Yea I know, another maintenance post. Sorry. It’s another rainy weekend keeping us garaged again. I figured this would provide a chance to do a video on changing the fork oil on a Street Glide. I kinda browsed around the net looking for a video on this subject and never found one on performing this process on a Street Glide. Well, I did discover one video but they wanted you to pay for access which I am simply not going to do.
I was going through the owners manual a couple months ago looking at the mileage schedule for specific maintenance tasks. Then I had the idea to begin making videos for each of the maintenance points covered in the owners manual. With a small investment in a few tools most people can easily perform these tasks themselves. If you purchased a maintenance plan then by all means let the dealership do the work. If not however then these videos might help you. So hopefully before long I will have covered most if not all of the owners manual mileage maintenance points with videos to help.
Enough of my ramblings! This maintenance task is probably the most difficult of all of the owners manual routine maintenance tasks. It is supposed to be done every 50K miles. I don’t know how I feel about waiting that long. That just seems to be a lot of miles on the bike before changing the oil out of the forks. However, if we are staying true to Harley’s specifications, then you should be good riding it up to 50K miles. I performed this fork oil change and made this video at 41K. A bit early but its not going to do any harm doing it now rather than later.
I want to stress that this video is specifically for a 2012 Street Glide. The year of your bike and the model could change the process slightly to extreme. Some bikes have conventional forks, some have damper valves, some have a conventional in the left side and a damper in the right. You will absolutely need a service manual for your specific bike if you’re going to perform this task yourself. Another point to be made here is that the service manual specifically states that the forks must be removed to change the fork oil on a SG. That is not completely accurate. The Fork Cap Bolt once removed opens up the top of the fork providing access to fill without removal. There are also screws with a copper washer at the bottom for draining the oil. Between these two specific factors you are provided with a means of draining and filling without removing the forks. However, this is ONLY good for changing the oil. You will have no way of checking internal fork components for wear or breakage doing this. I am of the opinion that the service manual says to remove the forks, springs, and dampers to provide the chance for a visual inspection of some of the core components. I believe Harley says to remove them to be more thorough in checking for possible wear from a safety perspective, which I can understand.
Here is what I do know. I’ve been riding bikes for over 40 years. You get to know the feel of the bike and how it handles under different road and temperature conditions. When a problem occurs in the front end of your bike, it doesn’t take long to notice that its not handling right. If a seal pops and oil starts flowing out, you’ll know. If a spring snaps in a fork, again, you’ll know. Even if the fork oil is breaking down from over extended use, you’ll know by the way the bike handles. So if the bike is handling right, then at least at that moment in time, you can be reasonably sure that nothing is broken and performing just the oil change will be fine.
If you keep up with this, then the clean oil you keep in the forks will help to extend the life of the internal components. Dark oil, either dark brown or black is a sign of wear. It is dark because internal parts are breaking down and leaving a residual that turns the oil dark. As the oil breaks down it fails to protect the parts well which causes the parts to break down more rapidly. So if you keep the oil clean with regular drains and refills, the components will last longer. Fork oil gets pushed through a bunch of small holes and valves to provide dampening, the friction of the oil moving makes it quite hot. This heat will break down the oil and cause a viscosity change, causing your bikes forks to work less efficiently for suspension and braking. All of that to say, there is good reason to drain and refill your fork oil without necessarily removing the forks.
There are three specific tools you will need for this which most people just don’t have. A bike jack, a #3 Phillips screwdriver, and a 1-3/8″ wrench. You’ll need the jack to keep the bike in an upright position and to get the front wheel off the ground so as to fully extend and decompress the forks. This will help with the refill procedure. The large wrench is necessary to get the fork cap bolts off. There isn’t enough room for a large crescent wrench to be able to turn the bolt enough and get it loose. There’s also not enough room between the fork cap bolt and the handle bars to fit a large socket. So your stuck having to use preferably a box end wrench to remove the fork cap bolt. The #3 Phillips screwdriver is for the drain screws. Anything smaller and I just don’t think you’ll succeed in breaking them loose without rounding them out. Together these 3 necessary tools will run $150.00 or less. The dealership service department if I remember correctly will charge 3 hours of labor plus parts. At $95.00 an hour your looking at $300 in labor alone, twice what it would cost to get the tools, do the work yourself, and have a nice jack to use for your bike or any future bike, or bikes you might own.
I used the Screaming Eagle Heavy Fork Oil which is heavier than the Type-E oil the bike comes with. This will provide for a stiffer ride but will also allow for better handling. If you want a smoother ride but a squishier front end then stick with the Type-E oil. If your into competition riding then the heavier oil would be perfect since the bike would be more responsive and handle better. Some people that ride part time or maybe cruise freeways without a lot of turns might like the smoother and softer ride of a lighter oil. You’ll have to decide for yourself because it really is a matter of preference.
Watch the entire video to get an idea of the process before trying. This maintenance task may not be something you even want to attempt. Also keep in mind that getting the correct amount of oil in the forks according to your service manual is necessary. Too little could cause handling issue which could lead to a crash. I hope the video provides a thorough process overview for you to make an informed decision whether to do this maintenance task or not.
Ride Strong, Ride Safe
How to Change the Fork Oil on a 2012 Harley Davidson Street Glide