How to Change the Motor Oil in a Harley Davidson Low Rider

Updated on January 18, 2019

Save Money in These Tight Times

In the nine years I have been riding a Harley, I have met many people who would never think of changing their own motor oil. However, times are a-changing and we are all tightening our belts. Changing the oil yourself is not so hard, but firsts always involve a learning curve. These tips will help you to avoid learning curve situations.

Read the manual...

Every Harley comes with one. The manual does not go into the details that I will cover here, but it contains all the technical information you will need. Your HD supplier will also know how much oil and what size filter you will need, but they won't be laughing at you behind your back if you know yourself. Read the manual.

Buy genuine Harley oil and filters. There are after market products and they are cheaper, but they are not recommended. You are saving about $30.00 in labor, be happy with that.

Genuine Harey Davidson Parts

Set up your work area

Even after combing the area for dog poop, you should put down a piece of cardboard or a blanket. There is always a piece you missed right where your shoulder is going to be. It just slows things down, with no interuptions the entire job should be finished in 45 minutes or less.

The basic tools:

  • Two pans to catch oil
  • Wrench to remove drain plug
  • Oil filter wrench
  • Latex gloves
  • Rag
  • Empty 1 gallon plastic jug and bag for discarded oil and filter

*TIP* The OEM drain plug uses a hexhead wrench to remove it. Being located in a position that is difficult to reach and keep a firm grip on, the head is easily stripped. This plug has been replaced with an allen wrench bolt, much easier to keep an allen wrench firmly seated in the head and greater torque ability. You must get this from a parts supplier because this bolt has an O ring, important for a proper seal. It is also magnetized as you will see later.

Setting up the workspace

Click thumbnail to view full-size
A drop cloth makes the ground more comfortable.Tools you will need.
A drop cloth makes the ground more comfortable.
A drop cloth makes the ground more comfortable.
Tools you will need.
Tools you will need.

Let's get started

First, on the right side of the bike, loosen the oil pan bolt with the wrench. The drain pan should be nearby, put it under the drain hole when you remove the plug with your fingers. After you remove the bolt, inspect it, being magnetic, it will attract any metal shavings in the crankcase. As you can see in the photo, there is a bit of metal sticking to the plug. This is an indication that something is wearing. The magnetized plug also keeps this bit of metal from doing damage to the rest of the motor by preventing recirculation with the oil.

Getting Started

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Loosening the plug.Oil draining into the pan.The magnetic plug.Evidence of engine wear is found by this presence of this metal shaving.
Loosening the plug.
Loosening the plug.
Oil draining into the pan.
Oil draining into the pan.
The magnetic plug.
The magnetic plug.
Evidence of engine wear is found by this presence of this metal shaving.
Evidence of engine wear is found by this presence of this metal shaving.

Removing and replacing the filter

Now we will move to the other side of the bike to remove the filter. The Harley filter wrench is just the size to fit between the shift linkage and the filter itself. Also,there is an electrical wire just below the filter, Be careful not to mangle the wire. You will only be able to make small turns, the filter is not really torqued on, it is just a difficult space to work in. There will be more draining when the filter is removed and some will spill on the frame. You can clean that up with any degreasing cleaner after you are finished. Allow the filter to drain into the oil pan, then place it in a plastic bag. Pour the oil into plastic jugs once the oil resevoir has stopped draining. Replace the plug in the oil pan. You only need to snug it up against the O ring, which is responsible for the seal.

Before installing the new oil filter, pour a little oil onto the O ring seal and use your finger to lubricate the entire surface. When you start threading the filter on, take care not to cross thread which is easy to do in this tight space. Hand tighten only. It is not recommended to use the wrench to tighten the filter.

Removing and replacing the filter.

Click thumbnail to view full-size
View of the filterUsing the wrench to loosen the filter.Lubricating the O ring seal.Having a buddy hang out while you do this makes the time pass quickly.
View of the filter
View of the filter
Using the wrench to loosen the filter.
Using the wrench to loosen the filter.
Lubricating the O ring seal.
Lubricating the O ring seal.
Having a buddy hang out while you do this makes the time pass quickly.
Having a buddy hang out while you do this makes the time pass quickly.

Wrapping it up

All that is left is to add the oil through the dip stick opening and cleaning up. Be sure to take the oil to your automotive center for recycling.

Now, take a well earned ride with your buddy. 

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Don't overfill the resevoirEnjoy a ride with your buddy.
Don't overfill the resevoir
Don't overfill the resevoir
Enjoy a ride with your buddy.
Enjoy a ride with your buddy.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.


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    • kittyasmith profile imageAUTHOR


      11 years ago from Florida & Tennessee

      That is a good question. The Lowrider pictured in this article has the Evo motor. You will have the Evolution motor on your '03. Consult your owner's manual to be sure, but the transmission should not be much different. Only the heads have been changed, not the transmission. These directions should be very close to what you will find on your ride. The owner's manual will tell you exactly how much oil you will need, too.

    • profile image


      11 years ago


      I just ran across this article. I have been wanting to change the oil in my 03 lowrider. Does this article apply to that year model also? I would appreciate any help or suggestions you might give. Thanks.


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