How is it supposed to shift

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Posts: 9
Joined: Wed Sep 07, 2005 8:21 pm

How is it supposed to shift


Post by msarver » Wed Jan 04, 2006 1:45 pm

Description: How is it supposed to shift???

Post by msarver on Aug 24, 2005, 5:25pm

Hello everyone, new '42 WLA 45 owner. Its a barn fresh looking war horse that spent its time in Sweden untill recently. Black and bobbed with a checker flag stripe and number plate on the right side. Its a runner although with a lot of personality. I don't have anything to compare it to, but I have to imagine when it was new it wasn't this awnry. My first question is the shifting. The linkage has a little play, but it is like an old un-synchronized truck. You have to start engaging the clutch to feel it go into gear, that goes for making shifts on the go also. 2nd gear can be missed easily, and 3rd you almost have to always be engaging the clutch for it to hit the gear. Is that as good as it gets or do I have a worn trans and linkage?
Thanks for any input

Post by Panhead on Aug 24, 2005, 10:49pm

I should start with checking the clutch adjustment. It should change gear better than you describe.

Post by msarver on Aug 25, 2005, 1:26am

Thanks, it feels like it completely engages and disengages. Can you give me the short of it? A guide to adjustment that is. I presume you are referring to the clutch pack, not the cable?

Post by Panzerama on Aug 25, 2005, 2:14pm


FIRST, check the oil in the transmission! If its full but you don't know how long its been in there you should probably change it. There is no drain plug on the WL tranny, use a tube and some suction to pull the old gunk out of it. Fill it back up until it runs out the filler pipe with 60 weight Harley oil.

Second, what is the shift pattern?, if its an original WLA 3rd gear will be all the way back. They changed the pattern in '47 so that 3rd gear was all the way forward, opposite of the original pattern. A lot of the old WLA trannys were upgraded by dropping a '47 or later cam drum in the old transmission. They work ok but the timing marks on the old gear hooked to the shift lever coming out of the tranny don't register correctly with the bevelled gear on the shift cam drum, you have to set them by eye.

third, if the engine kicks over with the pedal the clutch is usually engaging all the way (of course with those low compression flatheads it doesn't take much), and if it doesn't try to 'creep' with the tranny in 1st gear, clutch rocked back, engine running, then it is probably disengaged correctly.
if you want to adjust the clutch, pull the derby cover off the outer primary, loosen the nut that is dead center in the clutch cover. The stud should have a scredriver slot, turn it clockwise to make it disengage earlier (slippier clutch) or counterclockwise to make it engage more completely. There should be a little slack in the cable, enough so that the clutch arm is not constanly pushing on the end of the throw out bearing rod.

good luck


Post by msarver on Aug 25, 2005, 10:58pm

Thanks for the great info!!! You got it in the first sentance...oil :-[ The guy's floor was pretty clean, had a little cat litter down and after I test rode it and parked again, very little drips. I tought cool I rode that poor thing 105 hard miles home, then rode it to work the next day. A few guys commented on how little it leaked. I added oil to the trans that night {not familiar with how much was normal to add}. The next night I had a pool underneath it O oh...... I took it around the block anyway. It was night and day. Found 2nd no problem, 3rd {all the way back} was almost normal. So I have an unacceptable leak :-/ I was thinking of trying some Lucas oil stabilizer from those demo's where the oil climbs the walls and stays there to prevent dry starts.
The part that makes me sick is that ride home in the heat and the damaged that must have taken place. I saw a couple postings related to trans oil and the pics of the destruction. Thanks again guys

Post by Panzerama on Aug 26, 2005, 3:39am

Glad I could help, I hope you got some oil in it before you did any real damage.
That picture of the totalled out counter shaft came out of my '47 WL. The cluster gear, which is in constant mesh with the clutch pinion, rotates on the countershaft on 2 sets of needle bearings. When the inboard set of bearings start to stack up it actually kind of "welds" the cluster gear to the countershaft. Like I said in the thread, this causes the kicker pedal to slam violently into the pavement, not a good feeling at 40 mph. Early symptoms of bad inboard bearings are "hit & miss" engagement of the starter gear, if you try to kick it and the arm slips you probably have some needle bearings with flat spots.
The starter gear is actually inside the cluster gear, its not anything like a big twin. The entire guts of the transmission have to come out to get to the starter gear.
have fun and keep you fingers crossed that you didn't tear up anything expensive inside the box. If you need some help on a rebuild send me a message, I'll tell you all about it.


Post by msarver on Aug 26, 2005, 5:03pm

hey Mike,

So far the kicker feels pretty normal, but thanks for that heads up. As far as my leak, I added that Lucas oil I was talking about and while it leaned on the kickstand it didn't loose any. I uprighted the bike and it poured out about a 3/4 cup. Is there some sort of vent on the clutch side or is the shaft seal the only source for a leak in that area? you fill it to the top and you wait for a marginal leak to settle and thats normal?

Post by Panzerama on Aug 27, 2005, 1:50pm

The only vent on the tranny is a tiny hole in the domed part of the top cover directly over the shift lever gear. The civilian models just had the little hole, some of the military trannys had an extension tube for fording small streams I guess.
The clutch rod goes all the way through the transmission, right down the middle of the mainshaft. The mainshaft only goes about 3/4 of the way thru the box, it rides on the inboard end of the clutch gear on a double set of needles so there is plenty of opportunity for oil to get in (and out) of it. The seal on the clutch rod inside the shaft is really "old school" (I hate that term, but it fits this application), they designed that tranny in 1932 and never changed a thing until the end in '73. Anyway, the seal is a piece of very hard rubber which is actually more of a guide than a seal along with a leather cup and a spring. They work pretty good as long as they stay wet, when everything dries out and wears out they don't seal much.
If you disconnect the clutch cable from the arm and rotate the arm away from the sprocket cover you should be able to see if the oil is coming out of the clutch rod. It may seal itself back up once the leather soaks up some oil. You can get a new seal kit but its kind of like that kicker gear, the entire guts have to come out of the box to install it inside the mainshaft.

If everything else is working I'd just keep an eye on the oil level and ride it.


Posts: 25
Joined: Wed May 18, 2005 10:52 pm
Bikes: 64 Pan, 77 Sporty, 05 Electraglide
Location: N. Carolina


Post by SkyHogg » Wed Jan 04, 2006 6:39 pm

Just read the thread to this ... and what really burns me about it is that the guy the bike was purchased from had to know it had a major tranny leak. Yeah, letting it go dry is one way to hide a leak to make a sale. But to me, it's no different than being a liar to your face.

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