For a variety of reasons I won’t get into right now, my 1979 Shovelhead has been parked for about four years and a few months. Several months ago I started putting some of the more important parts back together and making it make those rumbling sounds I love so much.

One of the first things I encountered was something I like to call “butterclutch”. I couldn’t get the clutch to grab properly, nor could I shift smoothly and easily. After four years of wishing I was riding, I sort of forgot how it should shift.  Then I noted that one of the three nuts that adjusts the pressure on the clutch wouldn’t hold its adjustment and was weaseling out along the threaded stud.  Great.  One guy at ChopCult said to adjust it, then weld it into place, then grind it off when I was ready to replace it.

I don’t have a grinder (but wouldn’t mind picking one up at some point so I can continue to not really need it), nor do I have any welding stuff of any kind (and I’m not interested in any).  Cheaper and easier solution was to pony up the bucks and get a new clutch hub, one with five tension nuts instead of three.  So I ordered on from Road Rider San Jose, along with a fork lowering kit during Fourth of July Weekend when they were having a no sales tax event.  Because I spent enough dough, and because I live 45 miles from Road Rider, I got free delivery as well.

I’ve fiddled with my clutch hub enough in 22 years of owning this bike that it seems like an easy replacement, given the right tools:

  1. Drain the primary case.
  2. Remove the outer primary cover.
  3. Back off the clutch adjusting screw from the pressure plate and remove the locknut on it.  Slide a series of washers on the screw so that you can put the locknut back on and compress the springs before removing the tensioning nuts.  Then you can remove the pressure plate assembly as one with springs and all.  Put that aside.
  4. In a bowl, scramble three eggs and put aside to fry and eat when you get hungry.  Do not wash your hands during this process as the grease will remind you what you should really be doing.
  5. Remove the clutch friction disks and steel plates paying attention to their order and which side faces out.
  6. Remove the chain tensioner.
  7. Use an impact wrench to remove the engine sprocket and the clutch hub nut (reverse thread).  I got an cheapass electric impact wrench for around fifty bucks some years back for exactly this purpose, and it’s the only thing I use it for. Beats renting one every time.
  8. Pull off the engine sprocket, primary chain, and clutch shell as an assembly and put it on a piece of cardboard.  Or on the kitchen counter, you choose.
  9. Use a clutch hub puller to pull the clutch hub from the transmission main shaft.
  10. Assembly is the reverse, paying attention to the key that locks the clutch hub.

If you follow these directions as written, you’ll get it pretty close, except you’ve left out the drain plug on the primary case, and you haven’t really adjusted the clutch properly.

Referring again to my manual, I took several tries at adjusting the clutch until Shazaam, it worked very nicely and I took it for a ride.  Only to get back and wonder why I was leaking so much oil.  And there’s that pesky drain plug sitting on my shop stool’s parts tray.

But it sure is nice to have it running and working properly again.

Next stops:

  1. Get a speedometer drive unit for my front axle.  I had one for years on my narrow glide (’75), but not long after I parked it four years ago I got a terrific deal on a 2000 FL fork assembly, which doesn’t use an old-school drive unit.  This seems a reasonable thing to get handled next so I can at least know how fast I’m going when I speed.
  2. Fork lowering kit.  The new forks make my frame sit a taste high in the front, so I’ll lower it an inch or two.  Should handle better, too.
  3. New buttons and wiring in the handlebars.  The only thing that works there is my horn.  In the process of rewiring the whole thing I managed to fry some of the wires in the bars, so I’ll just rip ’em out and replace the lot.  Already got my buttons and wires from California Phil’s Harley Parts Cheap.