How to Adjust Harley Rear Motorcycle Shocks

Written by don davis
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How to Adjust Harley Rear Motorcycle Shocks
Shock absorbers connect the frame to the swingarm at the rear of the bike. (I will be back shortly image by A. Leonardo from

All Harley-Davidson motorcycle shock absorbers fall into one of three categories: Standard, non-adjustable exterior shocks; adjustable exterior shocks and Softail shocks. The stiffness of adjustable shocks may be fine tuned with either a spanner wrench or compressed air. Softail shocks usually are adjusted with a spanner wrench. Non-adjustable shock absorbers must be replaced before you can adjust them. You must elevate the rear wheel to replace your shock absorbers or to adjust the shock absorbers on a Softail.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Mechanics tools, including box and socket wrenches
  • Spanner wrench (optional)
  • Motorcycle jack (optional)
  • Air compressor (optional)
  • Air pressure gauge (optional)
  • Flashlight

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  1. 1

    Inspect the rear of your motorcycle carefully to look for the shock absorbers. Shock absorbers connect the upper frame of the motorcycle to the swing arm through a hole in the rear fender.

  2. 2

    Identify whether your shocks are sheathed with springs or are simply interlocked tubes. If you do not see springs, look for an air fitting on the top front of your shock absorber. If you see an air fitting and air line, you have air shocks. If your shock is sheathed in a spring, look for hourglass notches on the bottom of the shock absorber. If you see notches, you have identified your spring adjuster cam and your shocks are mechanically adjustable. If you have adjustable shocks, identify the brand. If you see neither notches or an air valve, your shocks are not adjustable and must be replaced before you can adjust them.

  3. 3

    Contact the manufacturer of your adjustable shock absorber or the website to determine the specifications for the stiffness of the ride you expect to achieve.

  4. 4

    Adjust the stiffness of your ride according the manufacturer's specifications. Adjust air shocks by elevating your Harley on a motorcycle jack until your rear tire hangs as low as it will go. Locate the air suspension air valve on the left side of your bike. You may need to remove your left saddlebag by immobilising the nut inside your fender with a box wrench and loosening the bolt inside your saddlebag with a socket wrench Raise or lower the air pressure in your air suspension using an air compressor and air gauge. Never adjust air shocks to less than 10 or more than 15.9 Kilogram of pressure.

  5. 5

    Adjust the rear suspension stiffness of mechanically adjustable shocks using a spanner wrench. Insert the tongs of the spanner wrench into the notches on the spring adjuster cam. Turn the cam counterclockwise to achieve a stiffer ride. Always adjust right and left shocks identically

  6. 6

    Push down on the rear of your motorcycle If you do not see shock absorbers. If it depresses and bounces back up you own a Softail.

  7. 7

    Adjust the shocks on the Softail. Remove the right side saddlebag. On some motorcycles, you may also have to remove the exhaust mufflers or muffler using a box wrench or socket.

  8. 8

    Elevate your Softail on a motorcycle jack until the rear tire hangs as low as it will go. Find the two rear shock absorbers where they join the Softail swing arm. You may need a flashlight. Identify the shock adjuster plate.

  9. 9

    Loosen the adjuster plate locknut counterclockwise with a box wrench. Turn the adjuster plate clockwise for a softer ride and counterclockwise for a harder ride. Re-tighten the locknut.

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