Question about 1979 Harley Davidson XLH 1000 Sportster

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I have a Harley Davison XLH 1000 Sportster . It seems to put oil in the tank but not back in the motor . When you turn the motor over oil comes out the oil fill.

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  • Ken Fowler
    Ken Fowler Mar 23, 2011

    it is called wet sump. After a long sit the oil will drain into the cranckase and the tank will be be low. Always run it before adding oil!



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You may just have it overfilled. If you checked your oil before you started the engine up and found it to be low and added oil, this is more than likely the case. Since the oil tank is higher than the engine, the Sportster (and Softail models) have a tendency to "oil soak". What is happening is as the bike sits the oil seeps past the check valve in the oil pump and starts to settle in the engine. When you check the oil tank, it's low. So, you add a quart. When you start the engine or turn it with the starter, the oil pump pumps the oil out of the engine and into the tank which is already full. The oil has to go somewhere so out the filler it comes.

Now, to determine if your oil pump is indeed pumping into the engine, screw the oil pressure sending unit out and remove the spark plugs. Spin the engine with the starter and watch to see if the oil is being pumped out. If so, the oil pump is fine. We already know that the scavenger pump is pumping oil back into the tank. So, if you think the engine is overfilled, drain about half of the oil out of the tank and start the engine. Watch the oil level in the tank with a flashlight. Do not allow it to run dry. Allow the engine to run until it is warm and then check the oil. There are two marks on the dipstick. The top mark is "FULL HOT" and the lower mark is "FULL COLD". Check the oil with the bike on the side stand. Do not overfill.

Posted on Mar 23, 2011


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1. Oil tank/pan overfilled.
2. Restricted oil return line to oil tank/pan.
3. Restricted breather operation.
4. Restricted oil filter.
5. Piston rings badly worn or broken.
6. Valve guides or seals worn or crushed.
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