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Thread: New to Harleys

  1. #1

    Default New to Harleys

    Hey all! I recently picked up a '76 XLH Ironhead and am curious as to where to start making assessments on what needs to be done. I need to purchase a coil. Run the entire electrical harness. Run the oil lines, and put new fluids in her. I bought her from a trustworthy gearhead and was ensured that the engine has good compression, turns over, and the tranny nicely goes through each gear in the pattern.

    My question to the community is this: Is there anything I can look for, any diagnostic tests, visual, or otherwise that will help me determine just what kind of condition the bike is in? I don't know how long it's been sitting, and neither he nor I know what the inside of the motor is looking like. Is there anything I should be concerned about replacing immediately? Bearings? Drum shoes?

    Thank you in advance for any advice!

  2. #2
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    1] Do you have the OEM manual for the bike,
    2] If not, get one,
    3] A visual scan, would be first, trace wires, oil lines as a example,
    4] Get a manual,
    5] Compression test,
    6] Have fun.
    Last edited by BuddhahoodVato; 09-02-2019 at 6:07 PM.

  3. #3

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    How to treat a new-to-you Ironhead:

    Everything BV said above.
    Drain the oil out of the oil tank and remove the tank and clean it good (pressure washer).
    Replace oil lines with a good hydraulic hose (not fuel line).
    Use 50 or 60 wt. oil, no multigrades. Use the same motor oil in the primary/transmission on a '76. The oils communicate back and forth through a check valve.
    Remove the complete fuel system from the petcock to the intake manifold. Clean everything and replace the intake orings, carb base gaskets, and fuel line. Use an in-tank filter on the petcock like HD intended, no in-line filters. With clean fuel, the carb should not dribble gas out of the bowl vent. If it does, go through the carb again.
    While you have the intake manifold off, adjust the valves. You may want to pull the pushrods and replace the pushrod tube seals at this time.
    Disassemble and lube the ignition advance unit, or replace it if it's worn. Lube a new unit as well. Use a light white lithium grease. Replace or clean and set the points. Set the timing.
    (Now you should be figuring out why you need that manual. )
    Make sure the starter, solenoid, battery, and cables are up to snuff, and the starter will turn the motor over easily.
    Have enough wiring to run the ignition and starter.
    Put the bike in gear, pull the clutch lever, and see if you can roll the bike. That will tell you if the clutch is releasing.

    If all this is done properly, you can jump in and fire that mother up. And see if it runs, how it sounds, does it smoke, etc. Make sure oil is returning to the tank.

    If all's good, see if it will shift into gear, and ride it around a little.

    Then you can start working on the wiring harness,,generator and regulator, and the brakes, wheel bearings, chain and sprockets, etc.

    Should be good fun.

    Jim

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    First of all congratulations on your new sportster powered death trap. Looks cool judging by your profile picture. Got any more pics?

    I'd do compression and leakdown wet and dry to start it's the best diagnostic test to get a general idea of the condition of the engine.

    +2 on ripping the fuel system apart and replacing all soft parts. I'd replace all soft parts on the entire bike myself.

    If you start riding this thing regularly I'd recommend a cycle electric generator/regulator

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    Well you sure came to the right place to get the info you need^^^^. I don't know lots about HDs but keep learnin' from those in the know^^^, and researching and sharing from info I find interesting; like this:

    Technical Stickys Index - TuneUps, ReBuilds, Etc, Etc, Etc...
    "Here is a collection of informative posts made by many of us here in the ironhead forum. If you have a question about your bike, or need to fix something, your probably not the first. To avoid common threads from popping up day after day, and to keep especially informative posts a few clicks away, this collection of threads has been organized for your use..."
    http://xlforum.net/forums/showthread.php?t=465866

    I saw a couple of links there for 'un-storage', and liked the comment about a sticking valve which was held in the open position for years while stored...of course, as recommended above, a valve adjustment will catch that.

  6. #6

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    Wow, Thank you everyone, especially JBinNC. I have the Clymer's manual. Is there a better manual out there? The original Harley service manual is extremely expensive and hard to find.

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    I immediately did a quick flat black paint on the tank as there was a hideous hack job lightning bolt on it.

    I'll be starting the work on it tomorrow.

    Also, the PO has a 16inch stock wheel for it he's offering to sell for $100. My ultimate plan is to take the bike on road trips. Would it behove me to pick it up now as I've read there's more stability in the 16? It's currently running an 18.

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    See the Carl Salter site for free .pdfs. I'd not care about swapping rear wheels, just make sure what you have is good. Can't hurt to have a spare rear wheel though.

  8. #8

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    Thanks farmall! That Salter site is an incredible resource!

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    Quote Originally Posted by BlackThumbClan View Post
    Wow, Thank you everyone, especially JBinNC. I have the Clymer's manual. Is there a better manual out there? The original Harley service manual is extremely expensive and hard to find.

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    I immediately did a quick flat black paint on the tank as there was a hideous hack job lightning bolt on it.

    I'll be starting the work on it tomorrow.

    Also, the PO has a 16inch stock wheel for it he's offering to sell for $100. My ultimate plan is to take the bike on road trips. Would it behove me to pick it up now as I've read there's more stability in the 16? It's currently running an 18.
    Looks good in black dude. Spraying a bike black is the first thing I do every time I get my hands on a new one.

    Harley manual is worth it. Should be able to find one cheap if you keep looking.

    16 inch with a fatter tire will ride better that extra bit of tire is all the suspension you've got.

    I would strongly consider tracking down a rear disc setup. No way I'd trust my life to old rear drum brakes only but to each their own.
    Last edited by West7; 09-02-2019 at 9:46 PM.

  10. #10

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    Thanks West, I'll start looking at what's viable for this year. I'll keep on looking for a manual too. I might just print it off Salter's site and 3 ring bind it.

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    VG info here, I also like to look at the plugs, to see if it has been burning oil, you'll be able to tell.

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    Quote Originally Posted by West7 View Post
    I would strongly consider tracking down a rear disc setup. No way I'd trust my life to old rear drum brakes only but to each their own.
    A drum will stop just as good as a disc if set up properly........ Plus they look much better, to me that is...........

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    Maybe IF it is brand new and set up properly but where they begin to suck is at repeated stopping, heating up and fading.
    O-ring chains are better too,HaHa!

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    Quote Originally Posted by hillcat View Post
    Maybe IF it is brand new and set up properly but where they begin to suck is at repeated stopping, heating up and fading.
    I ride in the mountains and I ride hard and I've never had any problems with fad at all....... So I guess I set my drums up better than most..... LOL

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    Lack of front brakes measurably increases stopping distance by many feet. On the rear drum or disc will do because weight transfer unloads the rear wheel easily limiting max braking. Unless you hate safety or ride slow and rely on prayer an effective front brake is a good idea. It's not possible for a given rear brake to work as effectively as that same brake plus a proper front brake. Physics doesn't care about feelings.

    The older front disc brakes were pathetic because Bubba feared they would put him over the bars (retarded old biker myth) and riders were used to feeble drums. All braking effectiveness is testable and measurable. We did that over hundreds of bikes of all brands when I taught MSF.

    If road tripping I'd fit a front brake. There are many options. How deep can you afford to spear some soccercunt's minivan when she cuts you off?
    ....

    A good bit of oil likely made its way to the crankcase. I pull the timing plug and rotate the engine to blow it out (outdoors). Check fasteners for looseness. All-metal locknuts and Loctite are your friends.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tattooo View Post
    I ride in the mountains and I ride hard and I've never had any problems with fad at all....... So I guess I set my drums up better than most..... LOL
    That is because you are special and the laws of physics don't apply to you.

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    Thats a good looking sporty...

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    Quote Originally Posted by hillcat View Post
    That is because you are special and the laws of physics don't apply to you.
    LOL Not really, The laws of physics are the same all over...... A tire is only so wide where it touches the pavement, once a wheel stops turning you have NO stopping power at all your just along for the ride......

    What it all boils down to is getting the wheel to slow down at a maximum rate but not lock it up....... Believe me or not you can have to much stopping power on a vintage bike..... The weight of the bike and the person is a HUGE factor when your considering brakes of any kind..... Drum or disc.......

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    If you ride old Harley "hard" (= modern bike slow) you can supplement the rear brake by downshifting to use compression braking. That dates from when all brakes were worthless and it does work, but weight transfer remains real.

    Back when all bike, car and truck brakes were cheap trash downshifting was very necessary in the mountains. The old fucks here will remember when brake shops were plentiful in mountainous areas. Riveted brake linings came in handy!

    You can't actually have too much braking power available (applied lever/pedal force is up to the rider!) but CONTROL matters to avoid sudden lockups. Precise thinking matters. An Ironhead of relatively stock dimensions like OPs is just a heavy, indifferently braked bike missing a front brake and there's nothing special at all. A large single or dual front disc is as appropriate as on any modern machine of similar weight. Simple ability to lock the wheel in a brake grab /= controlled, gradually applied force.

    Very long front ends can't tolerate as much front brake without lockup due to a rearward center of gravity. That means ya don't get to stop as quickly under maximum braking but that's what ya trade for appearance. Ride accordingly and use a calendar to plan stops just like days of yore.

    Peak drum brake users are the AHRMA folks and they can tune larger drums to be fairly effective, but drums didn't get shitcanned in non-vintage racing without good reason. Those of us who only ride older machines have standards from an era when there was little horsepower and not much for handling unless you bought British and they broke so often the barn finds are still coming out of the woodwork. They didn't stop well either. Even their discs had wooden feel. Contemporary riders put up with shit performance because that was accepted and bike development was dead slow with no innovation until the Japs changed the game.

    Good enough because one is used to it /= similar measured results to modern systems. Ride accordingly. Choppers are art bikes, not performance machines except on a drag strip. Any doubts may be resolved by comparison testing. Old riders know this but noobs need reminding. Test, measure, know then choose accordingly.

    If (rider + bike weight) on a vintage bike somehow benefits from less available braking than the same or less total weight of a modern bike/rider combo it would be nice to see measurable testable proof to that effect. All I've ever been offered in years of asking that question (not just here) is the equivalent of "it's good enough for me" which is FINE but not OBJECTIVELY measurable. Show me testable repeatable numbers. I've demo'ed many max braking exercises (rear wheel only vs. both brakes) including dirt bikes, cruisers, choppers and tourers to show students the techniques we taught work. I've worked on and owned vintage bikes (HD, Triumph, Norton Commando) for decades.

    In no case does absence of a front brake result in the same or close stopping distance under maximum correctly applied braking.

    Owners should take nothing for granted, especially new chop owners. Find out how much performance you can afford to throw away. That's why it's right to warn noobs so they make fewer mistakes and crash less often.
    Last edited by farmall; 09-03-2019 at 3:12 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by
    Owners should take nothing for granted, especially new chop owners. Find out how much performance you can afford to throw away. That's why it's right to warn noobs so they make fewer mistakes and crash less often.

    Yep after reading this I agree........

    Don't listen to anything I said about drum brakes I don't know crap....... Get all the brakes you can afford...........

    But I will say I have had my brakes fade at different times on my 07 Street Glide riding with Jap bikes in the mountains.............

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