Question about 2006 Harley Davidson XL 1200 C Sportster Custom

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Took stock cable out of primary. put new cable in and the clutch wont engage

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First, are you sure you got the correct cable. If so, let's try adjusting it. First find the cable adjuster, loosen the lock nut, and turn the adjuster inwards until you have lots of slack.

Then, take the derby cover off the primary. You'll have spring and a locknut type thing come off as well. Now, adjust the screw counterclockwise all the way until it stops. Then, turn it back in 1/4 turn. Put the lock nut in, the spring and replace the derby cover.

Now, at the cable adjuster, adjust the adjuster outward until you have about 1/8" freeplay, Pull the clutch in and release it a couple of times and recheck the freeplay.

Good Luck

Posted on Dec 29, 2010


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Hi, Anonymous and the usual suspects are:
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I changed the bars on my 01 883 sporty. Now the clutch leaver wont engage the clutch. I tried adjusting the cable but no luck. I changed back the bars, but no luck. Any ideas?

I'm not sure what you mean by "engage the clutch". When some people say this, it means the clutch won't disengage the engine from the transmission. Others say it and it means that the clutch will not engage the engine and transmission and make the bike move. It's the same way with the term "backfire". To some that's a pop from the exhaust, to others is a spit back out fo the carburetor.

Now, if you took the handlebars off, you should have only has to move the cable adjuster in the middle of the cable. If you did not change any adjustment at the primary, you should only have to the adjuster in the middle of the cable to worry about. Make sure that the cable housing is seated in the adjusters like it should be. It they are out of the adjusters, it would may your clutch stay in the "pulled in " position and the clutch will not engage the engine and transmission.

Now, when you pull the clutch lever in,you should feel the resistance of the clutch. If not, the there is the possibility that the cable came disconnected in the primary case. This is rare but I have seen it happen before. To fix it, remove the outside derby cover and you should be able to reconnect the cable with the clutch release mechanism in the primary. If you need a drawing of this area, contact me directly at

Good Luck

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Loosen clutch cable adjuster locknut and the front of the outer primary cover and turn the cable adjuster inwards until a large amount of free play at the hand lever on the handlebar is recognized.

Remove the clutch adjuster access plug, Loosen the adjuster locknut and turn the screw inwards until it becomes harder to turn (starts to release the clutch) and continue turning 2 more turns to be sure clutch is disengaged.

Adjust all the free play out of the clutch cable by turning the cable adjuster in the front of the outer primary outwards. Do not put any tension on the cable, just adjust all the freeplay out of the cable and tighten locknut on the primary cover.

Now, Back off the adjuster screw at the release mechanism until the clutch is engaged and the screw turns freely. Then turn inwards until it just bumps and then back off 1/8 to 1/4 turn. Locknut the locknut down and install the access plug. There should be about a 1/16" free play at the hand lever.

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Clutch wont engage

It sounds like the clutch must be incorrectly assembled. No offense meant, is is easy to miss one little thing. Go to the site below and look at the clutch diagram. Note that the assembly begins and ends with a friction plate and that a metal pressure plate goes between each friction plate. You should have 7 metal pressure plates and 8 friction plates.

The clutch outer basket seldom goes bad unless hit with a hammer or a tree. Why did it need to be replaced? Did you compare the new OEM hub to the old one? They may have given you the wrong basket. The tighter the cable the less likely the clutch will engage. You should have 1/4" end play at the handlebar lever. By the way, exactly what oil did you put in the gearbox after replacing the clutch? Okay, this is a good start. Post a comment if you need to get back to me.

Please rate this solution. Thanks!

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Hi and welcome to FixYa,

Appreciate the direct "Ask Me".

To your concern, I am assuming you are referring to the plastic insert/tube over the cable. The plastic serves two purposes; 1st to ensure that the cable does not rub against the metal ends of the cable housing and 2nd, to reduce built-up of corrosion/oxidation on the cable. This is because of different types of metals are in contact with one another and are exposed to the elements. Simply put, the plastic serves as a sacrificial material, rather it be damaged than the cable.

There are also plastic inserts in some models over the nipple, the end of the cable. This serves as a spacer when the nipple is inserted on the slot/hole of the clutch lever.

I am also curious why your bike will not start and could only think of the clutch engaged switch. Pls check if the new clutch lever is reaching/engaging this switch. Although this of course does not have an effect as long as you start in neutral. Any other indicators when you press on the START button? A clicking sound?

Good luck and Thank you for using FixYa.

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