How to Adjust Valves on a Shovelhead Harley Davidson

Written by christina teter
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How to Adjust Valves on a Shovelhead Harley Davidson
Motorcycle pushrods require adjustment over time. (motorcycle image by Bionic Media from

Motorcycle pushrods link the cams to the valves, the primary components of the engine. Valves require adjustment over time due to wear. You may notice a ticking noise in the top of your Shovelhead engine. If so, it's likely your motorcycle requires a valve adjustment. To make such adjustments, you must fine-tune the pushrods by increasing and decreasing their length. This task requires only simple hand tools, making it feasible for motorcycle owners to maintain their valves.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Screwdriver
  • Jack
  • 2 wrenches, 7/16-inch

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  1. 1

    Remove original pushrods, with a screwdriver, by removing the retainer clips that hold the cover tubes in place. Then remove the cover tubes. As you are sitting on the motorcycle, the tubes containing the pushrods are located on the right-hand side of the engine, behind the air-cleaner.

  2. 2

    Screw the pushrods, by hand, as far into the tubes as possible. Once you have adjusted pushrods to their shortest length, rotate the engine by placing the motorcycle on a jack and turning the rear wheel with the transmission in fourth gear, for ease of turning. Rotate the engine until at least one lobe of the cam sits at the lowest lift point. Tighten the pushrod until you are able to turn it from side to side, but there is zero lash, or up and down movement.

  3. 3

    Tighten the pushrod locknut with two 7/16-inch wrenches for solid lifters. If your lifters are hydraulic, turn the pushrods longer by three and a half to four full turns before tightening the locknut.

Tips and warnings

  • Repeat these steps for the three remaining pushrods.
  • When placing the motorcycle on the jack, take care to strap the motorcycle down to the jack for stability.
  • Remove the spark plugs before rotating the engine for ease of rotation.
  • Do not allow any foreign materials into the tubes where the pushrods are housed, as this may cause damage to the engine.
  • Do not over-tighten the pushrods, as this may cause damage to the valves.

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