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Thread: Wet Clutch for Early Sportsters

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
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    Default Wet Clutch for Early Sportsters

    I posted this question a couple of years ago and after performing an 'Advanced Search' I'd be darned if I can find the responses. So here we go again. If anyone has recent experience with Barnett (or other) wet-or-dry clutch plates in early Sportsters, I would like to hear back.

    Thanks...

    I have just assembled my 1964 CH motor and it's still on the bench. MANY years of my experience with dry clutch Sportsters went into this rebuild and all the tricks I've learned over the years were implemented. However, one thing I know for certain - eventually, sooner or later, this clutch will get wet. Even if I do all the things necessary (like setting the bike on a center stand), this clutch will eventually leak. I just HAD to try (one last time) to get it all perfect, as I really love the feel of a properly working dry clutch. If and when this leakage occurs, I'll probably convert the early setup to a wet-clutch, most likely using Barnett plates.

    Years ago, a few customers would ask us to convert their dry clutch Sportsters to a wet clutch using the Barnett wet-or-dry clutch plates. Remember now, I'm talking many years ago (pre '71 factory wet clutch), so I'm sure things have changed since then. But back then I recall mixed results. I remember that these setups often dragged a bit and the resulting 'difficult neutral' was a problem. Harley's wet clutch of 1971 and later worked a lot better. I suspect that, because we did not use the lighter primary oils back then, the dragging problem had more to do with oil adhesion and the resulting inter-plate suction than with the Barnett clutch plates (Barnett always sold the highest quality parts - even back then).

    Has anyone had recent success with these dry-to-wet conversions? If so, what type of primary oil do you use? I'm told that the light weight oils, like automatic transmission oil work quite well but results in more gear noise, as I would expect. Does the clutch have a tendency to drag or slip and how difficult is finding neutral at a complete stop? Also, aside from the derby removal and plate change, are there any other part-changes that must be done for a proper conversion?
    Bill Pedalino
    Huntington, New York
    AMCA 6755

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jun 2005
    Location
    Northern Colorado
    Posts
    735

    Default

    Bill,
    My wife's 69 H has had a wet clutch in it since about 1982. It has Barnett plates, and we use H-D medium 75 oil. This clutch has worked well over the years, and doesn't drag. At the time of installation, I wanted to avoid the dry clutch that would become wet over time, and have been happy with the choice.
    VPH-D

  3. #3

    Default

    In the early 1980s Harley went from using their own oil weight standard to the standard of oils used by other manufacturers
    Medium 75 means 50 weight not 75 weight
    here is HD oils chart from 1975 and 1990
    HD oils early.jpgHD oils late.jpg

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jun 2007
    Location
    Catonsville,Md.
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    140

    Default

    75 weight was the old SAE for use in transmissions ,etc. and it was equivalent to 40w oil. The chart duffeycycles used is for very late models and Harley does not supply 40 w anymore.
    Last edited by tomfiii; 11-18-2014 at 01:07 PM.

  5. #5

    Default

    Tom is right here is another from 1984
    58 Special light was ? weight
    75 medium heavy was 40 w
    105 regular heavy was 50 w
    Extra Heavy was 60 W
    HD oil 1984.jpg
    Last edited by duffeycycles; 11-18-2014 at 01:53 PM.

  6. #6
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    Default

    Thanks to all - I'm assuming that the lightest weight oil should suffice - something equivalent to their 20W-50 that meets the same SAE specifications (I hate buying anything directly from H-D dealerships) ?
    Bill Pedalino
    Huntington, New York
    AMCA 6755

  7. #7
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    Northern Colorado
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    Default

    I wouldn't go any lighter than H-D 75, which I know is not 75 weight. That's what was recommended for the post 71 wet clutch models.
    VPH-D

  8. #8
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    Default

    I worked for a H-D dealership in '71 and I remember using the light weight oil - the transmissions did run louder, but it was easier to adjust most of the drag out of the clutches. However, no wet bike that I've ridden clutched as smoothly as a dry clutch that hadn't started leaking yet, especially when finding neutral.
    Bill Pedalino
    Huntington, New York
    AMCA 6755

  9. #9
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    Northern Colorado
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    Default

    Bill,
    Are you saying you were using the 58W Special Light oil, or Medium Heavy 75?
    VPH-D

  10. #10
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    Default

    I'm not sure, but to the best of my recollection, I think that the factory recommended the H-D 75 oil when the first wet clutches came out in '71. I believe that the use of a lighter oil came later on, most likely due to the dragging plate problems. In fact, in 1972 (I think) there were tube-type spacers installed beneath the pressure plate that were introduced to prevent over-tightening in response to the plate-drag problem.

    But... the focus of my original question was to learn how the Barnett-type wet-or-dry clutches work in earlier dry clutch Sportsters. I seem to recall that some guys recommended soaking them in automatic transmission fluid for an extended time period before installing them. When the time comes, I can experiment with different oil viscosities, but hearing from people who are successfully using them is invaluable information like that from VPH-D.

    VPH - is it fairly easy to find neutral on you wife's bike?
    Bill Pedalino
    Huntington, New York
    AMCA 6755

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