Solving The Mystery Of Harley Davidson Shifting Problems

Whenever you drive a car, the gear lever is designed to give you control over the vehicle’s speed. It is essentially a lever with a knob that controls the gear.

The movement of this lever determines the vehicle’s speed, and usually, there are multiple gears for different driving conditions. However, when you ride a motorcycle, things are different. Since motorcycle gear levers are located differently from car levers, they may experience shifting issues.

As with any other vehicle, motorcycle gears require regular maintenance and care to ensure smooth running and maximum performance. When your motorcycle’s shifter fails to work properly or requires extra effort to shift gears, it is time to investigate the issue. We’ll discuss harley davidson shifting problems that can hamper your motorcycle’s transmission and how you can prevent them from enjoying smooth riding every time.

Mystery Of Harley Davidson Shifting Problems

Causes of Harley Davidson Shifting Problems

Causes of Harley Davidson Shifting Problems

Shifting problems on Harley-Davidson motorcycles can be caused by various factors, including inadequate knowledge or experience on the part of the bike owner or rider. Poor or inadequate shifting can be indicated by instances where the motorcycle is not performing as expected, frequently struggling with difficult gear changes, or experiencing sudden jerks while riding. These issues often indicate an issue with the shifter cable, clutch assembly, or other components.

Another common cause of poor or inadequate shifting is the low fluid level in the motorcycle’s shifter mechanism. If this occurs, it can make the motorcycle difficult to shift and may result in a damaged shift lever. Similarly, a clogged filter on the shifter mechanism can prevent it from properly engaging and disengaging gears. Both of these factors can cause frustrating and potentially dangerous shifting issues.

Gear Shifting Into Neutral

Gear Shifting Into Neutral

When shifting into neutral on Harley Davidson motorcycles, several possible causes can result in difficulty. If your motorcycle has been in a collision, gear shifting into neutral may be the first thing to fail. This is because the impact forces can damage or shift components within the motorcycle’s transmission, resulting in poor or dangerous shifting.

A common problem with shift-into-neutral on Harley-Davidson motorcycles is a clogged filter or faulty clutch cable. When these components become clogged or malfunction, it becomes more difficult for the transmission to shift gears and ultimately into neutral. 

Cramped Linkage

Linkage issues on Harley-Davidson motorcycles can lead to shifting problems, especially if the linkage is not functioning properly. Common problems with the gear shifter include stiffness and difficulty moving the shifter, gears not shifting smoothly, and the bike getting stuck in gear. If you are experiencing issues with your Harley-Davidson gear shifter, it is best to take it to a local mechanic for inspection and possible solutions.

The Shift Lever Becomes Difficult To Operate

The Shift Lever Becomes Difficult To Operate

A clutch adjustment issue can cause difficulty shifting into gears on a Harley-Davidson. When you do not adjust the clutch properly, it can make shifting into gear difficult. If you are experiencing this problem with your Harley-Davidson, it could be due to several things.

It could be that the clutch cable is dragging when the motorcycle is cold or idle for a long time. This happens because the clutch is not fully disengaged when not in use, which can lead to slippage and increased wear over time.

Inappropriate Use Of The Clutch Lever (Releasing The Clutch Lever Abruptly)

The abrupt release of the clutch lever while riding on a Harley Davidson can cause transmission issues such as the rear wheel locking unexpectedly or excessive gear clashing. Because clutch adjustments can affect the gear shift, incorrectly or too abruptly using the clutch lever can cause problems. For example, keeping your foot on the throttle while accelerating and rapidly releasing the clutch to change gears could damage the linkage and result in a poor gear shift.

Bad Or Worn-Out Shift Selector Cable

Bad Or Worn-Out Shift Selector Cable

If the shift selector cable is bad or worn out, it can cause problems with gear shifting. The cable attaches to the shifter assembly and transmits motion from your hand to the gearbox. When it’s wearing out, friction in the cable can cause difficulty moving the shifter into different gears. Replacing a faulty or worn-out shift selector cable on your Harley-Davidson may resolve symptoms of poor gear shifting.

5 Common Harley Davidson Shifting Problems & Solutions

5 Common Harley Davidson Shifting Problems & Solutions

Shifting problems with your Harley Davidson can be frustrating, especially if you’ve gone through the trouble of purchasing one. The good news is that you can do several things to minimize the chances of such issues. Shifting problems with a Harley-Davidson motorcycle can arise for several reasons, including insufficient knowledge or experience from the bike owner or rider.

Clutch Slipping

Clutch slipping is a common problem in Harley-Davidson motorcycles, making driving difficult. The issue often manifests as a loss of engine power or an inability to accelerate. Causes of clutch slipping include too-tight clutch cables and worn-out clutch disks.  Regularly checking the condition of your cables and clutch disks is important to prevent clutch slipping. If you’re experiencing clutch problems, replacing worn parts is often the best solution.

However, if other upgrades or wear-and-tear on your motorcycle are causing the problem, it may persist. In this case, adjusting the clutch or replacing the disks may be the best solution. Additionally, if you notice that your clutch is slipping after upgrading your bike, it’s a good idea to have it checked by a professional mechanic.

Gear Shifting Problems

Gear shifting problems are another common issue with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Symptoms of a problem may include difficulty moving the shifter into different gears or sudden loss of power. Causes of gear-shifting issues can include worn-out shift selector cables and friction in the linkage between the shifter and the bike’s transmission.

Replacing cables or linkages may be necessary to resolve gear-shifting difficulties. Additionally, if you notice that your engine is losing power suddenly when trying to shift gears, it’s important to have your motorcycle checked by a professional mechanic.

Jerking Or Hesitation When Accelerating

If you constantly have to jerk the bike forward or stay in low gear to avoid getting stuck, your engine may be misfiring. Worn-out cylinders or dirty air filters can often cause this. Replacing parts as necessary is usually the best solution for resolving this issue. However, if the problem persists even after replacing parts, it may indicate a more serious issue with your motorcycle’s engine. In this case, we recommend that a professional mechanic inspects your motorcycle.

Gears Grinding Noise

Gears Grinding Noise

If you hear a grinding noise when gear shifts, your bike’s gears are likely not meshing properly. This can be caused by improper lube or damage to the gears themselves. A professional mechanic can often correct this issue with a simple adjustment. However, if the problem persists even after repair, it may indicate a more serious underlying issue with your motorcycle’s engine. In this case, we recommend having a professional mechanic inspect your motorcycle.

Transmission Oil Leaks

Transmission oil leaks are a common issue with Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Leaks can be caused by faulty gaskets or seals, improper installation, and worn or damaged engine parts. It can also occur due to low fluid levels in the transmission. When this happens, it can lead to transmission failure and difficulty shifting gears. Normal wear and tear or riding hard can also lead to oil leaks.

If you are experiencing transmission problems on your Harley-Davidson motorcycle, ensure that low fluid levels do not cause the problem. To solve the problem, add more transmission fluid to the transmission or replace the transmission gasket or seal. If these steps do not work, you may need to take your motorcycle to a professional for further analysis and repairs.

Tips For Preventing Shifting Issues

Tips For Preventing Shifting Issues

Check the transmission fluid level to ensure it is not too low, which can lead to shifting issues. In a manual transmission, the level must be between 2/3 and 3/4 of the way up. If it’s too low, it could cause difficulty in shifting or making a noise when shifting gears.

Adjust the clutch and shifter cables to ensure they are properly tensioned. To adjust, turn them until they are tight enough not to slip. Lubricate the shifter to make moving easier and help with smooth gear shifting. Try spraying motor oil or silicone lubricant for an effective lubricant.

Check the pawl adjustment to make sure it is properly adjusted. Ensure that the shifter lever is in neutral and turned down. Then, shift through each gear until you find the desired position. Finally, return to neutral and check that the lever has stopped moving freely. Inspect the shifter springs for signs of wear and tear and replace them if necessary. While at it, check the condition of your transmission fluid and filter.


There are just a few of the most harley davidson shifting problems you would face with an older Harley davidson motorcycle. But these tips should help you prevent them if you follow them closely. Try riding your motorcycle regularly, changing the oil and transmission fluid in your motorcycle regularly, and be careful not to apply extra pressure on the shift lever while shifting gears.

Harley Davidson shifting issues are a common problem among riders, but it’s reassuring to know that many solutions are available. It’s important to keep up with regular maintenance, such as oil changes and clutch adjustments. Additionally, riders can try using synthetic oil, upgrading to aftermarket parts, or adjusting their riding style to minimize wear and tear on the bike. With some troubleshooting and expert advice, Harley riders can keep their bikes running smoothly for years.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.Why Is My Harley Hard To Shift?

Ans: There could be many reasons why your harley is hard to shift. Some possible causes could include: stiff shifter gears not shifting smoothly, the bike getting stuck in one gear, the clutch adjustment not being correct, or worn-out clutch disks.

2.Why Is My Motorcycle Not Shifting Properly?

Ans: Motor motorcycle gear shifting may be difficult or impossible to do because of low fluid levels, clogged filters, faulty clutch cables, and non-functioning shifters. If these problems are not fixed quickly and/or properly, they can permanently damage the motorcycle’s components.

3.How Do I Know If My Harley Clutch Is Slipping?

Ans: A slipping clutch will cause the transmission to make a ‘clicking’ noise while shifting gears. To test if your clutch is slipping, first shift through all the gear ranges in your motorcycle’s manual. If you hear a clicking sound when shifting, then it is likely that your clutch may need to replace.

4.How Do You Adjust The Shifter On A Harley?

Ans: First, to adjust the shifter on a Harley motorcycle, release the throttle and squeeze the clutch before moving the gear lever up or down. Once you have moved the gear lever up or down to the desired position, slowly add throttle while releasing the clutch lever.

5.Is Improper Shifting Bad For Your Motorcycle?

Ans: Yes, improper shifting can cause excessive wear on expensive and difficult-to-replace components on your motorcycle. Riders should avoid shifting too quickly and wait for the bike to warm up before accelerating hard.

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