Question about Harley Davidson XL Sportster 883 Motorcycles

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87 sportster fuel line gets air locked

I have a clear fuel filter and sometimes when i drive it it runs out of gas although the tank is full. i can see in the filter there is no gas. sometimes it only takes a flick of the finger to get it flowing again. other times i have to take the line off the tank, turn on the fuel a little and put the hose on as it runs everywhere to get it to fill back up.

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  • Jessie Lamison Jan 21, 2009

    actually i bought it used and the last owner pluged the vent on the tank with JB weld. (not sure why) What a dummy. Guess I got to get the drill out. Thanks alot.

  • Jessie Lamison Jan 21, 2009

    wonder how i can get it out?

  • jvanhyfte Apr 16, 2009

    I'm having the same problem it seems! i thought the accelerator portion of the carb was gummed up. i just changed the fuel filter today. took it out and had to push it around 2 miles back to the garage. sucks! I noticed the fuel filter didn't fill all the way up but it didn't occur to me until i read this. makes sense to me!

    But I've ridden it several days in a row with no problems. Now all of a sudden........

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  • 7 Answers

The gas tank breather vent is clogged. Check around your cap and make sure the vent hose under the tank is not pinched. Your getting a vapor lock.

Posted on Jan 21, 2009

  • jon sauers Jan 21, 2009

    Dont drill near any gasoline!

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Starts and runs fine for a few min. Sometimes seconds then shuts off it wont stay running at all


Honestly, there are so very many potential causes for this it's really guesswork based on the info you've given. Is there gas in the car? How much?(fuel at the very bottom of the tank in an older car is likely full of schlock) Could be a failing fuel pump, a clogged fuel line, a dirty carb (if it has a carb). Could be a dirty fuel filter, water in the gas tank from condensation(particularly if it has been parked for a long time with very little gas in the tank). Just as a precaution - open up the air filter and inspect the element and the area around the mouth of the carb for obstructions. Once I found a mechanics rag in my '87 Subaru air cleaner housing that had been dragged there by ground squirrels. It was running mighty rough. Tracy, you need to get a mechanic involved here.

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I'm thinking you probably have already answered your own question.

Your standard fuel system usually consists of either a gravity fed system, whereby the tank is elevated on the chassis, fuel flows through the line into an inline fuel filter and then into the carb. In some systems, a fuel pump is needed to supply a better flow of fuel. You are basically saying, you took the filter off the line going from the pump to the tank, fuel flows freely which leads me to believe this may be a clogged fuel filter.

For this particular model however, there are literally dozens of potential causes, anything from a clogged fuel filter to improper fuel being used in the machine. Potentially, it could also be clogged or faulty injectors, in which case you are probably better off taking it in to a dealer to have them test that out and repair it if necessary.

Sometimes the injection pump shut off valve can be the cause as well, it doesn't reset like it's supposed to. The only way to really test that however is to simply switch the key back to the off position and then switch it back on, and see if it fires up.

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You may be getting a partial vacuum lock in the fuel feed if the tank is NOT venting correctly. Your statement indicates the possibility. Many tanks vent (atmospheric pressure out and in) by the thread pattern on the fuel cap. May I suggest leaving the cap a little loose and adding some fuel system cleaner to your fuel supply. I recommend Chem Tool's Berryman B-12 (at auto parts stores). The rate is 1 ounce/gallon for cars. A little stronger dose won't hurt the carburetor. If this doesn't help, it may need to be removed and cleaned as sediment, fuel line debris and water may be in the fuel bowl (you can remove the bowl and clean it). Debris even just in the bowl will certainly cause runnability problem like yours. Try the above remedies and post back!

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