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It is checked and topped up at the primary chaincase cover. Start the engine and run it until the bike is good and hot, normal operating temperature. Put some wood under the side stand to get bike close to vertical Place a folded newspaper under oil tank, leading into oil drain tray. Oil level, if you have no dipstick, is about Full is about 2 inches below filler cap gasket surface. Again, if the bike has not been ridden in years, change the oil cold before the first ride, then change again at 100 miles. Put wood under the stand to hold bike near vertical. Unscrew the primary chaincase upper inspection plug.
Transmission oil capacity is 1.5 pints, or 24oz by the manual, but I have had mine take 28 oz to get it up to the level plug. (If bike has sat for years unstarted, change oil cold before first start up, then change again after about 100 miles). Park bike on lawn where spilt oil is not a problem. Use the special tool to undo it, or make one from a piece of flat bar with curve ground on the end.
THE TRANSMISSION OIL This is separate from the engine oil. DO NOT take any drain plug out of the bottom of the sump of the engine, at the front, under the crankcase. Repairing that thread properly can require splitting the crankcases and you don’t want to go there. When all oil has drained out of the oil tank, put the oil tank drain plug back, with a new copper washer on it to seal it. I like the drop in filters from JP Cycles (JP part no 7400225) with the pleated automotive style element and spring loaded bypass valve. I had to cut my dipstick down to fit it, right on the low mark, so that is ok.
(There is a small crossover vent valve between the primary case and crankcase on earlier models but oil flow through there is normally negligible.) The transmission oil lubricates the primary chain, clutch and the gearbox. I also put a smear of hard-setting gasket goo like Permatex on the threads, not so seal them but to stop the plug vibrating loose. Buy a bag of them at the local hardware or auto store cheap. Drop in oil filter for pre-79 XLH sidemounted oil tank: Cut down dip stick for JP oil filter. HOW TO CHANGE YOUR TRANSMISSION OIL Tranny oil is often overlooked and seems to cause more headaches then engine oil. The manual says you can leave it longer, but I don’t like the idea of wear particles from the primary chain tensioner and clutch plates circulating through the delicate needle roller bearings in the gearbox. Ride the bike to get transmission oil up to working temperature.
Ryder Rick has a list of other brand sport transmission oils that are made specifically for Sportsters, so he may post them if he happens along. AND GET A PARTS BOOK TOO, THEY ARE ALSO INVALUABLE.
Again this topic has been and can be debated endlessly in other threads. Ironheads run on about 6psi of oil pressure, on a good day.
When it stops dribbling out the small phillips head level screw hole, replace the screw, with a new copper or fibre washer to seal it. But to get the newb going, here is the minimum you need to know.
The oil pump, under the engine on the right, near the front, circulates the oil to and from the tank. Then stop and top the oil up to the full mark, no further. Put in a new drop-in oil filter if your model has one.
The oil tank has a supply line from the bottom, a return line to the top, and a third, smaller vent line that runs from the top of the oil tank to the rear of the cam timing chest, in behind the timing chest, behind the rear cylinder. Only top it up after running the engine to clear any drained down oil from the sump first, or you will end up with an overfull oil tank and oil will puke out the engine breather, onto the floor on pre-79 models, into the air filter 79 and onwards. There is so little oil in the sump it is not worth the risk of messing with. If you have an aftermarket inline oil filter, screw the old one off, and screw on a new one. The filter should be in the return line, so no need to prime it. Fill the oil tank up to the low mark on the dipstick, or about full by sight. XLH side mounted oil tank, pre-1979 has a filter that drops in the oil filler neck and filters the returning oil.
One thing not to use in your transmission is modern car engine oil. Due to the roller bearing bottom end, they have a high-volume, low-pressure lubrication system. There is just no pressure there once the engine is warm.
The friction modifiers might cause clutch slip in some cases. OIL PUKING OUT BREATHER: If you start your bike up after a hot oil change and oil pukes out the engine breather, and continues to do so, you have probably overfilled the oil tank. An oil pressure gauge will only scare the hell out of you by registering no pressure, or close to it.
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