By Billy Bartels

How to get it done in your own garage

Presumably, if you ride a touring bike, you’re at least throwing down moderate amounts of miles. The net result of all this riding is the need to change motorcycle oil frequently. While the official factory manual only mandates every 3000 miles, many riders in the know do so at least that much, if not more. Especially if you ride your touring rig around town a lot and do lots of shorter stints on it, you’ll want to have frequent oil changes. But all that oil swappin’ can get spendy, fast, so perhaps you ought to learn how to do it yourself.

Be sure you read the whole article before proceeding, and get all the parts on the list so you don’t have to take a break to run to the H-D shop.

Shopping list:

  • Portable/sealable oil pan
  • 4 quarts H-D 20w50 (or other motorcycle-approved motor oil)
  • 2 quarts H-D Formula +
  • O-ring/gasket kit (17396-06)
  • Oil filter (63798-99A chrome or 63731-99A black)
  • Oil filter tool (94686-00 or 94863-10 end cap style)
  • Brake cleaner (or other degreaser)
  • Funnel (or two, or three)
    Basic hand tools, including hex wrenches, ratchets and sockets (and an extender)


  • Primary filler (funnel is also acceptable here) 63797-10 for '06 and later Twin Cam models or 62700015 for Evolution and early Twin Cam models
  • Latex or nitrile gloves

Thanks to Harley-Davidson‘s fleet center for their help in putting this together. Though this was done by a professional, with professional equipment, as you will see there’s not much rocket science at work here.

First step is, drop the old oil via a trio of drain plugs on the bottom of the engine and transmission cases. Two bolts drain primary fluid and engine oil, while a horizontal plug drains the transmission itself. Be sure to drain into a portable container for transfer to your local recycling spot.

Place the three drain plugs, derby cover and old gasket nearby, separate from the new derby gaskets. Use the oil filter tool to remove the filter from the front of the motor. We used a ratchet/socket-type with an extension. Pro tip: If it doesn’t come off easily (as it didn’t for us) you can always stab it with a cheap screwdriver and twist it off.

You can do the next two steps in either order, but next we popped off the primary derby cover via the five hex screws that hold it in place, then removed the inner gasket, as it typically gets replaced every time. You can reuse it, but run a greater risk of leaks. Doing this first gives the oil filter a chance to drain a bit before removing it, which makes for less dripping and mess.

Before replacing the drain plugs, clean them thoroughly with brake cleaner (or other solvent). Next, replace the o-rings on the plugs with the new ones in the oil change kit. Apply some high-temp thread sealant to help keep your motorcycle oil tight.

Replacing the derby gasket is straightforward, just apply a little oil to all surfaces and stretch it into the groove with your thumbs. Pour oil into the oil filter until it reaches the threads, and let it soak until install. Spread some oil around the integral gasket on the oil filter as well. Clean surfaces before buttoning up and filling up.

Put all the drain plugs back, and torque to manual specs (14-21 lb-ft). Set your drain pan aside and screw on the oil filter snugly.

Pour the bottle of Formula+ into the primary case. Gone are the days of long ago (the ’90s and earlier) when you had to measure a bottle and a half of primary fluid and not quite a bottle of different transmission fluid. Now it’s just dump a bottle in each. Transmission and motor oil fillers are right next to each other on the right side. Tranny on the right and motor on the left. The transmission just gets the whole Formula+, while the motor gets three-and-a-half quarts. After finishing the job, start the bike, warm the engine, and add until at the full line on the dipstick.