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.

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

    What if you forgot to add oil to the filter 1/2 way after you put it back, will it make a problem?

    humbertoc_13 - Reply

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

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    • 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.

    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

    If you don’t have a wrench and the filter is hard to remove you can hammer ( I used a rubber mallet to avoid damaging paint) a screwdriver clean through the old filter and then bang on the handle of the screwdriver ( anti-clockwise) until the filter unscrews. It’s an ugly but effective way to get the job done.

    Charlie Kinross - Reply

    • 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.

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    • 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.

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    • 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.

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    • 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.

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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.

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Eric Essen

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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

Eric Essen: G. bless your generations forever. Manu, Brazil.

Manu Costa - Reply

Great help thanks

Roy - Reply

Great help thank you

Roy - Reply

Thank you! made it easy (except the oil filter was a bastard to get off) :)

Melissa Ross - Reply

Your instructions are quick and to the point covering the most important steps in an oil and filter change. I had to research getting the oil filter off - the HD dealership crew tightened it on so tight the filter was seized up solid so I actually used the removal wrench and drilled the face of it with five self tapping screws directly into the filter. Next, I used a pipe on my ratchet handle for added torque for removal - more than 3' of pipe. Thanks again for well thought out directions. Clean oil and filter and No leaks!!!

Peter Murphy - Reply

thumbs up helpful guide

markmelton520 - Reply

Great article , very clear with good pics.

A few things I worked out while following it :

If you live in the UK or Europe 3 Quarts ( 3/4 of a US Gallon ) is 2.8 litres or 5 pints of oil.

I used 20W50 semi-synthetic oil.

Warm the bike engine first if it’s cold - the oil will run out more freely.

If you don’t have a filter wrench and the old filter is hard to remove I was recommended the following trick by 2 different mechanics. - You can hammer a screwdriver clean through the sides of the old filter and then bang on the handle of the screwdriver ( anti-clockwise) until the filter unscrews. I used a rubber mallet to avoid dinging the paint. It’s an ugly but effective way to get the job done.

I should have invested in a box of disposable gloves

Charlie Kinross - Reply


this is really good information

Harley-Davidson Sportster Evolution Oil Change

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naveed - Reply

Thanks Eric

I’m 65 years young and first time HD rider. All the other bikes were basically simple. The Harley has a few quirky ways to assemble and torque bolts. Re: Head bolt specs on torque procedures. Your pictures and explanations were very easy to understand and use. Thanks for the help.

Joe Danny Roberts - Reply

Selection of oil matter a lot in the health of engine. So try your best to change it at time, and also prefer a oil that is engine friendly. Like are best for the Honda CD 70 and Honda 125.

Alex Smith - Reply

Thanks a ton, I already knew what I was after, but your pictures are great for second checking my own handy work.

my ride is a 1999 Sportster XL1200 Sport with stock pipes and an S&S Super E Jetted .0295 / .072

poundbabypuppy - Reply

Anybody’s day can understand your clear , and to the point instructions…..

jeff fredrikson - Reply

Thanks , simple and shows /tell what to do. Thumbs up mate

storkefar - Reply

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