Question about 1979 Harley Davidson XLS 1000

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1979 sportster.Starter spins but does not engage

I need to know how to remove the starter.

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I had a 67 & a 77 Sportster 25 years ago & helped a friend build custom fuelers in his shop part-time thru the 90s. I don't have manuals anymore, but I'll help with what I can.

Your starter is under the battery cage and the batt cage is under the seat. You need to disconnect the batt cables & remove the batt. If you have a lot of custom add-ons like lightrails & saddlebag mounting gear you may need to remove some of the accessories to get to your starter.

With the battery out you should be able to see the starter underneath the batt cage although you might not be able to see much depending on your bike's details. The large ground wire attaches to the side of the starter field winding with a bolt and the case grounds it to the rest of the bike. You may be able to remove the starter without removing the cage but most likely you will get better access by removing it first. Depends on the tools you have and your specific setup as to what might be in the way.
There are 2 bolts to remove the starter from the gearbox, but you might have additional stabilizer brackets on the starter to contend with too.
You have one of 2 problems- either the solenoid isn't kicking the gear out to the clutch hub gear or the gearcase has a problem keeping the starter gear from engaging. You'll have to remove the gearcase clutchhub cover to get to the hub gear assemblies.

Most likely to fail is the solenoid and you can often clean up the copper disc with emery cloth or flip it over if badly pitted to renew the solenoid.
Good luck and keep us posted- hope this helps.

Posted on May 19, 2009

  • Annimater
    Annimater Jun 07, 2009

    Obviously you will also have to remove your rear exhaust pipe. Did you get it fixit yet or not?



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1977 sportster xlh 1000 starter

Hi Anonymous, it sounds the like starter drive/clutch has gone south, it has components inside, that when spinning, centrifugal forces cause them to grab or lock into permanently fixed counterparts. The gear only spins one way and locks the other way. If you have one that spins both ways it has failed and needs to be replaced. Please visit the web site below for more help and good luck. Harley Davidson Manuals Mark Workshop

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I just replaced a 1979 shovelhead starter (and new housing gasket and oil deflector plate) and the starter just free spins, Help!!

What ever it is it sounds like the starter Bendix isn't engaging. Need to know if it is engaged by a solenoid or centrifugally engaged.

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I have 1972 xl 1000 harley starter is just spinning not engaging i have replaced starter the selenoid and the bendix stilll not working

If the starter motor is running, the solenoid is working. Is the "over running" spring, cup, and pin in place? Is the shifter fork for the starter shaft positioned correctly in the collar behind the Bendix.

Disconnect the battery, remove the primary cover, and take the solenoid off but leave the plunger for the solenoid in position. Now, with the solenoid off, pull the plunger back in the direction that the solenoid would pull it. Watch the starter shaft and make sure that it moves forward and engages flywheel. Take the starter off and make sure the small gear on the end of it is in good shape as well. Try that Bendix with your hand, It should turn one way but not the other. Even if it does, that doesn't mean it's good. If it turns in both directions, it is bad.

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Sep 07, 2011 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

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Unable to get starter to turn.have rplcd batt.cables.rplcd starter relay,solenoid,starter also mostly rewired added a ground cable to solenoid from frame.does also have an added pushbutton...

This is a possibility. The header says you're working on a 1979 XLH 1000cc Sportster. This is not a 250cc bike and it takes a good battery to start and engine of this size. I've never seen a CCA rating on the battery requirement in a service manual but it does say that the battery should be capable of at least 32 Ahr.

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Aug 15, 2011 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

1 Answer

75 sportster starter just spins. 1st time it did it I tapped starter with rubber mallet and started. No problems for weekbut now doing same thing, and tapping doesn't help starter just spins...

If the starter spins but the engine does not turn, it's not your starter. It is your starter drive or Bendix on the starter shaft. Disconnect the battery. Take the outer primary cover off. Take the wires off the starter solenoid, remove the pin, cup and spring on the inside of the primary, and remove the solenoid. With this off, you can remove the starter shaft. Clamp the starter shaft in a vise with soft jaws on it. You don't want to scar your starter shaft. You'll see a round thing on the end of the shaft with two flats on it. Use a wrench to take this off. IT HAS LEFT HANDED THREADS. Slide the old Bendix off and put the new one on. Put a drop of Loctite 271 red on the threads and put the nut back on the end and tighten. Put your bake back together in reverse of how you took it apart. When you buy the replacement Bendix, but a good one. Do not buy the Chinese version, they're junk.

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May 28, 2011 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

1 Answer

1979 sportster - selenoid has 3 wires, 1 batter +, 1 starter, 1 starter button, other side of starter button goes to power, hit starter button motor turns over, release starter button, starter keeps...

Or the big washer in solenoid is burnt & sticking take apart sand big copper washer & part it touches reassemble .. you may also ask this ? at they have helped me...

Apr 21, 2011 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

1 Answer

How do i remove starter from 1979 sportster i'm not sure on motor size how do i find motor size

If your bike is indeed a 1979 model sportster, the motor size is 1000cc. with a four speed transmission. It's what we call an Ironhead sportster since the heads are made of iron rather than aluminum. Check the with a magnet.

To take the starter off your bike is simple. Take the large battery cable loose that comes from the solenoid. There are what looks like two nuts on the end of the starter. These are actually two long bolts that go all the way through the starter and screw into the starter reduction gear housing. Take the two long bolts loose but do not take them out of the starter. They also hold the starter together. Work with the starter and take it all off as a unit. If you take the bolts out, the starter comes off in about five pieces and can be difficult to put back together unless you have experience in doing this.

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Mar 17, 2011 | Harley Davidson XLH Sportster 883...

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I need to change the starter on a 1979 harley 1000 sportster

This is a fairly involved job, but if you remove the battery, oil tank and related brackets, the starter can be accessed from there. Have you converted to electronic, single fire ignition? that is the best upgrade for your machine, you will never go back to points.

Mar 17, 2011 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

1 Answer

1974 sportster starter turns but does not engage

Your starter drive or "Bendix" is bad. Disconnect the battery, remove the outer primary, remove the starter solenoid and pull the starter drive shaft, with the Bendix on it, out. Clamp the starter drive shaft in vise with soft jaws and remove the nut on the outer end. It has left handed threads. Replace the starter drive with a high quality unit such as ACCEL. Avoid the cheaper Chinese units as they don't last. Reassemble your bike.

Good Luck

Oct 12, 2010 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

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