How to Change a Sportster Muffler

Written by larry wayland
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How to Change a Sportster Muffler
New chrome, different sound! (motorcycles image by Artur Blaszak from

Replacing the stock mufflers on a Harley-Davidson Sportster motorcycle is one of the first modifications that most owners make to their machines. Whether it's a throaty rumbling tone that you seek, or the louder sound of a racing machine, almost no Harley will retain its factory mufflers for very long. Harley's own parts catalogue, as well as those of many aftermarket suppliers, offer a large selection of lower restriction mufflers that will bring the legendary Harley-Davidson engine sound to life and increase a bike's power at the same time. Once the desired mufflers have been chosen, it's a relatively simple task to install them.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Basic SAE ratchet and socket set,
  • Combination wrenches
  • Straight blade screwdriver or ¼-inch nutdriver
  • Penetrating lubricant (if required)
  • Soft-faced hammer and wood block (if required)
  • Fine-grained emery cloth or sandpaper
  • New muffler clamps

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  1. 1

    Loosen the worm and roller clamps that attach the heat shield to the exhaust header pipe using a straight screwdriver or a ¼-inch nutdriver. Remove the heat shield and lay it aside.

  2. 2

    Remove the bolt and nut securing the muffler clamp to the front mounting bracket. Discard the old clamp. Remove all the other bolts and nuts which secure the muffler to the supporting brackets. Retain this hardware if needed for installation of the new muffler.

  3. 3

    Detach the old muffler from the exhaust crossover tube, and work it back and forth until it slips off the header pipe. Lightly sand the end of the header pipe with fine-grain emery cloth and apply a light coat of penetrating lubricant.

  4. 4

    Install any replacement brackets as per the manufacturer's instructions. Install a new gasket into the crossover receptacle of the new muffler and work the new muffler onto the header pipe. Twist and work it around as needed until all the bolt holes are lined up properly.

  5. 5

    Use all new hardware to attach the new muffler to the mounting brackets, if provided. If not, lubricate and reuse all the old hardware that you retained.

  6. 6

    Put the new muffler clamp in place. Tighten it up using the new bolt and nut that comes with it. Snug up all the mounting bolts and nuts. Replace the heat shield. Repeat the entire procedure for the other muffler. Start the bike and check for any exhaust leaks.

Tips and warnings

  • Penetrating lubricant will need to be used if the bike is several years old, and/or has extensive corrosion on the mounting hardware.
  • A soft-faced hammer or wood block and a conventional hammer can be used to free up "stubborn" mufflers that don't want to come off easily.
  • In cases where extensive corrosion may exist, the inlet tube of the muffler may have to be heated, using a propane blowtorch and an appropriate flame spreader.
  • The tapered end of a common "lady-foot" pry bar makes an effective tool for lining up bolt holes, if you happen to have one in your toolbox.
  • If you have to hammer on anything, use common sense and restrain your blows as much as possible. Don't get carried away and go wild. Use only enough force to free up the part that you want to remove.
  • If you are forced to heat up the muffler in order to remove it, be very careful while using the blowtorch. Wipe all penetrating oil off of the surfaces and keep the flame well away from any plastic or rubber parts.
  • When any modification is made to the exhaust system of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, it will be necessary to retune the bike's fuel system to a slightly richer mixture. On carburetted bikes, this will involve re-jetting the carb; on fuel-injected models, the bike's ECU needs to be reset to new specifications. It is highly recommended that you let an authorised Harley dealer perform these services.

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