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View Full Version : Ironhead What oil do you use?


moospis
25th May 2009, 16:47
First of all I gotta say this is THE best forum in the world!! I used to go to HDforums.com and was lucky to get any responses at all. Anyway, back to my 1979 XLH 1000 Sportster. My mechanic asked me what oil I was using and I told him the HD 20W-50W. He told me that I should be using the straight 50W oil. Not sure his reasoning but he says the bike will run better on hot days. I live in SW Minn and although the temp will get into the 90's I really don't take my bike out for a lot of long rides (YET). The longest sustained ride I have taken is about 80 miles. What does anyone else think about when putting oil in their precious bikes and what flows through your engine?

flathead45
25th May 2009, 16:53
20-50 is fine


I have 60w straight just cause it was free, but 20-50 is just fine for your kinda riding

jcsportster
25th May 2009, 16:58
I use valvoline 50w motorcycle oil in my 79.

SilverShark96
25th May 2009, 19:12
I use 60wt in my '78.

1976 XL
25th May 2009, 19:17
I Use 50 Wt Valvoline In My 76'

ryder rick
25th May 2009, 19:35
The manual (if you had one) does not say anything about running multi-weight oil in an Ironhead.

A lot of guys have done it successfully(?).

I would not do it without and oil cooler.

The manual says over 60 degrees 50W
The manual says over 80 degrees 60W

A 20-50W is never going to replace 60W but you could conceivably reduce the oil temp with a GOOD cooler and get it back to 50w range. The problem I have is most 20-50W oil is formulated for water cooled pressure lubricated motors and when hot is no where near as thick as 50W HD oil. A Harley motor is not pressure lubricated, it is flooded or splash lubed, and it's roller bearings need cushioning & cooling. A multi-weight oil may cool but once it has heated it turns to water and provides no cushioning.

Given this you will find your motor runs much quieter on a hot day with the 60W oil. But then how do you ride at night when it is 50 degrees(or less)? It would not be practical to change oil from daytime to night time. The answer is a cooler this will expand the temp range of your oil 20 degrees.

It's a compromise, you have to look at the temps you ride in and find some middle ground for your oil weight selection. None of the 20-50W automotive oils seem to maintain the same viscosity as HD 20-50W. Remember that oil is formulated for water cooled pressure lubed motors, an HD is air/oil cooled and has much different requirements.

There are a bunch of aftermarket oils formulated for HD, Drag Specialties, Bikers Choice, BelRay, Klotz, TwinPower, Motul, Maxima. Only a few of these are in the oil business, they are buying oil from other sources and re-branding it. I ran a rental fleet of HD bikes and they got very heavy use high mileage (not to mention treatment). I used bulk oil because of the volume of oil I went through and for price point. I used Silkolene 20-50W oil, I found this oil has very similar properties to the HD oil, I also was told that the Twin Power branded oil is the same oil and I have found it has good air cooled properties.

I have never understood why HD recommends heavy oils but the dealers use 20-50W even in 100 degree climates! The answer might be that they do not have a vested interest in see that your bike lasts as long as possible. A very few of the bikes they service see everyday or regular high mileage use, so that may be part of why they are able to get away with it. I have never understood why HD does not install coolers on bikes sold in the south west as original equipment.

Needless to say all of my bikes have coolers on them and I run multi-weight oil in the winter and straight weight in the summer. If I need a jacket I put a velcro cover on my cooler, when it is too hot for a jacket the vest comes off the cooler.

My 87 EVO still has the original top and bottom end with well over 50k miles (the speedo broke the second day I owned it 7 years ago and I tossed it) and has been repeatedly beaten like an ugly stepchild. I wheelie it, jump it, do burnouts, and have run multiple tanks of gas at WFO through the central valley of Calif. I ride on freeways, in town, two lanes out of town, dirt and even gravel roads, the distance I have traveled sideways can probably be measured in miles. I was happy if my rear tire lasted 2 oil changes, 3 rear tires a year was not uncommon. Rear tires became such an issue I have 2 spare rear wheels with tires mounted up ready to go! All of this rough treatment and my original motor shows no signs of giving up, no oil consumption or smoke or noise! I think that says something for my choice in oil...

1976 XL
25th May 2009, 19:55
Ryder Rick I Have Used Oil I Purchased At An Oil Distributor That Is Designed For Air Cooled Airplane Engines. Was Told The Breakdown Of This Oil Is Slower Than Automotive Oil,like You Said Those Other Oils Are For Fluid Cooled Engines. The Airplane Oil Was All I Could Find Locally At The Time And Seemed To Work Well. Just Thought Someone Else Could Use This Info.

Joesdaddy
25th May 2009, 21:35
I work at an airport, and have access to aviation grade oil. Aeroshell comes in 40, 50, and 15-50 grades. However it is AD, ( ashless dispursing ). I don't know why, but I've been told it's not good for our bikes. The other aviation oil is mineral, but that's just for a new engine break in period. I use Kendall 50W

einheit 13
25th May 2009, 23:33
50w below 60 degrees and 60w when above here in SE Virginia. Same way for my old Triumph...

1976 XL
27th May 2009, 02:22
I work at an airport, and have access to aviation grade oil. Aeroshell comes in 40, 50, and 15-50 grades. However it is AD, ( ashless dispursing ). I don't know why, but I've been told it's not good for our bikes. The other aviation oil is mineral, but that's just for a new engine break in period. I use Kendall 50W

Thanks for the info. I only used that oil for one or two oil changes,probably why i didn't have problems with it. Then went back to valvoline 50wt.,when the locals started ordering it for us bikers. Nice heads up, may save somebody a rebuild.:clap

OldStaleNegative
27th May 2009, 04:18
per my mechanic's advice, I run straight 50w in my '66 and it's seemed fine for my Northern California climate...

jagdprcp
27th May 2009, 20:25
The manual (if you had one) does not say anything about running multi-weight oil in an Ironhead.


I would like to know what manual you are referring to... The HD Service Manual for my '76 specifically states to run 20W-50 in the motor and primary/transmission.

Monte03
28th May 2009, 00:15
My 69 CH motor even sounds better with good old 60W, I swear by it, Ironheads like thick oil period...

Machinist Mike
28th May 2009, 00:37
I use only Harley Davidson Oil..but it's not cheap