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Harley Davidson 5 Speed Transmission Problems? Help Is Here!

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Are you finding yourself stuck in traffic, cursing your Harley Davidson motorcycle’s sluggish performance due to potential 5-speed transmission problems? Or perhaps you’re being haunted by clunky shifting, jarring your otherwise smooth ride. If you’re nodding along in frustrated recognition, then this article is here to save your day and your ride. As countless Harley loyalists can attest to, the most common Harley Davidson 5 speed transmission problems often serve as an unexpected and unwelcome speed bump, bringing your bike’s performance down and your stress levels up. But fear not – our comprehensive and easily digestible guide is here to help you identify, understand, and fix these pesky problems, getting you back on the open road where you and your Harley truly belong. So, buckle up, fellow road warriors. It’s time to troubleshoot your way toward a smoother ride.

What Are The Most Common Transmission Problems In Harley 5 Speeds?

There are several common issues that can occur with the Harley 5-speed transmission. These issues can range from difficulty shifting gears to strange noises emanating from the transmission. Let’s explore these problems and their respective solutions.

Difficulty Shifting Gears

A frequent problem encountered with Harley Davidson motorcycles, particularly the 5-speed transmission, is difficulty shifting gears, often requiring clutch adjustment or transmission fluid checks. This issue could be attributed to various factors like damaged shift forks or linkages, clutch adjustment problems, or even low transmission fluid.

To troubleshoot, check the clutch adjustment and ensure it’s properly adjusted with sufficient free play. Inspect the shift linkage and shift forks for signs of damage. If necessary, replenish transmission fluid and adjust the clutch cable. However, if you spot any issues with the shift forks, bearings, or linkages, it’s advisable to consult an expert mechanic for replacement.

Clutch Slipping

Clutch slipping, a common issue among Harley Davidson owners, often signals the need for clutch cable adjustments or a look at the transmission fluid level. It occurs when the transmission gears fail to engage properly. Aside from the previously mentioned occurrences, this can also be triggered by a defective clutch, a stretched drive belt, damaged bearings, or inadequate clutch adjustment.

Example of a glazed clutch plates that cause the clutch to slip in Harley Davidson 5 speed transmissions
Most of the time though, these problems lead to the clutch plates glazing which is what ultimately leads to the clutch slipping

If you encounter this issue, inspect the gears and bearings for any damages or cracks. If they are in good condition, check the drive belt and clutch for any signs of damage. Often, replacing or adjusting the clutch cable will solve the problem. But if it doesn’t, consider replacing the drive belt and lubricating the transmission.

Related to this section: Harley Davidson Clutch Replacement Cost: Complete Overview

Spontaneous Popping Out Of Gear

Spontaneous popping out of gear in Harley Davidson motorcycles can result from worn mounts, loose linkage, bad shifter bearings, or a weak spring in the shift rail, all of which are critical transmission system components. To troubleshoot, inspect the shift drum and detent mechanism for any signs of damage. Also, check the shift forks and bushings to ensure they are physically intact.

However, addressing these issues often requires the expertise of a mechanic, as these are crucial elements in the transmission system, and any missteps could lead to further damage.

Clunking, Growling, and Other Strange Sounds

A constant growling sound or a clunking noise can be a sign of transmission problems in Harley Davidson motorcycles, particularly with the 5-speed transmission. These sounds often indicate worn or damaged gears and bearings, a faulty primary drive system, or loose transmission mounts.

A thorough inspection of the transmission bearings and gears is required if you hear a constant growling sound. If you notice clunking noises, inspect the transmission mounts, bearings, and gears in both the transmission and the primary drive system. Any excessive noise signals broken gear teeth, necessitating replacement of the gears, shift fork, and shift drum.

Related: Harley Goes Into Gear But Won’t Move? Help Is Here!

What Bikes Are Most Prone To 5 Speed Transmission Problems?

Here's a Harley 5 Speed transmission that has been torn apart for rebuild

Harley Davidson introduced its first 5-speed transmission in 1980 on the FLT touring models. Since then, this transmission system has been standard on all Harley-Davidson motorcycles. While the 5-speed transmission is generally reliable, it is not exempt from occasional problems, and neither are the bikes it’s found in. Here are some models that are prone to experiencing these problems:

  • Touring Series: Known for transmission issues, especially in models from the late 1990s to mid-2000s.
  • Softail Models: Certain Softail models from this era frequently experience 5-speed transmission problems.
  • Dyna Models: Some Dyna models, particularly those produced in the early 2000s, are reported to have transmission issues.

Related to this section:
> What Year Harleys to Avoid: Comprehensive Guide (Experience)
> Heritage Softail Problems: A Tumultuous Trip Through Time

Are Any Engines Particularly Vulnerable?

While the 5-speed transmission is designed for durability, certain engines may be more susceptible to transmission problems due to design specifics or usage patterns. However, with regular maintenance and care, most transmission issues can be prevented or resolved promptly. Either way, here are the most vulnerable engines, to these transmission problems:

  • Twin Cam 88 Engine: Found in many models from the late 1990s to early 2000s, this engine is often associated with 5-speed transmission issues.
  • Evolution Engine: Although renowned for its reliability, some older models with the Evolution engine experienced transmission problems.
  • Shovelhead Engine: In some of the Earlier models equipped with this engine, transmission difficulties were noted, particularly in models from the late 1980s.

Maintenance Tips to Maintain Your 5 Speed Transmission

Proper care and maintenance are crucial for the longevity of any mechanical device, and the Harley 5-speed transmission is no exception. Here are some tips to help prevent transmission problems:

  • Regularly inspect the transmission fluid level and quality
  • Always use high-quality transmission fluid
  • Periodically inspect the clutch cable for wear, damage, or tension loss
  • Replace the clutch plate after every 20k kilometers
  • Practice smooth gear changes and avoid forceful shifting
  • Maintain the chain or belt tension within the manufacturer’s recommendation
  • Allow the engine/transmission to warm up before riding aggressively
  • Address any problems immediately

Can You Ride A Harley That’s Experiencing Problems With Its Transmission?

While it’s possible to ride a Harley with transmission problems, it’s not advisable. A faulty transmission can lead to a sudden loss of power, difficulty shifting gears, and increased risk of accidents. Always have the transmission inspected and repaired by a qualified technician if you suspect any issues because sometimes the issues can come to a head at the worst time possible. Imagine trying to stop, or accelerate in a pinch, and your bike won’t go into gear, just like this gentleman:

Read next: Does Harley Davidson Make Automatic Motorcycles? Yes And No

What Happens If You Keep Riding?

Continued riding with a faulty transmission can lead to total failure of the transmission system, a burned-out clutch, or even more severe mechanical damage. Therefore, it’s vital to address any transmission issues as soon as they arise.

To wrap things up, I know that Harley Davidson 5-speed transmission problems can be troublesome, they are not insurmountable. Regular maintenance and timely repairs can keep your Harley running smoothly and reliably. And remember, when in doubt, consult with a professional mechanic, or at the very least keep your technical resources handy:

> Torque Specs for Harley Davidson: Ultimate Guide (PDF)
> Complete Harley Davidson Tire Size Chart (PDF)

What are the signs of a failing 5-speed transmission in a Harley Davidson?

Indicators of a failing 5-speed transmission include difficulty in shifting gears, unusual grinding or whining noises during gear changes, slipping of gears, and noticeable transmission fluid leaks. These symptoms suggest internal wear or damage.

Can regular maintenance prevent 5-speed transmission problems in Harley Davidsons?

Regular maintenance can significantly reduce the likelihood of transmission problems. This includes routinely checking and changing transmission fluid, ensuring the clutch is properly adjusted, and having regular professional inspections.

What should I do if my Harley Davidson’s 5-speed transmission is not shifting properly?

If your Harley Davidson’s transmission is not shifting properly, first check the transmission fluid level and quality. If the issue persists, it may be due to a mechanical fault, and it’s advisable to seek professional diagnosis and repair.

What is the average lifespan of a 5-speed transmission in a Harley Davidson?

The lifespan of a 5-speed transmission in a Harley Davidson can vary greatly depending on maintenance, riding habits, and overall usage. With proper care, a transmission can last well over 50,000 miles without major issues.