In this instructional video, motorcycle guru Frank Kaisler walks you through the care and service of Harley-Davidson's venerable Shovelhead engine. Frank shares hard-earned tips and tricks along with important information that have served him so well over the past four decades. He includes many aspects of engine tune and service which are covered in this video: changing fluids, valve train, ignition, timing, fuel system, electrical and more.
Follow Frank's tips and tricks and you'll build the skills you need to resurrect that old project and keep your bike running strong with confidence. There is over 2 hours of killer content here. Grab an adult beverage, grab some tools, get in that garage and get after it, Enjoy!
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You can read the full full transcription of this video below:
Frank Kaisler: Hello, I'm Frank Kaisler, and today we're going to deal with Shovelhead motorcycles. Shovelhead power motorcycles have been around from '66 to '84. They're my favorite engine. I've ridden, fooled with, blown up, tore down, rebuilt, chromed everything in these engines for years and years. They're simple, they're easy to work on, there's no problem why yours can't run as good as mine. Let's get to it.
The first generation had generator cases so basically what the factory would do is they would change either the top end or the lower end of the motor. These lower ends had been produced in one form or another from Panhead from 1948 up to '84, it's just that in '66 they put a Shovelhead top end on instead of the Panhead. The reason it's called a Shovelhead top end is these rocker boxes. If you look at a flat shovel like a coal shovel, if anybody remembers what that is, and turned it over it would fit over the top of the rocket box like a glove, that's why it's considered a Shovelhead.
They featured internal drain back through the cases-- I mean, through the rocket boxes, through the heads, through the cylinders, into the lower end. It was fed via outside oil line up through the rocker boxes through each rocker arm shaft all the way forward. They built these from '66 to 1969. In 1970 they changed the lower ends and put an alternator on, which did away with this part of the engine case and exposed the other side of the case to a larger diameter where they would put the alternator.
Carburetor for Shovelheads. They came with a Tillotson one year, they came with a DC Linkert one year, then they went to the Bendix. Bendix was the most prolific. I forget what year it was, but they went to the Butterfly can and then to the CV. CV's, I think, were only last year. Around 1980 or '81 is when they went to what they call dual throttle carburetor. The reason for the dual carbo throttle, was somebody wrecked their bike, blamed the factory on the throttle didn't close so now they would go to a dual cable. One cable would open the carburetor, the other would pull it close.
You could hear the distinctive snap of the carburetor closing, that's because of a lawsuit, and that's the only reason. Every carburetor and every fuel injector system made since then has dual cables. It may look a little unsightly, but sometimes it's safe for people who don't really get the product of closing the throttle all the way. The outstanding carburetor, again, for performance on a Shovelhead, is this S&S. They made variations of this over the years from what they call the L series, which is an expanded version of the DC Linkert, which had a side bowl. They went to a B which was probably this much longer and would stick way out.
This being a Shorty E style, it comes with its own manifold that utilizes the stock o-rings and clamps, would fit on the heads like this-- Have an isolator block which we have here on a bench, and then the carburetor bolt-on like that. Tucks in nice and neat would have the big teardrop air cleaner. You'd get your leg around it which was one of the main faults of early model carburetors. They would stick so far out with the air cleaner, with the velocity stack, you couldn't get your leg around it to hit your brake pedal, or if you could you'd look like you walk bow legged.
All these S&S products are well supported by the company who's still in business to this day. They could do anything you want, they could provide special jetting, they could provide special finishes. They could rebuild your carburetor if send it back to the factory in Wisconsin. A great company, they know performance, and they know Shovelheads. They've also developed over the years stroker kits, big bore pistons, their own cylinders. Now they even have their own complete motors, Shovelhead motors.
They utilize a little bit of later model technology and have a little different look for the rocker boxes, they have internal oil line and other items like that that actually dress the motor up and made them a little bit more oil-tight and reliable. Great company to work for. If you want power from a Shovelhead, you got to have one of these or a derivative of one of these. We'll get into that more when we start fooling around with a running Shovelhead which we have out in the park and I will bring in shortly.
We're going to start the Shovelhead service. Shovelhead service is simple. We're going to pop the plugs out so we can adjust the valves, adjust the timing, do the rear chain. It's got a front belt drive. We're going to change the oil, but everything starts with the plugs. The first thing you want to do before you pull the plugs out you're going to take some compressed air and blow around the base of the plugs so that any dirt that may have been captured there is sent away so it doesn't fall into the plug holes when you pull the plugs. The plug wires come off with a little twist, leave them hanged. This is a '68, this is Jeff Lakey's Shovelhead, he just got up and running a couple of weeks ago.
He's got the short-reach plugs that were '74 and earlier back to '66. In '75 we went to a three-quarter inch reach plug. Make sure you put the right plugs back in that you took out. He's running a little rich. While we're over here, we're actually going to take the footpeg off and the primary cover off. That way we can get into the belt drive, check the tension of the belt drive and check the timing. When Jeff built the bike, he rotated the engine around to the time and markers where it should be in the middle of the hole and put a little mark on the belt drive. That way you can check over the light without getting all oily.
These custom made footpegs that Jeff put on are held in with a three eight bolt that was drilled and tapped into the end of the footpeg before it was bent and chromed. Jeff is quite the fabricator. There you see how he drilled and tapped it using a stock three eight bolt. Primary sealing case, placed with these straight head screws. With all the primary cover screws off we can pull the primary cover off, set it over here out of the way. You'll notice that Jeff has employed a inch and three-quarter inch wide belt drive with a Rivera pro clutch that has self-captured bearings. You may notice here on the front pulley he has made a yellow mark. That's to assist in timing.
What he does, he rotates the engine around, got the timing mark where it should've been, and put this little yellow mark so he can time the engine without pulling the timer plug out with the timing light and getting covered in oil. This is nice and clean, easy to do. While we're on this side we're going to jack up the rear so we can adjust the rear chain. Again we have a modified car jack from a Toyota. We just flattened out the top, put it on a piece of wood, slide it under the middle of the frame. I think we paid three dollars at the junkyard for this jack and we've had it for years. Works fine. Just get it up high enough so the rear wheel rotates.
Jeff's custom bike does not have an oil filter so oil changes are a regular occurrence. Keeping clean oil in there is a lifeblood of the engine. We're going to drain the horseshoe oil tank, it's got a drain plug right here at the back corner, the lowest part of the oil tank. Got an old pan underneath, hopefully, catches it all. Also while we're here we're going to drain the transmission. The transmission drain plug is located underneath. There's an outpoured mouth right under the kicker cover, what they call a fifth mount. Just inside that is a drain plug.
There's the drain plug. This is magnetic, you'll see it's got a little bit of metal here, not much. That's usually par for these things especially if they've been broken in, or I mean been brand new and then been broken in. You always get a little bit of led metal shavings, not much. I don't see anything here in the oil tank which is good. Get up a couple of minutes and put it back together, we got fresh oil here for the tank. We have some fresh oil over here for the transmission. The transmission drain plugs have a brass washer on them with a little shoulder so when you get close to having a drain plug snug, you want to go in there and visually check that your brass washer is seated against the case.
Okay, what we're going to do now is pour the correct amount back in and we're all ready to move on to the next phase. Oil fill cap has a built-in dipstick, it tells you what your oil level is. Since it's still warm here in California, we're going to use 60 weight oil. When it gets down to the first frost, rule of thumb is you would drop to 50 weight oil, it's thinner, easier on the motor, well it takes less time to warm up to the operating temperature.
In the summertime, you want the thickness of the 60 weight to protect the engine, helps to keep it cool. Transmission takes not quite a quart of oil, so you got to sneak up on it, not like that. There's no real scientific method of exactly how much oil to put in the transmission. The oil will gather here in the kicker cover and there's a port that goes into the main transmission case down in this region inside, so you pour oil in here let it soak, go over into the main case and then keep adding oil until you take your little finger stick it in here right to the first joint and go like that.
When your tip of your finger is covered with oil, that's where you want to be. Later model four-speed transmission kicker covers, will have a little pipe plug about here, you would take the pipe plug out and that's where your oil level would be, you fill it up so it just starts to run out, put the plug in, put your cap in and you're ready to go. They weren't so scientific back when this transmission was built.
That one's done, this horseshoe old tank usually holds three quarts of oil if you're starting from fresh with nothing, I mean the motors happen to run, you put three quarts oil and remove your vent, I mean return line from the pump which is this one here and you would pump any oil back into a clean container since this is the first oil change on this new motor so we've already done the one quart when we started it up the first time and when we drain the oil there we didn't see any signs of any metallic particles or anything so we're good to go.
While we're here, you'll see three oil lines, the bottom line feeding the pump is from the tank to the pump, this line here from the middle of the pump back to the oil tank as it returned and this line here coming off the back of your cam chest, is your vent line, does the same thing. Oil returns to the camp chest and any air that's being pumped from the piston is coming down, returns back to the oil tank so there's no venting to the atmosphere.
There is however a small fitting down on a lower part of the crankcase for any excess air that would need to get vented usually at high speed and I mean high speed. I mean it's like 5,000 RPMs which these things don't live at that often. Another one in, one more, first joint, plenty of oil, we're good to go. We're waiting for the oil to fill the tank, we can focus on the old pump here. This is an S&S pump, remanufactured by S&S motor company for various models of Harley Davidson.
I believe there are seven or eight different oil pumps over the years of Shovelheads, this one is nice and smooth, it'ss chrome, it doesn't have exposed fasteners like some of the early Harley pumps do and they have one or two pumps that will fit the whole range of Shovelhead motors. You have to make a couple of internal modifications but this is what they call a gear pump, inside this housing here there're a set of gears on the inside that pressurize the oiling system. There's another set of gears on the outside, they're called scavenge gears. What they do is they scavenge the oil that's run through the motor and pump it back to the tank to be cooled to make another return trip.
Later model heroics like the late-model Sportsters and some of the later model big twins like the twin-cam have a Dorota pump, where a Dorota pump is a gear that drives inside of a toothed circle as the elliptical action of the circle moves around, it actually squeezes the oil between the teeth forcing it either into the engine or back to the oil tank, but that's not until like 2000 later models.
For everybody's money nowadays S&S pumps are the way to fly, they look good and they work perfectly. Takes a few minutes to set them upright and after that you forget them. Okay I think we're done with the oil change, the only thing left is to clean up our mess and I'll move on, when we get it down off the lift what we'll do is we're going to get it started. We check it for leaks, make sure our transmission drain bolt, our old tank drain bolt are in tight.
Jeff, when he built this bike, has used to crimp on oil line clamps, most of the time you'll see worm drive clamps like on the fuel line where you take the screwdriver and you tighten the clamp to make it grip the oil line to the fitting but while you're still here, we'd like to go along and just take this line and see if it'll twist which these won't. If they twist, that means they're not perfectly tight. You can always tighten a worm drive clamp up with the crimped towel, you would have to replace a crimp style clamp but since this is a brand new, all brand new hoses there's no cracking, no dry rot, they're nice even arches so the oil flow is nice and smooth.
You won't see anything that's actually actually crimped or where it's turned so tight that it actually collapses the inside passage where the oil would go. You don't want to keep it close to the exhaust pipe, here Jeff has the steel lines that come down behind the pipe, the exhaust pipe and the oil lines actually fit to the hard lines there, same with the feed line, then you can have a nice gentle arc and you don't have to worry about the rubber being burnt by the exhaust which will burn right through allowing your oil to go all over the place not where it's supposed to be and if you don't catch it in time will ruin your engine which makes for a bad day. Okay, we're going to clean our mess up and move on to the next.
All right, the next segment of the service for the Shovelhead would be to adjust the primary and rear-drive chains. Jeff is running a belt as you can see for the primary, you would want to check that it's got good solid tension which this does. You can twist it a little bit, you can notice look along the edge here to see if it's framed. It's usually out of alignment. You want a belt to run straight and true which usually means there's a slight gap here at the clutch drum and another slight gap at the flange, at the front pulley.
This is good, there is no excess, just a little bit of rubber residue which is perfect. That's fine, we're not going to touch that. Back here on the rear chain which usually stretches. This is a brand new chain. It stretches two or three times the first 500 miles. You notice that this has a little bit too much play in it. What we're going to do is move the rear wheel backward taking some of the slop out. Before we do that, you'll notice that it has mechanical rear brakes. This is all mechanical linkage, so if we move the rear wheel back, we're going to actually pull the brake rod with it and lock the brakes up. The first thing we'll do is undo the brake linkage.
It's usually held in place with a clevis pin and a cotter pin, but Jeff has selected to use chrome nut and bolt which we just pop off real quick. Let the brake rod just hang down. Now, we can move the back wheel rear would unobstructed. Each side of the frame has a rear-wheel adjusting bolt and nut. The adjusting bolt will push on the axle sleeve moving the rear wheel back. First off, as you undo the lock nut, just give it a couple of turns. We'll reach around here and do the same.
Then we're going to loosen the axle nut which is the small one on the very end of the axle itself, just ever so slightly because a lot of times when bikes like this are built, the frames are sprung a little bit when you make the wheel spacers to fit and you pull the frame in, it'll actually spring. We have the axle nut loose. Now, we have to loosen this big nut which that is is the backing plate lock nut. You hold the backing plate tight against the frame because there's an anchor here and that's what your brake shoes work against when they grow to grab the drum when the brakes are applied.
It's all you need to do. Slack that off a little bit. Okay. Now, we want to rotate the wheel, moving the chain until we find the tightest spot. Boy, this thing is really loose. Right there is probably the tightest. What we'll do is move it back a little bit and check it again. You notice that the chain adjusting bolts are hex head. We looked at the sprocket. The sprocket is properly aligned. The sprocket is in between the side things of the chain. We know the rear wheel is already aligned. What we'll do is we'll count the number of flats on the adjusting bolt then we turn it back.
We'll start off with just two. one, two. Same for the other side, one, two. We'll come up here and check our adjustment. Now, look see I tightened up really nice with just two flats but we'll run it around and check it again. Okay, we can get away with one more flat I bet. One. Okay. Right there is our tight spot. You can see it has about a half-inch, 5/8 of an inch up in down plate midway between the two sprockets. That's perfect. What we're going to do just tighten down the back and plate nut first and make sure the backing plate's pulled all the way over and the anchor is in the frame slot.
Okay. Double-check. Okay. Now, the actual nut. Check again. Okay. We'll make sure the adjuster is in touch in the wheel. We're going to come back and tighten the lock nuts in place. The adjusting bolts have a 7/16 head on them. The lock nut is 9/16. All we have to do now is hook up the break. What we're going to do is without adjustment, we're going to stick the bolt back in the arm and our Able System, Mr. White, just going to hit the brake pedal for us. Mr. White? Okay, let go. It's actually pretty good. We only moved it a couple of flats back, so we're going to live with that.
We'll then put this nut lock on the other side and snug it back up and we'll be done with the chain adjustment. One more time, hit it, let go, perfect. While we have the bike raised like this, the chain is perfectly adjusted. We're going to lubricate the chain. There's a special chain spray, chain wax, in this case. What you want to do is there's four links to the chain, the two inside links, and two outside links. You want to get your chain spray right between those link plates on either side.
That way the chain lubricant will force its way and pass the plates into the rollers and that's where the links have to be lubricated because the chain rolls around each of those plates turn in succession as it goes around the sprocket. This could be a mess, so we'd like to have a rag that we can wipe the excess off. We're going to spray this. Rotate. It really helps when you do this when the chain is real warm like say just came back in from a ride you get the rear wheel up off the ground and spray your chain lubricant while the chain is hot.
Because you know that when metal gets hot, it expands a little bit.
Even if it's only microscopic a couple of thousands, it allows you more room to get the lubricant where it belongs inside the roller pins. We've lubricated the whole chain. Now, what we're going to do is wipe off the excess because no lubricant is going to do any good on the outside of the links. We'll just hold a rag loosely on the outside like this and gently rotate the wheel. You can see that we got a little bit of dirt and some lubricant. Do it a couple of times and we're done.
In the old days, a hundred years ago or so, when people were building custom choppers and they took stuff off, they didn't need a rear chain guard. You go to a bar and here's a guy and you could tell exactly what kind of bike he rode by where the grease stripe was on the back of his t-shirt. If the grease stripe was on the left side of his t-shirt, he rode a big twin because the chain drive is on the left side. If he had a grease mark up and down the right side of his t-shirt, he rode a Sportster because the chain drive on Sportster is on the right side.
I like big twins. Now, we've just completed adjusting and lubricating our rear chain on a rigid mounted chopper. There's no suspension. You see the frame is rigid. That means the wheel will not change in relationship to the transmission. When the swing arm motorcycle hover where the swingarm pivots here, behind the transmission, the wheel will go up and down. It actually changes the distance between the rear axle and the transmission. The adjustment channel in swing arm bikes is a little bit trickier than on a rigid. These are easy. On a swing arm, you want to loosen up your axle. Get it loosened up. Loosen up your adjusters. Get them ready to go. You want to check and find your tightest point like we did here on a rigid mount. Then, if say, your buddy's bike, he weighs 150 lbs, you'd like to have him sit on the bike, that collapse the suspension to where it's going to ride all the time.
If you check your tension then at the tighter spot with him sitting on it and adjust it to that point, rotate the wheel or raise the bike back up. Rotate the wheel, check it again, get the tightest spot, and you're good to go. You always adjust at the tightest spot with the guy sitting on the bike because that's where it's going to go down the road. When you raise the bike up, the rear wheel will fall down a little bit, and it'll change the arc. You adjust there at the tightest spot. One he sits on it, it'll loosen up. You always want to have the rider on the vehicle when you do the adjustment.
It takes a little longer. I've done it by myself where I've got this high spot. Let the bike down onto the ground. Either lay across the seat and do it upside down. It's not that tough, but it always helps to have your friend there with you. Alignment on a swing arm bike is just as critical as alignment on a rigid frame bike. You want the sprockets to be in perfect alignment. The way to do that is as you spin the rear wheel in the direction of travel, of look and make sure that the side plates of the sprocket are centered over the socket itself equal distance from the side plates in on each side.
You noticed that we've said many times that you tighten, adjust the chain to the tightest point. The reason it's the tightest point because the chain will not stretch equally. Sometimes when the sprockets are a little bit worn, you just want to throw a new chain on. Your sprockets are not perfectly round, not grabbing the chain perfect. They're elliptical to a certain point. That's why you will always have a tightest spot.
It's which one. If they get to a point where the tightest spot only absorbs maybe an inch or two and you get around to the really loose spot, and the chain is actually flopping around hitting components, it's time for a new chain. While you're at it, you want to look at the sprockets and make sure that the sprockets are not going to chew up a new chain because they're hooked. If you look in here close, you'll notice that the sprocket teeth look like little pyramids. They're actually curved a little bit. If they should hook or move the wear surface one way or the other, it's time for a new sprocket.
On a drum brake bike, such as this one, you have to de-rivet the sprocket from the drum, put a new sprocket on and stake it with rivets. There's no moving it around because there's a shoulder that the sprocket goes onto and stays there. If you have to move stuff around or you're building a custom application, you may have to modify your spacers to get your chain sprocket in perfect alignment.
The wheel alignment goes right along with the chain alignment unless you're making something very custom, you would want to get your front-wheel tires in alignment, and then move your chain sprocket until it aligns perfectly with your transmission sprocket. If there's a distance to be made up, that's where you make your distance up. You don't want to fool around with wheel alignment or chain alignment because you start wearing components out way before their time is due. The last item on chain maintenance is after you got everything adjusted, you want to look at your master link clip.
The master link clip is the weakest spot on your chain. You want the clip to be solidly installed and you can check and make sure it is it's clipped into a little groove on the master link itself. The clip itself has an opening. You want the opening away from the direction of travel. By if some far-fetched reason you run over something, it will not run and push the clip off making you lose your master link. This one is perfectly installed here with the direction of travel away from the opening. It's something to be just to check, it never really goes bad unless you've installed the wrong master link or the wrong type of clip on that.
Always when you adjust your chain you always inspect it to make sure it's perfectly seated and it's not going to give you any troubles in the future. There's no master link, no drive chain, no movement. It's embarrassing.
Next thing we'll do is check the valve lash. To do that, we're going to remove the clips for the pushrods. Do the front ones first. Pushrods telescope up like this so you can see the adjusters. On these shovelheads, the actual adjustment is in the pushrod itself not in the lifter. This model had came with hydraulic lifters where hydraulic oil will take up the valve lash. This has a solid lifter conversion kit in it from S&S. What we'll do is we'll adjust it down to zero up and downplay, and then just get the feel of how tight that lifter, the push rod turns in the lifter.
Let me get my little assembly of hooks. This was made for us by a friend. It has dual hooks on the bottom and one hook on the top. This way you can hook both pushrod tubes and hold them up at the same time so you can adjust both valves in this cylinder. The hooks are rubber-coated or plastic-coated so you don't damage the chrome. Now what we do is you adjust the pushrods at their lowest spot. We're going to run the motor around and we'll watch the front exhaust because that's easiest to see for you. Here you can see the lifter going up.
Lifter's going down. As it goes down, rotate it there. You can see the pushrod turning. It feels good but it feels like it's just a little bit loose. The shell had been aluminum cases, aluminum heads. It grows in a different rate when it heats up. It's always nice to have the pushrods just so you can barely turn them up between your finger and your thumb. This goes away pretty easy, so we're going to just give it a little bit of oomph. You'll notice that the adjuster is at the bottom. This is the adjuster lock nut, and the top hex piece is pushed up into the pushrod.
That's the threaded part. We lock the lock nut against the pushrod, everything stays in place. What we want to do is elongate that pushrod just a little bit. We're going to hold the adjuster and just give the pushrod a little thump. That was a little bit too much but it's no problem. There's a fair amount more resistance. That's what we like. When you lock the lock nut, we go a little bit past where we'd want to go. It's a little bit tighter that we'd like. We put the wrench on a push rod and a wrench on a lock nut and pull them together like that.
When we get back, it'd be nice. This is just where we want it. We don't know if we're in the perfect space. What we do is we're going to run the engine around again checking the pushrod with various rotations. There goes up. You can't turn the pushrod at all. We're going to bring it down. As it comes down, we start trying to turn. Up right there. See it loosened up a little bit in that one spot. We go back and readjust it because that's now the loosest spot in the rotation of the cam. There. That's nice. One done. We're going to move to the intake pushrod front cylinder.
Here it's up, comes down, start check. Right there and that feels perfect. We'll check it everywhere, that one's good. I don't have to touch that one. Okay, we will just move on to the rear and do the exact same procedure. When we're done with that, we'll take our screwdriver and you want to make sure your lower pushrod tube-- it wouldn't hurt to wipe these things off. You can see how when they're facing into the engine it's hard to get in and wipe them off, they get a little dirty.
You want them to fit down inside this little pocket of the tappet block. There's a little cork gasket down there that seals the bottom. You want to raise the upper portion so it sits against the cork gasket in the rocker box. There's a little recess up there, you want to make sure it all inside there nice, it's nice there. Take your top pushrod tube clip, give it a little wipe down and that goes into-- you insert it up beneath the rocker box, take your screwdriver and just pry it up and push in, just like that. One more. Now, look at the chrome on that. Ok, that's sitting down in there, nice and tight up there and there you go.
Repeat the same procedure for the back and you're good to go. Before we leave the valves like I said earlier, this motor came with hydraulic lifters. We replaced it with solid lifters kit. When you have hydraulic lifters, you adjust the pushrod in the same matter get the lifter to the very lowest position, the heel of the cam and then you wouldn't shorten the pushrod until there's some up and down shape, where the pushrod would go up and down maybe sixteenth of an inch. You would then elongate the pushrod so that there's no up and downplay. You would read the package where you got your pushrods or your lifters and they would be either fine thread or coarse thread.
Each model will designate times you elongate your pushrod to get the proper setting for hydraulic lifters. You would then elongate it four times, three times, however many and lock everything in nice and tight, but you'd let the engine seat, you wouldn't rotate it for a while because what you're doing is as you shorten the pushrod, the oil in the lifter expands. As you elongate the pushrod, what in fact you're doing is opening the valve up here in the head. As you open the valve, it's got to sit for a minute before the oil bleeds back out of the lifter, allowing the valve to close.
Then once you let it close, you can reach in there and turn it a little bit if you feel a rotation movement on the pushrod, you're safe to rotate the engine to the next pushrod you're going to adjust. You've got to remember you just can't adjust one and then just start cranking the motor around. Most manuals that you have because you have your service manual for this model with you, refer there before you go to adjust the valves. We're just giving you a brief demonstration because some people would like to see it to know how it's done rather than just read it in a book.
Part of any service work on any motorcycle is to check the points ignition and the timing. On Jeff's Shovelhead here, he's got a Morris Magneto stuck in here. It's easy, we'll just pull the cap off, set the points on the highest lobe of the cam and then check the timing. To get in here, we just take the cap off. The cap is held on traditionally with four screws. Jeff only uses three because the fourth screw back here in the cylinder is hard to get to. What you would do is you just take a little dab of silicone, put it in that screw hole when the cap's off and that will help seal water out of it so you don't have real problems.
We've got the magneto cover loose, we're going to wiggle it out from-- there, it actually came out easy this time. See, we must be living right. You can see inside here are the points and a cooler and a condenser. We want to set the points on the highest part of the lobe. There's a narrow lobe and there's a fat lobe. The narrow lobe is for the front cylinder time, the wide lobe is for the rear cylinder. Since this is a kickstart model, I got the plugs out already, we can bump the engine around with the kick starter till we get the highest point of the lobe like right there.
Now, we'll take our fuel gauges, we rotate it around to the points are open at the narrow lobe of the cam, which is the highest spot. Take a 15,000 fuel gauge and stick it in there, see what we've got. It's a little bit too closed up, so we're going to adjust it. We just loosen the points plate. Ever so slightly stick it in there. Move it back and there we are. It's got a nice even drag and we're good. The other thing we have to do is clean the points because there's always a little bit of oil on the fuel gauges, oil from your hands, oil from just hanging around the motorcycle. Oil is points worse enemy.
We're going to take the screwdriver, open the points up, insert a clean business card in it, let the points close on it and pull it out. These are pretty clean, we'll do it one more time on the other side like that, good. While we're over here we're going to do a couple of other tests to set ourselves up for the timing. One of those is to pull the timing plug out the crankcases and we're to rotate the engine around till we see the timing mark in the middle of the hole. You'll notice that the yellow mark will line up with this screw hole as we get close. Do you see that?
Wes: I can see it flashing a little bit to the left.
Frank: Do you see the mark in there?
Wes: Yes, I do.
Frank: See, we're coming up on the mark. Got to go back a little bit. Right there is the mark time marked time dead in the hole. You'll also notice, while the time mark is dead in the hole, that's where Jeff made his yellow mark on his front pulley to align with the front screw. That way, when we turn the engine on, it's direct to our time with the timing light, we don't have to worry about oil gashing from this timing hole. We'll just align the timing light upon the mark and the thread hole, once it's there, lock the magneto down and it's timed perfectly.
This has already been timed, we've already had the timing mark on the front pulley. We've established that so we don't have to write static timing now. What we're going to do if we were going to static time it is we would do some cellophane paper off a cigarette pack, we would bump the engine backward and insert the cellophane paper between the points. Rotate a little bit more.
Here we are. Okay, the points are close on the cellophane. What we'll do is rotate the engine around and pulling the cellophane. Okay, we're close. We'll go around and check that the timing mark is in the hole real quick. I'll be back. Right there. Now, we rotate the magneto just around until cellophane comes out.
It's hardened do this thing here. Right there. You'll notice on the base of magneto here, Morse has screws that would set the advance. We want to make sure this screw is just in right there. Morse has a magneto base where you can adjust it back to retard the spark to make it easier to start. Once the motor starts, you push it around towards full advance. You want the points to open just as it hits the stop, so we back to screw it out or you rotate the magneto case around just till the cellophane comes out. That's static bounce. You run the screw up till it just touches the inside of the groove. That way it would not go any farther.
We're going to put the light on this when we take it down off the lift and just double-check with our timing mark on the front engine pulley and have it at full advance stop but right now, the motor is starting to run, no problem. Again, since we use a cellophane, not that cellophane is dirty, we will double-check that our points are clean. See, they had a little bit dirt on them. We'll do it one more time, this way. Nice and clean.
Okay, we're ready to rock, put the cap back on. Here we go. Make sure your gasket is in place. All right, magneto, stock timer, everything is good to go. What we'll do is put some dielectric grease on our spark plug wires. These are copper, they conduct electricity very good but they also corrode and as they corrode, they don't pass as much electricity as freely. We're just going to take some dielectric grease smear a little here and insert them back in the cap. We'll put some dielectric grease on the other end of the spark plugs when we burp the spark plug boots too.
You want to make sure that these wires go all the way down. There's a metal contact inside the cap. Okay. One of the advantages of having a belt drive is you can mark your front pulley like we have already with a timing mark and the engine is already timed where we want it. Now, we're going to use a timing light to get the timing right on. We're going to have our able assistant Mr. Tyler come in and kick starts this motorcycle and left. Once it's running, we'll just hold the timing light, align the timing mark with this front screw hole. Once that's done, we're ready. Mr. Tyler, if you would, please.
Okay, what we did is we've retarded the magneto to make it easier to start. Once the engine was started, we turned the original off and advanced the magneto to full advance lock position. When we first started, you could see that the timing mark was retarded. Which was below the screw hole. As we advanced the magneto, the timer mark came up to where the full advance mark was which is this threaded screw hole in the inner primary cover. Right now, we're perfect timed. You couldn't get any better. That's it. We're going to put the primary cover back on, the foot peg back on and take it for a test ride.
Okay, as you see, we've changed to Shovelheads. This is the Birdman's bike. It's a late-model, '70 and later, cone style from this cone style timing cover Shovelhead. These were built from 1971 up to '84. They have their generator, there's no alternator on the other side. What we're going to do is adjust the points in the timing first. Points are located in the cone and they're driven by a mechanical auto-advance assembly. Like on the previous Shovelhead Jeff's bike, where we had marked a yellow mark on the front belt drive pulley, we're going to mark it so we don't have to get into the engine when we set the timing with the timing light.
First thing we look at is if the points rotor wants to move. It's hard to get in there with my fingers. That seems a little tight, so we're going to have to investigate that. Which means first thing we're going to do, is since this thing ran coming in here, we're going to make a mark by the V of the points plate to the cone itself so we can put it right back to where we found it, right there. Okay, I will change the screw. Points plates held in place by these two standoffs-
-and a washer.
The points are driven off the camshaft. Shovelheads have one camshaft with four lobes driving each individual valve. The flyweight assembly in here bolt right to the end of the camshaft. All right, now that we can feel in here, the flyweight mechanism moves but it's not free. That I'll make performance on this thing sketchy. Sometimes it'll advance when it wants to, sometimes it won't.
To disconnect the points plate, we'll just pull the wire right off. Take a look at the points, rubbing block looks good, points look good. We'll file them a little bit and put them back but what we're going to do is get in here too. This is a real thin bolt. It's got a big 9/16 inch head like a 3/8 wood but it's only like a 10/32 shank, so you want to be very careful taking this in and out. You never want to try and turn the motor over with this boat. That's what it looks like.
The flyweight assembly should come right off. Okay, there it is. On the backside of the flyweight assembly, you'll see it's a plate, has a couple of pins for pivots and pins for stops but it also has a roll pin that comes in from the side. That roll pin locates the flyweight assembly on the camshaft in one direction and one direction only. It's got to go back that same way. On this side, you have the flyweights, that as the engine speeds up, the flyweights pivot outward like that and as they pivot outward, they rotate the points cam.
What we're going to do is-- This one's a little sticky. We're going to pull this off with some difficulty. See how it's got a little bit of rust in there, that's not good. We'll address all that. Down inside the pivot shaft, there's another roll pin. On a points cam, there's a flat ground onto the bottom edge. What that does is, as you assemble it and put it back together. As the flyweight assemblies move outward with engine speed, that roll pin down there limits the amount of travel that the points cam will open the points or rotate the points on. What we need to do is we've got the cam off. To remove the points-- The flyweight assemblies, we're going to redo these springs a little bit.
This spring actually goes through the flyweight down here and is captured on the bottom. Usually, the best way to remove them is come up here. I'm just trying to worry them off with a small screwdriver. There's one. You see how it's got a hook that hooks into the groove. It holds the flyweight in position.
Of course, one would be easy. The other one is going to be difficult. Here we go. Then we just pull the flyweight off the pin like so. You see here's where the flyweight rubs on that little bolt and this roll pin engaged in that hole again helps limit the amount of travel. We take that one off. Work that one off and you can see there's a little bit of rust and corrosion there. We're going to get rid of all that and put it all back together.
We have finally cleaned the flyweight assembly and lubricated it a little bit, it snaps back. Nice and smooth action like we wanted. Now we're going to install it back on the camshaft. Aligning the roll pin on the flyweight assembly with the notch in the end of the camshaft. This one's a nice tight fit.
Okay, we take our bolt. Remember it's got small threads you don't want to get carried away with tightening it. You choke up real close on the--
Just get a little bit of 'umf'. Not a big grunt but just a little bit 'umf'. Reach in here, make sure your points are nice and free. You can actually hear them moving about. Okay, now we're going to look at the points. They look pretty good but we're going to give a real quick dressing with a points file. It's just a small fine file between the points like this. Hold it parallel, keep both faces and we're good.
All right, reinstall this by hooking the wire from the coil with a little spade connector, just push it right on. Tuck this inside like that. You can just rotate the point's cam over top. Rotate it around. Remember when we disassembled this, we made a little mark here on the inside of the cone. If you forgot to do that, another good indication of where the points plate was, is you look at the points plate and see where the indentation for the hold-down washer was, then you can put things right back to where they were.
We're going to set the timing here statically with our trusty cellophane in the points but we're also going to get the timing mark around. We're going to mark that front belt drive pulley like we did on Jeff's bike. That way, we can time the engine with the light without getting bathed in the oil from the timing hole. Even if you have to use the timing hole, what you would like to do is get the engine started and run and let it run for a minute or two before you finally take the timing plug out.
What that will do for you is the oil builds up in that timing in the crankcases, lands on the flywheels and as you spin the motor with the timing plug out, it'll start flinging the oil off, which is supposed to. If you let it run for a minute or two, most of that oil is flung off and you don't get as much oil vapor at the timing plug hole. Still, it's a lot neater if you could do it the way we're going to do it by marking the pulley. Okay, we got our mark aligned there. Next time you do this, is you get the timing mark up in the hole. We're going to take the front intake pushrod tube, loose. Telescope it up, and rotate the engine until the intake pushrod goes down, which it just did, so we're close.
Mr. Wes, you want to walk over the other side of the vehicle-
Frank: -and look inside the timing hole until we get the timing mark dead center. Let me know. Ready?
Wes: Ready. Hang on. Okay, watch it while we're on it.
Frank: We can back up if we put it in gear.
Wes: Okay, go ahead.
Frank: I think we've gone past. All right we went past, so we'll just roll around again. Intake valve just went up which means it's on intake stroke. Intake valve just went down so now it's coming up on compression. Mr. White?
Wes: Hold on a second. Back up just a little bit.
Frank: Put the bike in gear. Ready?
Wes: Yes just move back and forward now. That isn't there, just a tiny bit. You know what? Let me do it.
Frank: Okay, it's nice to have a friend or a mere acquaintance, in this case, to help you do this.
Wes: All right, we're dead nuts.
Frank: Okay, you heard the man he said, "Dead nuts". Nuts being the keyword with him. First off what we're going to do is we're going to rotate and set the points gap. What we do is we're going to rotate this. All right, moving over. Okay, we got the points at the thin lobe at the highest point. That's where we set the points gap. Which, in this case, it should be 20 thousandths.
You just want a little drag on the points.
There's a little cutout in the back of the points plate that allow you to wedge a screwdriver between that in this little knob. That will help you manipulate the point's opening. You don't take much. You can just barely feel it.
There we are. I'm going to relock the points to the plate. Double-check where you are. Now, we're going to rotate backward again. Mr. Wes, you want to just take that timing mark real quick.
Wes: Let me get it. Dead nuts.
Frank: Okay, now, we insert a ply of cellophane into the points. It's captured. To static time it, we're loosening the points plate a little bit and rotate the points plate until that cellophane just wants to come right out. All right, we've set the point gap. We've actually elongated the grooves in the points plates so we get the perfect static timing which we're at right now. What we're going to do is rotate the points plate back until the-- There we are. Right there is where the cellophane comes out which means it's statically timed. Lock the points plate down.
Now, we want to clean the points with our little piece of cardboard. Just like in the magneto, you want to make sure there's no residue or oil or grease on the points itself, so you get a piece of cardboard, a clean business card and drag it out. It's going to have little bit, but not much. Do it one more time. Now, everything is static timed and the bike will start. We had the timing mark in the timing plug hole where it should be. We're going to walk around the other side and put a mark on the front belt drive pulley and align it with a mark on the engine so we can time it with the light without getting all oily from oil shooting out of the timing plug hole.
We have the points in, we have them properly cleaned, gapped, and set static time. Since we have the timing mark in the middle of timing plug hole we walked around to the outside of the bike and made a little yellow mark on the front belt pulley and aligned with the front guard bolt head. Now, we can actually time the motorcycle with the timing light without getting bathed in oil from the timing plug hole. This is the early style ignition points. They would use them for a hundred years.
Later model bikes aftermarket mainly have developed an electronic ignition where there's no points to wear out or close the gap or the wear block to wear down. This is a custom chrome dual fire ignition system. A points system is a dual fire, I'm sorry. This is single fire. Dual fire means that when the points open and you get a arc through your coil both spark plugs fire at the same time. One fires on the compression stroke of the engine. The other cylinder at the same time fires on what they call the exhaust stroke or the waste stroke, so that's a wasted spark. It's just going off because both plugs burn at the same time.
On a single fire ignition such as this, you have two sensors in these two epoxy pockets. This is the rotor. You'll notice there's two little magnets. As these magnets pass by those sensors, it triggers the coil to fire a plug. You need a special single fire coil, that's two separate coils in one, to use an ignition system like this. The beauty of this system is the only movable part is the rotor. You would use the same advance weight mechanism that the points use except you would replace the point's cam with the point's rotor.
Everything fits in the chrome cover, same as the points. Use the same standoffs and this would be tucked in there like that. The wires would run up to wherever your coil mount, you would have a single fire coil. Just the same. There are also companies such as Dyna that make very good ignition systems, electronic. Here is one of their electronic modules that would fit in the cam cover where the points are. It also uses a rotor, of which we have lost ours. The same thing as a Revtech. The rotor would go around and trigger a sensor in this little block here to fire the coil which in turn fire the plugs.
This is a dual fire meaning you have the waste spark. The difference between single fire and dual fire is minimal. If you can feel it you're a lot better rider than most people out there. Harley-Davidson company has embraced electronic ignition since the late '80s and they've gone to two or three iterations. The one iteration now is it uses the same type of locating pin on the end of the camshaft but what they have is a little pressed steel cup with two cut-outs in it.
You hold the cup to the camshaft with a screw, you have a plate like one of these Dyna's or the Revtech that goes in there that fits over the cup. You lock it down, it has an initial setting. You set it with the light and you forget it. In fact, let me back up. When the factory first put these electronic ignition systems in here and they put the points plate on there they were actually riveted to a plate, not bolted. You didn't control them.
To change your time and change your ignition system, you would have to drill out the rivet heads, the cover would come off. You take off a gasket like this but behind that would be another flat steel plate that had drilled and tapped holes. The holes were drilled through this so you could actually put a points plate in there and screw it if you wanted to change to a custom points plate which the factory offers many of as well as every other aftermarket manufacture. This gasket is a must-have item. It prevents most of the water from when you wash your bike, going through a puddle. It keeps this pretty much weather tight.
It's like a heavy cardboard, you just put it in. It tucks into the little recess here nice and tight. The points plate pushes it against the little shoulder making it weatherproof. While the points are easy to adjust easy to do something on side of the road in your garage, the electronic ignition is just as easy if not more. You don't have to worry about it once it's set up and ready to go.
One another feature of electronic ignition is it requires more electricity to run than a simple points. A points ignition system when it opens and closes, whatever electronics were saturated into the coil, electricity, is discharged through the plug firing the cylinder.
Electronic ignitions need a minimum amount of voltage to function. One to run the microprocessor that's in the plate in this housing here and you also need-- I think the rule of thumb is you need a minimum of 10 volts. Anything lower than that your ignition system may work but it may pop and spit and since electronic ignition systems, the later model ones, are all retardable and advanced by their computer inside your cone cover, you need to have so much electricity to run that little computer. If all of a sudden your bike starts to start and run and run really bad, the first thing you want to do is check how much voltage is in your battery.
Because if your charging system is not up to it, it won't maintain that charge for your ignition system. Over the years, Harley-Davidson has jumped up from when this model was new, the charging system was 22 amps. Nowadays it's 48 amps because of running fuel injection which means a fuel-injected pump which requires a lot of amperage. Plus the electronic ignition, plus the module for control and everything else in the world.
Then two, if you buy a late model Dresser with all the accessories, the radio, the navigation system, the intercom, the electric windshield wipers, and the tow hitch package, you're running a lot of accessories which requires a lot of electricity, so your charging system has to be tip-top. These things you can get away with lower voltage. It'll get you home. It won't get you home in style but it'll get you there but still electronic conditions make a lot cleaner spark a lot better running engine when you're looking for every ounce of horsepower.
All right, now we're going to turn our attention to the carburetor. It just so happens that the Bird bike as we call this, has an S&S E carburetor with the iconic Teardrop air cleaner, the S&S. Held on with three screws. Unless something dramatically happened to your carburetor from last time you did a service, you really don't have to do too much. You want to check the air filter and make sure it's not clogged up with dirt, debris, small animals. You'll notice too that the inside of the air cleaner-- We got something here. It's got this nice funnel shape that helps direct all air down the throat of the carburetor which helps the performance. We have some kind of little bug or something here. That's now history.
Air cleaner comes off. Easy way to check your air cleaner and make sure it's clogged and free-flowing still, is you would turn and look through it as you hold it up to a bright light. This one's fine, you can see perfectly through it. No problem. The throttle to carburetor is nice and clean, there's no dirt, no nothing. This thing is easy to go.
Look at your fuel line that comes from the petcock, from the oil tank. This one's rubbing against the cylinder a little bit. It's not a big problem but we like it so it doesn't touch any hot engine parts but it's not cracked. The clamp where it clamps on to the fuel lift through the carburetor is nice and tight. We're all right here. We'll just stick this back go on like that and turn our attention to this throttle cable.
The throttle cable enters the carburetor over here with the pinwheel. We're going to twist the throttle, nice and smooth action. Feel, there's no excessive play. There's no abrasions on the outside of the cable, it's fine. Look at the fuel taps, petcocks on the back of the tank. This is an English-style tank that has two wallets, one on each side. This one has a weird fuel line setup where each tap fits into one, a Y, and that Y goes into a fuel filter. The fuel filter feeds down here. We can shorten this up for him but unless he says it's okay. Everything turns on, nice and smooth.
There's no leaks at the tank or any of the farrells or any of the clamps. Try and twist the clamps on the fuel line. If they don't move, they're fine. If they do, tighten them. The last thing to check up here is a gas cap. The gas cap has to have a vent in it. The reason is that there's fuel in here. For fuel to run down into the carburetor and the engine to heat the fuel, the fuel has to be displaced by air coming in through a vent.
This cap has a vent. Right here there's a little hole. Inside the cap itself, there's a little flapper or a ball bearing or something to seals, so that the gas can only go one way and the air can only go one way. Easiest way to check to see if your vent works is to shake the cap. You hear a little bit of movement inside, that's fine. If you're really desperate to make sure it works, you can blow on it like this. [blowing] This is good, ready to go look.
You look for visible signs of leakage around the cap where maybe gas spilled out or splashed out or got past the gasket, if you see any, replace the gasket. If there's none like this, this is fine. That's not to say that when you undo the cap, you have to ride in a gas station. There may be a little bit of residue of gas on the cone here, so when you pull the cap off, you will just hold it there for a second in case something drips off. You don't want the drip on your nice shiny paint job or a flat paint job, in this case.
While we're on the gas cap, a good way to tell if your gas cap is not venting is when your motorcycle stopped running because you're not getting any air to displace the fuel that's leaving the tank. Another way to tell is if your bike stops running, the first thing you do is you take the gas cap off, you hear a little whoosh which means you don't have a vent or the vent is blocked. You take it off and visually inspect it. If you can't find anything, you could also ride home with the cap partly lodged. That'll get home, but as soon as you get home you want to inspect why it's not venting.
Those are the times they will stick for any reasons other than maybe something got in there or you had dropped it and bent it or dinged it or something like that. It very seldom happens but it's something to keep in mind. Another thing you want for your carburetor system is you want to support the carburetor air cleaner system. You have nice solid mounts at the heads where the manifold bolts to and the carburetor both solids and manifold but you have a lot of weight out here. The weight of the air cleaner, the cover, the back and plate, everything, so you want to run a mount.
S&S provides a mount that would run from the carburetor manifold down to the center crankcase bolt or on Shovelheads like this one, there's a mount that bolts freighted to the bottom of the rocker box to the back of the backing plate. There's a tapped hole that's blind so there's no oil leak out. You just make up the difference. The key here so you don't break anything, is you don't want to pull it.
If you have the mount bolted to the bottom of the rocker box nice and tight and there's a gap between the mount and the backing plate, you want to fit a little spacer or a washer or whatever in there so it's a slip-fit. You don't want to pull it. You pull it and you put the strain or something which is going to cause it to break down the road.
The next thing we're going to do is worry about if the bike starts to idle rough or got some strange characteristics where it's not operating nice and smooth like it did, you may have an intake leak. The manifold is sealed to the head with O-rings are rubber bands and the carburetor is sealed to the manifold with a insulator block. If you suspected to have some type of intake leak, you could just take some carburetor cleaner or brake clean like we use, get the motorcycle started and you would direct the stream of fluid back at the intake manifold where it meets to head and a quick squirt like that, if the RPMs go up when you squirt it like that, you know, you have a leak because you're actually introducing more fuel into that head, so you would want a squirt from both sides; the front, the back.
Nothing's coming up, then you move to the other side of the bike and spray the manifold from the other side, but you must be careful of the backside of your air cleaner here, that would be open, let me show you.
The back of the air cleaner is sealed right here against the cleaner element, as you put it on there's a nice finger wide opening around the back. That's where the air goes in, so it can go into the carburetor. If you're on the other side the motorcycle squirting brake fluid or carburetor cleaner or something to the manifold, you want make sure that nothing gets into the back of the air cleaner because all of a sudden you're not doing yourself any good, so you would like to have a rag, striped towel, paper towel, whatever. Drape it over the air cleaner back here while you’re squirting.
That way you're only squirting and checking for intake leak at the manifold where it would be. It wouldn't be out here because you're still going to suck the air through the carburetor.
It's not a finite process, but it'll lead you in the right direction, so if all of a sudden you're spraying, and your RPMs go up then you going to have to remove the carburetor, look at your intake seals. Make sure something is not a miss. Rubber deteriorates over time, heat will deteriorate it over a couple of years. You have it nicely sealed and tight, it shouldn't go anywhere but things happen.
You may have used some non-factory or some low-buck type of O-rings or Met rubber bands or something or you may run into something where you change the component and all of a sudden you moved something around. Once the piece of rubber gets set in its ways like the O-rings on the manifold, you start moving around, they may have cracked on the surface and that crack may now go through the whole O-ring, cause them to have an air leak.
It's not that hard to fix, it's not that hard to diagnose but you guys could be diligent and paying attention to what you're doing and how you're doing it to find it out. To change it, you just remove the carburetor, there's a couple of bolts, take the bands off the manifold, put new O-rings on and you're good to go. In fact, we have-- If you excuse me a second.
Here are the O-rings we're talking about. This is an S&S manifold for S&S E carburetor just like shown here. You see this little ridge. The O-rings sit on that ridge. There is a corresponding ridge on the head and once they're in there you would put a clamp around that, sealing it. Just like that, then your insulator block goes here and the carburetor goes on. What you're checking is that this O-ring has deteriorated or shifted or moved and the spray is getting passed it into the intake port. Not rocket science, easy to do. These are only a couple of dollars each.
They're pliable. When you put them on you would smear some grease on. Roll them on to the manifold like that. When you get it in place, you just roll it off with your thumb and they'll be in place. Easy to do but, probably for the first time, it'll be a little frustrating. You'll get used to it.
Okay, we pretty much covered, didn’t it? The fuel system here. These will make sure everything is nice and clean, you're getting clean fuel to your float bowl, and the sides are nice and smooth. It has a nice smooth transition from idle up the RPM range. On this model, it does not have a choke, it has enricher. The enricher level is on this model is built into the back of the air cleaner. You would push it down or actually pull it up, that's engaged. That is letting extra fuel into the air mixture going through the carburetor. As the motorcycle warms up, you would push this down lowering the idle, until it's warmed up thoroughly and then you're ready to go.
Now we're going to stick this back together. Where do you go? Okay here. That fits on the little ridge there, it's captured. The toughest part about these air cleaners is making sure you get all these screw holes lined up. The only other aspect of the fuel system we haven't talked about yet, which is next is the throttle control system. Consists of a throttle cable and a throttle twist grip. Throttle twist grip, of course, is on the handlebar with the throttle cable running down to the throttle wheel on the carburetor.
One second let me tight this up. You twist the throttle up here at the handlebar, it goes down and pulls the cable. You'll hear it snap close. Okay, what you want to do is make sure the throttle pipe that rides on the handlebar and the cable that runs down to the carburetor is lubricated. Otherwise, you're going to strain your wrist. We've loosened the throttle cable assembly, you can see it's got a nice patina of grease on it.
We're going to take the correct Allen wrench and remove the top of the housing assembly. This is an early style, Harley-Davidson throttle housing. They are remanufactured in various different scenarios, styles, and finishes. This is the end of your throttle cable with a little barrel that goes on to your throttle pipe, and as you turn it, it pulls the cable which opens the throttle on the carburetor.
What you'd like to do is you want to make sure that the cable is lubricated. You don't want to lose your little barrel, we're going to reach over here and get our three-in-one oil which is a nice 10 lightweight oil that flows freely down the cable and just dribble some down there. While we're doing that let this sit over here like that. I'm going to take a little bit grease--
First, you look off, see if there's any plastic flashing from when this was manufactured. You want to look inside your housing to see if there's any bars or necks or anything that would hamper the movement because that'll fit on top like this where your cable is and actually the pipe rides on the handlebar, but it's guided forward and back by the housing, so you want to make sure that everything is nice and smooth. Which this is, and we'll check it back in this. Feels nice, a couple more drops of oil like that. Okay, let that hang.
Reach over here for our Valvoline grease. Take a little bit of it on our finger, and you're going to want to smear a little bit in here where the throttle pipe rides. Just a little. The same way with the top of the housing which didn't seem to have any at all in there. Just a little smear and a nice little bit down here. This plastic does need a whole lot of lubricant, but it does not hurt. Anything to make things go nice and smooth. Now we put it back together. Just the way it came, put.
We're going to say that we got the throttle lubricated, the cables lubricated, the pipes lubricated, we put it back on. We've fastened it down, we've adjusted the throttle cable, so there's minimal free play. To lubricate your front brake cable or your clutch cable, it's the same procedure. You take it off, hold it upright, drip some oil down it. Do that a couple times, put it back on and check for your adjustment, you're ready to go. It's easy stuff and you wouldn't believe how much resistance it eliminates from your play.
When you squeeze to clutch and you're in traffic and it gets a little tight a couple times. A couple of drops of oil on that cable will make that loosen right up, make it easier on your hand, plus it eases the operation. Throttle cable, brake cables, clutch cable, it's all the same. Couple drops of oil and you're perfect.
All right, to button up the engine so we can get it fired up again, we're going to inspect our spark plug wires for cracks, dry rot. It's a little bit dirty, but the dirt don't hold. That's fine. Before we put them back on we're going to need some dielectric grease. This grease will keep the corrosion from forming on the plugs at the end of the wires. We just smear a little bit here and install the wire back in the coil. Make sure it's pressed on all the way. Same with this one. You actually want to smear a little bit on the inside here, but we'll get to them in a second.
All right next item is plugs. All plugs were burning okay, maybe on the rich side, but we'll throw a new set in. Before you throw them in, you want to make sure they're of correct gap. The gap on it should be about 25000, 26000, so we're using a graduated plug gauge. You stick it here on the end where it’s thinnest and you pull the gage around through it. Lines up. A little bit more, close the gap. Right there 26. The 26 mark is lined up at the middle of the ground electrode.
You pull that out, but before you get ready to put in, you want to look at it from this direction. The center electrode should be directly under the ground electrode centered. This one's just a little bit off, so we're going to tweak it with pair of needle nose. Just take it in your hand and get a little bit move. A little bit more move like that. The plug is done; properly gaped, electrode centered.
Before we put it in the engine though, since it's a new plug, we want to put a little dab of anti-seize to prevent the threads from going in the head. This is anti-seize. All you need, is a little dab on the threads, like that. Install the plug, in the hole. Be careful to get it in straight, so it threads in easy by hand like that. Look at it, it looks good-- A little loose. Okay, this one's off a little bit also, good. A little dab will do, into the head.
In your service manual, there should be a torque reading for plugs. I think it's usually around 22 pounds. Something like that, but I always like to get them there, just snug. All right, now where you put the plug wires on, what we're going to do is burp the plug wire ends. it is easy to do, you will take some dielectric grease, you smear some in here. We're going to smear some right on the edge the plug. Going on here. We take the cable tie, insert it into plug wire end and put the plug wire on to the plug, making sure it snaps in place.
Once that's in, we're going pull the cable tie out. What that does is when you put a plug wire cap on the plug you're trapping a little bit of air inside which contains moisture. Moisture will corrode as the engine heats up, cools down, heats up, cools down. The dielectric grease prevents that corrosion, but when you burp the plug wire boot, as you're pulling this out, dielectric grease is sealing it, so there is a minimum of moisture contaminated air inside the plug boot. Goes a long way for wire life and plug life.
Smear a little bit in here, some more on here. We'll do it one more time. You can hear the cap snap on to the plug and then just push it out with your finger. Before we go, you notice the coil is hanging out here in the breeze with the wires, one from the ignition switch and one from the points that activate the coil. To keep these terminals and the cone nuts from actually corroding and coming loose even though they have a little lock washer on there, we're going to use a little bit of liquid electrical tape which you can get at Lowe's or Home Depot or Anawalt hardware.
Just take a little bit and dab it on the wire end. This helps seal it and helps it from working self loose. It dries in a few minutes. If you ever have to touch it or do something with it, you can just take your fingernail and peel it off. Backtracking, if you have to use your plugs the ones that came out of the bike, it's easy to clean up the firing surfaces between the ground electrode and the center electrode. Just take a small piece of Emery paper, sandpaper insert between the two and just give it a movement back and forth and that would clean any oil deposits or carbon deposits for soot from the surface where the plug actually fires, and you're ready to put back in.
The reader plug which is becoming a lost art and especially here in California where we have oxygenated fuel where you have to run your fuel jetty little bit richer, to read a plug you want to read the porcelain. On this one it's a little rich, it's dark color. Ideally, you would like to have a light tan or sand color but actually, a plug is read at the bottom of porcelain way down in here between the threaded portion and the porcelain at the bottom.
It's hard to do unless you have a very good plug scorch, so if you get a nice light tan even color around the top of the porcelain, you're doing good. You get black like this, you may want to drop your air/fuel mixture needle in about a quarter turn to see if it helps. If it still doesn't or you run a lot of freeway miles and you pull off and it's black like that you may want to drop the main jet size.
If it's bone-white. you may want to back out your low-speed mixture needle just to get a little color on the porcelain. It's one of those things you have to play with depending on where you're at. Most of the United States doesn't have the oxygenated fuel that we do, so you get a better plug color on your porcelain itself.
The next thing we want to do is drop it down, get it started, check the static time or check our static time with our time in light to make sure our mark is fine. Which we know this could be centered; the mark in the hole. Then we're to check the charging system. This charging system is a little bit different from Jeff's Bike. Jeff's Bike had a generator and a regulator built in the end of it that's driving off the front of the engine.
Here we have an alternator system that's contained behind the inner-primary cover as we head over here. It consists of a rotating magnet group, rotating around a stator, which is a bunch of wires coiled which actually puts out at 12 volts-- It actually puts out about 14 volts at higher RPM. There's a plug right here behind the regulator, which is a thin piece here. This puts out alternating current, the regulator converts it to DC current which we feed the battery with.
There's a plug here that plugs in there. It's really hard to see. It's a rubber plug with two pins. We have a containment wire that holds the plug wires in. To check this out there's only three wires out of the regulator. Two plug into the alternator, the other one goes to the battery, replenishes the battery electricity as you use it for electric start or any kind of accessories, like lights or ignition, very easy. It's all solid-state, so you don't have to really worry about mechanical vibration or points burning up or something like that, but they do go bad occasionally.
The main thing you want make sure is that the regulator itself is grounded to a clean ground on the frame. Usually what you'll do is you have a bare mount where the mount bolts to the frame. Under this piece of loom between the regulator, you scrape off the paint where the regulator mounts and put a little star washer, so you get a positive ground. Everything else is segregated behind here and it's put together by the factory where the wires are out of the way of the rotating magnet group.
The plug is waterproof, you really don't have to worry about anything getting in there except for maybe oil leaking out of your sprocket shaft. You run your wire back up to your battery and hook it to your positive terminal and as the motorcycle runs it replenishes the battery, and we'll get to some battery ideas here in a minute, but now it's time to get started.
What we do is, once it starts we're going to back to the battery and measure the voltage going into the battery. The system only uses 12 volts. When you start the motorcycle and you're run, you're actually using some of the voltage out of the battery at all times to run the ignition system and the light, so you want to put back what you're taking out plus keeping the battery at full charge 12 volts.
Ideally, the alternator will put out around 13.3 to 13.5. Something like that up to maybe 14.1 dependent on the system. This is an early model alternator systems, it puts out 22 amps because there wasn't a lot accessories back then. These days you can come up with a 48 amp alternator system putting out a lot more amperage because you got to have a lot more accessories to drive. Like a fuel injection system, electronic ignition system or radio, more gauges, more lights, things of that nature, but on Choppers you worry about the minimalist and that's what we have here.
We're going drop it down and get it started and look at the battery and the charging system. In your service manual, they have a complete flow chart of how to test your charging system if it's not performing properly. They ask you to have certain meters to hookup for certain areas which is a good idea if you can afford the dough to get the meters, but they have certain basic testing procedures which you should have in the manual, anyhow to tell if your stator is grounded. Which means the windings are segregated for different legs.
You would pull that plug off of the regulator and stick an ohmmeter in. An ohmmeter just tells you resistance. If it makes contact and there is resistance, that means you have a bad stator, you would have to remove the belt drives here the primary and put a new stator magnet system in. The stators go bad once in a while, but sometimes the rotating magnets will go bad first because people like to use Impact Wrenches to put their pulley and you're rotating magnet group on.
The factory says do not use any hard hits on that rotating magnet group because they're Baxter glued to the Shell. Later models have a superior glue, but the early models-- They were single experimenting in those days, but this one's lasted a while. I know when it came in here it was charging, we check that but we're going to charge it before it goes back out.
The last thing to check before we get ready to take this back out on the street is the charging system. We explained why this has an alternator with a solid-state regulator, one wire runs back to the battery here in the oil tank. We took our voltmeter set it on the 20 on the voltage DC, stuck our probes on negative and positive terminal revved it up and we're making 14.2 volts, which is plenty to replenish the battery and run all the systems; the lights and ignition.
To get back to batteries, there's actually two different styles of batteries now-
What we have here is what they call a wet battery, The wet battery has six individual cells worth two volts each and you would fill the battery with electrolyte up to the high position marked on the side and the electrolyte would soak into the battery plates and produce electricity. As you charging the system, charging it replenishes the amount of charge in the battery. As the battery runs it replenishes itself.
A way to check to see if your battery will hold the charge is with a load tester. Battery Tender makes a very easy load tester to use. It has a black negative and a red positive cable, you hook it onto the battery like so and you press the test and will read how much-- This is got-- Boy, that's down, 8.61 volts. This is going to be charged before it can be used. This is a large wet cell battery that will go into a Harley-Davidson dresser model.
Here we have a sportbike battery. Something like a Sportster or a non-electric start super guide. Something like that or a Chopper like this. We hook the low tester up to that, press the test button and we have 11.21. This is almost fully charged, but it's nice to have 12 volts when you start. When you go to check your charging system, you always like to have your battery fully charged.
I'd put it on a charger till it read a full 12.2 volts then check the charging system because the charge system always wants to put out more than the battery needs and you don't really know what the battery needs in the way of charging unless it's fully charged. The charging system will put out just what you read. You would always read it with a voltmeter. Voltmeter measures resistance and measure voltage going in, measures a lot of things. One of those things you can't live without.
The amount of voltage going to your battery is regulated by the regulator, as here we have a solid-state regulator, which is pretty much full proof. Before that and on generators you can have a solid-state generator regulator like on Jeff's Bike we looked at before, but early systems had a mechanical regulator of which we have one here. This is what they call a Bosch style regulator because Bosch was the ones that made for the factory, came out on Sportsters.
Inside the Bosch style, you see these coils wrapped in wire and sets of points. As the battery need a voltage, the set of points will close, transferring electricity from the generator to the battery. The voltage reaches what was needed in the battery, the points would open sending all the voltage to ground. These things were reliable, but they were prone to corrosion. They were prone to vibration. Whereas the solid-state regulators are all mounted in an epoxy slurry that's solids, so there's no vibration inside whatsoever. The problem with solid-state voltage regulators is usually voltage spikes contained by loose wires.
To check for loose wires it's pretty easy, you pull on them. If they come loose there's a problem, if they don't come loose that’s better. Here on the Bird bike, there's a ground cable going up to the frame and if you think that you have a problem you would pull on the wire. He has a Battery Tender, battery charger wired into his battery so if he comes back from a ride and he wants to make sure his batteries is up red hot to go next time you plug your Battery Tender and plug it in the wall and it's charged. You come out, just unplug it.
He also has an inline fuse holder to protect his electrical system, his ignition system, but you got 30 amp fuse. One end goes to the positive side of the battery. The other side goes to his ignition switch, so his ignition switch and everything on a bike. is protected by this 30-amp fuse holder. Looking down at his battery connection, there's a little bit of corrosion. What we'll do is we'll clean that corrosion off with a wire brush and put some liquid electrical tape over there to prevent that corrosion from reoccurring.
Like I said before, there's actually two different styles of batteries now. This is wet style battery. Both of these are wet, you can see caps where you would add electrolyte or water to bring the level up to the full level. Each battery is marked low and high. You want to make sure you keep the electrolyte level at high so you make the maximum electricity at all times. The electrolyte level falls below the lower level, you're starting to expose your battery plates inside, which will lead to corrosion and actual the plates will disintegrate in solution and fall to the bottom, shorting the battery out.
Another, what I consider, fault of a wet battery is it's got to have a vent. Here is where the vent tube would go on to a battery. You would run a vent tube down under the motorcycle. If the battery overheats and produces more electricity, it would provide a little bit of steam inside., The steam would vent out through the tube to the atmosphere down by the ground rather than get all over the motorcycle and start eating paint and chrome and everything else.
People who build bikes like this, Choppers, some of them have what they call the gangster lean, where the bike leans way far over to the left side. A lot of people would mount their battery with the terminals facing forward and the vent tube to the left. If you have a bike with a gangster lean, all of a sudden your battery is over like this, when a bike is stationary on the kickstand. After a while the water will build up the electrolyte in the side, and start to drain out of your vent tube, thus reducing the amount of electrolyte in the battery, which is bad because you can then expose your plates.
If at all possible, if you have a severe leaning bike, you would want to put the vent tube on the right so it would be at the highest point when the bike is on the kickstand and not let the electrolyte run out of the tube. Another point is when a tube runs down below the motorcycle, the bottom of the motorcycle gets dirty. Moisture from the ground, oil trickles, whatever, it starts to attract dirt. When it attracts dirt it starts to cake up. Unless you wash your motorcycle regularly and pay attention to the bottom, that vent tube could plug up with that moisture and dirt.
A good resistance to that is you would take a needle right up here where the tube fits onto the back and just poke a small hole in the vent tube. That way that will never get full of dirt or anything, and you will always have pores in the vent. If the bottom of the tube gets plugged it would still vent a little bit up here. By the time, it would not corrode the battery, the paint, everything else, by overflowing or bursting that tube. There's always a little bit of released pressure there.
The gel cell batteries can be mounted pretty much in any direction. While these have to be in vertical because of the wetness inside, a gel battery does not have a level. You can mount it upside down. In fact, the old motorcycles, for years, mounted their batteries actually laying down like this under the oil tank with no problems. Nowadays all Harley's-fitted come with a gel battery, except for some of the bigger Dressers, still have wet batteries because I don't think they can produce the amperage yet, needed for the big charging systems and all the accessories.
In closing, first off thanks for buying this DVD. Second, most of what we've shown you here is basic common sense of systems that we've used over the years. All this stuff is tried and true. We're not trying to mislead you, we're not trying to sell you nothing. All this stuff works, it's just common sense.
When you approach your motorcycle, you should have the service manual for it. It tells you all the little details that we can't include in 10 DVDs. It's nice to have for reference, for torque specs, for everything else. You'll notice we didn't try and tell you exactly how much your alternator should put out, or your generator should put out. All that information is contained in your manual.
What we're trying to do is show you little, simple tricks to look for to make life easier for you and your bike, so you can stay on the road longer and have a garage, unless you're actually changing it for good. Everything here works. We made it work, we've done it to our own motorcycles. We've practiced these techniques in our own shop. Thanks again for buying the DVD. See you next time.