Sportster Clutch Adjustment

QuestionI own a “91 Sportster with about 17K miles and a 2006 Heritage – Special Peace Officers edition with about 15K miles. After starting and when I then engage the first gear it sounds like they “grind” going into gear. I do not hear any of this when shifting into higher gears but only when initially shifting into first gear. Am I doing something wrong or need servicing? John M. R

Answer John, yes; what you are describing does sound like something that can be corrected with a simple Sportster clutch adjustment. We have videos for both XL and Softail that will walk you through both of these service procedures. Check them out..

I just bought a 2002 sportster and when I test rode it, it seemed just fine, I went up and down a steep hill took it out for about ten minutes. So my question. When I got it home the first ride out it seemed as though the clutch slipped a couple of times in first gear but not in any other gear and subsequently has been doing it since. It seems to have this initial slip and then be fine. I adjusted the clutch and Primary chain. I understand that some people have replaced the Gear Shifter cam or whatever it is called on the internal end of the shifter and that seemed to fix the problem, but I don’t hear any grinding, just slipping. Regards Jim

Answer If you are correctly adjusting your clutch and it is slipping, you need to replace your clutch. Does not matter what gear is slipping.

Question My 2001 Sportster 1200 Custom with 20,000 miles. Am having a very noticeable clicking noise and jerky situation in first gear. I had the clutch cable replaced at HD Dealership. Later had it readjusted by a local HD specialty shop. He said they had the adjuster down at clutch incorrect. Told him about this and he said he could not detect this jerking action. Seemed to be mostly occurring for the first 2 or 3 miles while the bike was getting fully warmed up. I watched your video, got the courage and replace the clutch with a one step upgrade from HD Screamin Eagle. Followed all your guidance including feeling the edges on all the plates and kept them lined up in one direction. I am wondering if the one or several of the clutch plates are getting hung up on the Clutch Hub or the Clutch Shell. Trouble ALMOST never seems to occur in the upper gears. Good news sorta, It is getting more frequent, so I might take it back to the HD repair shop and see if they can correctly diagnose. Drive Belt is fine. Any thoughts would be appreciated.

Answer This does not sound like a clutch/clutch pack problem. When you have a clutch pack that is not properly disengaging; you will typically have trouble shifting. We have ridden XL’s that feel the way you describe. A “jerking” feeling in low gear. Unless this is something new, that you did not feel before; Might just have to call this nature of the beast.

 Related Videos:
XL Clutch Adjustment

Softail Clutch Adjustment

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16 Responses to “Sportster Clutch Adjustment”
  1. trat

    I think maybe what he is describing is the same as what I feel at times. When I pull off from a stop sometimes I roll about 20 feet then get a jerk and then it’s fine. It seems to me to do this more often when I am sitting a long light or waiting for a train to pass and I put the bike in Neutral and let off the clutch.and sit at an idle. Then when I put it in gear and move about 20 feet it will jerk like there is some play in the gear or clutch or maybe primary chain. Then its fine after that, Doesn’t happen very often but when it does it is a pretty good jerk,

    • Dennis Santopietro
      Dennis Santopietro

      Hi Trat, Thank you for your feedback. HAve you removed the clutch pack and cleaned it? or replaced it?

  2. Everett

    I’m sorry I didn’t give you more info the first time about my 2002 Sportster XL Hugger I bought it 2 years ago with 8,000 miles on it. Now it has 9,000 miles. I changed all the oil when I got it and changed all of the oil last year around April or May and the same this year also. I use Valvoline full Synthetic 20-50 for motorcycles. About 500 miles since oil change. This year it happened around the first of Sept. 2014 On my way home from work one morning I was stopped at a light and when light changed I took off and it shifted to 2nd fine but when I went to 3rd it was like it was in neutral when I tried to shift it was like it was stuck and I had a hard time getting it into a gear. When I got where I could pull over to get out of traffic I drove around parking lot and it seemed like it was ok. I got home and I have adjusted the clutch but the neutral light is still not working right it’s there but something is out of adjustment and when I took on test drive down the street the same thing happened. I haven’t been riding it since. I just ride in town to and from work and I haven’t been riding it since this started. I hope this info will help. Thanks for your info and time. Everett P.S can the clutch be bad or something wrong with the transmission.

  3. markblewis32177

    Links f/XL & Softail Clutch Adjustment not brought up Error 404 Page Not Found. Where are good links to these vid’s, please Thanx marklewis

  4. Walt

    My clutch has been slipping a little in first gear and I would occasionally get a hard shift into second that was happening for a couple of months I’ve put about 20,000 miles on this bike in a year and a half I changed the primary fluid last year It has shifted and run great About 5 days ago it wouldn’t go into 4th gear I opened it up to check fluid and it was down to about 10 ounces I added the proper amount of fluid, took the slack out of the cable Still no 4th gear Sometimes it feels like it’s shifting into 4th but just revs in neutral until I hit 5th It won’t downshift into 4th either Neither adjusting the cable or adding fluid got me 4th gear Obviously my clutch needs adjusted or replaced I am by the way stingy with my clutch so it will last a long time but I’m not sure I have only a clutch problem at this point with the low fluid condition existing probably as much as 5-10 thousand miles The bike I’m referring to is a 2003 Sportster 100th anniversary XL1200 Custom now with about 35,000 miles. Any thoughts or suggestions would be much appreciated! I am hooked on this bike lol

    • Customer Service Techs
      Customer Service Techs

      Hi, Larry. No. There are separate compartments for engine oil, transmission oil, and primary oil. Except for Sportsters where the Transmission and primary oil compartment is shared.

  5. Dale Ciechanowski
    Dale Ciechanowski

    89 sportster I changed the shift detention a year ago and now it’s hard to get it in neutral when I stop. Any thoughts on what it could be?

  6. Iain

    Overfilled primary? HD forums say 880cc not 946cc as quoted in manual. Worked for me when I had same problem with first gear engagement.

  7. John A Cauley
    John A Cauley

    Hey I have a 2006 1200L with almost 227k on it and besides having the spacer with the brass rivets the clutch is still all factory as well as the motor

  8. Rick Stevens
    Rick Stevens

    2014 Harley Davidson sportster, as soon as I let out the clutch, bike wants to take off fast

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hey Rick!

      That’s a great question!

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