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

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  #1  
Old 29th May 2012
kwaltz6 kwaltz6 is offline
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Default 79 xlh spitting oil and won't start

I recently put together a 79 xlh and took it out this past weekend for the first long ride test. I had the bike for about a month at the end of last season and rode it with minimal problems other than a small oil leak and a broken clutch cable. I rode about 400 miles on saturday with no issues, again..other than an oil leak. I did notice that the leak had become pretty significant since last year. I can't tell if it's leaking from the primary case, which I don't think it would be considering the case was pulled off and the gasket replaced before garaging it for the winter. I am afraid it's leaking from the actual engine case gasket, and it would require splitting the case to repair. So I was putting enough oil to top it off at each gas stop and I went through about a quart in 400 miles. Pretty significant leak, right? So I planned on just getting it home and taking it in to get inspected. I pulled my plugs sunday morning before taking off and noticed the front cylinder was a little more gunky than the rear, but not bad. I topped off the oil and got about 30 miles down the road before I noticed it start to feel weak. It seemed almost like it was missing, or not getting gas, probably from an oil fouled plug. I pulled off the highway and checked the oil. There was hardly any in the tank so I got some more 20w50 (which i had been using since I got it) and topped it off. I did rotate the pistons a few times to work it through the engine. I started it up and it wouldn't stay running, I got a bit of smoke coming out of the crankcase breather, that has a hose running up to my air cleaner. I tried to start it a few more times and eventually got about 1/2 a cup of oil spit out of the breather/air cleaner. Everything I have read would indicate that there was too much oil in it, but I don't understand how I could over fill it when the tank was almost empty before I topped it off. Does a lot of the oil settle in the engine when it's hot? This is probably the 1 area I'm the least knowledgeable on, so I feel like a fool. I will assume the rings are bad, which is why oil was getting up to the plugs in the first place, so I can probably assume I'm going to need to pull the heads and do a top end tune up. What seems to the be most likely damages and repairs I can expect?

Any similar stories, problems, and solutions? I've got about $1,000 to work with. Should i take it to the local indie and hope for the best, or just start looking around, and saving my pennies for another motor?
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  #2  
Old 29th May 2012
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tracbike tracbike is offline
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please try and diagnose the issues before considering a drop off. Check oil lines for abrasion (hole) clean motor as best you can so you might see where oil is coming from. oil coming out that quick isn't a leak in case,,..... it might be a line.
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Old 29th May 2012
kwaltz6 kwaltz6 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tracbike View Post
please try and diagnose the issues before considering a drop off. Check oil lines for abrasion (hole) clean motor as best you can so you might see where oil is coming from. oil coming out that quick isn't a leak in case,,..... it might be a line.
I replaced all the lines this winter, I will double check to make sure all the fittings are secure and there are no holes. It is leaking only on the primary side, opposite of pump and fittings so I don't think that's the case. I did notice that there was no rubber gasket between the solenoid and case and I was thinking it was leaking from there and running down the engine and dripping at the lowest point, but that would be clean(er) oil coming from the actual primary case housing for the transmission and clutch. The oil I am noticing is darker in color and seams to be dripping from right around the larger primary bolt on the bottom or right around the seal for the case. I'll do some diagnosis this week and see if I can identify the location of the leak. With that aside, I'm still facing an issue of the engine sputtering in the first place, so I need to figure that out first so I can get the bike running. It only seems to leak when it's running, and then all the oil that's been flung along the bottom of the engine and frame is dripping off when it's parked.
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Old 29th May 2012
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runingmouse runingmouse is offline
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Well on my 79 kick only. I had a leak that I thought was coming out same area you say.

Ended up being the gasket that covers where the starter would go.

You have a starter there I think, as your profile lists xlh. But may still be a gasket there behind the starter.
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  #5  
Old 29th May 2012
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tracbike tracbike is offline
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the fact that you say it leaks while running led me to believe the lines or pump issues. not leaking when parked except for residual from running is not case leaking. get it super clean and dry you will find the culprit. don't ride it when you do as it will spread it, and make it difficult. Good Luck. i'm sure it won't be that bad once you locate the issue.
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  #6  
Old 29th May 2012
kwaltz6 kwaltz6 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runingmouse View Post
Well on my 79 kick only. I had a leak that I thought was coming out same area you say.

Ended up being the gasket that covers where the starter would go.

You have a starter there I think, as your profile lists xlh. But may still be a gasket there behind the starter.
I didin't think about that gasket, I did pull the starter off recently and did not replace that gasket. I will order one this week. It just seems like a lot of oil to be leaking from such a small area.

When the bike is hot, will the oil level in the tank look lower than it actually is? My tank is a custom tank and holds about 3 1/2 quarts. The manual I have says 3 quarts. I have been filling it enough to leave about 1/2 of air at the top for venting. I need to get the leak fixed, but right now that is the last of my worries. I need to figure out why it's not starting now. It puffs smoke from the breather and won't stay running more than a few seconds.
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  #7  
Old 29th May 2012
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runingmouse runingmouse is offline
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what I had found on mine was the PO had left a pice of the old gasket on. So even though he had a new gasket on, it went over like water on a dam. lol

Cleaned the old leftovers off, installed new - end of problem. And yes it can leak that much oil from there.
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  #8  
Old 29th May 2012
kwaltz6 kwaltz6 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by runingmouse View Post
what I had found on mine was the PO had left a pice of the old gasket on. So even though he had a new gasket on, it went over like water on a dam. lol

Cleaned the old leftovers off, installed new - end of problem. And yes it can leak that much oil from there.
Thanks for the info mouse! I will get a new gasket and probably drain the oil this weekend and refill it and see how that goes. I'm debating on switch from 20w50 to a straight 50 weight. If read a few claims that people have seen a benefit and less leaking with that oil, especially on the ironheads that are notorious for leaking.
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  #9  
Old 29th May 2012
John Harper John Harper is offline
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I would imagine that your tank would see a rise in oil level when hot, as the fluid would expand with rising temperature.

John
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  #10  
Old 29th May 2012
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tracbike tracbike is offline
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use care in identifying that 50 weight has detergent ....as we move away from the dinosaur age...synthetic straight weights are designed for racing applications, and some do not have the detergent additives required for street operation.straight weigh is not forgiving to wide temp changes, like cold mornings and hot afternoons back to cold evenings. and complete operating temps are important when using

your 20/50 today has the standards of yesterdays straight weight.
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