Question about 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

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Need to set timing marks on 85 hd sportster 1000cc

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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.

With that known, shift the bikes transmission back to neutral and lower the bike. Connect a timing light to the front cylinder and the battery. You can get a clear timing sight glass and put it in the hole but I've found that they don't work well. A device called a "Clean Time" is best, just push it into the hole so that it has a slight wiping effect on the flywheel. Or, you could use nothing at all in the hole. To use nothing in the hole, insert the timing plug loosely. Start the engine, bring it to about 2500 RPM, and take the plug out of the hole and shine the light in the hole quickly. Beware that with nothing in the hole, even at low RPM or engine cranking speed, there is a tremendous amount of pressure being blown out of the timing hole. DO NOT GET YOUR EYES OR FACE IN FRONT OF THE HOLE WITH THE ENGINE RUNNING OR TURNING WITH THE STARTER. It can blow oil in your eyes and that ain't exactly a pleasant feeling. Be careful.

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.

Good Luck

Posted on Mar 15, 2011


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