Let Me Do It!

Posted: 25th February 2011 by LadyBikerTravel in Bike Care

When I was little – very young – my father tells me I followed him and my mother around all the time and always wanted to do what they were doing. I would say “Let Gwynneda do it” and, as a result, I was rewarded with the nickname “Gwynneda-do.”

I remember most of my life wanting to do what other people were doing and often being impatient with observing. My wonderful teacher father let me do just about anything I asked to do. Some jobs, I didn’t get to keep for long. We built our house when I was in my early teens and we all had to help out. That was fine with me because I wanted to do everything – wiring, hammering, laying tile, painting. Everything. But I wasn’t good at everything. In fact, I was particularly bad at laying bricks – so bad that I pushed my father’s seemingly limitless capacity to overlook imperfection. Apparently, in general homebuilding, bricks are supposed to be laid in a predictable, even, straight, boring pattern. I laid about 10 bricks (all of which had to be removed and reset because I wanted them to look distinctively different from the rest of the wall). I was immediately fired from that particular job, never to be rehired again.

As an adult, I wanted to add a new kitchen to my home but didn’t have enough money for a contractor so I did it myself. It took me six weeks (and a measure of fudging when I kept flipping breakers) to wire the new addition, but I did it and it passed inspection!

My newest endeavor into Gwynneda doing it is taking care of my bike. This year has been challenging financially and there just wasn’t enough money for me to take my bike in for its 15,000 mile service so Honey talked to our service guy, the amazing Daniel at North Texas Harley Davidson in Carrollton (props, Daniel, you rock), explained the circumstances, and got everything he needed to do it himself. Of course, I wanted to do it MYself and it didn’t take much asking at all for Honey to let me do it. No nagging involved; it almost wasn’t fun!

In the end, while I didn’t do it exactly by myself, Gwynneda did do most of it and boy is she proud of herself!

So, here’s what it takes to change your fluids:

1. A honey who’s willing to supervise, step in when needed, step aside when not needed, and pretend all along that you did it yourself.

2. Oil. Lots of oil. I use synthetic oil so you also need a bit of ka-ching as well. All in all, I used 7 quarts of oil on the job. And I didn’t spill a drop.

3. A receptacle for the used oil.

4. Assorted tools to remove plugs, screws, and the oil filter. We don’t have the oil filter tool and if anyone wants to get me one for my birthday, I’d be thrilled!

5. A new oil filter.

6. Rags. Lots of rags. I mean LOTS of rags.

7. Latex gloves. I’m guessing the shop mechanics don’t use them but I knew I was going to be cooking dinner right after I finished and I just couldn’t bear the thought of doing that with motor-oily hands.

8. A package of rubber o-rings and one large gasket for the chain case cover. You can buy this at any Harley dealership, I’m guessing.

9. A funnel – preferably with a long, skinny neck.

10. Beer.

11. Thanks to Daniel (from NT Harley) we also had a copy of the information from the service manual on changing the fluids on my bike. I told you he rocks!

12. Without a lift, you almost have to have a second person to hold the bike upright while the old oil is draining out of the crank case.

13. While not required, my father was also there telling me what a great job I was doing. Not essential but sure made the job even more enjoyable!

14. I already listed beer, right?

So, I pulled Coco out onto the driveway and began the project. First thing is to drain the old oil. You do this by removing the plug on the bottom of the bike. When you remove the screw, be sure you have the oil pan right there to receive the old oil because it comes out like a waterfall. It takes a long time for it to all drain out so be prepared with some other things to do while you wait.

While the oil is draining, clean off the plug and remove the old o-ring from it, then replace with the new one. Honey told me to then wrap the plug screw up in a paper towel until you’re ready to replace it so it stays clean. He said a lot of shops don’t worry about that but it sounded like a good idea to me so I did it.

Once most of the oil has drained out, it’s time to remove the oil filter. When you look at it, you think it’ll be easy to get a grip of it and turn it. I mean, it has an edge that’s perfect for gripping with your hands and it’s not like it’s a tiny bolt. It’s an oil filter. Well, you can forget about that! Next you try whatever pair of monster pliers you can find that will actually fit around it and, again, you think you’ll be able to get a grip and twist it off. Not so fast, cowboy.

Finally, you just give up and use the pliers to finish puncturing the hole in the filter they’ve already made when you were first using them, watch the oil spill EVERYWHERE and finally half twist, half tear it off.

Once the filter is off, there is oil all over that part of the bike – at least on a Softail Custom. Just swallow hard and remember that you have lots and lots of rags just for wiping it all up. Once all the oil has drained out of the filter area, in fact, you can go right to work with those rags.

After that’s done, it’s time to put the new oil filter on. No wrenches this time. Remember how easily they tore into the side of the old filter? Well, they’re just itching to do that to your new expensive filter. Instead, put it on with your hands, as tight as you can get it and then use a rag to protect the bottom of the filter as you tighten it just the last little bit with the pliers…firmly yet gently.

By that time, the oil should have finished draining out of the bottom of the bike and it’s time to return the plug. When you put the plug on, be sure you thread it correctly. You’re lying in a fairly awkward position so just take your time to get it right. The last thing you want to do is strip the screw in any way and compromise the seal. Tighten it as far as you can with your fingers, then finish with a wrench till it’s tight. Then have Honey double check so he can tell you you did it perfectly (this isn’t an essential step but it’s one I always try to include).

Next it’s time for the transmission oil. The plug for this is also underneath, directly between the two shocks. Again, you want to have the receptacle for the used oil available right there or else your driveway will be a very unfriendly place for a while. When the plug has been removed, replace the o-ring and keep it safely wrapped up in a paper towel as you did with the oil plug.

It’s funny that the transmission fluid comes out looking very different from the engine oil but it goes in exactly the same – you use the same oil for everything! This also takes a while to empty and while you’re waiting for it, you can go ahead and start filling the oil tank. If you’re careful, you can do this without a funnel on my bike because the oil tank is so easy to reach. If you look at the side of the oil bottle, it shows you exactly how to hold it so it doesn’t “glub” out. That makes it a lot easier to do it neatly, without spills.

My bike takes about four to five quarts of oil, which seems like a lot. Once you’ve filled the oil tank, you’ll need to run the bike for a couple of minutes, then check the oil level again, when it’s hot, as this is a more accurate reading. However, since we’ve removed the transmission plug, now is not the time to turn the bike on!

Once the transmission oil has drained, replace the plug, being mindful of putting it in properly, just as you were with the oil plug. After it’s tightened (and Honey has, again, complimented you on how well you screw in a plug) it’s time to put the oil in. This is tricky. I didn’t have a funnel with a long neck so I had to use one from the kitchen and work it into the small space. It worked fine but it could have been easier. It takes about a quart to fill the transmission fluid tank, too, and you have to pour slowly because the funnel neck is so small.

When that’s finished, it’s time for the primary oil. This is the oil that lubricates the chain. Once again, be sure you have the receptacle for the used oil ready because this is pretty messy. You remove the five screws that hold on the cover and pull the cover off. The oil immediately begins coming out…everywhere. The cover has a large rubber o-ring on it and it will need to be replaced. In this case, we actually replaced the entire cover because the old cover was pretty badly scratched up from the fall I’d taken back in December.

After the oil has drained out, you have to pour in the new oil. This is where the bike has to be sitting upright. Otherwise, the oil will drip right back out. So, Honey sat on the bike and pulled it upright while I used the funnel to pour another quart of oil into Coco. It did, indeed, take exactly a quart of oil and not a drop fell out. Once that was done, I cleaned the new cover off completely, then placed it. The five screws are positioned in a circle and you have to tighten them as you would when you change a tire: finger tight, alternating one screw each time as you turn. Once they are all finger tight, you use the pliers (or in this case, a socket wrench) to finish tightening. Again, you tighten one screw completely, skip one screw, tighten the next one, skip one screw, and so on until all are completely tightened.

And that’s it. Honey started the bike up to run the oil through the engine and we added just a bit more to the oil tank, then Coco was done – purring like a kitten. She needed a wash, of course, but that’s pure pleasure – especially on a beautiful sunny day.

Naturally, Honey had to take her for a ride to make sure everything was OK (I think he secretly just wanted to experience the thrill you can only get from riding Coco).

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is how you change your fluids. Gwynneda did it and I’m pretty sure I’ll keep doing it…at least for the time being. Honey insists he will always take his to Daniel when he has the money to do it but I get so much pleasure from doing it myself, I may just keep doing it! Still, while there’s no feeling like a bike that has just had her fluids changed there are some extras you get when you have it serviced in the shop and, as a result, there are still a few things Coco needs I’m too smart to do myself – a clutch adjustment for example. Those things will always be done by the experts. I’ll be calling you, Daniel, to schedule a “mini-service!

Until next time, Lord keep my wheels down, my eyes up, keep me out of other people’s way and them from mine, and if today is the day we meet face to face, I do it with gratitude for a joy-filled life.

  1. Alfred C. Schram says:

    As always, you did it Gwynne. Love, Daddy.