The Sportster and Buell Motorcycle Forum - The XLFORUM®

The Sportster and Buell Motorcycle Forum - The XLFORUM® (
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-   -   Sportster Crankcase Pressure / Engine Breathing / Wetsumping and Mods (

Hippysmack 7th August 2019 00:20


Originally Posted by dieselvette (Post 5768116)
The scavenge pump takes what it's given - air or oil, and moves it to the tank.
It has two inlets - first from the CC passage, then from the cam chest drain.
I tend to think of the tank more as a gravity air/oil separator. The vent back to cam chest gives the air a place to return to the engine.

The oil tank serves several purposes.
It's of course the oil reservoir, an air/oil separator, CC pressure buffer.. leave anything out?

This is from the REF section:
I have not updated this page since the start of this thread or even read it since for that matter.

Oil Tank Pressure

There should not be any noticeable pressure in the oil tank due to the generated pressure being vented back into the cam chest.
Because you can't physically pump more oil out of your motor than you pump in, the larger return pumps air also.
(in addition to the return oil in order to make up the volume difference)
You will see this if you remove the cap off the oil tank and start the motor.
The return oil enters the tank in spurts with the air in between the spurts.
This in turn means more volume gets put back into the tank from the return side than gets removed from the tank by the supply side.
So the tank gets pressurized and that cant be allowed to happen.
It's the vent line's job to allow that extra air volume to exit the tank and go back to where it came from, the gearcase.

During normal operation;
With the tank cap / dipstick removed, tank pressure is vented to atmosphere from the top of the tank.
With the tank cap / dipstick installed, tank pressure is vented to the cam chest.

During shutdown;
The oil tank vent is connected to the cam chest and the cam chest is vented out the breather valve(s) in the cam cover or heads, respectively.
So if you have pressure in your oil tank and the vent to the cam chest is not blocked then the cam chest is also pressurized.
If the cam chest is holding pressure, then your breather valve(s) can not be venting properly.

Bottom line is that if the vent system is working properly, you shouldn't have excessive pressure build up in the oil tank.

Conditions where oil seeps or spews from the oil tank include;
Blocked oil tank vent line / hose.
The vent line being blocked will keep the pressure in the tank until it builds enough to blow out the cap.
Blocked / stopped up crankcase breather vent.
With blocked or non-working breather(s), engine performance will also suffer.
Too much oil in the engine, oil tank or both.
Check your FSM or owners manual for the proper amount of oil to add.
Sportsters are known for wet sumping (condition where oil from the tank seeps into the engine while not running).
Once the engine is started, the oil pump scavenge gerotors will return the engine's sump oil back to the tank.
(in theory, at a rate faster than the feed gerotors can send oil to the engine from the tank on a warmed up engine)
There are conditions that would slow the speed at which oil returns to the tank however.
Too much standing oil in the sump added to worn oil pump internals, condition of the pressure relief valve and oil filter can slow the pump's ability to clear the sump.
Oil can drain down into the motor from the tank for a number of reasons when it has been sitting for a long time.
Then, the dipstick will give a false reading because some of that oil went into the engine.
If you already have 1-2 quarts seep down the feed line and into the engine and then add more to the oil tank, the excess oil will either blow out the breather valve(s) or the oil tank.
Oil level should only be checked or added to with a warmed engine as per the FSM.
If you're not sure of the collective amount of oil in the system (as in buying a used bike), drain the engine and oil tank and refill with the proper amount.
(when draining cold oil, you will not get all of the existing oil to drain out of the engine)
So, it may be better to drain and add the proper amount minus a half quart, run it up to temp and recheck, then add some more if needed.
You may not be able to see or access the sump drain plug as it may be blocked by the frame.
86-91 engines have a pressure relief valve set at 30-35 psi.
During a cold start, the pressure relief will dump unfiltered oil into the gearcase until the oil heats up enough (lowering oil pressure) and the relief valve closes.
Likewise, repeated start/stops before allowing the oil to heat up will dump more oil into the engine faster than the scavenge pump can return it to the oil tank.
Oil lines not routed to the correct fittings.
If you've removed or replaced your oil lines, double check that they are connected to the right fittings.
Replacing the hollow head breather bolts for regular ones.
On 91-up engines, installing a regular bolt in place of the OEM hollow bolts can cause this issue.
That would block crankcase pressure up in the engine and cause degradation of engine performance.
If upgrading to an aftermarket A/C, you must account for an alternate method to vent crankcase pressure if you're not using the OEM hollow bolts.
A plugged up oil filter should not cause this issue.
All spin on oil filters have a pressure relief valve built into them.
It is designed to still deliver (unfiltered) oil to the engine in the case of blockage of the filter media at no extra pressure increase.
Oil tank blew up in cold weather.
04-up models have plastic oil tanks. The belief is that some moisture gets frozen in the vent line on 04-09 tanks causing the rupture.
It's a plastic tank so it is not going to be anything like a pressure cooker if it does happen, just messy..
The worst of it is replacing all the parts (and not being able to ride while waiting for parts to arrive).
The newer upgraded tanks have a better venting design to prevent this.
In 2010, the MoCo put a 10 psi relief valve in the oil tank (presumably to prevent this sort of issue).
The relief valve will prevent having to replace the oil tank but the jury is still out on the actual cause of the problem.
This has happened to a handful of XLFORUM members (statistically, a pretty small number).
But there are plenty of riders who have ridden in below freezing temperatures that haven't had a problem.

Crankcase Pressure / Venting in the Oil Tank
Air inside the tank doesn't get there because of CC pressure alone.
Ambient air resides in the upper portion of the tank above the oil level.
The air was there first. Then the oil was added. If you add too much oil, there will be even less air in the tank.

This would result in a need to move crankcase pressure out of the tank faster to keep up with incoming pressure.
A lower oil level in the tank would facilitate more area for CC pressure to collect before venting out.
Some have claimed that lowering the oil level in the tank reduces wet sumping.
There may some truth to that in the short run for reasons above.
But that is more like using a band-aid to cover a more important underlying condition of too much total crankcase pressure.
That condition doesn't just go away when you lower the oil level.
There should be a variant oil level in the tank depending on many factors.

The displacement of ambient air and CC pressure in the tank relies on the engine breather vent(s).
If the engine can't breath, the system locks up. However, it may be compounded due to air/oil separation once there.
In the drawings below, a syringe is used to example crankcase pressure being applied into the oil tank:

Since it's not the oil pump scavenger's job to separate the oil/air mist, both crankcase pressure and oil end up in the oil tank.
So one function of the oil tank is to allow for air to separate out of the oil once there.
The oil falls to the bottom while the air separates from the oil and goes into the tank vent back to the crankcase.
From there, the air gets circulated out the engine breather vent(s) and back into the intake to burn off hydrocarbons.
(or sometimes re-circulated into the scavenger passage)
So, in essence, the oil tank acts as an oil / air separator like the breather valve but the air only expels the engine from the engine's breather vent.

The piston movements in the HD engine are not in apposing positions to balance out the displacement of air.
They are mounted on the same crank pin and oscillate into a small volume crankcase.
Crankcase air pulses from a pressure condition to a vacuum condition inside the engine.
With the pistons movements being so close together, air is pushed and then pulled with each piston's up and down stroke.
This 'push-pull' condition affects oil scavenge from the engine to the oil tank.
Crankcase pressure and oil is both pushed towards and pulled from the scavenger passage in the sump.
Likewise, so is pressure to and from the oil tank.
As far as the oil tank is concerned, picture blowing up a balloon halfway, then letting the air out and repeating.
On one hand, you can picture both oil and CC pressure being pushed to and from the oil tank.
On the other, the oil pump scavenger creates more flow pressure than the force of CC pressure.
So one could also see that as the oil pump sends oil/air to the tank on piston down stroke and negative (vacuum) pressure pulls air back thru the vent.

If the oil tank vent line is plugged up, the oil pump will still send air/oil pressure into the tank.
The air pressure can't leave the tank but the oil is recirculated from the tank into the engine by the feed side of the pump.
Pressure will build in the tank until the cap blows, oil leaks from the cap or the oil tank splits (plastic). \
You still have the same amount of pressure on the engine side of the plugged up vent line.
And that pressure is still being vented out the engine breather(s) as normal. However, a plugged vent line will hinder oil pump scavenging.
This will result in less oil going to the tank and more oil gathering in the sump waiting to be scavenged.
And that can lead to wet sumping with more oil in the sump than usual.

Hippysmack 7th August 2019 00:33


Originally Posted by 60Gunner (Post 5768136)
Im not sure what testing or data is even possible to verify or debunk anything.

The more we thunk it, the more we'll know. :)

bustert 7th August 2019 00:35

when did hd start pulling oil directly out the flywheel compartment???

Hippysmack 7th August 2019 01:09


Originally Posted by dieselvette (Post 5768116)

Not sure what you mean by splash ports....
... are they leading to the pushrod tubes or the CC?

From Evo Engine Oil Routes:


86-90 engines:

91 engines:

92-03 engines:

04 Up engines:

Splash Ports:
Notice the port size.

86-90 engines:

91-99 engines:
Port size was enlarged.

00-03 engines:

Port size is smaller.

04-up engines:
Port size is even smaller
Maybe this will help a little.

I need a closer pic of these ports if anyone's got one.

Hippysmack 7th August 2019 01:15


Originally Posted by bustert (Post 5768142)
when did hd start pulling oil directly out the flywheel compartment???

I'm not as versed on early IHs but I'm guessing when the gerotor pump hit town ....77 on?
Yes, when they got rid of the breather trap (76<)

dieselvette 7th August 2019 01:20


Originally Posted by Hippysmack (Post 5768132)
I am willing to redesign the whole page if it would be easier to use.
So please don't hesitate to mention something if you think of it.
There are some obstacles with the formatting but we've been able to cross those hurdles so far.
End result, it needs to be as easy to follow as possible.

Yep, and thanks again for your work on this so far. And I agree that being candid is the best approach. I have some suggestions about ways it could laid out in and order that's easier to understand, but Im holding off until all the facts and myths are cleared up, as im sure you are too.

Hippysmack 7th August 2019 01:24


Originally Posted by dieselvette (Post 5768152)
, as im sure you are too.

Exacery. :)

needspeed 7th August 2019 01:41

Now I regret praising your extensive list of links and credits that were at post 352 because now I can't find them. :( A visit to post #2 doesn't get me there.

Refer to post 402 and 403.

Hippysmack 7th August 2019 01:58

Well ...I think we've been modded. :headbang
That post was apparently not for the long range, nor is this one I'd imagine.

That's OK.
I edited page 2 to link back to the article in the pedia, go to the bottom of that page to see all the credits. :(

Hippysmack 7th August 2019 02:49


Originally Posted by Hippysmack (Post 5768033)
Newer (OEM) engines don't have the actual problem of wet sumping like older engines did (possibly because CC pressure was raised) upon normal riding conditions.


Originally Posted by dieselvette (Post 5768116)

Are you sure, or just guessing? Just trying to recall where we learned that newer models have higher CC pressure.

I guess I need to clarify that.
From 77 Up, there were many changes to the engines.
Along that path, oil routing, oil pumps, pressure reliefs, CC pressure paths, CC pressure itself and a list of others changed.
It wasn't always the oil pump that made a difference in wet sumping.
It's the big picture (which I still don't have a full grasp of) that changed.

where we learned that newer models have higher CC pressure.
Deduction basically.
OEM engines went from 883cc-1100cc-1200cc increasing volume of pressure produced.
The engine internals (splash ports are clearly smaller. that's how most of CC pressure leaves the source)
Routing to the head breathers with the restrictions I mentioned earlier will raise the pressure starting from the source.
Breather bolt hole size is a restriction also.
If you put all this together (and add it to the rest), one could deduce the initial surge is higher from restrictions as the year model changes occurred.

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