Symptoms: dry starts and long warm up

After I got back from San Diego, the bike was about due for another oil change (less than a week but almost 3000 miles since the last one). I decided to avoid the cost of bringing it to the shop and do it myself. This was the second time I’ve changed my oil, and I plan to write a post with pictures on how to change the oil on a post ’04 Sportster.

After both times I changed my oil, I noticed some differences from when they did it at the shop. First, I would have trouble starting up the bike. Without fail every time I first pressed the ignition, I would get a dry start where the engine wouldn’t catch and then the second try it would turn over. The second problem was that once it was started it would take well over a minute to warm up (my bike is carburated rather than fuel injected) even in warm weather.

A big difference between when I changes the oil and the dealership did (I noticed the mentioned symptoms both times I did it and not when they did) was the amount of oil, there was a lot more when I did, at the top/full mark on the dipstick, a big difference from the professional oil change. So I figured that must be where the problem comes from.

WARNING: the Harley Davidson user’s manual says to fill up 3.4 liters, including the bit that goes in the filter. This is WRONG. The amount should be closer to 3 liters.

When I called customer service about this, the guy was giving me a hard time telling me that the 3.4 liters is just an approximation. Personally I find it hard to believe that something like +/- almost a half liter counts as an approximation.

From talking with a couple mechanics (one really helpful source was a website, , here’s what I figure happened. With my oil so high, it was taking longer for the engine to warm up as the oil had to get moving and running through the engine. This led me to run the engine richer (with the choke on) for longer. This started to take a toll on my spark plugs which affected the start up of the bike and the warm up even more. I also had a bit of over flow of oil into the air filter.

The first thing I did was to take out the excess oil. I have a funnel with an open/close nozzle that has measurementson it too. So I took out 400 ml and then double checked the oil level.

Next I took out the air filter and cleaned it out with warm water and some soap, as the user’s manual recommends. I checked to see if the filter element was burned. I don’t know too much about it, but it looked a little black in parts, possibly from left over oil, but not quite charred.

Finally, I replaced the spark plugs. This is pretty easy to do, and inexpensive too. Checking and replacing spark plugs is a good idea for a lot of troubleshooting situations. All you need is a socket wrench and the appropriate sized spark plug attachment. I just asked for the spark plugs for my bike at the nearby harley dealership, but if you’re getting them on your own, make sure they’re the right size and type for your bike.

There are a couple other things I found out in terms of regular use to keep in mind to take care of the spark plugs and air filter, so check that post out under tips.

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