How To Check Oil on Harley-Davidson Bikes


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How To Check Oil On Harley Davidson

Are you a beginner Harley-Davidson motorcycle still coming to grips with your new bike and don’t know how to check the oil in it? If yes, then this blog is just the place to be. 

Checking oil on Harley-Davidson bikes is a simple yet essential maintenance task that you must absolutely know about. If you’ve got a Harley-Davidson bike, checking the oil regularly will be a significant step in taking care of your bike. Usually, using a dipstick is the easiest and most common way of checking the oil level and quality. Regularly checking the oil in your bike will inform you of the right time to change the engine oil and your engine’s health.

In this article, you will get to know all about checking oil on Harley-Davidson bikes, how to check oil on Harley-Davidson bikes, how to read oil dipsticks, and more. Stick around to get all the answers that you are looking for.

Checking the Oil in Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

Harley-Davidson is an iconic American motorcycle brand popular for making classic-looking luxury bikes. It isn’t just a brand name, but a lot more than that. Moreover, it is a sort of art craft in the realm of motorcycles. Despite the wonderful engineering behind these bikes, every Harley-Davidson motorcycle requires proper care to function optimally and run smoothly.

When it comes to the matter of something like a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, the owner must be careful to take proper care. An essentially daily routine task of using a bike is checking the engine oil regularly. Regular oil checking will inform you of the right time to change the engine oil as well as the health of the engine.

Generally, making use of a dipstick is the easiest and most common way of checking the oil level and quality. However, you must know how to check oil on Harley-Davidson bikes with a dipstick.

How to Check Oil on Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

Checking the oil of any motorcycle is easier than what most bikers consider. You will be needed to insert a dipstick inside the drain plug of your Harley-Davidson bike and check the status of the primary fluid. The entire process to check oil on your Harley-Davidson bike will not take more than a few minutes, including its changing time.

Step 1: Start your bike and heat the engine

The first step for checking the primary oil of any Harley-Davidson bike would be to heat the engine properly. Hence, switch on the ignition of your bike and keep it neutral for a couple of minutes. Once the engine heats up properly, you will be able to proceed to check the primary fluid level.

Nonetheless, most Harley-Davidson motorcycle manuals suggest that you bring the bike to the standard temperature to check and change the oil. You will be needed to ride your motorcycle for 20 to 30 minutes before it reaches the ideal temperature.

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Step 2: Remove the case of the drain plug

Now, you will need to remove the case of the primary drain plug of your bike. To achieve that, you will have to locate the drain plug first. The drain plug will have to be positioned under the casing of the exterior side. You must keep the bike in a standing position and reach under the primary case cover of the plug.

Here, you will find the drain plug under the casing. You will also find that the casing is attached using a bolt. Generally, Harley-Davidson bikes will come with five bolts around the primary drain case. You will have to loosen and remove them using a T-27 torque bit and socket wrench. Moreover, keep the five bolts in a secure position so that you don’t lose them.

If you find it tricky to locate the primary case and drain plug, you can always check the owner’s manual. It will help you locate the plug at the bottom of the clutch. Once you’ve removed the bolts, you will be able to access the drain plug. Now, it is time to insert the dipstick into the drain plug.

Step 3: Insert the dipstick and check the oil

You will have to insert the dipstick inside the oil housing through the bike’s drain plug. Almost every dipstick will have the “full” and “need oil replacement” dots/marks described in the stick. When you’re inserting the dipstick through the drain plug, remember to keep it inside for a few seconds.

After that, bring the dipstick back to see where the oil level has reached. It will tell you if the primary oil in the engine is in optimal condition or not. Moreover, you should drain the primary oil in a primary pan. After that, you need to inspect the oil to know if it has gone bad. Usually, when the primary oil has been used for more than the recommended period, it will end up turning deep black. This is a signal that the oil has gone bad, and you must change it as soon as possible When you’re done checking the oil, you need to remount the primary cover appropriately.

How to Read the Dipstick When Checking Oil

The process of reading the dipstick when checking the oil on a Harley-Davidson bike isn’t that hard. You will need to follow these steps to take it –

  1. Retrieve the dipstick from the drain plug
  2. Check the oil levels on the dipstick by examining the end of the dipstick 
  3. If the oil doesn’t reach the marking/hole on the dipstick, you need to add oil to the engine 
  4. In some situations when you’re got excess oil, the oil level may have risen and be more than the adequate amount, you will have to churn out excess oil
  5. Moreover, check if the oil is aged or if it is still in prime working condition 
  6. Take a close look at the oil dipstick and check if the oil is smooth, glossy, and slightly transparent as needed 
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How Often Should you Change the Oil in your Harley-Davidson Bike

This will depend on the type of oil you’re using in your Harley-Davidson bike. If you’re using mineral oil, you will have to change it every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Semi-synthetic oil will give more oil cycle life compared to mineral oil. When using semi-synthetic oil, you will have to change the oil every 5,000 to 6,000 miles. Synthetic oil comes with the longest life among the other types of engine oils.

With synthetic oil, you will be able to drive up to 7,000 to 10,000 miles. Even though it is slightly costly, your bike will run for a long time. Keep in mind that fresh oil will help keep the engine healthy while allowing a smoother ride. While you’re changing the oil, you must remember that the sooner, the better.

How Much Oil Does your Harley-Davidson Bike Need

Maintaining a proper amount of engine oil in your bike will require you to have proper lubrication in the engine.  A low amount of oil could end up raising the engine temperature while also decaying the internal parts. It can even result in loud noise and heavy smoke.

In contrast, having too much oil in the engine can also be a problem for the bike. Overfilling engine oil can be harmful, as too much oil could create foam in the engine. This can hamper the lubrication system and less lubrication will mean a hotter engine, decaying engine parts, and other issues.

A Harley-Davidson motorcycle owner needs to know the right amount of engine oil needed for their bike. Generally, you will require around three quarts or around 2.8 liters of engine oil. This is the perfect amount for most Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Signs that you Need to Change the Oil

There are certain signs that will help you know that it is the appropriate time to change your engine oil. Some of those signs are –

  • The oil level is low or slightly below the minimum mark of the dipstick 
  • If there is sludge in the oil
  • If the oil is blackish or gritty 
  • If you find a burning smell in the oil
  • Check if the engine/oil light is on 
  • Bluish or whitish exhaust smoke coming from your bike
  • If there is an increased engine sound 
Person Adding Oil On Motorcycle

You must change the engine oil if you find any of these signs with your Harley-Davidson bike. You must read the dipstick. After that, rub a small amount, like one or two drops, with your fingers. If you feel dirt or sludge in the oil, it’ll be time to change the engine oil.

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Every different type of motorcycle engine will require a different type of engine oil. The use of the wrong engine oil can easily result in severe damage to the bike. Knowing the suitable oil for your Harley-Davidson motorcycle engine is a must. The manufacturer has a section in the owner manual that mentions which engine oil is needed. Most Harley-Davidson engines require SAE 20W50 engine oil, as it is the recommended oil for every weather.

The viscosity of engine oil changes depending on the temperature. You will have to understand in which condition you will drive your bike for the next few months. At lower temperatures, using SAE 10W40 engine oil would be a better choice for your bike.

If you have to drive in hot weather, you should use SAE 60 H-D oil. It is designed for temperatures above 80 °F. One of the best oil options for your Harley-Davidson bikes is Mobil 1 10W40 engine oil.


Should you put an oil dipstick when the engine is cold?

You must run the engine for some time to let the engine oil warm up. Warm oil will show the real and more accurate measurement of engine oil.

How often should you check your bike’s engine oil?

You must check your bike’s engine oil every week. However, if you could do it after every 4–5 days, even better.

How much oil goes in the primary of your Harley-Davidson bike?

Usually, you will require 1 quart of primary fluid for filling the primary case of your Harley-Davidson bike. As a rule of thumb, it must reach the bottom of the clutch.

How to fill a Harley-Davidson primary?

You will have to drain out the old oil fluid by removing the drain plug from the case. After that, replace the O-ring and gasket. Lastly, you must fill the primary with the fluid by making use of a funnel.

How often to change the primary oil in your Harley-Davidson bike?

You must change the fluid of your Harley-Davidson bike once every 8,000 to 10,000 miles. Moreover, might have to change the transmission oil once every 5,000 miles in your Harley-Davidson bike.

Is mineral oil better, or synthetic oil?

If you’re using mineral oil, you should know that it will have a short oil life. Petroleum-based oils come with plenty of disadvantages as well. They’re comparatively cheaper than other oils, but they do not last long. You’ll also have to change the oil every 2,000 to 3,000 miles. Synthetic oil is designed to work in engines, while it’ll also allow you to drive around 6,000 miles to 10,000 miles.

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