Optimum Lubrication Tips For Harley Shovelhead Engines

Optimum Lubrication Tips For Harley Shovelhead EnginesLubrication is necessary whenever materials are brought into frictional contact. The need for lubrication is found in everything from sex to motorcycle engines (not much difference in Spider’s opinion) and providing the proper lubrication for your scoot is the key to remaining free of mechanical trouble. Yes, they are called “troubleheads”, but you can greatly reduce the trouble by simply taking good care of your machine.

A shovelhead motor (manufactured by HD from 1966 to 1984) requires ASA 50 weight oil. The oil should be changed every 1,500 miles after the motor has been broken in. Shovels require more frequent oil changes than Evolution motors. The manual says you should not use multigrade engine oil, but there are differing opinions on this. Some shovelhead fanatics insist that 20/50 weight oil is better than straight 50, reasoning that HD didn’t start using multigrade until the early seventies. Since the shovelhead came into existence in 1966, single weight 50 was all that was used. Perhaps HD would have recommended 20/50 weight oil if it were in use when the shovelhead was invented.

The advantage in using 20/50 is that starting is easier due to the lower viscosity. It’s your decision as to whether you want to use straight 50 or multigrade 20/50. A good source of motor oil for your shovel is (of course) Harley Davidson.

During break-in, the shovelhead lube requirements depend on your break-in philosophy. One school of thought has it that oil needs to be changed frequently. This philosophy is based on the idea that fresh oil provides the best cutting characteristics and allows the mating parts to wear more effectively.

Following this philosophy you would do your first change at 50 miles, with subsequent changes at 250 miles until you reach a total of 1,500 miles, after which the motor would be broken in. The other dominant philosophy is that you should do your first oil change at 500 miles and one more at the 1,500 mile mark. The rationale behind this philosophy seems to be that the oil accumulates a lot of metal particles that aid in cutting the metal surfaces. Harley professional all tend to favor more frequent oil changes during break-in.

Be Sociable, Share!


  1. Rob Fleming - August 31, 2011

    New blog post: Optimum Lubrication Tips For Harley Shovelhead Engines http://t.co/bpKSGFU

Leave a Reply