Tinker Talk: 5 and 6 Speed H-D Big Twin Clutch Adjustment

By Justin James

In last month’s Tinker Talk we went over how to adjust the clutch in a 5 speed H-D Sportster. This edition will highlight the clutch adjustment process as it applies to H-D Big Twin 5 and 6 speeds that Evo, Twin Cam and Milwaukee 8 models are equipped with. Take note of the fact that Evo and Twin Cam models are equipped with a threaded cable adjuster, while Milwaukee 8 models are equipped with a spring-loaded adjuster.

• All Models: Level the bike to prevent loss of primary fluid.

• All Models: Remove the derby cover. In most cases this will be a T27 Torx head, but this can vary. Be sure to use the correct tool to avoid stripping the heads.

• Evo and Twin Cam Models (Threaded Adjuster): Separate the clutch cable from the frame and access the cable adjuster by sliding the rubber boot down the cable. Hold the cable adjuster (typically a ½” wrench) and break the lock nut free (typically a 9/16” wrench). Both the lock nut and adjuster are standard, right hand threads. Turn the adjuster inward until the cable is fully retracted. (Photo 1A)

• Milwaukee 8 Models (Spring-Loaded Adjuster): Remove the plastic cover to access the cable adjuster. Pry the lock tab away from adjuster housing. Fully collapse the cable and re-secure the lock tab. (Photos 3B, 3C & 3D)

• All Models: Utilize an 11/16” socket to break the jam nut loose on the adjustment screw. Use a 7/32” allen wrench to run the clutch adjustment screw in until it gently seats, then back it out ½ turn. Secure the jam nut. Tip: Use of an 11/16” spark plug socket with a hex base will allow you hold the adjustment screw while torquing the jam nut. There is absolutely no need to ever purchase the ridiculously overpriced “special” jam nut socket. (Photos 2A, 2B, 4A, 4B & 4C)

Evo and Twin Cam Models: Rotate cable adjuster until there is 1/8” of free play at the clutch perch. (Photos 2C, 2D & 5)

Milwaukee 8 Models: Release the cable adjuster lock tab. Free play should self-set. Verify there is between 1/16”and 1/8” of free play at the clutch perch. If free play is incorrect you may have to physically expand or contract spring adjuster. After verifying correct free play, re-secure red lock tab on cable adjuster. (Photos 4D, 4E & 5)

Adjusting a clutch is a simple procedure, not much more difficult than changing oil. The most crucial part of the process is getting the free play correct. Too much and the clutch may slip. Too little and the clutch may drag when the plates heat up and expand. Include a clutch adjustment with every tune up or oil change to keep it operating properly and maximize the life of your clutch.

Tinker, Shred, Destroy, Repeat

-Justin James (follow more of my tinker shenanigans on Instagram @justinjamesmoto)