Question about 2004 Harley Davidson XL 883 Sportster

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I bought a primary cover and I don't have a manual to see how to take off the shifter lever to put the cover on

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There's a lot more to replacing the primary cover on a Sporty than simply removing the shift lever. You have to remove that lever, change the primary adjuster out, and swap all the clutch release mechanism and cable from one cover to the other and then adjust the clutch cable.

Regretfully, this is far too much for me to guide you though via this medium. I would advise the purchase of a Clymer's manual. The Clymer's manual is less expensive than the OEM manual but it will guide you through the process of changing your primary cover. It will still be less expensive than paying a shop to do the job. I hope you understand. Good Luck Steve

Posted on Apr 28, 2010


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Why do I have to pump the toe shifter 3 or 4 times before it engages during downshifting?

Hi, Anonymous and the usual suspects are:
1. Clutch dragging slightly.
2. Primary chaincase overfilled with lubricant.
3. Corners wore off shifter clutch dogs.
4. Shifter return spring bent or broken.
5. Bent shifter rod.
6. Shifter forks sprung.
7. Shift lever is loose on shifter shaft
8. Shifter pawl needs adjusting.
9. Heel/toe shifter coming in contact with the floorboard.
10. Transmission oil too heavy.
For more information about your issue, please visit the websites below, and for specific information or questions please feel free to contact me at Good luck and have a nice day.
Disassembly and Re assembly Harley 5 Speed Transmission
HD Ultra Classic Primary Removal and Installation
How To Properly Adjust The Clutch Clutch Cable Harley Davidson
How to Install Shift Lever on Harley Davidson Street Glide
Harley Davidson Manuals Mark Workshop

Nov 28, 2015 | Harley Davidson Motorcycles

1 Answer

How do I remove and replace a primary cover on a 01 sportster 883 ?

It's fairly easy. Remove footpegs, shifter lever and anything else in the way. Drain primary oil. Plug is underneath the cover.

Back off primary chain adjuster by loosening the locknut then cranking the adjuster counterclockwise at the bottom of the cover. It is located approximately the center of the cover at the bottom.

Remove the round cover (not the oval one) and remove the spring and lock. Unscrew the clutch adjusting nut.

If you are replacing the cover, the clutch cable can be popped out of the lever. Installation is the reverse of disassembly.

Remove cover bolts. If the cover does not come off easily, rap it with a SOFT hammer to break the seal. I do NOT recommend jamming a screwdriver between the case and cover to pry it loose. Should pop right off. If you got all the bolts out, and followed the above instructions, nothing holds it on.

Honestly, it would be FAR better if you bought a manual to do this. It will be the best $60 you ever spent when doing basic maintenance. You will need to re-adjust the clutch and primary chain after you replace the cover.

Make sure you use a new gasket sprayed with Copper-Kote or equivalent, and refill with the PROPER oil. Don't overtighten the cover bolts!!!!

Mar 01, 2015 | Harley Davidson Motorcycles

1 Answer

2005 sportster 883 stopped at light, put into 1st, bike will move but will not come out of gear and has play and shift lever

Sounds like you have a broken shifter pawl. It's behind the clutch assembly in the primary cover. You'll have to take the outer primary cover off, remove the engine sprocket and clutch assembly. The shifter mechanism is behind the clutch assembly. I would suggest the purchase of a service manual if you plan on fixing the bike yourself. In this particular case, the pictures in the book are worth a thousand words. It will show you how to adjust the shifter pawl with a simple picture where it would take me four pages to describe how to do it and we still may not get it right. Look at it this way, if you fix the bike yourself, the money you save by using the book will more than pay for the book and the next time you use it, it's free. At today's labor prices, it don't take long. Thirty minutes to an hour labor will pay for the book.

Good Luck

Aug 28, 2011 | 2004 Harley Davidson XL 883 Sportster

1 Answer

The shifter gears up but will not release tension to gear down. Can a novice open shifter to look what is wrong or do you require special tools or skills. I am afraid of springs and parts shooting out if...

I'd save shifter surgery as a last resort. These things can be like watches to put back together.

It's possibly friction in the shifter cable. Shift it so there is no tension on the cable and see if you can manually pull the cable freely through the housing. If not, some preventive maintenance or replacement is needed. That's shop-level stuff if you don't immendiately grasp what I'm saying.

Jul 03, 2011 | Sram X.7 Trigger Shifter, 9 Speed, Set

1 Answer

I am reassembling the clutch cable, is there an online manuel for this job or bike

I'm afraid there is no online manual available. Harley is very protective of their copyrighted material.

If you've already gotten the outer primary off the bike and the old cable out. Insert the primary end of the cable into the primary cover and screw the adjuster with the lock nut on it all the way into the outer primary. Reconnect the cable to the release mechanism with the link.

Replace the outer primary but starting the screw for the clutch release into the nut in the release mechanism. Turn the screw counterclockwise while you put the cover back on. Do not forget the gasket. Once you get the cover in position, replace all the bolts in the cover an tighten them. Adjust the primary chain by removing the top plug and checking the slack with your finger. Adjust the primary chain adjuster on the underside of the primary until you 1/2" to 5/8" up and down play in the chain. Finish the assembly of anything at the primary, shifter, foot pegs, etc. Refill the primary with one quart of oil.

Connect the cable at the clutch lever. Back down at the clutch release mechanism, make sure you have the screw turned all the way counterclockwise until it stops. Then turn the screw back 1/4 turn. Adjust the cable adjuster at the front of the primary cover out until you have about 1/8 inch of freeplay at the lever. Lock the lock nut and replace the cover over the clutch release mechanism.

If you need a drawing, contact me directly at I'll send you one directly.

Good Luck

Feb 10, 2011 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

1 Answer

My shifter lever has to much play and doesn't engage gears on my 1988 Sportster 883 Harley.

Sounds like the shifter pawl is broken. This is common in the early Evo Sportsters. You'll have to remove the primary cover, the compensator sprocket and the clutch assembly to get to the shifter pawl.

Good Luck

Sep 02, 2010 | Harley Davidson XLH Sportster 883...

1 Answer

Hi, 1997 evo , cannot get gears looks like the linkage is turning the sellector arm that goes into the box but all sloppy ! . don`t know how it happened left in shop to sell,, now this. Can you please...

This is a problem with all Big Twin Harleys. I've replace many of the shift levers and the shafts. To repair the job correctly, it's a big job. Since the lever is worn and gotten sloppy to the extent that it will no longer shift the gears, the shifter pawl shaft is probably worn to the point that it needs to be replaced as well.

To replace this shaft, the entire primary, both the outer and inner primary cover, will have to be removed. This includes the engine compensator sprocket, primary chain, and clutch assembly. The starter and the inner primary will have to come off. On the right side of the bike, the exhaust will have to come off so you can get the starter off. The "trapdoor" on the transmission will have to come off and the gear shafts removed to get the shifter pawl shaft out.

It's a major job. What causes it is the lever being made out of soft material and thousands of shifts made over the years. I guess someone could have abused the shift lever while it was sitting there but more than likely, it was badly worn to begin with. Sorry Dave. Like I said, this is a common problem.

Good Luck

Aug 21, 2010 | Maisto Harley Davidson Model Kit 1997...

1 Answer


Sounds like you have some shifter pawl problems. If you remove your outer primary cover, you can see the shifter pawl just behind your clutch assembly. The problem could be the shifter pawls, the springs, or the carrier. You'll just have to go in there to find out exactly what it is.

To get the outer cover off, first loosen the primary chain tensioner beneath the primary cover. Then remove the large round cover from the outer primary cover. Beneath the cover is a spring with a locknut over the clutch adjuster. Drain the oil out of the primary and remove all the bolts around the primary including the left side foot rest and the nut at the front. Slide the outer primary cover off as you turn the clutch adjuster clockwise.

With cover off, you may can see the problem with the shifter pawl but I'm afraid that you're going to have to pull the engine drive sprocket and the clutch assembly off to repair it. To do this, you need an air wrench to remove the front sprocket nut and the clutch assembly nut. The clutch assembly nut is left handed threads. Take the snap ring out of the center of the clutch assembly and remove the clutch adjuster plate.

When reassembling the primary, torque the engine nut to 150-165 Foot pounds, the clutch nut torque is 70-80 foot pounds left handed, adjust the primary chain to 3/8 to 1/2" up and down with the engine cold. Check the primary chain adjustment thorough the upper inspection hole on the outer primary cover. I highly suggest you purchase a service manual to refer to if you decide to do this job. If you do it yourself, the book will pay for itself with this one job. Otherwise, this is a pretty advanced job and you might be better off taking to an experience mechanic.

Apr 01, 2010 | 2003 Harley Davidson XL 1200 S Sportster...

1 Answer

06 dyna super glide innerseal leakage & sharft seleter movement ?

I am not completely sure how the shifter shaft on you newer '06 FXD is set up but this it how the mid mounted shifter lever is set up on an older version.

The shifter shaft goes through the inspection cover on the outside of the outer primary cover. If you take the shifter off and then the cover, there is a tube that runs through the primary that the shifter shaft runs through. This tube has O-rings on either end of it. There is a clamp (for lack of a better description) on the inside of the primary that holds this tube in the primary. Take the bolt out of the clamp and the tube will come out. To work with this, you may have to remove the outer primary cover to gain access to the bolt holding the clamp. Replace the O-rings with new ones. If possible, try to find one that is the same size but made of slightly thicker stuff so you get a tighter fit. This may solve you oil leak on the backside of the inner primary if this is the problem.

But, I think I've answered this question before. There are several other things behind the inner primary that can leak. One thing is the mainshaft seal in the backside of the inner primary. Another is any one or more of the seals at the final drive belt front pulley on the transmission. Harley had some major problems at one time with the "quad seal" behind the final drive belt front pulley.

If you still have the leak, notice whether it is near the middle of the primary or nearer the back end of the primary. This will help a lot in attempting to diagnose your problem.

Oct 16, 2009 | Harley Davidson FXD Dyna Super Glide...

2 Answers

How much work is it to take off the cover on a 1980 ironhead sportster 1000 cc side where the shifter is

Not too much, if you are a fair mechanic. You probably should get a service manual tho. Basically, you remove the foot pegs and anything in the way, remove shifter, clutch cable. Drain the trans oil, then pull the cover. A couple parts may fall out, that's why I suggested a service manual.

Jul 08, 2009 | 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

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