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Ironhead Sportster Motorcycle Talk (1957-1985) For all those that wanna talk about Ironhead Sportster Motorcycles

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botton end work, ironhead, push rod

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  #1  
Old 24th December 2006
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IronMick IronMick is offline
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Lightbulb Ironhead Push Rod Adjustment

Ironhead Push Rod Adjustment

NOTE: See post number 39 of this thread for an excellent video of the pushrod adjustment process.

Do this procedure with the engine stone cold. I usually do the first few steps the night before, then the adjustment steps first thing in the morning.

1. Remove the spark plugs. Remove A/C to make room to work.

2. Using a flat blade screwdriver pry the spring keeper off of each push rod; the bottom of the keeper pops out first, then the top. Alternately, use a 3/4" open end wrench to push down on the top of the spring retainer, then pry out the spring keeper with the screwdriver.

3. The lower push rod covers may be stuck tight against the bottom o-rings, but they can be loosened by pinching between thumb and finger [or carefully using a shop rag and a pliers] and twisting or rotating. Lift these up and secure each with a tall-S-shaped piece of 12 or 14 gauge household wire [not cable] [or a long piece of Plumbers solder such as 95/5: [thanx Monte03] hooked over the rocker cover and under the push rod cover.

4. Jack up back end of the bike so that rear wheel is off the ground, shift to 2nd gear, rotate wheel until it clicks, repeat until you get to 4th gear. Now by rotating the rear wheel you are rotating the engine. Almost impossible with the plugs in; very difficult in lower gears.

5. To adjust a particular push rod, its valve must be fully closed [the valve spring is relaxed]. Valve position for a particular cylinder is determined by observing the corresponding push rod of the other cylinder. For example, when the rear cylinder intake valve tappet is raised [valve fully open, spring compressed], the front cylinder intake valve is fully closed, and the front intake push rod can be adjusted.

6. Check [and adjust if necessary] the push rods:

[a] using the rear wheel rotate the engine so that the rear cylinder exhaust push rod tappet is fully raised. The front cylinder push rod is adjusted correctly if it has no vertical or horizontal play, and you can just rotate the push rod between thumb and forefinger with no trace of binding or dragging.

[b] to adjust if needed: hold the adjusting screw in place with a wrench; with another wrench loosen the split locknut. Then turn the adjusting screw using fingers only until the pushrod's ball end is seated in the tappet with a "slight amount of play". Then tighten further as follows:

Option 1: Adjust on the tighter end of the range: There should be no vertical or horizontal play, and you should be just able to rotate the push rod between thumb and forefinger with no trace of binding or dragging.

Option 2: Adjust on the looser end of the range: Set the adjusting screw to finger tight so that you cannot turn the push rod between forefinger and thumb. Undo it a tiny bit so that it is just barely loose. Then loosen it 1 "side" for an exhaust or 1/2 "side" for an intake. "Side" refers to one side of the 6-sided adjusting nut.

EDIT: Experience of forum members since this Sticky was published here is that Option 2 is most likely the better choice.

[c] hold the adjusting screw in place with the one wrench; with the other wrench tighten the locknut.

[d] recheck the adjustment; it is common for the adjustment to go out as you do step [c], in which case [b] and [c] must be redone.

[e] repeat for the other push rods.

7. Use a flat blade screwdriver to push the upper push rod covers up, and seat them into the upper o-ring or cork washer.

8. Install the spring keepers, top end first, by prying them in under the bottom with a flat blade screwdriver.

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Last edited by IronMick; 29th October 2018 at 14:36..
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  #2  
Old 24th December 2006
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Keep em coming Mick. I'm a new owner to an Ironhead and I need all the help I can get.

MC
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  #3  
Old 24th December 2006
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Good post, Mick; it's one of the most common questions I get asked about Ironheads, be useful to make it a sticky topic somewhere.

You forgot one VITAL tip though; never perform this task outside or in a cluttered workshop, as you can guarantee that one of the spring keepers will fly past your ear into the great outdoors as you're trying to re-fit it, thus wasting valuable riding or drinking time whilst you search for it!

Ther speaks the voice of experience!
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Old 24th December 2006
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RcRacer RcRacer is offline
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Thanks Mick, great post! This will definitely come in handy when I get my bike back together and I need to do this. Having the service manual is great but you can't beat a lesson from an experienced person.
Thanks again.
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Old 24th December 2006
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Be very carefull not to adjust them too tight, man those bikes can be a bitch to start with a pushrod overly tight.
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  #6  
Old 11th January 2007
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Good post mick and much needed!
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  #7  
Old 13th March 2007
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Great reading.
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  #8  
Old 13th March 2007
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Didn't read the date before I sent rep to our esteemed but avatar challenged moderator (LOL Mick!) for another great post. Well done Mick.
Matt
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Old 18th April 2007
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I'm still having difficulty determining the tightness of the pushrods. Should they spin pretty freely or be pretty hard to turn?
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Old 18th April 2007
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kikwear View Post
I'm still having difficulty determining the tightness of the pushrods. Should they spin pretty freely or be pretty hard to turn?
What i do is tighten the adjuster nut finger tight so that i cannot turn the pushrod between thumb and forefinger. Then i loosen it just enough so that i can turn it.

It should rotate freely with no binding. There should be no up-down or side-to-side movement. Then i tighten the lock nut. Then i check the pushrod again as it sometimes gets tightened when i tighten the locknut.

All this with the same lifter for the other cylinder positioned fully up [so this one is fully down].
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