How To Check Primary Oil On Harley Davidson (Complete Guide)

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Routine maintenance is important in keeping your Harley-Davidson motorcycle in top shape.

Checking and changing the primary oil on a regular basis can help ensure that your engine runs smoothly for years.

In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps to check primary oil levels on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle.

We’ll also explain why it’s important and how you can change the primary oil of your Harley Davidson.

So read on to learn more about checking your Harley-Davidson’s primary oil.

Let’s get started!

Check primary oil 

It is a straightforward method to check the primary oil. Some of the simple steps are mentioned below to check the primary oil.

What is the primary oil?

The primary oil is the engine lubrication for the internal components in the engine, which is made of a combination of base oils and additives.

That helps to protect the engine by controlling friction and wear, reducing deposits, and preventing corrosion


Primary oil is typically high-performance multi-grade oil with a high viscosity index to maintain its viscosity over a wide range of temperatures.

It also contains special anti-wear agents to protect cylinder walls, bearings, and other moving parts from premature wear.

How to check the primary oil on the Harley Davidson?

How To Check Primary Oil On Harley Davidson

Checking the primary oil on a Harley Davidson motorcycle is an important part of regular maintenance.

Doing this regularly helps to ensure the optimal performance of your bike.

In order to check the primary oil:

1. Heat the engine 

Before checking the primary oil, ensure the engine is properly heated.

The best way to do this is by letting the engine for 5-10 minutes before taking any measurements. 

This allows the oil to reach its optimal operating temperature and gives an accurate reading of how much oil there is in the engine.

Heat also helps to ensure that all of the engine’s components are functioning correctly and reduces wear and tear on these parts.

2. Remove the case of a drain plug 

Removing the case of the primary drain plug is simple, but you should do it with caution to avoid causing any damage.

Firstly, remove the primary cover from the bike by loosening and removing the three screws on the outer edge of the cover.

Once the screws are removed then, carefully lift off the cover.

Now locate the primary drain plug, usually at the bottom of the oil pan near or below, then remove the cover.

Make sure that there is a drain pan or other object underneath to catch any oil that spills out when you remove it.

3. Insert the dipstick and check the oil

The dipstick has markings that indicate the minimum and maximum levels that the Harley has the oil inside.

Once you have located the dipstick, remove it from its holder and wipe it with a clean cloth. 

Reinsert it back in its holder and remove it again. This time look at the end of the dipstick for an indication of how full your primary oil is.

If it is between the minimum and maximum level markings, then your oil is adequate, and you can replace the dipstick securely back into its holder.

If the level is below or above these markings, you will need to add or drain some oil accordingly until you reach an acceptable level.

Importance of the usage of the primary oil

The usage of primary oil in Harley-Davidson motorcycles is critical for its performance; it’s also important for longevity and overall satisfaction.

This oil lubricates all moving parts within the engine, which helps to reduce wear and tear on them and allows for a longer lifespan.

Using premium quality oils specifically designed for Harley Davidson engines can ensure your motorcycle runs smoothly while reducing the risk of potential problems.

The primary oil has a high viscosity index that stands up to severe temperature changes by resisting thinning out when it’s hot and thickening up when it’s cold.

This helps to maintain proper lubrication during all riding conditions so that you can enjoy consistent performance regardless of the weather you’re riding in.

How often should you change the oil of your Harley Davidson?

It is recommended that the engine oil in your Harley Davidson should be changed every 5,000 miles or 6 months.

You should also read the detailed maintenance schedule that will be provided in the owner’s manual for your particular model of motorcycle.

In order to ensure your vehicle is running at its best and most efficient level, it is important to keep up with regular oil changes.

It will help to protect against unnecessary wear and tear on engine parts like pistons and cylinders, keeping them lubricated and operating correctly.

Changing the oil will remove debris, such as dirt or metal flakes collected from normal use, and prevent oxidation from occurring.

How to change the primary oil of Harley Davidson?

It is not hard to change the oil of your Harley Davidson; it simply takes 20 to 30 minutes to change.

Take the required tools:

  • A funnel
  • A socket wrench 
  • Torque wrench 
  • 5/8 socket 
  • Take to pan to drain the used oil 
  • New O ring 
  • Primary cover gasket 
  • Take the lubricant oil that’s perfect for the primary oil 

These basic tools are required to change the oil; you can easily find them in your garage or store.

Before changing the oil, you should take the user manual to ensure which tool is best for the oil change.

1. Heat the engine 

First, ensure that the engine is up to the temperature. You can do it by running the motorcycle for at least 15 minutes in an open area, allowing the engine to reach optimal operating temperatures. 

Once the engine has sufficiently heated up, shut it off and let it cool for 5 minutes before proceeding.

2. Clean up area 

Before beginning, you should ensure that the area is clean and free of any debris or materials that could damage the motorcycle during the process.

3. Find the primary drain plug 

The primary drain plug can typically be found on the engine case, usually under the transmission.

Depending on the make and model of your Harley Davidson, it may be located on either side or even in the center of the engine.

It’s important to identify where your primary drain plug is located before changing the primary oil.

4. Loosen the bolts of drain case 

The primary drain case is located under the transmission, typically underneath the left side of the motorcycle.

You may need a wrench or socket to remove it, ensuring all four bolts are loosened before attempting to remove them.

5. Drain the fluid

Once you have loosened and removed the drained case, carefully take the pan or any container to drain the old fluid.

Before pouring the new fluid, ensure that you have already drained all of the old fluid. 

6. Replace the gasket 

Before pouring the new oil, remove any primary drive cover screws and inspect all gaskets for damage or signs of wear.

If there is any sign of damage on the gasket, then replace the gasket before proceeding further.

7. Put back drain plug 

Once you have drained out the old fluid and replaced the gasket, then you should need to put back the drain plug.

8. Refill the primary oil 

Refilling the primary oil is a straightforward process you can complete in just a few minutes, pour the new oil into the engine, then tighten the cap.

You should use only premium-grade oils specifically designed for Harley-Davidson motorcycles and meet American Petroleum Institute (API) ratings or specifications.

Synthetic oils are also recommended due to their superior ability to lubricate moving parts and provide better protection against extreme temperatures.

How much primary oil Harley Davidson needs?

Harley Davidson needs a significant amount of primary oil for its vehicles. The exact amount depends on the specific type of Harley Davidson model, engine size, and type.

For example, a Harley Davidson Softail requires 4 quarts of primary oil for its Twin Cam 96B engine, while a Street Glide Special needs 5 quarts for its Twin Cam 103 engine. 

While different motorcycles may require different grades of primary oil.

The best way to determine exactly how much primary oil is needed for a particular bike is to consult with the Harley Davidson manufacturer or service technician.


How much primary oil does a Harley take?

The primary oil capacity for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is approximately 1.4 quarts (1.3 liters). 

You should use the specific type of oil recommended by Harley in order to ensure optimal performance and protection of your bike’s engine components.

What is the primary oil in a Harley?

The primary oil for a Harley-Davidson motorcycle is 20W50. This oil is specifically designed to be used in all of the V-Twin engines that are featured in many of the current Harley models.

It helps ensure optimal lubrication, cooling performance, and engine protection. 20W50 has been formulated to protect against high-temperature breakdown and sludge formation.

It also extends engine life by preventing wear and reducing friction between moving parts.

Can you use 20w50 in Harley primary?

Although Harley-Davidson does not specifically recommend the use of 20W50 motor oil in its primary drive systems, some owners have reported success using this type of oil.

This is due to the higher viscosity, which is designed to provide better lubrication at higher temperatures than standard 10W40 or 20W40 oils.

You should also note that using non-recommended oils can reduce engine life and may also avoid any applicable warranty.

You should also ensure the oil you choose meets the necessary standards set by the American Petroleum Institute.

Wrapping Up 

Primary oil is the short amount of lubricant oil used in the primary chain case of the motorbike.

It will cause wear and tear, or it will also reduce the performance of your Harley if you do not change the fluid on time. 

That’s why you should change the primary oil of your Harley Davidson on time to avoid any wear and tear.

You should change the primary oil on the first 1000 miles, then change the oil after every 9000 to 10000 miles, or change it after every two years.

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