Part 1 of 2: Quick and Easy Harley Pushrod Removal

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This is Part 1 of a two part series.  Part 1 will be on Harley Pushrod Removal and Part 2 will be on Harley Pushrod Installation.

I joke a lot with my wife, because Pushrod is a very fun word to say.  Over the years, I have become quite adept at successful Harley pushrod removal and installation, and I figured I would share some knowledge on this issue here.  I timed myself the other day, and marveled at how quickly I got those puppies out of there.

Anyways, after doing a compression test on “Cal,” I decided that his compression was too low by my standards.  I have decided to dive deeper into a full top-end rebuild.

First step (after removing a lot of other stuff) is getting the pushrods out.  Below is a sort of step-by-step or play-by-play on Harley pushrod removal with some pictures to assist along the way.

Step 1: Remove the retaining clips.  These are the thingies (technical term) at the top of the pushrods that look like they have a little “suitcase” handle sticking out the front.  The key here is leverage and using the fins of your engine for support.  Grab a flat head screw driver.  Important Note: If you are worried about marring or damaging your engine fins, grab some plastic tubing and place it around the tip of the screw driver before sticking it in between the engine fins.  The key here is to exert force down on the first “fatter” section of the pushrod assembly (see photo).  There is a spring inside there and it needs to be compressed in order to slide the retaining clip out from the top.  You can see in the picture that I am pushing down on the fat section and then simultaneously pulling the retaining clip out.  The rod on the left is already done.

harley pushrod removal

Step 2: Expose the bottom of the pushrod.  Once the retaining clips are out, the pieces of the pushrod assembly can be moved around a lot up and down around the pushrod.  I have a set of baby bungee cords that come in handy here.  Take a baby bungee or coat hanger, pull up on the bottom pushrod cover, and expose the bottom of the pushrod.  Take a look at the picture below.  As you can see, I am basically hanging the pushrod assembly on the hook – that way it is out of the way for the next steps.

harley pushrod removal

Step 3: Rotate the engine until the tappet sits as low as possible inside the tappet block.  In other words, the engine rotates and you are stopping at the point where the rod is under the least amount of compression force.  Having the tappet sitting low in the tappet blocks means that as you shorten the rod, it will be the easiest to lift up on and pull out.  Take a look at my post on motorcycle compression testing.  In that post, I describe three ways to rotate your engine – using the starter (not recommended here), using the rear wheel (okay, but a lot of work), and using the kickstart pedal (my go-to for this process).

Step 4: Now we are going to loosen each pushrod.  Grab a small vice grip (trust me, this is like having an extra set of hands) and an appropriately sized box wrench.  The bottom of the pushrod itself has three parts.  The top most “nut” is part of the pushrod itself – this is where you are going to carefully grab on tight with the vice grip making sure only to grip the top-most box nut section and not the second one.  The second nut is an actual locking nut.  When installing the pushrod, this nut is tightened up against the top to prevent the rod from changing length during operation.  The bottom most nut is used to shorten or lengthen the rod during installation adjustment.  Take a look at the picture below.  Again we want to loosen the second nut from the top, pulling it away from the topmost nut.  We then want to shorten the rod using the bottom most nut.  This is all done by first grabbing the top nut with a vice grip, loosening the second nut, and then shortening the rod with the lowest-most nut.  See the second picture.

harley pushrod removalharley pushrod removal

Step 5:  This is a step, but not really.  Once you have shortened the pushrod enough, it will slide right out.  Make sure that you label the rods and assemblies and install them in the same relative positions (Ziploc bags with sharpies are your friend).  I would also remove the tappets, putting them in labelled Ziploc bags as well.  Finally, make sure to cover the tappet holes with tape or really anything that will prevent stuff falling into the bottom of the engine.

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