Shifter Pawl Adjustment: Tips and Techniques

Duration: 7:35

If you have a pre-2007 Harley Davidson with a five speed transmission, it is important to know how to make a correct shifter pawl adjustment. The only part of the shift pawl assembly that is seen on an assembled transmission is the shift shaft that exits from the left side transmission case and is secured into the transmission shift arm. This shift arm can be know as the last component of the shift linkage assembly.

The purpose of the shift pawl assembly is to push or pull, forward and back on the shift drum. This motion turns the shift drum which, in turn, moves the shift forks. Finally, the shift forks slide their corresponding transmission gears on the mainshaft and countershaft giving us gear change and neutral position. For a good visual example of a shift pawl assembly, Google JIMS #2384.

If your shift pawl assembly is ever in need of replacement due to a broken shaft weld or a stripped shaft spline, this is the best possible replacement part. Stronger than an OEM replacement. For correct shift operation, the shift pawl assembly needs to be correctly centered over the centering pin.

In order to check for correct shifter pawl adjustment; lift the rear wheel of the motorcycle and shift into third gear (it is best if the shift linkage is removed from the transmission shift arm). Now, gently (without up, or down shifting) push forward and back on the transmission shift arm. You should feel an equal amount of spring pressure forward and back. Of the movement, or spring pressure is not split equally, the assembly is in need of shifter pawl adjustment.

Adjustment is easiest to do in instances when the primary drive is removed. However, the adjustment can still be made with, either, a specialty tool or with modified 11/16″ and 1/4″ wrenches. Loosen the 11/16″ jam nut and make small adjustments with the 1/4″ wrench.

The pin will tend to move when re-tightening the jam nut. Even if the pin is held while tightening the nut, it may take a number of attempts before you are satisfied with your adjustment. Next time you are servicing your five speed Harley, take a few minutes and inspect your shift pawl adjustment. This is also an important inspection to make if you are having trouble shifting or finding neutral.

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9 Responses to “Shifter Pawl Adjustment: Tips and Techniques”
  1. David Bell
    David Bell

    Where do you get the specialty wrenches for shift pawl adjustment?

    • Dennis Santopietro
      Dennis Santopietro

      It’s old, been around for a while. I looked online. Can’t find it anywhere.
      The tool is helpful but you can still use an 11/16” box wrench with a 1/4″ wrench, on most 5 speeds, to achieve correct adjustment

  2. samuel

    Wow , So much stuff. I’m having trouble with neutral , when running wont shift up. I I cut the bike off finds it with no problem. Seems like it shifts ok but has a little pull when cold with the lever pulled in.

  3. Conrad

    04 Road King my shifter power adjustment doesn’t have a bolt just the Allen screw and I know how I turn it won’t move it at all to Center

  4. john

    1999xlh1200 jumpin outta1st gear when turnin right.. But no issuses findin neutral etc. Just installed new clutch .. Deleted springplate. And added 2 steels n 2 fibers.. Also replaced shift shaft n paw with good used pieces.primary, ramp , etc. Runs great but feels like its skipping belt?? In 1st gear, especially leaning right

  5. Dennis Santopietro
    Dennis Santopietro

    Q: I am trying to adjust my shifter paw and I saw your video. My dad owns a motorcycle shop in sandusky ohio, M&M Cycles/Mozaic Racing. I watched the youtube video you put up and it doesnt mention where you can buy the special tools. Would you be able to help me find them?

    A: We have had those tools for decades.
    May no longer be available. They were mainly for demonstration purposes.
    Suggest finding 2 sacrificial wrenches.
    11/16″ & 1/4″.
    Bend, cut, grind them as needed.

  6. Lukas

    I have a 2003 Deuce and I don’t believe it has the adjuster you refer to in your video. I checked the manual and there is no reference made to the pawl adjustment. My issue is that the bike is not shifting into gear at all when moving the shifter. It’s just perpetually in neutral. Not even sure if its a pawl adjustment issue, but thought I would start there. Thanks