Setting points and timing

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Posts: 139
Joined: Mon Feb 26, 2007 10:50 pm
Bikes: 1955 FL
1973 FLH
Location: Mass

Setting points and timing

Postby 1955fle » Wed Apr 09, 2008 2:21 pm

Description: Is there a step by step description of how to do this anywhere

Post by 1955fle on May 21, 2004, 2:43pm

I need to replace the points and time my '55 Fl. I have a manual but I am a little confused with the process. I know how to replace the points but want more info on setting the proper gap. Also do I use a static timing method or time the engine the same way you would time a car. BTW I have a manual advance cercuit braker. Is there a step by step description of how to do this anywhere? Any help would be welcome. -Carl

Post by Plumber on May 21, 2004, 4:26pm

Set the points on Knuckle to '60 Pan @ 0.022". You can buy our book (cheapest) on "Used Books", or Kick-Start (616) 245-8991, even cheaper.

Post by 1955fle on May 21, 2004, 6:40pm

Plumber, what is the name of your book? I will check it out. Thanks Carl

Post by Plumber on May 22, 2004, 2:37am

Mechanic & Owners Guide 1941-59 H-D OHV Big Twins/ Kirk Perry & Mark Stettler. Thanks, you can go to" books" on this site and order it or go to amazon and read some junk about it. Hit "editorials".
The other setting for later twin coil, etc., Big Twin dual points is 0.020". That's what the H-D '59-69 service manual is talking about. Points fiber splitting the timing mark, You can hook one lead of the bulb to the positive pole of the batt. and one lead to a D-ring bolt and turn the ignition ON. Lamp will go OUT, timer full advanced. Lamp should go ON immediatedly after you twist the timer to retard. If it doesn't....look for those two bushings on the timer shaft to be worn or too much end play between the shaft washer and (helical) gear at the bottom of the timer.

Post by Rainjester on May 22, 2004, 5:55am

They way I understand it is that if it's still 6v, set the gap at .022, if it's 12v, set it at .018
As for the timing, if you search through the thread topics in the Panhead section, you'll find several that talk about timing your bike.


Post by kell on May 22, 2004, 7:37am

When I static time it I disconnect the coil and connect a bulb in its place instead. During dwell the bulb is on... when it goes off is the moment of spark, so you want the slash mark in the hole when the light turns off.
The other way to connect the bulb is across the points. The bulb lights the other way around -- it turns on when the mark is in the hole. You can time it just as well either way. Don't forget the timing mark on the crank is for full advance. You want to secure the adjuster so that the breaker sits butted full counterclockwise.
The only argument against static timing is lash error, not a biggie in my opinion.
You can use a strobe but you will have oil blowing in your face unless you use one of those clear timing plugs.

Post by Weez on May 23, 2004, 9:16am

I don't know if your question has been answered but I am reading it this way on what you need to know.......Turn the motor over slowly till you get the cam in the distributor on high spot (either lobe small or big) in fact do them both. and get the points to the widest gap possible, this is where you want to set the points to .020 or .018 I don't know about the 6v 12 v diff But I set mine to .020 I set to the narrow lobe and check it on both lobes after spinning it around and rechecking it. the small lobe is the front cylinder the fat lobe is the rear. Good Luck my Pan is 1956 But I also set my Shovel to the same gap and its electric start 1966 all 12 volt

Post by Plumber on May 23, 2004, 1:49pm

IMOHO, if you own a '49-59 Pan, you need our book (there are currently no used M&O books for sale) and, you need the '58-68 Spare Parts Book, plus the Clymer Pan manual, and the '59-69 H-D Service Manual. Amazon doesn't carry the H-D Parts and Service manuals. Call Chuck (616) 245-8991.

Post by Cotten on May 23, 2004, 3:37pm

Back to topic: Just static time to fire it up, advance the spark and put a strobe on it to get it exact.

Post by billy on May 23, 2004, 4:58pm

Post by Weez on May 24, 2004, 2:26am

Clymer manual is a second rate book at best you need the real deal to do the job, right IMHO....

Post by billy on May 24, 2004, 3:29am

Weez, I couldn't agree with you more. That's why I rely on my "Official" HD Panhead Service Manuals 1948-57 & 58-69 Made by HD for HD. Plus, it's got "Shop Dope"
Bulletins in them as well. It doesn't get any better..
Some of the antique Manuals can still be bought thru your local HD dealership..
Most will have to be bought thru ,
or & bookstores etc... ;D also at

Post by Cotten on May 24, 2004, 12:44pm

Three to 3.5 turns out is perfectly correct for the Linkert low-speed needle initial setting (not high!), and is duplicated in vintage Indian literature.
Needing five turns out is a sign of a boat-anchor brass float, which L&L never supplied. Or a sign of a manifold leak.

Post by 1955fle on May 24, 2004, 1:46pm

Thanks for all of the helpful info. I had a basic idea of how to do this and now I have everything else. All I need now is a little time to get it done. Thanks again. -Carl

Post by Jack Hester on May 24, 2004, 6:29pm

I have both of the Palmer books that I know about (don't know of any more than two). I know there are some errors, but don't fault him for it, as I it takes a lot to cover what he has. I try to mark up what I find, or what others point out. But really haven't looked that close. I just enjoy good technical literature. Makes me wish that I was a writer. Just not enough time.


Post by Plumber on May 24, 2004, 11:16pm

Whitehorse Press (four people, three dogs) in NH, has the cheapest price, even cheaper than Chuck. Type in keyword search "Owners Guide". They have it for 50 bucks. The type in the word "Panhead" and buy all four of them, from off the top shelf. You need ever one. Good price. Then search "Knucklehead". Get the '41-47 service manual and Chuck's catalog. Now you'll be in the (telephone reach-able-with Chuck) loop.

Post by Cotten on May 26, 2004, 2:49am

In reference to different needle setting requirements:

Ever wonder why the needles are adjustable?

Aren't you glad they are!

Post by Plumber on May 26, 2004, 1:14pm if they would re-pop the Linkert body (even die-cast), I could sleep nights. I only have two M74-B bodies. Hardly enough.

Post by Cotten on May 26, 2004, 2:05pm

Linkert castings are in progress at

Die-cast molds would cost ten times as much as conventional bronze.
I should have a half-dozen completely refurbished M74B's at Davenport, if time allows.

Back to topic:
The most common confusion when static-timeing a Harley is failure to get it on the compression stroke when locating the line in the flywheel inspection hole.

When the intake pushrod starts moving downward, the cylinder is on its compression stroke.

PS: I gave my Clymer manual away years ago, to an asshole who deserved it.

Post by Plumber on May 26, 2004, 2:48pm

Watch the pushrods then, when the front intake rod starts moving downward, then that is the time to remove the timing plug. Any earlier and you will get a blast of oil on the floor or in your face. I like to bump the kick-arm until I can just start to see the notch in the flywheel, then bring the flywheel mark over with a 9/16 tip screwdriver. I don't like to pull the flywheel mark over too far and then push it back, gear lash limbo. Not good as a timing base. Make the whole flywheel rotation again, but install the plug until the front intake pushrod is on it's downstroke...Si?...or No?
Good news on the LInkert. Too bad it's for the 1-1/4" and not the 1-1/2" M74-B.

Post by 1955fle on May 26, 2004, 3:21pm

Thanks again for the reply. I didn't imagine that a simple topic like this would inspire such a conversation. Glad you guys are here to help. -Carl

Post by Plumber on May 26, 2004, 8:41pm

dry tinder. does carry the book. You have to type in keyword "Owners Guide". It's fifty bucks. Get the Panhead manuals and Parts Books and the Knuckle manual if you need it. These are THE best prices you will find, except for Clymers Pan, it's on amazon used for 10 bucks.

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