How to Adjust the Rear Shock on a Harley Softail

Updated February 21, 2017

Harley Davidson has been making motorcycles for over 100 years. Early Harleys did not have a rear suspension. The rear wheel on these early models was mounted rigidly to the frame, making for a very rough ride. Later models have come a long way with fully adjustable rear suspensions. The rear shock absorbers on a Harley Davidson Softail can be adjusted up to carry heavier weights, or down to provide a smooth ride for a single rider.

Place a hydraulic motorcycle jack stand under the frame rails of the motorcycle.

Lift the motorcycle off the ground by pumping the jack stand with the jack handle. Raise the jack until the rear wheel of the motorcycle has cleared the ground.

Make a reference mark with a dab of paint on the shock adjuster plate of both rear shock absorbers.

Loosen, but do not remove, the jam nut on each shock absorber in a counter clockwise direction with an adjustable wrench.

Using a shock-absorber-adjustment spanner wrench, turn the shock adjuster plates an equal number of turns and in the same direction on both shock absorbers. Always turn the adjuster plates at least one full revolution. Use the reference marks to accomplish this.

Turn the shock adjuster plates outward towards the jam nut (counter clockwise) to raise spring pre-load for heavier loads.

Turn the shock adjuster plates inward away from the jam nut (clockwise) to lower the spring pre-load and smooth out the ride for lighter loads.

Make sure you turn the shock adjuster plates an equal number of turns for each shock.

Tighten the jam nut on each shock absorber in a clockwise direction with an adjustable wrench.

Lower the motorcycle to the ground and remove the hydraulic jack stand from underneath the motorcycle.


The shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench is available from your Harley Davidson dealer.


Be careful when placing the hydraulic jack underneath the motorcycle. Do not place the jack underneath the brake pedal as harm to the brake system will occur. Always adjust both shock absorbers to the same pre-load. Failure to do so could adversely affect the handling of the motorcycle. Be aware of handling changes in your motorcycle after changing the shock absorber pre-load.

Things You'll Need

  • Motorcycle jack stand
  • Adjustable wrench
  • Shock absorber adjustment spanner wrench
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