley's need clean oil to function and to keep cool.  A tiny grain of dirt will clog the hydraulic lifters and hydraulic cam chain tensioners to ruin.  Learn to change your own oil on your Harley or you will pay dearly relying on others who will always do it wrong and cheat you.  Even inferior oil can be substituted in your engine and you'll never know it until it is too late.  As you can see, even going to a H-D dealer for your oil change will leave dirty crud oil in your engine, transmission and primary chain system because they are not going to keep your bike on the lift waiting 30 minutes for most all of the black oil to drain.  They will have an "apprentice" do the job anyway and they will teach him to do the job "quickly" I guarantee it for time is money in those shops.  When you get your bike from an oil change just ride the bike for an hour, check the oil and it will be dirty oil.  That's because the oil black oil was not drained out completely and has contaminated and "ruined" your expensive oil change.  Live and learn.

78.  Question:  Can you explain the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act?

Answer: You can go online and search for the law (US Code-Title 15, Chapter 50)  for deep details;  I have keep the explanation down here to one paragraph.  Many dealers violate the law routinely when they say you must use Harley-Davidson oil and oil filter to retain your warranty and/or you must have your bike serviced by an authorized H-D dealership to keep your warranty.  It is a lie and a law violation.  The dealer must give you the oil and parts for free to make such an offer.  The law basically give you, the consumer, freedom to perform your own repairs,  use aftermarket parts and not lose your warranty.  But there is a problem.  To keep your warranty, you should, if you do your own repairs, use authentic Harley-Davidson parts and oil.  Not that you have to, but you "slam-shut" the door of a dealer voiding your warranty and you having to fight tooth and nail to regain your warranty.  The law specifies conditions, but the law does not do the fighting for you to retain your rights.  You have to sue in court to win your case.  Win you will, if you used H-D parts and oil.  If you used aftermarket parts and oil you can win or lose in court.  Problem is, the aftermarket companies that want your money and lure you to buy their products could fail, ruin your engine and refuse to help you win your case.  Now you got to sue H-D and the aftermarket companies to win you case and both will be fighting against you with experts to ruin your case so you lose and have to pay their court costs and attorney fees.  This is why I say to stay with Harley-Davidson parts and oil to keep your warranty.  You can do the job yourself, no problem with that.  As long as you use H-D parts and oil it is hard for H-D to win a case against you or void your warranty in the first place.  The same goes with fuel management devices as they can easily void your warranty if you burn valves or a bore a hole in a piston... a direct result of lean burn and the fuel manager controls that function so it is easy to blame as the cause of engine failure, an iron-clad case against you.  If you put a aftermarket Cobra Fi-2000 Pro fuel controller on your bike it could void your warranty, but you would have to had ignored obvious backfiring, rough idle, hesitating engine and knock and pinging noises revealing the device clearly is not working properly.  And, you would have to ride punishingly hard at high rpm's to blow a hole in the piston.  So, using the Cobra Fi-2000 Pro is likely okay if the bike runs smoothly, which it probably will.  Dealers are not so prone to void warrantees, but H-D corporate will if they determine you modified the engine and controls with aftermarket devices.  Legally, they can void your warranty if these devices damaged the engine.  No law can help you fix that.  Your only hope will be the aftermarket manufacturer will take up your case and sue for you.  Sometimes they do this to protect their own future sales of their products.  Oh, local repair shops can work on your new bike too, but they can not perform warranty-related repairs.  If you use a local shop for repairs make sure they list the product name on all parts and oil used (most shops don't itemize so precisely) but you need this to fight a warranty claim.  You need to prove you put in a "high grade name brand" oil in the engine, not just "oil".  I say it again, learn to change the oil on your own bike... this is the best way to preserve your warranty and the engine's life.    

79.  Question:  Can I turn my brake rotors like they do in cars?

Answer: No.  Reason being the rotors are already too thin when brand new.  Each rotor is stamped with a minimum thickness and you will see it does not take much normal wear and tear to reach this limit.  There just is not enough metal meat on the rotors to begin with to allow any grinding on brake rotors.  Even the heat of the lathe can crack a thin motorcycle rotor.  The thickness limit is to be respected, so check your rotors with a micrometer in the wearing surface areas.  A thin rotor can quickly overheat, shatter into pieces and cause you to crash with a front wheel bind and skid.  Harley-Davidson rotors are not expensive compared to metric bikes that can cost you $300 each!  The cost of metric bike parts are outrageous.  Just another great reason to buy and stay with Harley-Davidson.  You should get 30,000 miles out of your front wheel rotors even with aggressive and abrasive racing brake pads and 45,000 miles with street sintered metal pads.  The rear wheel rotor can last twice as long.

80.  Question:  What can happen if I use the wrong brake fluid in my bike?

Answer: Brake failure can happen.  DOT 4 fluid yellow and DOT 5 is purple.  The rubber parts in the system will deterioate and cause sudden brake failure.  Tiny bits of rubber just clog up all the tiny passages in the lines, calipers and master cylinders which requires time-consuming flushing and cleaning.  Water is another issue that creates corrosion of caliper/master cyclinder pistons and bores.  The wrong brake fluid if it does not destroy rubber seals can prematurely heat up and boil with a loss of braking control.  Nasty things happen!  Always check the owner manual and master cylinder caps for the correct oil to use.  What if you find a conflict?  The owner manual says to use DOT 4 and the Master Cylinder cap says to use DOT 5?  You may need to reinstall all new components because some prior owner has altered your brakes.  If you don't see tiny specks of black rubber in the brake fluid all may be well, just use the fluid rated on the oil reservoir caps.  This does not happen with new bikes.  Brake fluid should last 50,000 miles before a flush.  If you see bits of rubber in the oil that does not mean the wrong oil is used, but normal wear of rubber parts is taking place.  Consider overhauling the brake calipers and master cylinder with new brake lines.

81.  Question:  I was told if I switch to Royal Purple Synthetic oil my engine will run cooler.  Is this possible?

Answer: Oil does cool the engine so it is possible.  Royal Purple's Synthetic Max-Cycle 20w-50 engine oil is claimed to lower engine temperature with the use of thermal imaging showing a 50 degree temperature reduction in some hot areas of the engine as proof.  But I have no way to verify it and I have not tried it.  Going to Royal Purple's Website was so frustrating to negotiate to locate product and read the descriptions I backed out of the site.  I was not impressed with the handsomely dysfunctional Website at all.  You could install a larger Baker oil pan to reduce heat, or, better yet, install an oil cooler (or larger cooler) Jagg and be safe.  To determine if you need an oil cooler purchase an oil temperature dip stick.  Normal temps is 180-220 degrees Fahrenheit.  If you get spikes above those temperatures it is still okay as long as the temps come back down within a minute.  However, 240-260 up to 300 degrees is too much for the oil to handle and will begin to fail to lubricate the engine properly.  Oil temperature that hovers at 240 degrees means you need an oil coolel.  This is why some riders switch to Red Line 20w-50 synthetic oil for it lubricates up to 400 degrees.  It can be fun to experiment with different brands of motorcycle engine oils.  However, do not count out Harley-Davidson's Syn3 oil for it is really good stuff and I use it in my Harleys in all three oil compartments (engine, transmission, primary chain case).  Only if you experience gear noise should you consider a thicker brand of oil for the transmission.  Make sure when you buy an oil cooler it has a automatic thermostat to stop the oil flow into the oil cooler on cold days.      

 82.  Question:  I had a Harley-Davidson dealer download a Stage-1 map on my bike, but it runs lousy.  What could cause this?

Answer:  The Harley-Davidson generic maps in their tuner software is for stock Harley-Davidson's for H-D performance products only.  If you have installed aftermarket exhaust pipes that are not Harley-Davidson those maps will only give a starting point for a proper tune-up, but it will not tune-up your engine perfectly.  You need a custom tuning job.  The dealer's mechanic should have known better and you should go back and request they custom tune the bike or refund your money.  Make sure the two fuel injector's wires are secure to the injector as a loose connection will cause erratic vibration and poor performance.  They will balk for the Harley-Davidson Screaming Eagle Street Performance Tuner Kit is "married" to the bike.  It can't just be used again on another bike.  This is why I warn riders to stay clear of these devices and aftermarket devices that are "married" to the bike.  There are products that you just install and they self-tune the bike and you can take it with you when you buy another bike (or at least a similar model).  Why do they do this?  So they can slam you with hundreds of dollars each time you buy another bike for another performance tune-up.  Don't fall for it, don't buy their product.  Check out: Cobra Fi2000 PowrPro 

83.  Question:  Where can I buy high performance parts for my Harley-Davidson?

Answer: There are many sources, but check out, Hammer Performance they have the machine shop and the parts you need.

84.  Question:  Just how devastating is it to have a hydraulic valve lifter fail in a Harley-Davidson?

Answer:  It can be just a simple replacement of the lifter, but in severe cases if the bearings have failed or the lifter has sized in the lifter block bore hole and sheared metal you will need to clean the cam chest of metal pieces, oil pump, oil pump screen (Evo engine right-rear corner of the rear tappet block), oil lines, oil passages, oil tank and depending on condition and engine model a complete engine teardown to clean up the mess.  

85.  Question:  Dealer told me I must replace the rear wheel brake rotor when the front wheel rotors are replaced.  True?

Answer:  Generally, on most bikes this is not true, but on bikes with shared-link braking it can be a requirement to replace all the disk brake rotors at the same time.  It can be a "come on" sales builder to tell people they need all brake pad and rotors replaced at the same time.  The front wheel, yes.  Rear wheel, not likely unless the pads and rotor are worn down which may be the case.  See Question #79.

86.  Question:  I installed a Jagg oil cooler and the rubber hoses leak.  What am I doing wrong?

Answer: Jagg uses single barb hose fittings.  I wrote them and informed them a multi-barb fitting would be way better to stop oil leaks.  They still use the single barb.  To stop the oil leaks you got to crank down those hose clamps so it crushes the rubber hose real tight to the fitting.  Why?  Because one barb is just not enough to create a labyrinth-type seal.  You can replace the fitting on the oil filter adapter, but not on the oil filter and oil thermostat.  Just crush down the rubber tight to the fitting using a tiny 1/4" open-end wrench.  You will see the rubber under the hose clamp is much smaller in diameter than the unclamped hose, then you got it right.  If you go too far you will strip the hose clamp.  Just in case, I keep a spare 1/4" hose clamp and 1/4" wrench in my saddlebags just in case it fails.  You can buy stronger case-hardened hose clamps on the Internet such as, 

87.  Question:  Please explain the compensator sprocket on Harley's.

Answer:  The engine drive sprocket is a spring-loaded device that is allowed to wind up and relax to take up the shocks of the 45 degree firing angles of the pistons that create powerful damaging pulse forces into the drivetrain all the way back to the rear wheel.  It is nothing but a shock absorber for the engine out to smooth out the flow of power.  The compensator was originally installed in 1970 big twins up to 2011.  With the 103-cubic-inch engine's increased power and riders loading up large saddlebags with added weight the compensator was too weak and failed much too often, so a new upgrade is now used.  Millions of Harley's below 103c.i. should upgrade to the new Screaming Eagle compensator or risk failure.  The upgraded compensator has longer and steeper ramps with a multi-stage spring and is about 7 times stronger.  This one is not going to break! 

88.  Question:  What is the problem with helical-cut transmission gears?

Answer: Straight-cut gears produce no sideways force on the transmission shaft, but they can be noisy.  Helical-cut gears are in constant contact with each other so there is no noise, but they produce powerful axial forces on the transmission shafts.  A very strong thrust bearing and case must be designed to handle this load.  The problem is people are making helical gears for transmissions in cases with weak thrust bearing and a case not designed to handle the load.  That's the basic problem. 

89.  Question:  Should oil be changed hot or cold?

Answer:  Hot oil can burn skin at 200+degrees.  Cold oil flows slowly and has the tendency to allow sludge to settle out of the oil before it has been drained.  This settling will allow sludge to fall into voids in the casing that will not be drained out with the oil.  When you add new oil this sludge contaminates the fresh oil.  Warm oil is best.  However, it really does not matter if the oil is hot or warm as long as you do change the oil often so the engine always has clean oil.  Harley-Davidson engines have a  lot of blow-by at the pistons due to the loose tolerance fitment for an air-cooled engine.  It means products of combustion leak past the piston rings dirtying the oil.  The black color you see is mostly carbon mixed with acid and it is abrasive as fine sandpaper and corrosive too.  Don't wait until the oil is black, but change it when it is a caramel brown color.  When the engine is cold just place a drop of oil on your finger tip suing a plastic glove for protection.  This will show the real color.  It will always look black if you just look into the oil tank or case reservoir.

90.  Question:  My dealer says nothing is wrong with my vibrating bike.  What can I do to reduce the vibration?

Answer: Assuming nothing mechanical like an out of tune motor or broken motor mount you can try isolating the vibrations.  Riders for years have filled their hollow handlebars with shotgun shell lead shot, copper or steel BB's or beach sand to absorb the energy.  It works on vibration but not on "shakes" from the engine throbs.  There is no cure for for throbbing as that's just a Harley thing.  It works for vibration "buzzing" that creates numbness in the hands.  You could insert the shot, BB's and sand or a mixture of all three into a cardboard tube sealed at both ends then insert the tubes into the bar ends.  Lead will work best and copper second due to their high density to absorb vibration energy.  Bizmuth shot will also work and is less toxic than lead.  Be aware some bars have studs welded into the bores so you will have to drill out these studs.  Another method is to attach bar end weights on the end of the handlebar grips.  You may find that slipping on some soft foam handgrips over your current grips will help.  They do sell rubber and gel isolation handgrips too that will take out some vibration.  Ask your dealer if they can recommend some rubber-mounted handlebar supports if rubber mounts do not exist on your bike.  Bar Snake has a liquid you can pour into your handlebars to absorb vibration and will work with all Harley-Davidson handlebars.  Check them out.

91.  Question:  Which type of torque wrench should I buy?

Answer:  The click type is the best for bolts 10mm and up in sizes.  The dial or beam type is used for smaller size nuts and bolts because  you can "feel" the pressure being applied along with reading the torque wrench so you will not strip the fine nut/bolt threads.  It is a more gentle approach.  The click type is fairly brutal and should always be used with larger size nuts/bolts.  Plus, if you do not hear the "click" due to loud music in the workspace you will strip the nut/bolt.  It takes some practice using torque wrenches as you can feel excessive pressure being applied in all torque wrenches if you pay attention.  The 3/8" torque wrench is used on small size nut/bolts and the 1/2" torque wrench is used on larger sizes such as 17mm nut/bolts and up.  You should buy both sizes.  The dial or beam type you only need one, the 3/8" size.  But you also need a 1/2" breaker bar ratchet so you will not be using your torque wrench to loosen things like large axle bolts, sprockets, etc. 

92.  Question:  What is your opinion on the Scavenger system to change oil?

Answer:  I have not used it, but if it can remove dirty oil from the engine compartment all the better to use it.  It won't get all the dirty oil out of the smaller hidden compartments. It also will not remove any dirty oil from external oil lines to the oil cooler, so a slug of dirty oil is still waiting to contaminate the new oil.  The perpetual oil change method in my book is the best and it is free as no device is needed.  All of the oil is always clean all of the time! The oil never gets dirty!   The Scavenger system works, but it still allows the oil to become black and  again and again.

 93.  Question:  How do I center a front wheel?

Answer:  With the bike sitting upright tape two flat boards of wood to each side of the front tire then with a ruler measure the distance between the inside surfaces of the wood boards.  This make it easy to get a measurement.  If you try to just measure across the diameter of the tire your eyes will play tricks on you.  Divide the number of the width on the ruler by 2.  The number you get is the center of the tire, so place a mark there.  Now measure the distance between the forks from the inside to inside.  Divide that number by two.  That number should be exactly at the center of the tire where you made your first mark.  If not, use different size wheel hub spool spacers to adjust the wheel so it is dead center true position.

94.  Question:  If I install a new 6-speed transmission will I get the same performance as the new Harley's?

Answer:  No.  Reason being the gearing in the primary chain case is still different than your 5-speed bike.  You need to update the primary gearing.  It is now costing you a lot of money to do this upgrade.  Consider buying a new Harley before you dump a ton of money into an older bike that has few of the new features available.  You may not need a 6-speed transmission.  Just changing the size of your belt pulley sprockets can give you low engine rpm's on the highway.  This is also the cheapest way to go.  Your pulley's and belt are likely old and worn anyway and due for a change.  I believe altering the belt drive pulleys' sprocket sizes in this case is better than changing the steel sprocket sizes in the primary chain case, but it is a viable option.

95.  Question:  What causes noise from the primary case on the new H-D Cruise Drive transmissions?

Answer:  This transmission is noisy by nature.  Not that it is right, it is also not harmful.  The sixth-gear chatters, fith-gear has backlash clatter, a "bang" noise will be heard with the engine starts and if you pull in the clutch lever just a bit you will hear "clack" sound.  These sounds are normal assuming your primary chain tension is okay (not too loose sloppy play in the chain) no worn out chain adjuster glide pad or failing compensator or broken clutch spring or bad bearings.  As new models role out you can expect to see improvements in the transmission design.  Until then, the noise is normal and will not cause harm.

96.  Question:  How do I true a spoke wheel?

Answer:  It is very easy to do and if you have spoke wheels you really do need to learn how to keep the spokes true.  First, purchase a spoke nipple wrench to fit your wheel's spoke.  You may need two different sizes, one for the front wheel and one for the rear wheel.  Using standard open-end wrenches is a bad idea, use the right tool for the job.  Elevate the bike just enough so you can rotate the wheel.  Do not let the bike slip off the jack.  You can use a jack under the frame of the bike with the side stand down to leverage the wheel off the ground with no chance the bike will fall over as long as the force is against the side stand.  Using a spoke wrench lightly rap on each spoke.  You should hear a nice sharp "ping" noise indicating the spoke is tight.  If you hear a "thud" or "clunk" noise the spoke is loose or broken.  With the spoke wrench tighten the loose spoke until it "pings" again.  If it will not ping or tighten the spoke is broken and may need to be replaced in the future.  Spokes usually break at the wheel hub or the hub itself may be cracked, or the spoke nipple threads in the rim is stripped.  Mark it with some white paint for now.  Keep rotating the wheel tightening all the loose spokes.  Generally, it does not take much to tighten a spoke, usually only 1/4 to 3/4 turn, more if really lose of course.  Tighten the spokes in small increments of 1/8 to 1/4 inch turns.  If you tighten too much you can actually drive the spoke deep into the rim to puncture the inner tube, so never over-tighten spokes.  When you have all the spokes sounding the same "tone" you are close to perfect.  Now, the wheel may be out of true.  You can set up two dial micrometers or two cloth hanger wires as a poor man's substitute.  One dial is set on the side of the rim to measure side-to-side wobble run out.  The other is set on the inner side of the rim to measure top-to-bottom wheel hop. Here's how easy it is to true a wire-spoke wheel:  If the rim wobbles to the left, loosen the spoke on the left side 1/4 turn and tighten the spoke on the right 1/4 to 1/2 turn.  You will notice the spokes alternate between left and right the way they are inserted into the rim.  If the wheel hops high at the 12 o'clock position, loosen the spokes at that 12 o'clock position and tighten the spokes at the 6 o'clock position.  When working on wheel "hop" try loosening or tightening 4 spokes at a time as a group to adjust out the wheel "hop".  You may not get the job absolutely perfect the first time as it is a tedious job and it can be baffling the first time you try it.  I will give you a great tip. Go to a bike shop, swap meet or junk yard and buy an old used spoke wheel then practice on that before you do your own bike.  You can't screw up anything that way and you will not become so flabbergasted or angry if things take a bit of practice to get it right.  It is not hard to do.  Just work slowly, relax and enjoy the learning experience.  We mechanics all had to learn too at one time or another!  

 97.  Question:  What is the white dot on the tire indicate?

Answer:  It is a balance mark.  The tire is close to balance when new, but where the inner plies are seamed at joints it can cause a thickened area that is slightly heavy at that point.  So, opposite the heavy point on the tire they put a white doge.    This tells us mechanics to put the white dot (lightest point on the tire) beside the heavy point valve stem.  There are exceptions to this rule when working with heavy wheels, but for most cases this is the correct procedure.  If you have new tires put on your street bike by a shop and the white dot is not aligned with the valve stem do not panic.  It really does not make much difference on most street production bikes.  You'll hardly ever notice the imbalance. 

 98.  Question:  A dealer mentioned to properly balance a motorcycle wheel and tire a spin balancer must be used or it will be performed improperly.  Is this true?

Answer:  It is a bold-face lie.  The dynamic spin balancer machine is just a machine for absolute dummy employees.  Without going into a rage I will prove it by telling you to go to any professional motorcycle road race and in the pit area you will see the best machine used to balance wheels.  That machine is the manually operated static balancer and is even more accurate than the dynamic spin balancer!  It is also the same device I tell readers of my tire change book to purchase.  You can buy the static balancing machine for less than $100.  The automatic dynamic spin-type balancer does work, but so does the static balancing method.  You can even put a round metal axle in a cloth-wrapped bench vice, slip the wheel on the axle and balance the wheel with no machine whatsoever.  I show you how to balance wheels in the book.  It is very easy to do.  No mystery about it.  Don't listen to dealer hype.  They are constantly deceiving their customers to empty rider's wallets.  Check out the book and start saving money today:   "Learn to Install New Tires on Your Motorcycle and Fix Flat Tires"

 99.  Question:  I thought Harley-Davidson fixed the cam chain shoe problem, but you say they have not.  Explain why?  

Answer:  The shoe material was not just the problem it was the severe spring tension pushing the shoe wickedly hard against the chain.  Harley made some changes to the shoe material which is now a nylon formulation and the flat chain is now a roller chain along with the removal of the springs as a oil hydraulic piston now applies pressure to the roller chain driving the gears.  The problem?  There are still "shoes" rubbing against the new cam chains.  There are two cam chains; inner and outer chains.  Since there's less tension on the chain due to the hydraulic-controlled piston, the "shoes" will last longer.  However, as you can see, lasting longer does not mean "cure" it only means the shoes will now wear out later, down the road, as the engine racks up miles... but if you do not inspect and replace those shoes the same thing is going to happen... the engine will self-destruct.  The system needs a complete redesign, not a patch.  The cam chest in the Twin-Cam engine is a rat's nest of chains, rubbing tensioner shoes packed with an oil pump in a tiny space.  If you compare the T-C cam chest to the Sportster engine you will see how the Sportster engine's cams are horizontally driven gears which is exactly what locomotive and industrial engines use (a perfect system).  So, even installing an aftermarket gear drive system in the T-C engine is not a fix as those gears are "stacked" vertically and that will destroy the crankshaft bending the pinion shaft causing excessive pinion shaft runout.  That means even if you replace the crankshaft it will only bend again and again and again.  No cure.  As it stands, all Twin-Cam engines are still defective.  And if you still don't believe it, just buy some current and back issues of V-Twin related motorcycle magazines.  It's not a secret, but not many Harley riders want to talk about it and many prefer to retain an "ignorance is bliss" attitude.

 100.  Question:  What is crankshaft runout.  Is it good or bad?  

Answer:  The Harley-Davidson crankshaft is a huge, heavy, unbalanced beast due to the 45 degree firing angle.  It will vibrate like a monster and that is why the balanced engine has internal flywheels to counter the imbalance and other models are rubber mounted isolation so the engine can shake at will without causing your eyes to hemorrhage.  The Twin-Cam engine crankshaft has problems of its own and one of the biggest issues other than flywheel slippage (which is serious) is crankshaft runout.  Runout is bad, never good and is usually referred to the right side pinion shaft that drives the oil pump, cams, lifters and valves.  There's a lot of pressure on that tiny thin shaft which is also relatively long in length and if you ride hard, pull wheelies, burnouts, hop up the engine power output, etc., that shaft will bend ever so slightly.  Even stock engines ridden sensibly have some runout and it can still grind away at the engine causing it to fail.  Runout places accelerated wear and tear on the crankshaft case bearing(s), wears the face of the oil pump and can wobble the gear rotors in the oil pump, grinds wear lines in the pinion shaft and grooves the camplate bushings (or wear roller bearings).  The grooving means metal is being ground up and is being circulated in the oil to destroy bearings and bushings.  These "fines" will not be caught by the oil filter, but "steel fines" will be trapped in a magnetic oil filter.  You should buy an external magnet and attach it to your oil filter.  Harley permits .015" runout which is still excessive and wear as described above occurs.  The cure is to have your crankshaft balanced, trued and the crankpin and flywheel webs "welded" and that's what needs to be done.  Yes, the runout issue is curable.  Sportsters can have a pinion shaft runout problem too that will wear out the worm gear on the pinion shaft that drives the oil pump.  That gear (on XL model engines) is so easy to replace it is a do-it-yourself replacement.  You just remove the cam cover, remove the pinion shaft nut, remove the cam drive gear then the oil pump worm gear (two bolts to remove/loosen oil pump housing).  Replace the worm gear and reinstall the other items.  So easy!  There is nothing else that will be ruined in a Sportster, just that one worm drive gear.  The Twin-Cam engine, on the other hand, is a disaster when the pinion shaft runout becomes excessive, it causes the end of the shaft to wobble like an unstable child's toy top.  That up and down wobbling (radial up-and-down runout is the issue not axial left-to-right runout) causes metal parts to wear out.  Advice?  Ride easy with no abrupt slamming of the transmission gears that can cause crankshaft flywheel to suddenly lose rotational velocity such as pulling a wheelie.  That sudden "slamming" on the crankshaft will bend both ends of the crankshaft; the right side pinion shaft and the left side that drives the primary chain.  Hard downshifting can do it too, so don't let the rear wheel skid.  Use synthetic engine oil or at least a blend of 70% mineral and 30% synthetic or 50%-50%.  Harley TC crankshafts has problems and it will break if you abuse it and it will wobble naturally until you have yours balanced, trued and welded.  But don't let a Harley dealer do it as they won't because Harley will not permit it or warranty the repair.  It has to be performed by an aftermarket firm.  S&S is one firm that can do it for you.  Unfortunately, it is expensive to tear down the entire engine.  I would just ride with good grade, clean oil with a magnet on the the oil filter, ride sanely and live to ride.  But eventually you'll have to deal with the defects because they will surface and it will cost you a lot of money to fix the engine.  A much stronger crankshaft is needed to address these problems.

101.  Question:  I thought factory-trained Harley-Davidson mechanics were working on my bike.  What gives?  

Answer:  Surprise!  Surprise!  Just because a Harley-Davidson dealer is an authorized dealer does not mean they have factory-trained mechanics working on your bike.  In fact, there may be none on site!  I have seen plastered on the wall diploma certificates of "Harley-Davidson Trained Mechanics" who are not even working at the dealership anymore.  How about that for deception, huh?  Seeing those authentic diplomas laced on the wall makes you think a factory-trained mechanic is doing you right, but you can't trust it to be true for it is just another deception used by repair shops and dealers to trick you into believing a lie.  I saw a Victory dealer do it too recently.  It's not just a Harley thing here, it is widespread.  Rule #1 is this; assume people in the motorcycle and auto repair industry are lying to you for they most likely are.  Trust, but verify!  But even if they do have a factory-trained mechanic on duty does not mean he/she will be working on your bike.  Helpers are probably changing your oil, installing tires and accessories.  They have low skills and you would be better off learning to do these routine tasks yourself and know the job is being done right. 

102.  Question:  What should I do to preserve the engine life of my Twin-Cam bike?  

Answer:  Buy an oil cooler as heat kills air-cooled engines.  Internal parts can warp from the heat and deform out of specifications and score cylinders, pistons and cook the valves and valve seats and crack hot parts.  Use synthetic 20W-50 oil.  Harley-Davidson Syn3 oil is good stuff, but some bikes may have noise issues or even oil leaking problems and need to use a thicker grade oil and that's okay too.  Try to use a 50-50 blend of synthetic and mineral oil.  You can blend it yourself.  Make sure you have a motorcycle specific large strong magnet on your oil filter.  Why?  When an engine wears (especially hardened steel roller bearings and races) these hard tiny bits can grind up your engine until your next oil change only to contaminate the oil again and again.  Worse than sandpaper as these hardened bits of steel will not give.  It's like valve grinding compound in your oil.  It ruins everything they touch!  The magnet catches these hard specs that pass right through the filter media!  Also, if you have a bearing or cam chain failure a lot of steel is sheared into the oil and goes to the crankshaft and rips the journal bearing to shreds.  The magnet will catch the steel so it will not circulate into the crankcase or piston and valves and rocker arms.  And last, ride sensibly.  You can open the throttle and have fun, but do not put any shock loads on the crankshaft.  Speed-shifting, pulling wheelies, doing burn-outs applies high torque and shock to the crankshaft that can cause the flywheel webs to slip out of balance.  Dyno runs can do it too and these Dyno runs are so damaging they can break your tire cords internally, snap your drive belt in two, and overload the engine crankshaft, primary and transmission components. 

103.  Question:  What can take the place of a Dyno run?  

Answer:  Nothing was the word not long ago, but now things have changed.  You don't need a Dyno tune anymore!  In fact, once you get a Dyno tune you can't change your pipes or you ruin the Dyno tune.  It means you have to pay for another Dyno tune.  If you later put in bigger piston, valves, cams, crankshaft you got to Dyno tune again.  No more!  With the Cobra Fi-2000 PowrPro tuner you just plug the thing in and ride away.  This thing Dyno-tunes your bike all of the time no matter what you do to it.  That's right, add new pipes, put in cams, pistons, etc., and this beast goes to work automatically Dyno-tuning your engine every moment.  I bought one for my Harley and it worked like a charm.  I change my exhaust and intake flows and it adjusts perfectly.  The engine is constantly being tuned for maximum performance and the power is just unreal.  The cost is about $500.  And you can take it with you for it is not "married" to the bike.  As long as you buy a similar model bike it will just be another plug-n-play.  It only takes about 30 minutes to install.  Tip: I routed my front O2 sensor wire from the Cobra tuner along the underside of the gas tank instead of along the bottom frame rail.  Why?  Because running the wire low can cause problems.  If the wire shifts position due to a broken wire tie the wire will sag and going over a road bump (think speed bump) the wire can be crushed or cut.  Same with motorcycle lifts, they can also crush and cut the wires.  You could also hit an object in the road that can rumble under the frame and chew up the wires.  You don't want these wires to be cut especially when far from home as the engine will not run or run too lean and burn a hole in a piston.  Cobra has a winning product here!  To be free of Dyno tuning is a huge money saver.  I like the way we can change things on the bike and the Cobra fuel manager makes all the adjustments instantly.  Amazing.  I think you will like the idea of not having to pay dealers and shops to tune your bike on their Dynometer and pay, pay, pay their price again, again and again.  And how about the numerous riders who pay for Dyno tuning only to get a poor job done or a fraudulent job performed?  With Cobra, you get the power and it's done right the first time.    

 104.  Question:  What's so great about Sportster's each having their own cam for each valve?  

Answer:  Gear driven cams are dead on timing and that gives maximum power all of the time because there is no slop or lagging in the valve timing... it is spot-on.  Also, with gears driving the cams there are no slapping chains or worn cam chain tensioners to deal with.  It means no breakage.  Gears that drive cams just don't wear out.  Think how long transmission gears last and yet the have all that monstrous torque passing through the gear teeth and they don't even wear out.  Cams don't put such high loads on the cam gears, so they won't break or wear out.  Racing bikes do not have cam chains, they have cascading gears installed to drive the cams.   Yes, even the Jap racing bikes with overhead cams have gear driven cams with no chains driving the cams.  Once you ride a 1200cc Sportster you'll see the power for that size engine is awesome.  The engine is reliable with no defects. The cam gears make the bike reliable and powerful along with many other engine design enhancements.  Cam timing is crucial for engine performance and only gears get the job done right.  Cam chains are horrible and the chain wears retarding cam timing.  The followers wear creating chain slap.  Hard acceleration cause chain slap too and can even cause valve floating where a piston can be holed and the valve bent.  You just can't beat gear driven cams for consistent performance and reliability. 

105.  Question:  I did not know about the TC engine defects, especially those cam chain followers.  What's the latest for a cure?  

Answer:  As it stands, there is no real cure, only methods to "delay" the failure.  You can upgrade your engine to the H-D hydraulic system, but it does not "fix the problem" it only delays it so it fails later.  The cam chest design is a mess, a rat's nest of whizzing chains driving two camshafts too close to each other.  Those "followers" are still present, still wearing down, still ready to fail and grenade the engine.  The gear drive upgrade by aftermarket is a good approach, but because the gears are stacked on top of each other a bit of crankshaft end play wear that causes the crankshaft pinion shaft to wobble (runout) will destroy the gears and can even break the pinion shaft clean off.  This is not a cure, but another problem that does not fix the original problem.  What is needed is H-D to totally redesign the camchest. If you look at the Sportster engine it is perfect, all gears side-by-side so they can wear and move past each other and not collide as stacked gears will.  Stacked gears can't move up and down so something has to give and it's the skinny and long pinion shaft.  If you take a look at the new Polaris Indian Thunderstroke 111 V-Twin engine you will see a similarity to the TC, but with huge benefits.  The cams, all three of them, are gear driven side-by-side just like the HD Sportster engine.  The cam chain does drive the cam gears, but it is on the outside only, not an inner chain, so it means you can actually replace the cam chain yourself.  There is a cam chain follower on that chain, but again, you can replace it yourself.  I mean as easy as replacing a spark plug!  I would have rather seen all gears and no chain, but this design arrangement is so easy to inspect and replace the follower and chain I would buy this engine.  That's not all.  That new Indian engine is awesomely strong built way more stronger than HD's with gear primary drive and a solid forged crankshaft with Babbitted rod bearings and strong connecting rods to boot, and much more to list here!  This new Indian is a winner, but the price, if it's too high will kill it.  Until Harley-Davidson redesigns that cam chest, I for one, will never buy another Twin-Cam engine motorcycle.  Problem is there is no fix for that defect, at least for as it stands now.  Remember, the HD cam chest upgrade still has two drive chains (though redesigned) that can and will still wear down the two nylon cam chain followers, so the problem is truly not fixed at all.  Oil pressure replaces the tension on the followers (replacing the old follower's springs) so less wear takes place, but wear still occurs, just at a slower rate.  It is not a fix!  You will still have to "inspect" those followers periodically and replace those followers periodically. It is not a fix and forget repair.  The defect still exists!  See Question #108.

106.  Question:  What is a good source of hard to find hardware?   Every time I need something it seems the local hardware stores don't have what I want.

Answer:  I know the feeling.  Local stores just do not stock all the items that are available.  Mcmaster will have many items and they will sell to individuals unlike Grainger.  If you can't find a hard to locate device or part go to Thomas Registery  as they list every manufacturer in America to help you find what you need.

107.  Question:  I read magazine article on how to install the new hydraulic cam plate.  Is this a job for a novice? 

Answer: It can be, but one thing I have discovered in magazine how-to articles is that they always seems to leave out very critical procedures.  For example: They may leave out coating gear rotors with assembly lube,  aligning the oil pump, and these two things can create disaster.  They may forget an o-ring or omit checking certain cam gear clearances and shim adjustments, etc., and severe problems can be the end result.  Having proper and complete installation instructions will allow you to do the job even if you are a novice.  However, just using a magazine or U-Tube video alone will waste your money because something is going to go wrong and in Twin-Cam cam chest and anything that goes wrong there is very likely to destroy the entire engine when it fails.  The best way an individual can learn how to fix motorcycle engines is not to learn on your own bike, but to buy a used engine to disassemble and reassemble.  That's what all the motorcycle repair schools do, they have engines just for the purpose of teardown and rebuild.  Another method is to cut a deal with a independent repair shop to allow you to be an apprentice on a cam chest job.  You pay them a fee for the privilege so they make some money and you get all the inside tips, sort of like creating your own motorcycle repair school.  This way you pay for only the things you needed to learn how to do.  There are special tools involved to repair or upgrade a TC cam chest so you will need to add that into your cost.  Best advice I can give to those who love Twin-Cam engines is to learn how to fix that engine yourself.  Primarily the cam chest and top-end overhaul.  Later, if need be, you can learn the transmission, primary and crankshaft repair. 

108.  Question:  Why do some Twin Cam engines have cam chain follower problems and other do not?  If the defect was the plastic chain tensioner then they all would fail, wouldn't they?  What is the mystery going on we need to know about?

Answer: Prior HD's newer hydraulic cam chain tensioner system there was an issue with the cam chains, a hidden issue that has come to light over time, but too late for most for many riders.  When the chains are manufactured they use dies to stamp out the individual links.  As these dies are used they tend to wear out and begin to create imperfections in the chain.  Think of tiny metal burrs that act like sandpaper grinding into the soft plastic cam chain tensioner.  Also think how ridiculously hard that spring-loaded tensioner was pressing on the cam chain and that make tensioner wear even worse.  Think of plastic on a grinding wheel!  Some lucky riders get a nice chain with no burrs and others are unlucky getting a chain with burrs.  This is why the hit-and-miss failure took place.  Of course, there are other factors to consider like keeping the oil clean, using an oil cooler and relying on synthetic oil to keep the sanding effect lower.  So, that's why HD changed the design of the cam chain and also got rid of the spring tension by switching to hydraulic oil tension instead, which lowers the pressure on the chain tensioner shoes that are prone to wear and grind down to bare metal causing severe engine failure.  Now, just because you did not yet experience a tensioner shoe failure does not mean you are saved... all TC engines with or without the HD upgrade will still face engine disaster.  It can't be stopped because the upgrade does not fix the true underlying engine defect of a poor design!  Since there is no true and real fix to repair the defect the only thing all TC engine riders must do is periodically pay (or do yourself) for frequent cam chain shoe inspection and replacement.  The problem is, it is hard to do and time consumer and requires special tools and knowledge.  The cam chest is a overly complex environment.  Most riders can't afford these frequent inspections, yet they can't afford not to.  If  you use luck, one day your luck will run out because those cam chain followers are wearing down each day you ride and when they hit metal to metal it is all over.  Think oil pump failure and what it does to the entire engine!  Catastrophic failure.  You can switch to the aftermarket gear drive system, but that too is not a true fix and can be even worse if the gears bend the crankshaft (pinion shaft) requiring a new crankshaft or some extensive and expensive work only to reinstall the new crankshaft and the gears again bend the pinion shaft later on.  Believe me, HD thought of the gear fix and found it was not a fix, so do not be fooled thinking gears is a fix for it is not.  See Question #104 and #105.

109.  Question:  What should I look for when buying a used Harley-Davidson?

Answer: For a new one print out my article on How to Buy a Cruiser Motorcycle.  It has a list of items to help you make the right choices and avoid accessory parts conflicts.  As for a used Harley-Davidson motorcycle it can be a real mine field.  With all the defects they have, how do you know which have been fixed and which are just waiting to you to buy it and have it fail repeatedly?  It is just awful out there!  The only way to address this issue is to buy the bike from a dealer with an extended warranty.   And even then, the fine print on these extended warranties only cover major engine failures related to oil starvation (which is a TC engine failure risk due to the cam chain tension issue) but even that fine print within the fine print may weasel them out of fixing certain defect-caused failures.  Frankly, I would be terrified to buy a used Harley.  Just too many things can go wrong.  Now if you are a mechanic you won't mind, but the average rider does not know about these horrible defects or how to fix them.  The rider is "blinded" by the silence... nobody wants to dare talk about these engine defects too much although they are mentioned over a period of time in the V-Twin related magazines.  Consider what it would cost you to keep having to pay to fix your used Harley and buying a new Harley with a factory warranty.  Both are expensive, but the latter gives you peace of mind.  If you are wise you will do everything in your power to buy a new Sportster model and customize that bike to fit your needs.  Power is not a problem, you can hop the engine up (pistons, cams, heads, etc.) and gear it for cruising (bagger accessories and sprocket ratio changes).  You can fit the bike to your frame with alterations.  People customize those big Twin-Cam bikes spending big money only to discover the engine is a masterpiece of total failure.  It will fail, no doubt about it, but its the price many riders will pay.  I got rid of all my big bikes and went down in size to the 1200 Sportster and saved a bunch of money and I have more fun riding the Sportster than I did with the larger displacement heavier bikes.  You need to get past that thinking that small is inferior and girly while large is ego manly tough and cool.  The Sportster will not break down on you.  In time, you will come to the same conclusion as I have.  What good is riding if you can't afford to ride?  What fun is riding if your engine keeps failing?  Is it cool and wise to sink money into a money pit?  If you have big money to spare, then fine, buy a new Harley every year or two and you'll be okay.  I did that for over 10 years and I spend tens of thousands of dollars for what?  All I did was enrich motorcycle dealers.  It is horrible to own a motorcycle and find out it has a myriad of engine defects.  It is much nicer now when I bought the Sportster 1200 Custom.  However, I will keep my eye on the new Polaris Indian.  I think this is the beast that is going to win over many, many, riders.  Reliability is going to be superb as per the Thunder Stroke engine design, but price will be the deciding factor to how many HD riders will jump ship to the new Indian.  

110.  Question:  What is your opinion of installing an upgraded Screaming Eagle compensator?

Answer:  I would first get rid of the automatic primary chain tensioner and revert back to the old manual adjustment system because the auto unit keeps tightening the primary chain and that added stress will wear and destroy the compensator and crankshaft and clutch/transmission case bearings along with the chain and chain gear teeth.  If you have a 110c.i. engine or larger you should upgrade the compensator (stock 110+ Harley-Davidson engines already have the upgrade).  People are running into trouble with installing SE compensators failing which I am led to believe it is the auto chain tensioner that is the real culprit causing these failures.  These problems did not occur until the new auto chain tension system was installed.  Do the math.

Did you know?  

Most mechanics complain riders still do not maintain their bikes and many repairs would be unnecessary if only riders performed basic maintenance.  Like what?  Lube cables so they do not fray and break.  Lube drive chain.  Change oil.  Check tire pressure.  Replace brake pads before they begin to "squeal" to stop expensive rotor damage.  Check oil levels and look for oil leaks.  Clean the air filter.  Keep drive belt or chain at proper tension.  Amazingly, expensive repairs occur due to neglecting these simple items.

111.  Question:  How much pinion shaft run out is permitted to install gears on my TC engine?

Answer:  No more than .003" is the rule.  Who you buy the gears from will tell you the precise figure for their gears.  You will need to have your crankshaft straightened and balanced if you exceed this run out.  You could install the HD hydraulic system, but no cure is going to fix this nagging problem no matter what you do.  You could just keep the stock system and just check the condition of the shoes each 20,000 miles.  If you learn to do it yourself all the better.

112.  Question:  Can I powder coat cylinders, cases and heads on an engine?

Answer:  No.  Keep it on the exhaust pipes and the frame.  The Horse Magazine Issue #128 March/April, page 41, did a heat test and what did they find?  Painted temperature kept the parts at 169F degrees.  Powder coat was an astronomical 430F degrees!  That's hot enough to cook the oil in the engine to Jello.

113.  Question:  I bought a new battery from a dealer and it failed in two months.  The charging system on my bike is fine and it is secure.  What is going on?

Answer:  Check the shelf life of the battery.  I bet an old, old, old, battery was sold to you.  Also, check the coded dates on motorcycle tires.  Many shops have outdated tires and the rubber is old and the tire wears out much too fast.  Dealers and small shops too like to buy deep-discounted inventory from other dealers going out of business and much of the inventory is "junk" and they pass it on to the unsuspecting.  Nice guys, huh? 

114.  Question:  I need to know.  Is safe to use aftermarket oil filters?

Answer:  My advice is to always stay with the factory oil filter in or out of warranty, it does not matter. All it takes is one mistake or filter defect to totally ruin your engine. Do aftermarket motorcycle specific oil filters ruin engines? You bet they do! A lot of riders found out the hard way. Never use a car, truck or other brand of motorcycle oil filter on your engine.  The factory designed the filter to flow the correct amount of oil and maintain proper oil pressure at all times. You change the filter to aftermarket and these parameters can change to your detriment. All for what? To save a few dollars? And, good luck trying to get those aftermarket filter companies to pay for your engine repair... they won't.  Even though many claim they will pay to rebuild your engine they will fight you tooth and nail and even if you win your court case it will be eight years before you get a dime. So, why not just support your bike manufacturer who made your bike? Why should we enrich other companies that do not support you and only steal profits from the people who make our motorcycles? I say, be safe and support your Harley-Davidson dealer/mfg. The wrong oil filter may not blow the motor right away, but if oil pressure and flow is not correct all-of-the-time you are damaging the engine and you will not even know it, until one day, it just throws a bearing or a rod through your crankcase, seize valves in the guides to crash a hole in a piston, etc. Is it worth it? No way. I always stay with the factory oil filter.    

115.  Question:  One shop said I need to change oil every 2,500 miles and other shop says 5,000 miles.  Who is right?

Answer:  As you can see, one shop changing the oil will earn twice your business as the other would costing you a reduction in wallet thickness.  The owner manual is a good starting point.  However, checking the oil visually is a better indicator.  If you can still see through the oil on the dip stick you are okay.  Once the oil becomes so black you can no longer see the dip stick itself, it is time to change the oil.  Some bikes do need to change the oil more often due to combustion gas blow-by past the piston rings which contaminates the oil turning it black and acidic.  I use the perpetual oil change method so the oil never gets dirty and only need be changed each 5,000 miles.  

116.  Question:  What socket is used to remove a bolt with many serrated sides.  I have them on my brake calipers and the cylinder heads.

Answer:  A 12-point socket is used on these star-like shaped bolts.

117.  Question:  You mean to tell me the cam chain tensioners can fail at 10,000 miles on my Twin-Cam engine?

Answer:  Yes, they can.  Most non-hydraulic model engines will fail between 10,000 to 30,000 miles and a few engines will even go 70,000 miles before failure, but that is a crapshoot for sure.  As a rule the inner shoe wears out 50% to 70% faster than the outer shoe, so you can remove the cam chest cover and if the shoe is 50% worn you can assume the inner shoe will be severely worn out.  Replace both shoes at this time.  Get a Roland Sands Clarity cam chest cover so you can see through to observe the condition of the outer can tensioner shoe.  Do this even if you have the new upgrade to the hydraulic cam tensioner system.  Why? Because the problem is not truly cured, only delayed.  Your engine still has cam chain tensioners and they can both fail.  Most riders are riding, "out of sight, out of mind" and this is dangerous as they do not know the true condition of those chain tensioner shoes.  If the shoe fails, metal will grind, the oil pump will clog up with metal filings and the engine will be completely destroyed from a failed oil pump.  It is an absolute devastating and expensive engine failure.  If you look around at other riders bikes you will see that they have no means of knowing the condition of the cam chain tensioner shoes.  Disaster is right around the corner for them.  Pull the cam chest cover and inspect each 10,000 miles or buy the Clarity cover and keep an eye on that outer shoe.   

115.  Question:  My bike wobbles.  What is causing it?

Answer:  If the front fork oscillates at high speed it is the fork bearing is too tight or the rear swingarm bearings worn or a motor mount is broken.  If the fork oscillates when slowing down the fork bearing is too loose or tire tread is cupped and worn out.  Even shock mounts could be loose, rubber shock mount bushing has deteriated or the shocks have failed and need replacement.  If the fork oscillates at low speed start looking for loose wheel spokes, worn wheel bearings, low air pressure in tires.  Touring models have had wobble problems in the past where the engine needs additional support to the frame and aftermarket firms supply such fixes.

116.  Question:  I soaked my new hydraulic valve lifters and adjusted them properly, but when the bike starts the lifters clatter loudly.  What did I do wrong?

Answer:  Nothing.  It can take up to a half-hour for the lifters to calm down and pump full of oil.  Often, a sharp crack of the throttle will purge out any trapped air in the lifters.  If the noise still will not go away?  You may need to adjust them again if you have adjustable push rods.  It is possible you may have a brand new defective lifter if the noise just refuses to quit or the lifter is too small for the bore and the lifters are rattling in the engine case.  It is also possible the roller needle bearings have failed.

117.  Question:  What sealant should I use on my crankcases?

Answer:  To assemble the crankshaft into the crank cases use ThreeBond 1104 case sealant.

118.  Question:  My engine was increased in power, but it is hard starting even with compression releases.  What is wrong?

Answer:  Many riders totally forget to upgrade the battery and battery cable after increasing cubic inches or compression.  What you need is a new fine-strand battery cables.  Terry Components makes them.  Get a high-output battery too.  If you still have trouble then get a stronger aftermarket starter motor/solenoid assembly.

119.  Question:  My Harley has a oil tank.  When I check the oil in the morning when engine is cold the oil is low.  Where does the oil go?

Answer:  It is normal for the oil level to be below the center line of the oil tank when the engine is cold.  This is because the hot oil has cooled and contracted.  If you see the oil too low in the oil tank (aka oil bag) the oil level could have been low even when hot or the check valve in the oil p ump is failing letting the oil drain down into the crankcase.  This is an easy fix and will not be expensive to repair.

120.  Question:  I installed new brake pads but they did not last long.  What went wrong?

Answer:  The brake pads may be racing pads?  If so, they won't last for street use.  Use a H-H sintered metal brake pad is okay and will last a long time.  Carbon fiber (organic) brake pads also last a long time, but they dirty the rims.  Another reason brake pads wear out quickly is because the brake caliper is dirty and can not shed heat.  If you look at the back side of the brake calipers make sure that side too is clean as they are often coated in brake pad soot which is a heat insulator and will overheat the brake pads.  Another cause of low pad life is buying inferior brand pads.  If  you do not lubricate the pad pins in the caliper the pads will freeze in place and rub too  much when no brake lever/pedal pressure is applied.  You could also need to bleed your brakes as air in the system will also keep the pads locked on the disk rotor wearing out both the pad and rotor prematurely.  A heavily scored rotor will also wear down new pads quicker than normal.  Just buy a new rotor.

121.  Question:  I have battery problems.  Sometimes it charges and other times it does not.  What causes this?

Answer:  The problem could just be the cooling fins on the rectifier voltage regulator is dirty.  Clean the fins so the unit can shed heat properly.  Pull the electrical connector and clean the contacts.  Look for contacts that are not touching due to a pulled-back connector.  Check the ground strap on the battery's negative terminal on the battery and the frame ground.  Clean the connections with light sandpaper.  It is possible you have an alternator problem, but load test your battery first as that is likely the cause of trouble.  Any dealer can load test a battery.  Check the alternator leads as you did with the voltage regulator.  If you can smell any burned wires that will lead you to the culprit.  A service manual will be your best friend, so consult with it. 

122.  Question:  Where should I install the oil filter magnet on the oil filter?

Answer:  Anywhere is fine.  Does not matter if it is on the side of the oil filter or on the end cap.  You can buy any magnet at Lowes hardware store.  You do not need a super powerful magnet sold at dealerships.  The particles being captured are "dust" not chips of ferrous metal. The magnet will not capture non-ferrous dust particles, but thankfully these metals are soft and not damaging to an engine.

123.  Question:  Have been reading your articles DYNO TUNING, regarding installation of after market pipes and air filters and would appreciate your comments considering the following scenarios. I purchased COBRA FI2000R-Cl product which is not self tuning but 3 pot system. After successfully installing all these products, the bike runs well with a noticeable increase in torque and power. I would like to check the AIR/FUEL RATIO that the unit is producing and I have been told the best way to do this is to check the spark plugs , Is this correct? I installed new plugs, took it for a good ride and checked the plugs. My concern is this; The back cylinder plug show a light tan/grey color which indicates the AIR/FUEL RATIO is about right. The front cylinder plug is white which I believe indicates a LEAN running cylinder if I have understood this correctly? My question is, is it common to have different FUEL/AIR ratios in both cylinders or do I have a problem? If I turn up the pots to increase fuel will I over compensate the rear cylinder and make it too rich while trying to make the front cylinder richer or should I just leave settings as set by COBRA and hope it settles down and recalibrates the ECU. People tell me that it is better to be RICH than LEAN, is this correct.

Answer: Better to enrich the mixture a bit at a time.  The rear cylinder on air-cooled V-Twins normally runs a bit more lean, but in your case it is reversed.  But I would check one thing first, you may have a small air leak at the throttle body area.  This will make an imbalanced air mixture, a lean mixture.  There are two ways to check this air leak.  Start the bike and let it idle and squirt a generous amount of  WD-40 at the gaskets/joints.  If you hear an RPM change you found the air leak.  Harley's use a propane gas mixture like a copper pipe soldering gas cylinder with no flame.  You let the gas escape around the gaskets/o-rings at the throttle body.  If the engine RPM's increase you got an air leak.  Replace the gasket or o-ring.  If you have a carburetor they too can crack and leak air as the intake manifold itself.  If you have no air leak, enrich the mixture.  Also, you should do a compression check and check the intake and exhaust valve lash.  A tight or worn leaking valve will create lower compression and leak air from an unseated valve, usually the intake valve and that can also create the unbalanced air mixture condition you describe.   Ignition timing can make for a lean condition too, but I doubt this is the case.  Be aware, tan is the right color for the spark plug, white is dangerously hot and lean and can burn a hole in the piston crown.  Brown is worn piston rings, black is oil burning.  But, making the spark plugs run in the light or even dark black rich mode will not hurt the engine at all.  It just ruins gas mileage.  For now, just try enriching the fuel mixture using the pot on your Cobra fuel processor which should add fuel to the lean cylinder to burn a tan color on the spark plug.  It may or may not enrich the rich-black color cylinder's spark plug.  Experimentation is required here.  This should solve the problem, or at least should be the first step to take. 

124.  Question:  Even with an oil cooler my 113 c.i. Harley runs too hot.  What more can I do to lower the heat?

Answer:  You can install two oil coolers.  You can install a Jims Forceflow air cooler which is a fan that can lower temperatures by 100 degrees.  You can install a heat shield so the engine heat will not overheat your thigh.  You can try using Royal Purple brand oil which also has shown to reduce engine heat. 

125.  Question:  I need to learn more about the Twin-Cam engine cam chain tensioner defect.  Is there a source I can see some pictures of what is defective?

Answer:  Yes, many motorcycle magazines have run numerous articles on this.  Road Iron Magazine has one such article.  Look for the Number 23 Issue of September 2013 (a back issue). 

126.  Question:  I want to install a six-speed transmission in my Harley.  Is this hard to do?

Answer:  Yes & No.  Before you do contact your H-D dealer and see what they have to say pertaining to your specific model bike.  Then before you buy a Baker transmission contact them and see if there are any interference fit issues like relocating exhaust pipes as the six-speed transmissions are wider and can cause such problems.  Some overdrive units can not be installed on some models of motorcycles.  Other than that any competent mechanic can install one for you.  The price is high though.  Have you considered changing the primary chain case gear ratio?  How about the rear wheel pulley?  As this one method of reducing the size of the rear wheel pulley about three or four teeth smaller will give you lower rpm's and better gas mileage and you can do it yourself in a couple hours time with no special tools required for couple hundred dollars or less.  H-D does sell alternate size pulleys.

127.  Question:  ThunderMax EFI system is too expensive.  Is there another product?

Answer:  Yes, ThunderMax now makes a half-price system that is an entire Engine Control Management (ECM) computer to match the exhaust you have on your bike.  It is called the Exhaust Matched Series ECM. Check it out.  There are other systems that piggyback on the stock ECM, but the best way to go is to get a new ECM like the ThunderMax.  And with the price at $500 where can you buy a ECM for that low price?  Keep this in mind if you ever find you need a new ECM.  Don't pay the big bucks.  Get this product instead!

128.  Question:  I need my front fork oil changed but the dealer wants to charge me over 2 hours labor. Is this correct?

Answer:  Yes, if they do not have the proper tools which many shops do not have, believe it or not.  The proper tool is the Jims Vacuum Fed Fork Filling Tool.  It only requires 30 minutes labor to do the job.  Ask the shop to get this tool then let them do the job for that lower labor rate.  Better yet, learn to do the job yourself.  Just buy a service manual and go to work.  Every biker should know how to wrench on his bike and today is always a good time to learn.

130.  Question:  My EFI Harley stalls when idle even when engine is hot.  How do I fix this? 

Answer:  Many things can cause this, but before you take it to a shop try this.... Open the gas cap and listen.  If you hear air venting then the gas cap is not venting properly creating a vacuum in the gas tank, so replace the gas cap or see if there is an obstruction in the hoses to the air pollution canister and fuel intake manifold.  Remove the air cleaner element and look at the butterfly valve.  It may be prevented from closing due to oil blow-by crud, so spray carburetor cleaner on a cloth rag and wipe the crud away.  That is a major cause of a Electronic Fuel Injection (EFI) engine to stall or hesitate at or just off idle when opening the throttle gently.  Fuel filter inside the gas tank fuel pump assembly could be clogging up.  Dirty injector?  Get some Chevron Techron EFI cleaner and dose it to the gasoline in the gas tank... this stuff really will work to clean the entire fuel trace.  Try a better grade of gasoline too along with octane of 91 or higher as cheap gas can be junk-laden and gum up small orifices.  Also, don't forget to load-test the battery as a low-charged or failing battery is a prime culprit in rough running engine troubles.  UPG Batteries are to be investigated as these are really great batteries.  If you ride bagger motorcycle with lots of auxiliary electrical toys you need a better than stock battery.  And, big engines also need better batteries.  Any bike over 100 cubic inches should have a higher grade battery.

131.  Question:  I have an oil leak, but I can not seem to find where it may be.  What can I do to find the leak? 

Answer:  Finding leaks can be tricky as the leak seeps and windy air currents smear the oil.  Clean the area then apply Dr. Scholl's foot powder (or talcum powder) near the oil seal or gasket.  Run the engine and watch the area and the leak should be found.

132.  Question:  I like spoke wire wheels.  Can they be fixed if I get a flat tire? 

Answer:  They do make tubeless tires to fit spoke wheels that are actually sealed spokes making the wheel a sealed air unit.  But if you have traditional spoke wheels they can be fixed on the side of the road if you have a lightweight bike so you can lift the bike off the ground to remove the wheel.  Most cruisers are too heavy to do this, so they need to try "tube in a can" or call a tow truck.  I never recommend anyone to buy traditional spoke wheels that require an inner tube to inflate the tire. They are too dangerous as they can blow-out and they can not be flat-tire-fixed on the side of the road.  Plus, who wants to true the wheels by adjusting spokes?  I sure don't need the added time and grief dealing with spoke wheels.  Cast wheels also allow you more choices on tire selection.  It sure is lousy when you are stuck with old style tires that get poor miles between tire changes.

133.  Question:  My mechanic says I can get better gas miles if I buy a reusable oil filter. True? 

Answer:  You can gain one horsepower as the reusable oil filter offers less oil pumping resistance.  You can gain a bit more lubrication and cooling too, but is the price ($200) worth such small gains?  I don't recommend these filters because they require cleaning which takes more time to change the oil on the motorcycle.  I want less work, not more.

134.  Question:  Should I consider selling my Harley-Davidson V-Rod to buy a Sportster?

Answer: The V-rod has a few defects or some may consider minor problems.  It is a fast bike, but the problems prevent me from buying one. 

1.  Cylinder heads are cracking.  It is a mystery as to why, so there is no fix that I am aware of by Harley-Davidson. Click here for a sample

link.  Search the Internet to see if a cure has been initiated.

2.  The sound of the engine exhaust (even with aftermarket pipes) is a blurred together and has a unpleasant loud resonance.

3.  The intake and exhaust valves must be adjusted and the engine must be lowered from the frame to gain access to the valve covers.  A big time-consuming job and an expensive one too if a dealer does the job.

4.  The rear tire is exceedingly fat which makes the bike heavy in turns and costs a fortune to replace, and, the tire wears out quickly.

5.  Fuel mileage is poor due to the monstrous power of the engine, of course.

6.  Visually, one cylinder is shorter than the other which gives the engine a lopsided appearance. 

7.  The extreme clamshell riding position is unpleasant for longer rides.  Okay for drag racing.  The V-Rod is a drag bike, but the engine

randomly cracking cylinder heads is a serious defect and that alone is reason to not buy one or to sell the one you have back to Harley-Davidson as a trade-in for a new Sportster.

8.  The cost to overhaul the engine on the V-Rod appears to be a very expensive ordeal.  Where's the aftermarket parts for the V-Rod?  As the bike ages, engine parts will be needed and there are few aftermarket manufacturers' to buy pistons, heads, cylinders, pistons, etc.  You'll need to buy from a H-D dealer which will cost you dearly, even if you do the job yourself. 

9.  V-Rod's have a dangerous profile as car drivers find it hard to see the bike for it is skinny and the rider is crouched low.  This make the bike dangerous. 

10.  The engine is powerful and if you dare tap into that power you will get speeding tickets and worse, going too fast for conditions to stop or slow down to evade an accident.  Powerful motorcycles truly are dangerous on the street.

11.  You may not at first enjoy a Sportster 1200 after riding a V-Rod, but you will be making a better decision in the long term and you will learn to love the Sportster and realize that huge cubic inch engines are nothing but trouble and too expensive to own. 

12.  The Sportster engine is a racing-proven engine.  The V-Rod Evolution engine is also a racing engine design, but it has a defect of cracking heads.  It means if you fix the head, it can crack again, and again, and again.  A never ending problem and expense.  The Sportster has no known engine defects.  Go ahead, search the Internet and you will not find the newer Sportsters having any serious engine problems.

  I have had 20 motorcycles including the big 125 c.i.d. engines.  When I test rode the 2012 1200 c.i.d. custom Sportser I was hooked on the felt power and nimble handling and the sound of the exhaust has that perfect H-D sound.  My advice?  Trade-in your V-Rod and buy a nice brand spanking new Custom Sportster 1200 XL.  You can customize it online just the way you want it.  You'll have no engine defects to haunt you.  It truly is a perfected engine and ultra-reliable.  S&S also makes bigger pistons, etc., if you want more power.  Harley-Davidson has an engine exchange program for the Twin-Cam engines to be remanufactured.  Why?  Because the Twin-Cam engines are always breaking down, wearing out, failing in all manner of ways.  There is no such program for the Sportster because the engines do not break down. They may wear out over time, but they do not break, so there is no need for an exchange program for the Sportster Evolution engine. 

 And the parts are cheaper for Sportsters, a lot cheaper than V-Rod or Twin-Cam engines and accessories.  Buy a new Sportster as the price is right and you get all the modern technology along with a perfected engine.  One more thing, you'll get 50 miles to the gallon of gas or even 60 miles at times saving you more money.  And you can overhaul the top-end without having to dismount the engine from the frame and the cost of parts lower, plentiful and easily discounted in price.

 Plus, have you noticed how hot 1200 Sportsters are lately?  Have you noticed more and more big dudes are riding them?  It is the best Harley-Davidson ever made for price and value.  Plus, you can make it a bagger if you wish.  Custom bike builders are creating awesome Sportster choppers too.

135.  Question:  Should I upgrade to a gear drive cam system on my Twin-Cam engine?

Answer:  Good question and good timing.  Baggers Magazine, get and read the December 13 issue.  I just read the two articles on adding horsepower and crankshaft slipping problems.  It will help you.

I wrote on my Web site the gear drive is no fix as the crankshaft pinion bearing wears out the gears will clash together bending the pinion shaft.  You will then need a new engine if it grenades or a new crankshaft. The crankshaft article proves me right that gears will be no cure.

But, if you do weld the webs on your crankshaft at least you will get miles from the crankshaft preventing the pinion shaft from running out of true (the webs slip it creates a pinion shaft hop, up and down).  Main crankshaft bearings will wear and the hop will return even if the webs are welded, so again, there is no cure for this poor engineering problem.  Harley's Evolution engine has gear driven cams and independent oil pump design which is superior to the chain drive system in the Twin-Cam engines.  It is why I stay clear of Twin-Cam engines, they are nothing but trouble in the making due to defects in the design that can not be 100% corrected.  A big, bored out Sportster Evolution engine would be the cure, but only the Sportster has that perfect engine that will never fail.  It will eventually wear out, but it will not fail catastrophically like the Twin-Cam engines do.

You could upgrade to the newer hydraulic operated cam chain tensioner system and buy a Roland Sands Clarity cam chest cover.  The outer shoe can tnen be seen at a glance.  When you see this outer shoe worn down you will know the inner is also worn down too and its time to replace both shoes.  That is the route I would go as the shoes last longest this way.  If you do the job yourself it is cost effective preventative maintenance. 

Another problem is a hopped up engine stresses everything in the engine and amplifies the defects.  You can expect more expensive repairs as the engine and drive components fail... and they will fail   Few riders want to acknowledge it, but when you get your first bad-news repair bill, you'll finally understand and see the light.

If you do hop up the engine, use a big bore if you want, but do not stoke the crankshaft and use mild cams for torque increase.  No need to port the heads or install larger valves for street use.

I hope this advice helps.

136.  Question:  I have a Harley-Davidson Six-Speed Cruise Drive transmission. It is noisy.  What's the cure?

Answer:  Prior to year 2010 the fifth gear was a straight-cut gear which made an annoying whining noise.  Using a heavier than normal transmission oil cures the noise problem.  85W-140 weight motorcycle transmission oil.  Bel-Ray Gear Saver is an oil you can use.

137.  Question:  I have a Harley-Davidson that drips oil from the air cleaner making a mess.  How do I stop this?

Answer:  The explanation can be complex for this medium so I will give you the quick cure which is to reduce the oil level in your oil tank one pint lower than normal. Make sure you check your oil when the engine is hot and when you shut off the engine, check the oil level right away.  Use a battery suction bulb (or a kitchen turkey baster) to suction out the hot oil.  If your recent oil change get dirty quickly you may have worn piston rings pressurizing the crankcase increasing blow-by which overloads the breather system and that will also pump oil into your carburetor air cleaner.  Use a thicker (high viscosity) engine oil may help until you repladce the piston rings.  Keep in mind that oil pump may be weak too and needs to be replaced with an "upgraded" higher pressure, increased flowing oil pump.  Stock Twin-Cam oil pumps have had scavenging and pressure drop problems so the aftermarket has a fix.  Sportsters do not have weak oil pumps, but if piston rings wear out they too can see oil drips from the air cleaner as the crankcase becomes over pressurized.

138.  Question:  I have a Harley-Davidson Sportster.  When should I have my cam chain tensioner pads checked?

Answer:  All Sportsters have no cam chains or tensioners as they use gears to drive the four cams from the crankshaft.  You never have to check these gears as part of a routine maintenance plan.  Lucky you, the Sportster engine has zero defects.  Just change the primary chain case, transmission and engine oil and go.

139.  Question:  I have a Harley-Davidson Twin Cam with hydraulic cam chain tensioner so when should I inspect those tensioner shoes?

Answer: Some advise 80,000 to 100,000 miles, but considering the awful destructive instantaneous engine destruction that occurs when those tensioners fail I would not wait that long to inspect them.  What you should do is buy a Roland Sands Clarity Cam Cover so you can visually see with ease the wear on the outer shoe and use that as a indicator to measure wear.  It will cost you thousands of dollars if those tensioners fail as the engine will seize up from lack of oil feeding to the engine (metal filings clog the oil pump).  See Question #117 above.   

139.  Question:  I new Harley-Davidson Sportster with aftermarket pipes and air cleaner with a Vance & Hines Fuel Pak fuel manager, but when I accelerate I get a pinging noise from the engine. What do I do now? 

Answer:  The pinging is the lean condition conflict taking place between the Fuel Pak and the ECM computer and the ECM and O2 sensors.  If you put better flowing pipes and air cleaner the engine runs lean and the Fuel Pak is failing.  It is misinterpreting the fuel map in the ECM (or ECU, same thing it is the main engine control computer).  Get rid of the Fuel Pak, that is the first step. Next, you will need to richen the fuel mixture.  You got to use a device and a computer in most cases, unless you install the Xied which is a simple plug and play device.  Here's the link:  That's the route I would take at this time as it is the least costly.  Tell them you want the 8% fuel enrichment unit or higher if available.  I installed it and it worked good for my Sportster.  Not perfect, but very close once warmed up.

Even an octane booster will not work to get rid of the ping noise.  That ping is damaging, it is the fuel igniting before the normal spark advance setting, exploding the gas which is hammering the piston and piston rings.  The piston will crack and/or the rings so beware... do not let the ping be heard when riding, back off the throttle.  It is deadly to the engine and very expensive to fix as the parts that crack migrate into the crankcase and bearings and metal particles circulate in the oil and ruins the entire engine... the entire engine will be destroyed!  See our or flyer below as it reduces the need to use high octane fuel in gas engines saving you money at the fuel pump.

Don't let this be damning to your Harley experience as the metric bikes will also run into these problems too.  The entire industry is in flux and it seems mfg's are making changes so fast aftermarket suppliers just can't keep up.  Xied has kept up, so has Zippers:

Xied works, to a point.  Not perfect, but should smooth out and stop the ping.  Zippers Thunder Max is costly, but it cures all problems and is not "married" to the bike so you can take it with you for other Sportster's (but new 2014 models have changed).  I admit, the situation is frustrating and messy and few understand what is going on.




140.  Question:  What is your opinion of the S&S Twin-Cam engine?  And, the Harley-Davidson Street 500 & 750 Revolution X engine?


1.  S&S engines do not have the defects the Twin-Cam engine has.  They have fixed the defects.  I suggest you make sure the engine will fit into your bike's frame using the stock frame rubber-mounted engine mounts, otherwise vibration will be an issue of concern.  Fitment into the stock frame is possible so check with S&S for a solution to make sure it fits your frame.  I would, if it were for my bike frame, get the specification and fitment in writing so if the engine does not fit you can obtain a full and complete refund.  Don't rely on telephone conversations as they are not binding.  I say this not because S&S is disingenuous (they are not) just that to buy any expensive engine that will not fit the frame can be a financial disaster if the company refuses to refund fully.  You got to make sure you can obtain a complete refund without any restocking fees or other charges.  Even the shipping charge to ship a heavy engine costs hundreds of dollars one-way.  Will you be able to obtain at least a return-postage?  Even if you hire a shop to do the engine installation, make sure you get from the engine mfg. a guarantee that the engine ordered will indeed fit your motorcycle's frame.  Don't make mistakes here.  Don't rely on the repair shop's verbal promises and guarantees because if the engine does not fit they will resist helping you and even suing them in court will take months and you could lose more money if you do not win the case (especially if nothing is in writing you can't win).  Engine purchases need a written contract as the item is expensive (thousands of dollars) to purchase.  Hire a lawyer to draft a contract agreement with the shop and manufacturer both to sign and agree along with your signature.  Better to pay $100 to lose $5,000.  

2.  Not so certain the new Harley-Davidson Street model engines are yet reliable or defective.  Read magazine articles as they are doing test rides.  Not sure if valve adjustments are needed, frequency and if engine must be dropped out of the frame like the V-Rod to get to the rear cylinder valves.  Too new to tell.  My advice?  Stay away from a new bike until they work out the bugs.  It can take three years to work out the problems, or longer.  Some problems are never fixed, so beware.  Another problem of buying a new release bike is that you can't easily or cheaply find and install accessories. 

141.  Question:  What oil can I use in my Twin-Cam Transmission to reduce noise?

Answer:  Most mechanics advise using a thicker high-viscosity motorcycle transmission oil.  Speeds Performance Plus recommends Bel-Ray brand being a very quiet oil and improves shifting dramatically.  

142.  Question:  What Twin-Cam engine can be built huge, but reliable?

Answer: Consider 124 cubic inch with S&S crankshaft with Timken bearings along with mild compression pistons.  S&S camshafts with  Easy Start automatic compression release. R&R Cycle Stage V cylinder heads.  Speeds Performance Plus offset rocker arms to realign lifter/pushrod geometry and to keep them quiet.  S&S oversize throttle body.  This engine can produce 144 horsepower and is reliable, but powerful beasts like this will not be a reliable as a stock engine.  You will also need to upgrade the clutch disks and upgrade the primary system to a belt drive to take the power.  Upgrade the hydraulic lifters.  Jims, S&S and Fueling have upgraded lifters and Consider a large oil cooler too.    

   143.  Question: My Harley Softail started shutting off when downshifting coming to stop.  Usually from 4th to 3rd, but also from 3rd to 2nd.  What can cause this issue?  It seems to happen when the engine is hot, not cold.  It starts up immediately when put into neutral, but it’s very disconcerting when you are in traffic and someone is behind you.

Answer:  It could be the computer is sensing a fault and shutting the engine down, which is very dangerous to ride the bike, so stop riding it.  Harley has a analyzer that can find the problem.  These problems are not easy to diagnose.  It can be a simple side-stand switch going bad or a communication failure of an engine or interlocking sensor.  Read your owner manual and see how you recover any failure codes from the ECU.  It may tell you what device has failed for an easy fix.  If that won't work you'll need to have the bike put on the analyzer.

144.  Question:  What Oil Should I use in my Harley-Davidson Sportster?

Answer: Sportsters are different than Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam engines.  When examining oil labels do not look for a oil that is suitable for primary chain use or an oil  suitable for transmission use as those oils are for V-Twin Twin-Cam types or older big-twin like the Shovel, Pan and Evo engines.  What you need to look for is an oil that specifically says, "Oil can be used in engine, transmission and primary chain case."  Or look at the oil container's label that says, "SAE 20W-50 oil" so you can use that in your engine oil compartment only.  Then look at oil labels that say, "Motorcycle transmission and primary chain case oil."   You can't use, "Primary lubricant" in your primary chain case like the Twin-Cam engines do because the Sportster shares the same oil for the primary chain case and the transmission.  That's what makes selecting oil for a Sportster a tad tricky.  So, you can certainly find a SAE 20W-50 oil that is labeled to be used in all three compartments (engine, transmission, primary chain case) to make life easier so you can use that one oil in your Sportster's two compartments (engine oil and transmission/primary compartments).  That is the easiest way to find the correct oil for your Sportster.  Perhaps a test will help such as;

Q. Can I use motorcycle transmission oil in a Sportster?
A.  No.  The oil must be rated on the oil container to be used in both the transmission and primary chain case.   

Q. Can I use motorcycle primary chain case lubricant oil in a Sportster?
A.  No.  The oil must be rated on the oil container to be used in both the transmission and primary chain case.

Q. Can I use motorcycle transmission or primary chain case oil in a Sportster's engine oil compartment?
A.  No.  The oil must be rated on the oil container to be used as the engine oil only rated as SAE 20W-50.

Q. Can I use a motorcycle oil that is formulated to be used in transmission, primary and engine oil in a Sportster?
A.  Yes.  The oil must be SAE 20W-50.  The label will clearly say the oil is okay to use in all three engine compartments; engine, transmission, primary.  Most full-synthetic oils is the way to go as they usually service all three engine compartments.  This way you buy one oil for all of your oil changes. 

Here's and example below of a full-synthetic AmsOil brand of oil you can use in your Harley-Davidson Sportster or Twin-Cam engine.


20W-50 Advanced Synthetic Motorcycle Oil


Advanced multi-functional formula for both domestic and foreign motorcycles. Excellent in air-cooled motorcycle engines due to high heat resistance. Can be used in engines, transmissions and the primary chain case. Not recommended where an API GL-4 or GL-5 gear oil is required.


  If you need more help go to a Harley-Davidson dealer and look at the oil container labels that they offer.  You'll catch on once you get more familiar with selecting oils for your Sportster.  Just remember a Sportster has only two oil compartments, one compartment for the engine oil and one compartment for both transmission and primary case oil.  The Twin-Cam engine has three separate compartments, one compartment for the engine oil, one compartment for the transmission and one compartment for the primary chain case. 

  Go to a Harley-Davidson dealership and look at all the oils they produce.  Read the labels and see which oil you can use or should never use in your Sportster.  Then take a look at the Syn3 oil and it will make your choice easy as it will say it is okay to use in all three engine compartments.  That is the full-synthetic type of oil I use in my own Harley-Davidson motorcycles; Syn3, Amsoil or Red Line brands. 


144.  Question:  I want to install a carburetor on my EFI Harley.  Is there any possible way to do this?

Answer: Yes, you can.  There is a device made in Germany called the AMM-PS.  Click here to the AMM.Haan Website.  They have instruction sheet you can download that explains the procedure.  This link is for the Sportster Conversion Procedure.  They have links for other Harley models on their main Website.  Is it legal?  Not sure if pollution control system will pass a given state inspection.  The benefit?  No more expensive trips to the Harley-Davidson dealer to fix the bike.  It's like going back to the old days where you can fix your own engine.

145.  Question:  I just read in a couple of different places that the Sportster has a pressed together crank shaft also. Why is this crank any more reliable than the twin cam?

Answer:  It is possible to still break a Sportster crank or toss it out of balance, but it takes wheelie-like abuse to do it, where you can drive a Twin-Cam normally and the rowdy engine pulses pushes the crankshaft out of balance due to the brute force of the Twin-Cam's power delivery to the entire drive line.  The Twin-Cam's engine pulses and reciprocating mass is so violent a compensator device is installed in hopes to tame some of the damaging pulses, but it does not dampen enough.  On the other hand, Sportster's have no compensator device in the primary system because it is not needed.  Why?  The Sportster is a highly refined racing engine and has power, but is much smoother and gentler on drive line components.  The Sportster has four-cams each geared tightly to further control the precise opening and closing of the valves which creates power without erratic hysterics in the valve train which equals very smooth power and the push rods are not twisted, but are straight-up vertical for even more valve control and smoother power production. 

All motorcycle racing engines, including the Japanese racing bikes, all have gear-driven-cascading gears without using cam chains to drive the cams.  The Twin-Cam engine's valve timings are way out of control with two cam chains both having serious slack and the push rods are twisted to only make the geometry more inefficient to create erratic damaging power pulses, so a compensator helps, but still not enough to tame the monster.  The Twin-Cam is actually a rowdy beast of an engine that can shake itself to pieces and cook itself to death.  Even the Sportster's' 1200 engines have cooling oil circulating around the exhaust valve seats way before water-cooling was implemented in the larger Twin-Cam engines to control heat and valve seat cracking.  So, the Sportster engine is so smooth (relative to the Twin-Cam engine) the crankshaft is not being jarred to death with slamming power pulses from the pistons and the Sportster has a lot less engine component mass.  It all adds up to refined, reliable, power delivery and this means the pressed crankshaft in the Sportster can take the stress with ease and not slip its webs out of alignment. 

The Sportster 1200 engine is Harley-Davidson's most perfectly designed 45-degree engine ever made.  It is so reliable it is outright delightful to own one especially the models with rubber-mounted engines and 39mm and larger front forks.  The new Harley-Davidson Sportster's are amazing motorcycles as they got the feel of the torque of the big-twin with ultimate reliability.  They are no longer considered, "a girl's bike" or "a beginner's bike" as they have the light weight quick power like a sport bike.  Add bags and windshield and you got a nice little bagger.  If you ask around you won't find a modern Sportster with engine defects or crankshafts failing as you'll routinely discover in the Twin-Cam engines.

146.  Question:  What Would Cause My Engine To Burn Oil With Low Mileage?  I Have The Water Cooled Engine. 

Answer: Overheating the engine will cause the engine's piston rings to warp and blow oil into the combustion chamber.  If you accelerate and see blue oil smoke from the exhaust it is a piston ring problem or warped/burned piston.  If you decelerate and see blue oil smoke from the exhaust it is a valve oil seal problem usually fried and cracked from overheating the engine.  Stop & Go traffic can overheat the engine quickly especially with the larger 110+ size Twin-Cam engines.  Aftermarket cylinder cooling fans and larger oil cooler should be installed.  Do not rely on the Twin-Cam water-cooled cylinder head to cool the engine as it won't stop engine damage.  The water is only used to cool the exhaust valve seats and that is all it will cool.  Water-cooled Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam engines will not cool the pistons or the crankshaft.  You can warp the pistons and rings and fry the valve guide seals even with the water cooled engines.  

147.  Question:  I need vintage Harley parts.  Help!

Answer: Stay calm.  Here's three sources:  Bill's Custom Cycles, Road Dog Cycle and Cycle Warehouse.

148.  Question:  What tire pressure should I use?  The motorcycle frame nameplate or the tire pressure information on the tire?

Answer: You use the frame nameplate when using the same stock tire that came with the bike when new.  If you have a different tire brand or style installed you then use the air pressure recommended on the tire. 

149.  Question:  How do I know when to replace the cam chain tensioners in my Twin-Cam Harley-Davidson engine?

Answer: When you remove the cam cover you will see the outer plastic/nylon tensioner which looks like a orange color piece of plastic pressed up against the outer cam chain.  If it is more than 0.090" worn, which is half-way through the tensioner pad material, replace it.  But you also need to replace the inner tensioner, which is a much more involved process.  You got to replace both, especially the inner one that you can't see as it wears out quicker than the outer tensioner and is likely at or near the point of failure when the outer pad is half-way worn down.  Failure to replace these two pads can result in a totally destroyed engine and may even lock up the rear wheel and cause you to crash from a seized engine usually by metal chips blocking the oil pump.  This replacement procedure applies to the newer late model engines using the hydraulic cam chain tensioners.  Nothing has changed except the hydraulic system applies less pressure and less wear on the tensioner material, but it will still wear out and if the pads are not replaced, the engine will be destroyed.  The problem has not been cured!

150.  Question:  The compensator in my Harley-Davidson keeps failing.  What can I do next?

Answer: Install a BDL compensator.  It has a totally different design that can not fail and is of a way less complicated design and is half the weight of the stock unit.

151.  Question:  What is the quickest, cheapest way to gain more horsepower on my Harley?

Answer: Install E-3 brand or Iridium spark plugs, install new silicone 8.2mm spark plug wires (8mm size silicone wire is okay too) and install a reusable oil filter.  You will easily get 3 to 5 horsepower just from these three items alone.  And that includes bone stock bikes and engines with enhanced stage tune-ups/fuel remapped bikes the power increase will even be higher.  Fuel mileage also increases with these three modifications so you get power and economy and a smoother, cooler-running highly efficient engine. 

152.  Question:  Is in normal for Harley's to make clunk noises when shifting?

Answer: Yes.  Harley's have loud clunking transmissions and also have difficult to use clutch lever pressures with models that do not have a hydraulic clutch activation system.  The noise from the transmission, even clattering noises, are often normal.  Other motorcycle manufacturers have easy clutch levers and quiet transmission gears, but they can do that because they are not Harleys! 


153.  Question:  My Harley engine is gradually becoming rough-running and hesitating.  What is causing this?

Answer: Most of the time it is the Mass Air Flow sensor that is dirty and in need of cleaning.  You can purchase a special cleaning agent in a spray can at automotive parts store and spray the sensor heavily.  The sensor is located behind the air filter element beyond the butterfly valve in fuel injected engines.  Open the throttle and the butterfly valve will open and spray the sensor hanging out in the air flow in the manifold.  Don't rub it with a cloth, finger or cotton swab, just let the cleaning spray do its job.  The bike will be hard to start when finished as the spray likely will flood the cylinders, but it will start up after a few tries.  The engine should return back to normal smooth running once the MAS sensor is clean.  If you still have rough-running you may have a tank of bad gasoline or the wrong grade of fuel.  Make sure your gas cap clicks at least six times when closing it so no vacuum is created inside the gas tank which will create rough-running and hesitations.  Change your spark plug wires and spark plugs.  If that does not help, then have your dealer scan the computer for more failed sensors.  Don't use too much gasoline additives in the fuel as this overconcentration additive to fuel ratio can cause rough-running. 


154.  Question:  My disk brake squeals.  Is there a fix for this?

Answer: Most of the time you just need to clean the disk to remove the glaze from dust and weather that has formed on it.  If there's plenty of meat left on the brake pads, and the rotors are not warped or too thin beyond their wear limit and the brake fluid is clean, just buy a contractor size graphite pencil and scribble the graphite on both sides of the disk brake rotor.  This will stop the squeal noise.  If you feel any pulsations in the brake lever it means you have a warped rotor which must be replaced (turning rotors on motorcycles are not allowed).

155.  Question:  Belt drive on my motorcycle makes a loud rubbing noise.  What can I do to fix this?

Answer: Make sure the rear wheel alignment is close to equalization.  Even with a perfectly aligned wheel you may notice the drive belt is still not riding in the center of the pulley and rubbing on the left or right side rim of the pulley.  This is considered normal.  Lubricate both the left and right edges of the drive belt with candle wax, a block of soap or a black color crayon.  Generally it is dust on the belt that causes the noise so a little lubricant will quiet down the belt noise.


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