How To Read Harley-Davidson Oil Dipstick: Step-By-step Guide


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How To Read Harley Davidson Oil Dipstick

Do you struggle to check the oil levels because you don’t know how to read Harley-Davidson oil dipstick? This is a common issue that many Harley-Davidson users have. But don’t worry, by the time you’re done reading this article, you’ll no longer have trouble reading the oil dipstick.

To read a Harley-Davidson oil dipstick, you’ll need to dip the oil dipstick in the engine and read the marking on the dipstick. The oil level should be in between the minimum and maximum marks. It must not be below the minimum mark or above the maximum mark. 

In this article, you’ll find a lot of information, including step-by-step instructions on how to read Harley-Davidson oil dipstick.

How to check the oil level in your Harley-Davidson?

For your Harley-Davidson to last longer, the engine needs to have the proper level of oil. As you drive your Harley-Davidson, a portion of oil will be consumed. With time, the oil level will eventually drop. As a result, the friction will increase and your engine will wear down faster.

By checking the oil level, you’ll be able to catch if you need to top up the oil level. You can even see how dirty the oil is and if it’s the right time for an oil change. Firstly, check the owner manual, as it’ll have the necessary instructions and safety precautions. Make sure that the engine is warmed up, and the bike should be parked on a level spot.

How to read Harley-Davidson oil dipstick?

Dipstick oil analysis might sound a bit goofy, but it’ll work for all Harley-Davidson bikes. Not to mention, it is incredibly quick and cheap to do. There is just one small issue, figuring out what the oil on the oil dipstick means. Even that issue will be resolved once you finish reading this article. Here is how to read Harley-Davidson oil dipstick easily –

Retrieving the dipstick

  • Keeping the engine hot, park your Harley-Davidson on level ground and shut off the engine. Wait for a while until the oil returns to the oil pan.
  • Then, check the engine of your Harley-Davidson, you’ll find the oil dipstick on the side. It’ll be a long metal plug with a long tail. If you’re confused, or you cannot spot it, resort to the owner’s manual. The manual will give you the instructions on where you’ll find the dipstick.
  • Using a rag or thick towel in one hand, slowly remove the dipstick by pulling it until it pops out. Now, wipe the oil-wet straight end of the dipstick.
  • Push the dipstick back from where you pulled it.
  • Wait for a couple of seconds and pull out the oil dipstick again.
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How to detect the oil level on the dipstick

  • You will then need to check the oil level using the dipstick. The oil dipstick will have a low line and a high line. The low line signifies the minimum level while the high line signifies the maximum level. The oil needs to be somewhere in between the maximum and minimum markings. 

What to do if the oil level isn’t between the minimum and maximum mark?

What to do if the oil level is too low on the dipstick

In case the oil does not reach the minimum marking on the dipstick, you should add around one quart of oil. You can go for a high-quality oil option from the official website of Harley-Davidson. In case the oil dipstick isn’t showing an oil level, you’ll need to add oil immediately. 

The amount of oil you’ll need to add will vary and depend on various factors. This includes the age of your Harley-Davidson, the engine, driving conditions, and total mileage. The oil dipstick will be the gauge for abnormally high oil consumption. The real concern will start at around one quart per 1,000 miles. It would be time to plan a total overhaul if the issue advances to a quart every 500 miles.

What to do if the oil level is too high on the dipstick

In some situations, the oil level might have risen since the last time you had checked. There could even be too much oil on the oil dipstick. This can be because of condensed water due to combustion, a coolant leak, or condensed fuel.

Fuel-dilated motor oil could substantially reduce oil viscosity as well as thin additive concentration. The odor of the fuel can sometimes be detected from the oil dipstick.

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Free and emulsified water will be harmful to the engine and the oil. For short-trip drivers, water condensation might be more acute if the engine has a flexible fuel vehicle option. It is essential to remember that the combustion will produce water in the engine. Most of the water will go out of the tailpipe. If the engine is cool, a lot of it might condense in the crankcase.

A simple way of detecting water in used motor oil is to take a drop of oil from the dipstick on the hot exhaust manifold. In case it crackles, this will be an indication of water contamination. You should beware that there is a risk that the drop of oil might catch fire.

Brand-new Harley-Davidson bikes might come with a high oil level. This is the case because a short-run engine start is needed when the bikes are transported from the assembly plant to the dealer. In that case, an oil and filter change might be merited.

Coolant leak can be a serious issue when it comes to the high oil level.

Accidental overfilling of oil into the engine can cause a few problems too. With the crankshaft rotating, it’ll churn out the oil, cause aeration, and sustained foam might form. This might lead to overheated motor oil and a loss of oil pressure. Spongy aerated oil could be very hard to pump. It will starve the engine and critical lubricated surfaces.

How to know if the oil in your Harley is aged

Oil isn’t like a fine wine that will get better with time. Instead, the oil will age at a rate influenced by a number of factors. Some of these factors are driving conditions, engine age, fuel quality, climate, motor oil quality, and more. If the oil isn’t changed in time, it will start withering and fail to protect the engine.

Taking a close look at the oil dipstick, the oil must look smooth, glossy, and slightly transparent. In case there are sludgy deposits or grainy dirt particles, it’ll be time for an oil change. The same will be true if the oil looks a bit thick, too dark, or has a putrid smell.

Harley Davidson Oil Dipstick Infographic

If you don’t know whether you require an oil change or not, consider holding a blotter spot test.

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In your Harley-Davidson, oxidized and contaminated oil will start losing interfacial tension. A test to check interfacial tension is to put a drop of used oil from the dipstick on water. In case the drop spreads over the water’s surface, it might be time for an oil change.

Potential signs of a coolant leak

Dried, crusty-brown residue above the oil level line indicates that coolant has leaked into the engine. The oil on the oil dipstick may even look like chocolate milk. It is important to keep in mind that you shouldn’t taste motor oil to test for antifreeze.

Another key indication of coolant leak will be the white exhaust smoke with a sweet odor. In that case, the oil level on the dipstick might rise, indicating a significant amount of coolant has gotten leaked into the crankcase.

For confirming a coolant leak, you should simply shut off the engine. Then let it sit idle for a couple of hours. Then unscrew the drain plug and use a plastic or glass bottle to catch the liquid. As both water and antifreeze are comparatively heavier than oil, they’ll puddle up at the bottom of the oil pan. Collect an ounce or two of fluid and immediately tighten back the drain.

After that, inspect the fluid for any glycol or water. The mixture of glycol and water will look like a thick mayonnaise-like paste. This will depend upon how long the coolant has been present in the crankcase. Sometimes, you may even detect a sweet antifreeze smell.

If you’ve detected coolant in your motor oil, your Harley-Davidson’s engine should be taken in for immediate servicing.


Thank you for reading. Hopefully, now you know all about how to read Harley-Davidson oil dipstick and check the oil levels. Further, you’ll be able to analyze the oil dipstick in a few simple steps. Checking the oil level has never been easier. Reading a Harley-Davidson oil dipstick is quite easy, as long as you know the right procedure. This article is the right procedure that you’ve needed all along.

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