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Ironhead Special Tools

So, you started tearing down your old Sportster motor, only to find out you need quite a few special tools. Aside from basic hand tools, you'll also need a piston ring installer, torque wrench, dial caliper, and a feeler gauge. And then there's the Ironhead special tools.

1965 Ironhead Sportster Project

Before you give up and carry the pieces to a local shop, consider a few points.

First is, are you a creative person? Analyze what needs to be done and think about how to get there. There's always alternatives if you think about it hard enough. And if you can cut, drill, and weld, many specialty tools can be fabricated cheaply.

In no particular order, here are the special tools that you will need during an Ironhead Engine Build

Clutch Compressor Tool

To remove the nuts (and retainers on 1971-1974 Sportsters), a clutch spring compressing tool is needed to take pressure off the clutch assembly. This tool is can be made out of a piece of metal stock and some 1/4-20" threaded rod (same thread as primary cover bolts). Drill and tap a hole in the center of the metal stock, then drill holes in either end.

Ironhead special tools

read Remove and Install Ironhead Clutch

Sprocket Locking Link Tool

To remove the primary chain on a Sportster, a tool is needed to keep the two sprockets from turning while you remove the hub nut. The tool fits in between the clutch hub and the front sprocket.

Ironhead Sportster locking link tool

The picture above shows a DIY sprocket locking link tool holding the compensating sprocket and clutch basket.

Ironhead special tools

read Primary Chain Remove and Install

Ironhead Sprocket Shaft Tool

To remove the compensating sprocket shaft nut (front pulley) another specialty tool is needed. This can also be made, but they're pretty cheap to buy.

special tools needed for Sportster engine

A 1-1/2" socket is needed to remove the large nut in the clutch hub. Some bike shops use an impact gun on this nut, instead of using a locking tool. Either method will work.

motorcycle lift stand

read Motorcycle Lift Stand Comparison

Sportster Engine Stand

Having an engine stand makes working on the motor much easier. You can buy one, but if you can weld, consider making one. Alternatively, you can lay the engine down on a couple of 4x4 blocks of wood. I've used both of these methods.

Ironhead Sportster engine stand

Ironhead Bottom End Tools

All pre-2000 Sportsters have taper-shaft cranks that were designed to be rebuilt. This allows Ironhead bottom ends to be rebuilt several times.

read Ironhead Bottom End Build

Ironhead Sportster bottom end

Flywheel Shaft Nut Wrench

You can either buy the two-sided wrench (H-D part number 94546-41), or buy two impact sockets, sized 1-5/6" and 1-3/16". To hold the flywheel while tightening the nuts, you can fabricate a simple holding jig that uses the holes in the flywheel.

Ironhead Sportster engine tools
flywheel holding jig

Flywheel Holding Jig

Starting with a cardboard template, take a piece of steel and cut out the shape needed. The "V" needs to be big enough to clear the crank pin. You can find 1/2" round stock at hardware stores and home improvement stores.

flywheel holding jig

Sprocket Shaft Bearing Puller

For early Sportsters, the inner sprocket-shaft bearing Harley-Davidson tool number is 96015-52. For later models, H-D tool 96015-56 fits Sportsters 1967-1976. The later tool also removes sprocket shaft extensions.

Ironhead special tools

This is my version of the 96015-52 Harley tool. Materials needed were a piece of 2" metal tubing, a 7/16" SAE nut and bolt, and two heavy washers. This allowed me to remove the inner sprocket shaft bearing on my 1965 XLCH.

Pinion Shaft Honing/Lapping Tool

Honing/lapping motorcycle engine cases assures precision alignment of engine shafts. Early Sportsters (1957-1976) require the pinion shaft outer bearing race to be lapped in. The tool lines up with the sprocket-side case bearing to lap the pinion-bearing race to the proper size. If you're looking to buy this tool, it sells for about $850.

Ironhead special tools

read Ironhead Engine Build

Sprocket Shaft Bearing Installer

For 1957-1976 Sportsters, the sprocket shaft bearing installer H-D part number is 97081-54. Jims Tools uses the same part number, which sells for about $75.00. The V-Twin part number is 16-0149. 1977-up Sportsters require a different tool.

Cam Bushing Removal Tool

There is a Harley-specific tool called an inner bearing puller. It's only function is to remove cam bushings. This tool has a part number (#96760-36) that seems to be obsolete, but the factory-designed tool is not really needed, because there are other ways to remove Sportster cam bushings.

The method I chose to remove cam bushings was to employ tools that I already had. This included an air die-grinder, an electric die-grinder, and a 24" slide hammer. You also need a solid workbench vise.

cam cover bushing removal

read Remove and Install Ironhead Cam Bushings

Cam Bushing Pin Tool

After new cam bushings are installed, you need to drill and insert new bushing pins, so the bushing doesn't spin inside it's cavity. Jims Tool makes a nice tool to help with this.

Ironhead special tools

Cam Bushing Reamers

The Harley-Davidson service manual lists three tools for reaming cam bushings. They are #94803-37 (cams and timer shaft), #94812-37A (pinion shaft), and #94805-57 #94806-57 (idler gear bushing). Although offered by the aftermarket (V-Twins), these tools are hard to find in stock anywhere.

Ironhead Sportster cam bushings

There are many different styles and types of reamers. For line-reaming cam bushings, you want to use a hand-held reamer that is right-hand spiral (RHS) and right-hand cut (RHC). Three different size reamers are needed.

- For cam bushings #1, #3, and #4, you need an 11/16" RHS/RHC reamer.

- For #2 cam/timer shaft bushing you need a 5/8" RHS/RHC reamer.

- The idler gear bushing requires a 9/16" RHS/RHC reamer.

Line-Reaming Cam Bushings

When line-reaming cam bushings with the engine case, pilot shafts are required. If you are not using the factory reaming tools, pilot shafts will have to be fabricated.

Sportster cam bushing reaming tool

Factory Manual

Knowledge is the best tool you can have, and having a factory shop manual that covers your year and model is invaluable. You'll end up referring to it over and over again.

Harley-Davidson Sportster factory manual

Tool Sources

Sources for buying Ironhead specialty tools are scarce. You can try Eastern Motorcycle Supply, Jims Tools, Kent-Moore and Harley-Davidson. Kent-Moore may not sell to you direct, and many H-D dealers may also not sell them to you. Thank goodness we have the internet.

read Basic Motorcycle Engine Tools

Sportster cam bushings removal

read Sportster History 1957-1965

read Sportster History 1966-1979

read Sportster History 1980-1985