Harley-Davidson Sportster Evolution Oil Change

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Featured Guide

This guide has been found to be exceptionally cool by the iFixit staff.

Changing the Engine (crankcase) oil and filter.

  • Author: Eric Essen
  • Time required: 30 minutes
  • Difficulty: Easy

Although there have been some minor changes to the Sportster over the years, the oil change procedure for all 1986-present models is the same. This guide uses a 1998 Sportster as an example.

Edit Step 1 Preparation  ¶ 

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Edit Step 1 Preparation  ¶ 

  • Securing the bike in an upright position allows for easier access to the drain tube.

  • Always make sure your work area is clean and you have plenty of room to work safely. Never start or run your motorcycle indoors.

Edit Step 2 Draining the Oil  ¶ 

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Edit Step 2 Draining the Oil  ¶ 

  • Unlike most vehicles, the Harley Sportster Evolution Engine has an oil drain tube, not a plug.

    • This tube is attached by a house clamp to a nipple welded to the frame.

  • Loosen the house clamp with a Flathead Screwdriver. Do not remove the tube until you have your drain pan in position.

    • Removing the cap/dipstick from your oil tank at this point may help your oil drain faster.

  • Pull the hose free from it's nipple and allow the oil to drain into your drain pan.

  • When the oil slows to a drip, replace the hose. Do not tighten the clamp yet, we will return for that later.

Edit Step 3  ¶ 

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Edit Step 3  ¶ 

  • The oil filter is located at the front of the engine, between the frame downtube and front cylinder.

  • Move the oil pan to the front of the bike, directly underneath the oil filter.

  • Remove the oil filter. This may require an oil filter wrench.

  • If you don't have an oil-catcher, the oil will run down the frame, and get on some parts of the bike. There is no easy way to prevent this, so just wipe it down when it's done dripping.

Edit Step 4 Installing the New Oil Filter  ¶ 

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Edit Step 4 Installing the New Oil Filter  ¶ 

  • Open 1 quart of oil. Pour it into the filter until the filter is about 1/2 full.

  • Apply a small amount of clean oil to the rubber gasket on the new oil filter.

  • Wipe down the oil filter mounting area, and any oil residue that has run down onto the motorcycle.

    • Make sure that the old gasket came off with the filter, and you have a clean smooth surface to install the new filter on.

Edit Step 5  ¶ 

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Edit Step 5  ¶ 

  • Carefully thread your new oil filter into place, turning it in a clockwise direction. Do not overtighten your filter. Only turn the filter a 1/2 turn past the point where you start to feel resistance from the gasket contacting the engine.

Edit Step 6 Re-installing the Drain Tube  ¶ 

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Edit Step 6 Re-installing the Drain Tube  ¶ 

  • Move the drain pan back underneath the oil drain tube. By this time more oil will have collected in it. Remove the tube again, and allow it to run out until it is just a light drip.

  • Reinstall the oil drain tube on its nipple, tightening the hose clamp with a flathead Screwdriver.

Edit Step 7 Adding New Oil  ¶ 

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Edit Step 7 Adding New Oil  ¶ 

  • Pull the oil cap/dipstick off of the oil tank.

    • Some models will require the cap to be twisted first, then pulled. If you are not sure what model you have, work carefully and gently, making sure to not damage anything.

  • Using your funnel, slowly pour 3 quarts of oil into your oil tank.

    • Although the Evolution engine holds up to 3.5 quarts after a rebuild or when filled new, only 3 get replaced during the oil change.

  • Use the oilcap/dipstick to check your engine oil level (holding the bike level if you have been working with your side-stand). You oil level should be kept between the 2 dipstick marks. After refilling with 3 quarts it should be right to the top one.

It is a good idea to start your engine and let it run for a few minutes. Check your drain tube and oil filter for leaks. Recheck your oil level, and adjust if needed.

For more information, check out the Harley-Davidson Sportster Evolution device page.

Required Tools

6-in-1 Screwdriver

$4.95 · 50+ In stock

Related Products

SAE 20w50 V-Twin Oil

$12.95 · 2 In stock

Comments Comments are onturn off

One of the most helpful guides on a sportster oil change.

brandon christian, · Reply

You may be able to use a Form-A-Funnel (Pig Funnel) to catch the oil from the filter.


IF(!) I owned a Hardley like this, i would keep an eye on the drain hose for deterioration or road debris damage, and probably carry a spare hose. Also, a vandal could loosen the clamp or cut the hose.

George, · Reply

Very helpful, simple instruction, good pictures

Howard Brewer, · Reply

What iz the # of the oil filter associated with the 99 sportster s xl

magoo1, · Reply

oil filter oem# 63796-77a for all xl sportsters up to 2003

Eric J, · Reply

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