Question about Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster Motorcycles

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I am trying to find the timing mark on an 82 XLH Ironhead sportster I was told to put the bike in 4th gear and rotate the rear wheel until the mark appears. 2 things bike turns over and pistons move but when I rotate the tire they do not move. 2nd is the front piston all the way to the top at top dead center

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Ok raise the rear wheel off the ground and put the transmission in high gear. Take the spark plugs out of the engine. Now, when you turn the tire in the normal direction of rotation, the engine should turn. If it doesn't, the clutch is slipping badly.

Remove the timing plug on the left side of the crankcases. Now, using a COMMON PLASTIC DRINKING STRAW, stick the straw down into the FRONT cylinder spark plug hole. Do not use anything other than a plastic drinking straw. If you use something made of metal, you may damage the piston. Something wood may break and you'll have to pull the head to get it out. Bump the engine using the rear wheel until the front cylinder piston comes as high as it will come in the cylinder.

Look in the hole and you should see the Top Dead Center timing mark. If you don't see it, move the engine slightly forward or backward until you do. Now that you've found the TDC mark, bump the engine BACKWARDS until you see another mark. This should the the Front Cylinder Advanced Timing mark. I think the piston should be something like 7/16" down in the cylinder at this point.

According to my manual, the TDC mark is a straight up and down line. The Front cylinder advanced mark is a "o" near the top of the timing hole and the Rear Cylinder advanced timing mark is "oo" mark near the bottom of the hole. The "oo" is commonly called the "lazy eight mark".

Hope this helps,
Good Luck

Posted on Jun 05, 2010

Testimonial: "Thank you a ton Steve I have been restoring this bike for just over a year and a half now and have been so anxious to get it running. Your information has been very helpful thanks again"


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1 Answer

Need to set timing marks on 85 hd sportster 1000cc

Ok, let's start by identifying the timing mark you need to look for. Raise the bike up and get the rear wheel off the ground, shift the transmission into fourth gear, remove the spark plugs, and the timing plug. You'll need a common everyday drinking straw, use nothing else. We are going to insert the straw into the front cylinder spark plug hole to bring the piston to top dead center. The drinking straw is made of plastic and will bend without breaking or damaging anything. A pencil or metal object may break leaving a piece in the cylinder in which case you'll have to pull the head to get it out or a metal object that could damage the piston.

Now, with the straw in front cylinder spark plug hole, bump the rear wheel in the normal direction of rotation. When the drinking straw starts to rise, continue bumping the rear wheel until the straw stops rising and possibly starts to go back down. Look into the timing hole and see if you see a mark, best as I can remember, it's a vertical line. If not, bump the rear tire backwards and forwards just a bit until you find it. This is the Top Dead Center timing mark. The mark you want to use to time your engine is the Front Cylinder Advanced Timing mark. Slowly start bumping the rear wheel in the reverse direction. The drinking straw will begin to go back down. Once the drinking straw has gone down about a half inch, you should see a "dot" on the crank at the lower part of the hole. This is the timing mark you'll be looking for.

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If you can't see the timing mark, rotate the timing plate on the other side of the engine just slightly one way or the other until you find the mark. If you have an adjustable timing light, turn the adjustment to see if the timing is advanced, When you move the plate on the other side of the bike, turning it clockwise advances the timing. It's best to have two people and remember to turn the timing plate slowly and in small increments.

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2 Answers

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Raise the rear wheel of the bike off the ground and secure it. Remove the spark plugs from the engine. Put the transmission in high gear. Remove the timing plug from the engine case.

Bump the rear wheel in the direction of normal rotation. Using a plastic drinking straw (nothing else or you're asking for trouble) inserted into the front cylinder spark plug hole, bring the piston to top dead center. Once you think you're there, look into the timing hole. You'll should see a staight vertical line. If not, bump the rear wheel a bit to the rear or forward until you find it. This is the TDC front cylinder mark.

Now, slowly bump the rear wheel in the reverse direction until you see another mark on the flywheel. This should be a "dot" as best as I can remember and the piston should be about 7/16" down in the bore from TDC. This is your "Front Cylinder Advanced Timing Mark". This is where you're going to set your timing.

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1 Answer

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Once you've done the front cylinder, turn the engine using the rear wheel until the rear piston comes to Top Center. Always turn the engine in the normal direction of rotation. Adjust the two tappet the same way as you did the front cylinder tappets.

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