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  1. #1
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    Default Help: Evo Sportster lifters not pumping up

    Hit a dead end with my bike and I'm looking to see if anyone experienced anything similar to this before and if so, how they solved it. A little background info:

    I bought this 1990 Sporty 883 back before winter, stock with 30xxx miles and have been slowly getting it to where I want it since. This is my first Harley so most of the mechanical work is first time stuff for me. It all started when I pulled the cam cover to cut it down (one of my less bright moments), accidentally pulled out a cam, and was forced to pull them all and re-time everything, which I'm sure I did correctly in reference with the manual. In reinstalling the lower rocker box cover I think I tightened everything too quickly and collapsed a lifter because when I fired it up for the first time after putting it back together with new oil, I heard a pronounced knocking up in the top of the engine. I assumed they were probably original lifters anyways, so I bought a set of four new Feuling lifters and installed them.

    After several heat cycles, letting the bike warm up and idle, and even taking it around the block, the noise is still there and when I pulled the covers off to check the rocker arm, I can push it down at TDC meaning my new lifters aren't pumping up. The pushrods are factory one-piece non adjustable, and they are in there proper positioning with exhaust/intake. Before installing the new lifters I had them in a cup of fresh oil and plunged them each a bunch of times with a pushrod to start to get some oil in them, but I did not leave them overnight. Even still, at this point if everything in the oiling system was functioning properly the lifters should have pumped themselves up.

    That's about where I'm at right now, not sure what the next move is or if I should be checking anything else next. Could it be oil pump related? Any help is appreciated!

    Here's a before and after just because.
    Click image for larger version. 

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  2. #2

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    How long did you let them bleed down in between installations?
    Have you pulled the lifter and inspected it?

  3. #3
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    Did you burp the pump...??

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    Did you happen to put a new cam cover gasket on it? I ask, because H-D changed some things about the oil galleys starting with the 2000 sportys and in conjuction they also changed the cam cover gasket. If you accidentally put the later 2000-up gasket on your 1999-earlier sportster, the lifters won't get the proper supply of pressurized oil and they won't pump up.

    Both types of cam cover gaskets will fit on any Evo Sporty engine just fine, but the openings in the later one don't properly line up with the oil passages in the case and cam cover and no lifter oil pressure is the result.

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    Quote Originally Posted by humancertainty View Post
    How long did you let them bleed down in between installations?
    Have you pulled the lifter and inspected it?
    That was the mistake I made with the original lifters, I didn't let them bleed down enough before I reinstalled the rockers and I think I collapsed one or two. Replaced all four with new Feuling lifters.

    Quote Originally Posted by Dragstews View Post
    Did you burp the pump...??
    I did not, you think that may have something to do with it?

    Quote Originally Posted by BadMonkeyMW View Post
    Did you happen to put a new cam cover gasket on it? I ask, because H-D changed some things about the oil galleys starting with the 2000 sportys and in conjuction they also changed the cam cover gasket. If you accidentally put the later 2000-up gasket on your 1999-earlier sportster, the lifters won't get the proper supply of pressurized oil and they won't pump up.

    Both types of cam cover gaskets will fit on any Evo Sporty engine just fine, but the openings in the later one don't properly line up with the oil passages in the case and cam cover and no lifter oil pressure is the result.
    I did replace the cam cover gasket with a new one purchased through J&P, I even went back and verified that my year and model were compatible. However, considering the chain of events that lead to this (no noise prior to cam cover removal, immediate noise with no breaks since re-installing) it could be possible that I was sent the wrong year gasket? Guess there's really only one way to find out...

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    Did you lay the old gasket on the new one to see if it was the same?????

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    Did you lay the old gasket on the new one to see if it was the same?????
    I couldn't even if I wanted to, the old one came off in many small pieces using a razor blade.

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    Quick update. Pulled the cam cover back off and verified that the correct gasket was on. One of my friends mentioned to check for a hole on the bottom side of the cut cam cover that gets exposed when you chop the bottom part off. I hadn't even realized it was there, and since it connects to passages in the cover that oil flows through I figured that was my issue. Tapped and plugged that hole and fired the bike again and the noise is still there. I'm almost positive it's the lifters not pumping up but I'm not sure what else to try. I also checked and saw that oil was in fact returning to the bag so it is circulating.

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    It takes time for the oil to pump up the lifters........

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    If after 10 or 15 minutes of run time and the lifters still hadn't pumped up... Ya got problems...
    Be nice to know how much pressure the pump is putting out... Could hook up a temporary gauge just to know there is no problem with pressure being low at the pump.

    Your model Sportie is the last year for removeable lifter blocks ... Could be a loss in pressure to the tappets "IF" the bores have a lot of ware on them...



    91 and up don't have replaceable lifter bores, but you can tighten up worn bores in the crankcase with oversize tappets, must ream the bores to install...

    86 to 90 are easy to renew....
    Also can attain oversize tappets for your old blocks to get back to good specs...
    The need to hone oversize to whatever O/S the blocks would clean up at ...
    Think they come in .002", .005" and .010"

    Stock O.D. for the tappet is 0.8425".
    Last edited by Dragstews; 06-03-2017 at 6:35 PM.

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    Hell drag to be honest I think he has major problems period........

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dragstews View Post
    If after 10 or 15 minutes of run time and the lifters still hadn't pumped up... Ya got problems...
    Be nice to know how much pressure the pump is putting out... Could hook up a temporary gauge just to know there is no problem with pressure being low at the pump.

    Your model Sportie is the last year for removeable lifter blocks ... Could be a loss in pressure to the tappets "IF" the bores have a lot of ware on them...

    91 and up don't have replaceable lifter bores, but you can tighten up worn bores in the crankcase with oversize tappets, must ream the bores to install...

    86 to 90 are easy to renew....
    Also can attain oversize tappets for your old blocks to get back to good specs...
    The need to hone oversize to whatever O/S the blocks would clean up at ...
    Think they come in .002", .005" and .010"

    Stock O.D. for the tappet is 0.8425".
    Thanks drag, that's something I hadn't thought of.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    Hell drag to be honest I think he has major problems period........

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    After doing a little more research, I realized the cam cover gasket I had put on was in fact NOT the correct one despite the product description. It was blocking one little oil hole on the bottom that allows oil to go through the cover and eventually up to the lifters. Took the gasket out, punched a hole there, threw everything back together and the lifters pumped within 5 minutes of running the bike.

    Just because they say it's correct doesn't mean it is.
    Last edited by HogsRear; 06-06-2017 at 7:49 AM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HogsRear View Post
    After doing a little more research, I realized the cam cover gasket I had put on was in fact NOT the correct one despite the product description. It was blocking one little oil hole on the bottom that allows oil to go through the cover and eventually up to the lifters. Took the gasket out, punched a hole there, threw everything back together and the lifters pumped within 5 minutes of running the bike.

    Just they say it's correct doesn't mean it is.
    Glad you figured it out.... But like I said above...

    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    Did you lay the old gasket on the new one to see if it was the same?????
    I know you said you tore it up taking it off but there is a way to check... Like you found out....
    Glad you fixed it....

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    Glad you figured it out.... But like I said above...

    I know you said you tore it up taking it off but there is a way to check... Like you found out....
    Glad you fixed it....
    I know it man, I'll chalk it up as a lesson learned.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HogsRear View Post
    I know it man, I'll chalk it up as a lesson learned.

    Yep that's how you learn.......... Enjoy your bike.....

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    Quote Originally Posted by HogsRear View Post
    After doing a little more research, I realized the cam cover gasket I had put on was in fact NOT the correct one despite the product description. It was blocking one little oil hole on the bottom that allows oil to go through the cover and eventually up to the lifters. Took the gasket out, punched a hole there, threw everything back together and the lifters pumped within 5 minutes of running the bike.

    Just because they say it's correct doesn't mean it is.
    Excellent. Glad I was able to help you get it sorted out. 15 years as a professional H-D mechanic is finally paying off! haha.

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