Harley Davidson Hydraulic Clutch Problems: 5 Issues And Their Fixes

Harley Davidson is a brand whose reputation precedes its name. Even then, there are some common issues with the Harley, especially regarding its hydraulic clutch. These problems include clutch slipping, hydraulic fluid leak, soft clutch lever, and clutch drag. 

While these do affect the riding significantly, it’s nothing that can’t be solved with a quick fix. Here’s how. 

Troubleshooting and Fix for Harley Davidson hydraulic clutch problems

The thing about the hydraulic clutch is that it isn’t something DIY unless you’re a professional yourself. 

The intricate internal wiring on the clutch means you will need to take the bike to a garage to get the issues fixed. And the faster you do it, the better. 

1 – Clutch Slipping

Probably the most common hydraulic problem with any model of Harley is the clutch slippage. In the case of clutch slippage, the clutch fails to engage properly. 

As a result, the engine revs to the next gear but it fails to transfer the power to the wheels. Consequently, the bike experiences higher rev without the drive. 

This problem can be caused either by a worn-out clutch pad or improper adjustments. 

The replacement cost of an entire clutch may vary from $300 to $800, depending on the model you have. 

But if you want to specifically replace the clutch pad, it should cost between $60 and $80, depending on parts availability. 

Clutch Slipping
Clutch Slipping

2 – Hydraulic Fluid Leak

Another common hydraulic clutch problem on the Harley Davidson is the hydraulic fluid leak. 

In case of a hydraulic fuel leak, the clutch will lose its pressure. As a result, the clutch will not engage or disengage properly. 

The hydraulic leak can occur in one of three places – master cylinder, slave cylinder, or hydraulic lines. In any case, the leak would require a proper assessment to understand the best possible fix. 

In case of a leak from any of the cylinders, the O ring has to be replaced. For the hydraulic lines, the loose connectors might be the main culprit. 

Replacing the O ring doesn’t cost much. You can get a replacement O ring for anywhere between $20 to $50.

Another key point to note is to replace the existing fluid after replacing the ring. Refill and check whether the clutch engages or disengages properly. 

Hydraulic Fluid Leak
Hydraulic Fluid Leak

Read Also: What Are The Common Harley Davidson Switchback Problems?

3 – Clutch Dragging

Clutch dragging occurs when the clutch fails to disengage fully from the engine. In this case, the rider will have a problem shifting gears as the clutch doesn’t disconnect. 

You’ll also notice the bike jerking forward even when the clutch is fully pulled back. 

The clutch dragging issue occurs because of a lack of hydraulic fluid and the existence of air in the hydraulic system of the Harley.

The simple solution is to bleed out any remaining hydraulic fluid and replace it with new ones. Additionally, check whether the clutch release mechanism is working properly or not. 

If the clutch on your Harley is a wire-driven one, check whether the connectors are fully working or not. 

You can get standard Harley Davidson hydraulic fluid for anywhere between $50 and $100.

Read Also: 3 Common Harley Davidson Kickstand Problems [Solutions Included!]

4 – Soft Clutch

The clutch action on the Harley Davidsons is meant to be stiff and precise. If you notice soft clutch action, that is if the clutch wobbles when you pull it, chances are that the hydraulic system has been compromised. 

Trapped air in the bike’s hydraulic system is what’s causing this particular issue. 

The only way to solve this problem is to bleed out the excess air. This maneuver would require professional intervention. 

5 – Sticking Clutch Pad

A sticking clutch pad occurs because of general wear and tear. In case of a sticking clutch pad, it becomes impossible to engage or start the bike in any way. 

The worn-out clutch pad makes way for hydraulic fluid to disintegrate easily. This would often create a gooey sticky texture which further worsens the condition. 

The probable solution in this case would be to bleed out the hydraulic fluid and clean out the gooey fluids as well as replace the defective clutch pads.

Read Also: Harley Davidson Flush Mount Gas Cap Problems [Explained]

Tips To Prevent hydraulic clutch Problems on Harley Davidson

Here are some common tips to ensure your precious Harley doesn’t fall into clutch problems. 

  • Routinely check for wear and tear on the clutch plates 
  • Make sure the hydraulic fluid is regularly changed
  • Check for any potential leaks or loose connectors 
  • Be cautious and gentle while engaging the clutch
  • Maintain the correct fluid level 
  • Protect against extreme heat and contamination

Is it safe to drive a Harley with hydraulic clutch problems?

The safety concern of driving a Harley with a hydraulic clutch problem depends on the severity of the issue. 

For example, if it is an early case of clutch dragging or soft clutch action, then you will be able to ride the bike without any safety worry. 

However, advanced issues will surely pose safety threats. Our suggestion would be to get the bike diagnosed as soon as you notice any issue and ride with complete safety.

Read Also: Vacuum Operated Petcock Problems On Harley Davidson: 4 Issues And Their Fixes


Now let’s look at some of the common questions regarding the hydraulic clutch problem that people are asking. 

Should I Completely Pull The Clutch While Shifting? 

This is a common misconception regarding clutch pulls. Do not pull the clutch all the way in while shifting. Instead, practice pulling it ever so slightly as you will be able to tell when the clutch disengages. It helps to maintain the longevity of the clutch. 

How To Tell If My Clutch Is Bad? 

The most telltale sign that your clutch is bad is when the bike doesn’t stop even when the clutch is pulled. Other than that soft clutch, squeaking noises as well as the problems mentioned above will indicate that the clutch requires fixing. 

Can I Use After-Market Clutch Pads On The Harley Davidson? 

Yes, you can use after-market clutch pads on your Harley Davidson. Just make sure the clutch pad is made for the model of your bike. 

Final Words 

Harley Davidson bikes are often considered the epitome of the biking experience. But being a machine, it can also fail at times. 

While the clutch problem is not an extremely serious issue, it still poses a safety and riding threat if not fixed in the long run. Most of the hydraulic clutch issues can be solved with minimal expense. 

Some don’t even need any expense at all, just some technical knowledge would do. But we do suggest taking the Harley to your known garage for proper diagnostics and fixes.

Read Also: 3 Probable Harley Automatic Primary Chain Tensioner Problems 

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