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Pro Tuning on a Shade Tree Budget


XLH 883 to 1200 Upgrade
by Rick 'Rickko' Eliopoulos


Before putting the motorcycle on a lift I decided to do what seemed more convenient while it sat on its jiffy stand.

A few caveats before beginning this phase: Have a service manual nearby. Review any copies of Hot Rod Bike and HOT XL magazines that published articles on this upgrade. Read and re-read the service manual and these articles to familiarize yourself with what you are going see and do.

Before you start, put transmission in 5th gear to lock the drive train in place.

  1. Remove air cleaner cover to reach rear heat shield clamp screws.
  2. Remove rear heat shield to make room for socket to reach upper exhaust manifold nut.
  3. Loosen front heat shield to allow access to front upper exhaust manifold nut.
  4. Remove front and rear exhaust manifold nuts (They were barely tight).
  5. Remove cotter pin & pin holding rear brake pedal lever to plunger shaft
  6. Remove nut holding rear muffler to frame. (1/2")
  7. Remove nut holding front muffler to case. (3/4")
  8. Remove exhaust system as one unit.
  9. Insure gas lever is off then remove lower gas line at inlet to carburetor.

Be careful here, the inlet is made of plastic. On the positive side of this choice is, you can easily drain gas from the inlet hose, and your replacement hose clamp will be hidden from view. The negative is, you might (but probably won't) break the plastic inlet either in removing the stock clamp or by over tightening the new hose clamp during re-assembly.

  1. Loosen the gas cap and drain the tank. But save some for reassembly.
  2. Disconnect Enrichner/Choke from mount by loosening nut on backside of mount.
  3. Per Maurice's instructions, rock the carburetor body up/down while pulling it outward.
  4. Loosen the throttle cable's (the one that pulls the throttle open on acceleration) adjuster nuts and thread them all the way to toward the black vinyl cable protection.
  5. Mark the throttle cable ends and where they connect at the carburetor so you know where they will go back.
  6. Note the routing of the cables under the tank on paper so you don't forget.
  7. Remove throttle cables from carburetor body.
  8. Remove spark plug wires from coil.

Jack up bike on a Dunwel lift and secure it to the lift with a tie-down. Then put 2x4's under the wheels and lower it so its just resting on them. This will stabilize the bike very nicely.

  1. Remove small wires from coil marking each where they go and taping them off.
  2. Remove wires from horn (mounted on front tank mount bolt on '94's).
  3. Remove tank mount bolts noting the order everything is attached to the front one.
  4. Remove tank.
  5. Remove coil.
  6. Remove seat.
  7. Remove battery.
  8. Remove ignition switch
  9. Loosen ignition motor mount
  10. Remove V.O.E.S. switch from motor mount
  11. Remove motor mount
  12. Remove carburetor intake manifold (Its VERY helpful to have a manifold tool at this point. It works well).
  13. Bungie up the ignition switch, V.O.E.S. and other wires that may be hanging under the frame above the rocker boxes.
  14. Pull spark plugs
  15. Remove front motor mount (9/16" through frame)

At this point I did the entire front cylinder since clearances are tighter on the rear and I didn't know what might be in store at each step.

  1. Loosen the allen screws holding rocker box covers to head.
  2. (A ball-end allen wrench is useful for the one allen head located on left side rear jug rocker box.)
  3. Lift and remove the top two rocker box covers.

With transmission in 5th gear, turn the rear wheel until BOTH valves are closed in front cylinder. Can be seen with a strong flashlight looking into manifold ports. This relieves pressure on the valve springs and makes removing the lower rocker box VERY easy.

  1. Loosen completely the rocker arm shaft nuts on right side of engine first. (24'-lbs)
  2. Loosen completely the rocker arm nuts on left side next. (24'-lbs)
  3. Loosen completely the two allen screws at the left side corners of the last rocker arm assembly (3rd rocker box).
  4. Loosen 3 inner rocker cover 7/16" bolts. (~5 lbs)
  5. Remove lower rocker box with rocker arms attached. (On the rear cylinder you may only be able to lift it enough to pull the push rods out first, then there will be room to remove it.)
  6. Remove push rods. (Mark them or be VERY careful where they came from. My Exhaust pushrod had 3 red rings painted on the upper part of it and the intake pushrod had a one brown ring painted in the same area)
  7. Loosen head bolts (12-pt. 1/2" socket required) per service manual instructions following the published pattern. THIS IS VERY IMPORTANT or you may distort the cylinder.
  8. Remove head. Have a rag on the floor here. A little oil will leak from the head.
  9. Pull pushrod tubes out from their mountings on the case and mark them (i.e. FE- Front Exhaust, FI, etc.)

If you were only doing this disassembly to do headwork, then at this point it would be VERY CRITICAL that you not allow the cylinder to move while removing the head. It would be best to have another person to hold down the cylinder. Since this project requires removing the cylinder, this wasn't an issue for me.

  1. Remove head gasket & o-rings from around the two dowels (oil guides).

Now ensure the piston is at or very near BDC.

  1. Carefully rock and lift the cylinder out without hitting the four head studs. (Don't put ANY sideways pressure on those studs. Don't let the piston hit the cylinder case bore if possible. (A second person would help here).)
  2. Stuff clean rags down in cylinder bores of case right onto flywheel to keep debris like carbon from top of piston and wrist pin retainer-clips etc. from falling in case.
  3. Rotate rear tire forward to move piston back up.
  4. Use an awl or tiny screwdriver to remove wrist pin retaining clip (wire) from its groove. Hold thumb over it so it doesn't fly into your face.
  5. From opposite side, use something to hold up against wrist pin so you can tap it out. I had the handle side of a screwdriver that worked perfectly. I tapped on the business end of it and pushed the wrist pin out.
  6. Start on rear jug from step 33 above.

I took my cylinders and heads to Tatro Machine Shop on India Street in San Diego. They didn't require me to clean up the heads or cylinders or remove any of the gasket material or have me remove the dowel/oil guides. They said they'd take care of all that. Just remember to get those dowels back when you pick up the finished cylinders.

Besides boring the cylinders, Tatro's is going to port the heads, install new valve seats, back-cut the valves and 3 angle cut 'them as well. The valve and seat work should improve flow 25-30% over a stock 883 head.


On the pushrod tube seal replacement question I had, Mike Irving pointed out its a no-brainer, the answer is yes. The seals only cost about $2 each from H-D.

If you buy the H-D top end gasket kit for about $70 I don't believe the pushrod tube base seals are included. The only thing I'm substituting from that kit is James base gaskets and the old style exhaust manifold gasket. It was very obvious how much the ones in my head were blocking exhaust flow out. They must have reduced the overall circumference of the ports by 1/8" or so (Lost flow = lost horsepower).

For the cam replacement, so far I find I'll have to buy a new cam cover gasket and some assembly lube.

In step 28 I mentioned a 'manifold tool'. It's advertised in catalogs and various places as an Intake manifold tool. Its an 'S' shaped allen wrench with a ball end on one end and normal hex on the other. Its ends are cut closer to the center shaft between them and they are NOT at a 90 degree angle to the center shaft. They are at about 110 degrees. In any case its designed to just fit and more importantly will work as required. I highly recommend buying one of these before you start your project.

Also, while I'm waiting to get my heads and cylinders back I topped off my battery and put it on the trickle charger for 24 hours. Its going to have a little more compression to deal with when its reinstalled.

Notes on using a hydraulic lift:

  1. Leave your jiffy stand down!
  2. Insert it from right-side of bike toward the jiffy stand.
  3. Don't push it so far under that a certain cross-member on the lift hits the jiffy stand spring.

After nearly a year of using my lift on many occasions, for some reason this time I didn't lock it. During the afternoon while I did the tear down, I didn't notice that it was imperceptibly lowering itself towards the ground. (I also didn't have the hydraulic control tight.)

Over the course of that evening after I finished my work and during the night, the lift finally compressed to the ground. When I went into the garage the next morning I was shocked to see my scoot sitting on its jiffy stand with the lift fully compressed! Thank god I had the jiffy stand down 'because the bike must have gently leaned over on it as the lift compressed.


Copyright 1998 Rick Eliopoulos All rights reserved.
Project start date: 28 March 1998
Project end date: 12 April 1998

Table of Contents
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Modification, Installation, Maintenance and Tuning Index  will help you find most of the information you want on one page.

How to get Professional Tuning Results at home
Testing the Innovate Motorsport LM-1 portable air fuel meter

Profession Tuning on a Shade Tree Budget

Veypor VR2 Data Logger and Instrument Panel
Video Installation and Demo
Purchase VR2

Engine Performance
How to Build a
TC96 2007 Engines
TC88 70HP Stage1  
TC95 128HP Stage 3
TC95 100HP Street
TC96 2007 Stage 1/2
EVO 64 HP Stage 1
EVO 74 HP Stage 2
EVO 82 HP Stage 3
EVO 95 HP Stage 3
883 to 1200 Upgrade
Shovelhead Modifications

New EFI for EVO and TC

Performance Gallery
Horsepower Gallery
Evolution 80
Twin Cam 88/95
Evolution Unlimited
Sportster Unlimited
Drag Strip Gallery
Land Speed Racing Gallery
CV Carburetor
Modifying the CV carb
Tuning a CV carb
Selecting a cam
Install a TC 88/95 cam
Install a Big Twin cam
Install Sportster cams

Camshaft Specifications
Twin Cam

Exhaust Systems
EVO Exhaust Testing
TC Exhaust Testing
Khrome Werks AR100 test
Making Drag Pipes Work

Shop Manual
Carburetor Troubleshooting
Finding Manifold Leaks
Cylinder Heads
Pistons and Cylinders
Belt Drive
Shop Manual Appendix
$20 Bike Lift
Plug Wires
Spark Plugs
Engine Tuning
Nitrous Oxide
Motor Oil
Stutter Box
General Information
WEB Links
Buy Books and Manuals
Performance Calculations
Estimate Horsepower
Estimate 1/4 Mile Time
Estimate Top Speed

Engine Displacement
Exhaust Length
Gear Ratios
Air Density

The Nightrider Diaries
The ramblings of a genius a, a madman and something in between.

Where is Sifton Cams?

Autocom Active-7 tested

Harley-Davidson EFI
-EFI basics explained
-EFI modifications explained

183 HP, 2 carbs, 2680cc

Copyright 1997-2006  Stephen Mullen, Oldsmar, FL -+-