How To Adjust Harley Softail Shocks: Everything You Need To Know


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How To Adjust Harley Softail Shocks

Do you always get tired of the Softail shocks? Do you want to know how to adjust Harley Softail shocks? If so, then you’re in the right place.

Adjusting Harley Softail shocks involves using different tools to turn the shock adjuster plates inward and outward. Some of the tools you’ll need are a motorcycle jack stand, a shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench, and more.

In this article, you’ll get to know all about the rear shocks on your Softail, how to adjust Harley Softail shocks and a lot more. Continue reading to know more.

How to adjust Harley Softail shocks?

By trying to make the Harley-Davidson Softail frame look more rigid but still have the comfort of a modern suspension, the brand had to change the way the shocks function and mount. The shocks on the Softail are very different from other motorcycles, as the shocks get hidden under the transmission. While regular shocks can cushion the ride by resisting compression, the shocks in the Softail will cushion by resisting extension.

The brand has been manufacturing bikes for over a century. The early Harley-Davidson models did not have any rear suspension. The rear wheel on such models was mounted on the frame rigidly. This made for a fairly rough ride. The models have since come a long way as they come with fully adjustable rear suspensions. Further, the rear shock absorbers on the Softail can easily be adjusted to carry heavier weights. Here is all that you need to know about how to adjust Harley Softail shocks.

Tools you’ll require

  • A motorcycle jack stand
  • A shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench
  • An adjustable wrench

Instructions to follow

  1. Place a hydraulic motorcycle jack stand below the frame rails of your bike.
  2. Lift your motorcycle off the ground by simply pumping the jack stand using the jack handle. Then, simply raise the jack until the rear wheel of the bike has cleared the ground.
  3. Make a reference mark using a dab of paint on the shock adjuster plate of both of the rear shock absorbers.
  4. Slightly loosen, but don’t remove the jam nut on the shock absorbers. Do this in a counterclockwise direction using an adjustable wrench.
  5. By making use of a shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench, turn the shock adjuster plates. You’ll need to turn these plates an equal number of times and in the same direction on both the shock absorbers. Make sure that you’re turning the adjuster plates at least 1 full revolution. Moreover, make use of the reference marks for accomplishing this.
  1. Now, turn the shock adjuster plates counterclockwise or out towards the jam nut. Do this to raise spring pre-load to be able to work through heavier loads.
  2. Then, turn the shock adjuster plates clockwise or inward, away from the jam nut. Do it to lower the spring pre-load and to smoothen out the ride for lighter loads.
  3. Make sure that you’re turning the shock adjuster plates equally for each shock.
  4. After that, tighten the jam nut on the shock absorbers in a clockwise direction using an adjustable wrench.
  5. Lower the bike to the ground before removing the hydraulic jack stand from beneath the bike.
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Important tips to keep in mind when adjusting the Softail shocks

  • The shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench can be easily bought from the official website of Harley-Davidson or any local dealer.
  • Be careful when you’re placing the hydraulic jack under the bike. You shouldn’t place the jack below the brake pedals as it can cause harm to the brake system.
  • Make sure that you adjust both of the shock absorbers to the exact same pre-load. If you fail to do so, it can cause an adverse effect on the handling of your bike.
  • Be aware of the handling changes in your bike after you change the shock absorber pre-load.

Why you should adjust the Harley-Davidson Softail shocks?

Having properly adjusted Harley-Davidson Softail shocks will be incredibly important, as they’ll affect numerous aspects of your bike. Some of those aspects are maneuverability, comfort when riding, the ability to brake, and stability. If you have properly adjusted the shocks, you will be able to enjoy a more steady motion when driving. You will have more leverage and control when turning, stopping, accelerating, or driving on uneven terrains. Regardless of the conditions on the road, the adjusted Softail shocks will ensure that you are firmly in your seat and the bike’s wheels are on the ground.

Never settle for factory settings

The Harley-Davidson manufacturers ship the bikes with default settings. However, they know that different riders will have different requirements. As the suspensions and shocks are largely determined by the weight of the rider, the adjustments will likely vary. When you buy a new Harley-Davidson bike, you’ll need to adjust the rear shocks to match your height and weight. In fact, the correct setting would actually depend on both the rider and the passenger.

If you’ve purchased a second-hand Harley-Davidson bike, the settings will be suitable for the previous owner. You’ll need to tweak and adjust the settings according to your comfort.

Experience lesser impact when driving

One of the main purposes of rear shocks is that it’ll minimize the impact of bumpy, uneven roads. You’ll find that if your shocks are adjusted to your weight, you’re unlikely to feel any bumps at all. This is how advanced the suspensions systems of Harley-Davidson bikes have become today. However, not having the right weight can have an adverse effect too. If the suspension settings don’t match your weight, both you and your passenger will likely have a bumpy ride.

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Far better maneuverability

The Harley-Davidson bike will have better handing if you’ve tailored the suspension depending on your needs. It will be the difference between a motorcycle that handles very well and one that you’ll struggle to drive. The one thing in your favor is the current advanced technology. Due to the technology today, adjusting the rear shocks on your motorcycle has become far easier.

What to do when adjusting Harley-Davidson Softail shocks?

While it is fairly simple to adjust the Harley-Davidson Softail shocks, sometimes, taking additional help can be beneficial. As experienced as you may be, you might come across an issue that is entirely new to you. This is why you need to know what to do when you’re adjusting Harley-Davidson Softail shocks. Here are some of the key points that you should keep in mind.

Ask for professional help

Adjusting the Harley-Davidson Softail shocks in your bike can be tricky at first. It can be even trickier if you try doing it alone without any expertise. It is strongly recommended that you should have a friend or two come over when you’re adjusting Harley-Davidson Softail shocks. It would be even better if you have a professional present, as they’ll know how to adjust Harley-Davidson Softail shocks. Working as a group would help you get the job done faster and more efficiently.

Together, you’ll be able to access the different parts of your bike and double-check for potential mistakes. Moreover, you’ll have an extra person to take down notes, especially when you’re dealing with turning clockwise and counterclockwise. You will be able to carry out more accurate calculations, plus it’ll be done quicker.

Remember to take and keep notes for future reference

Taking notes when you’re adjusting Harley-Davidson Softail shocks is essential. Referring to your notes and utilizing them for future riding sessions is equally important. You might feel that once you have the perfect settings, you’ll not have to adjust the Softail socks again. However, you’re wrong on this one. If circumstances change, you’ll likely have to revise these settings. 

For instance, say that you’re going somewhere and you have to drive on a bumpy, unfamiliar path. This is when you’ll have to adjust the Harley-Davidson Softail shock settings and get them to match.

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This is when keeping notes will come in handy. You’ll be able to gauge what the current settings are while also remembering the changes that you made previously. Having proper notes will help you go back to the previous settings that suited your preferences.

Features to consider when buying new Harley Softail shocks

It cannot be emphasized enough how important the quality of shocks installed on your Harley-Davidson Softail or any bike is. Having proper shocks on your bike will help you keep the vehicle’s motion steady. This will give you far more leverage when you’re turning, accelerating, stopping, or driving on bumpy roads. Regardless of how bad the conditions on the road are, the progressive suspension will ensure that you’re in your seat while the wheels of your bike are on the ground.

Softails are pretty delicate and easily breakable if you don’t look after them properly. The progressive suspension system in your Harley-Davidson bike is adjustable and shock-sensitive. This is why it needs to be provided impeccable care. The Harley-Davidson Softail shocks can easily make or break the performance of your bike.

  • For ensuring the health of your back, your spine, and your overall comfort, you need to consider the height adjustment features of the shocks.
  • Always remember to consider the softness and hardness of shocks as they can be a significant factor.
  • If your motorcycle is for everyday use and touring, soft shocks will be the go-to option.
  • As for motorcycles that have to bear heavy loads or passengers, it would be smart to go for stiffer shocks.
  • Always remember to go for Softail shocks that are easy to install on your motorcycle.


Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you have more than enough knowledge about Softail shocks and how to adjust Harley Softail shocks. You will be able to use a shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench and turn the shock adjuster plates. The plates need to be turned an equal number of times and in the same direction for both the shock absorbers. You should ensure that the adjuster plates are being turned into at least one full revolution. You can use the reference marks to accomplish this.

Lastly, turn the shock adjuster plates inward and outward to lower and raise the spring pre-load for working through lighter loads and heavier loads respectively. Adjusting the Softail shocks is essential as it’ll help with maneuverability, comfort when riding, the ability to brake, and stability.

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