Time for new rubber?

Save some chrome and cruise money by doing some or all of the work yourself!

If you bought your bike to ride, and are getting your money's worth, chances are, you're going to get on a first name basis with your local shop guy just for tire changes! If you're already doing some of your own maintenance, and want to save some stress on  your budget, why not do some of the labor yourself, and save the hassle of having to drop the bike off or make an appointment and sit. (If you're sitting, you're paying dearly for the privilege of sitting!)

With a jack and a few simple tools, you can significantly reduce your tire change costs by removing your own wheels. Not only will this save a pile of labor costs, but it will open the door for you to shop at other non-Harley places for better tire prices. Any shop that owns a tire changer can change your tires if you bring in the wheels, but they may not have mechanics trained to work on your BIKE if you ride it in.

This is a start-to-finish tire change site, including removal and replacement of both wheels, and for those who want to save more, we'll show you what you need and how to change the rubber out as well, enabling you to take advantage of great web and catalog sales on tires!

Click images for Larger Format

You'll save a lot of time if you already know what tools you need for the job, so let's start with the basic list:

Service Jack / Torque Wrench / Ratchet / 36mm Socket / 3/4" Socket / Bungee Cord / Large Adjustable Wrench (or 36mm Wrench) / Rubber Mallet / Tapered Pry Bar / Anti-Seize Lubricant / Beverage of your choice / iPod full of Rock & Roll Classics

Optional Muffler removal tools: 9/16" Socket / 1/2" Socket / Rubber Strap Wrench (helpful but not absolutely necessary)

Belt tension rarely changes after the first few thousand miles. If you do not need to change the tension on your belt, you can pull and replace the rear wheel without removing the mufflers, and we'll show you how to mark the axel for undisturbed belt tension. The photos below are of a 2002 FLHR. Wheel removal is almost the same on all touring models.

After removing the saddlebags, and supporting the bike's weight by the service jack, grab your 3/4" socket and ratchet and loosen the top shock bolts, then remove the bottom shock bolts, then use a bungee cord across the rear fender to hold both shocks back out of your way. This method is used to avoid removal of the mufflers. You can remove the mufflers for more access, or if you need to adjust the belt, but muffler removal can be frustrating, and will eventually require new Torca clamps as well.

I don't pull my mufflers unless I need to. Saves time, money and cuss words. :-)

Shock Bungee

Lower the service jack so that the rear tire rises to a point where the axel nut is slightly above the saddlebag support rail

On 2002 and later models, lay a strip of masking tape across the axel cam and swingarm, then mark an index line on the tape where it bridges over, and finally, slice the tape at the edge of the cam plate. Do the same thing on the opposite side.

This is your belt tension mark, and will ensure that your belt tension remains unchanged after the tire change.

Earlier models use a pair of adjustable axel yokes at the back of the swingarm. Mark the top of the yoke bolts with a marker, then count and record the number of loosening turns you make to free up the belt, and turn BOTH bolts exactly the same number of turns. On reassembly, tighten both bolts equally the number of recorded turns.

Mark the Axel (belt tension) Cam

Remove the axel nut retaining clip (see previous photo), use your 36mm socket to remove the Axel cone nut, (100lbs torque, be careful and make sure your bike is secure on the jack!) and the right side cam plate.

Now, making sure that the axel and cam plate on the left side will clear the saddlebag rail, push or tap the axel out with your pry-bar or similar rod. If you have a tapered pry bar like the one in the tools photo, it's point will rest in the dimple on the end of the axel. Tap the pry bar through with a rubber mallet if it is stuck.

Push out the axel

With the axel removed, roll the wheel forward to allow the belt to be released off the outside of the pulley. The brake caliper support will slide forward as the wheel is moved.

The swingarm will now drop down and the short right spacer and long left spacer may drop out onto the floor, so keep an eye out for them.

Release the belt

Now ease the service jack up as you work the wheel free from the brake caliper, leaving the caliper in place on it's sliding tab.

Once you get some height on the bike, you can pull the bottom of the wheel to the right and slide the wheel out from underneath the bike.

Drop the wheel

Now is a REALLY good time to inspect your rear brake pads!! They are much easier to replace with the rear wheel off.

My rear pads were ok, but I'll be making several vacation weeks in the mountains before this tire is gone and I don't want to be concerned with the rear pads going before the tire does so these are getting replaced with a new set for safety and convenience.

Harley Part number for replacement pads for '00 to '07 models is 44082-00D

Inspect your Brake Pads

Whether you choose to replace your brake pads or not, spray the inside caliper area around the pistons (between the pads and caliper) liberally with brake parts cleaner spray to help remove dirt and grime from the pistons and keep your brakes working smoothly.
Reassembly after the tire is changed is simply reversal of the instructions above. After pushing the wheel forward to loop the belt over the pulley, Use the pry bar, to loosely assemble the wheel, spacers, brake caliper support and swingarm. If the axel hasn't previously been coated with anti-seize lubricant, clean off the corrosion as best you can and wipe the whole axel down with the lubricant. Then work the axel through from the left side, pushing the pry bar out as you go. This part is a little frustrating, but take your time, wiggle the parts, and it will go. (this is where the iPod comes in handy! ;-)

Push out the axel

Roll the axel forward by twisting the welded nut on the left side, to set the cams at some point looser than original, then push both sides of the wheel forward to get good contact between the cams and the weld nub on the swingarm. Tighten the axel to 15 ft-lb. of torque, then slowly rotate the left nut until your belt tension alignment marks line up. Now torque the axel nut to 100 ft-lbs.

On pre-2002 models, evenly tighten the axel yoke bolts the same number of turns you initially loosened them.

Align the belt tension marks

Reinstall the shock lower bolts and tighten both lower and upper bolts (35 ft-lbs). Depress the brake pedal a couple of times to reset the brake pads, and now's a great time to check and set your rear shock pressure too!

Check the shocks

Take an easy test ride and allow rainy-day braking distance until you are confident that your tires are scuffed in and your brake pads are properly seated.

Now, click here to follow me and we'll do the front wheel.

Or click here and we'll move over to the tire changer.

And here's a printable quick list of tools and torque values for you. Tire Change Tools PDF


My collection of H-D Projects and Pics