How to Check Harley Compensator


If you own a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, you may be familiar with compensators. They are an integral part of the bikes put out by Harley and play a major role in preventing damage and providing smooth riding.

If the compensator on your bike stops working or is not working properly, it may cause unwanted damage. Usually, a creaking noise can be the first sign of this issue. However, there are better ways to check your Harley’s compensator. We will discuss it here:

What is a Compensator in Harley?

A compensator is a critical part of the engine system of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle. It is made of round metals that look similar to a bearing and is situated on the front of the roller chain.

The feeling of smoothness when you ride an H-D bike comes from the compensator. The purpose of this part is to tackle rough pulses that are coming from the engine. Compensators can prevent such pulses and ensure they do not travel through the drivetrain. It works for both going forward and backward as the ramps have similar shapes from the front and the back.

How to Know a Compensator is bad?

There is a spring pack situated behind the sprocket hub of the compensator. When this spring pack becomes weak, the compensator is affected by the continuous pushes of concentric rings. Therefore, the compensator stops working as a shock absorber for your engine.

The sprocket hub starts to spin and rattle; causing compensator noises that can be the first indicator of compensator issues.

Checking your Compensator

You can easily check your Harley’s compensator by following these steps:

  • Make sure your bike is not hot when you are checking it. Under the cover of the clutch, there is a chaincase drain plug. You need to remove the primary drain plug by using a socket wrench and Allen socket. Make sure the fluid in the primary drain plug is secured. You can keep it on a pan.
  • The drain plug usually has bits of metal stuck on its ends since it is magnetic. In addition, you need to check fluid with a magnetic probe for metal bits.
  • Use your Allen socket and wrench for the removals of the clutch cover, gasket, clutch cover screws, oval inspection cover.
  • Discard both of the gaskets.
  • Now, check the chain, the compensating sprocket, chain tensioner, and the clutch for any issues.
  • To loosen up the nut of the compensating sprocket, you need to use a heat gun. You can release the nut by using a breaker bar and hex socket. After that, you will be able to take off the sprocket cover, the spacer, the compensating sprocket, and the sliding cam. Now, all you have to do is checking those parts for defects and corrosion. You can either clean them or replace/upgrade them.
  • Check the shaft extension for any visible defects. There are also some threads on the sprocket nut, which should be cleaned with a cleaning solution. Do all these before reassembling the parts you took off.
  • Now that you have finished cleaning up the threads, apply the locker. Use engine oil on the nut for lubing it. You can use a torque wrench for tightening the sprocket nut.
  • As you discarded the gaskets, install new primary chaincase gaskets, cover, and two tower gaskets. Make sure you have installed a new inspection cover and its gasket.
  • The screws should be tightened. After you are done with the process, you can use coating (Teflon paste) for your threads. Fill the primary chaincase with lubricant and finish it by installing a new clutch cover.

If you are lucky, most of the repair process of the compensator will be consisting of cleaning and lubing up the parts. However, there could be certain parts that are damaged beyond repair and may need replacement. If you know the parts, it is easy to check the compensator for defects and even replacing them if you are handy with tools!

Harley Compensator Upgrade

Often you need to upgrade your Harley’s compensator instead of just cleaning up the old parts and keep reusing them. When you are using a worn-out compensator, you are running the risk of awful noises and even accidents on the road.

Moreover, you will be feeling kickbacks whenever you start your bike. Lastly, the annoying vibrations do not only cause discomfort but also damages your engine.

Final Note

There are many advantages of a compensator in a Harley. That is why it is essential to keep it in check and upgrade it whenever needed! Fortunately, finding compensators is easy and cheap. You can try to replace it yourself or from a professional.

There are quality Harley compensators available online. Make sure to do your research and check out reviews before making a purchase. We hope you can now easily check your compensator’s quality and know when to upgrade or replace it!

Alston Seymour

A Harley-Davidson Motor Company certified Master Technician and avid biker, I love to write about everything and anything related to biking.

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below 2 comments
Jack - March 3, 2023

I have a noise in the front of my primary that sounds like it has rocks in it. It is a 1996 soft tail custom. Has 88,000 mile on it. I recently replaced the stator and clutch and the noise started after about 200 miles. Do you think the compensator sprocket is worn?
Thanks, Jack

    Alston Seymour - June 4, 2023

    Based on the description you provided, it is possible that the compensator sprocket in your 1996 Softail Custom is worn and causing the noise you’re hearing. The compensator sprocket is responsible for absorbing and dampening the torque pulses generated by the engine, reducing stress on the primary drive components.

    A worn compensator sprocket can develop a grinding or rattling noise, similar to the sound of rocks, especially under load or during acceleration. Given that you recently replaced the stator and clutch, it’s worth considering the compensator sprocket as a potential culprit.

    To confirm whether the compensator sprocket is indeed worn, you can perform a visual inspection. Remove the primary cover and inspect the sprocket for signs of excessive wear, such as worn teeth, damaged splines, or excessive play. If you’re not comfortable performing this inspection yourself, it’s recommended to consult a qualified motorcycle mechanic or Harley Davidson dealership for a professional assessment.

    If the compensator sprocket is indeed worn, it will likely need to be replaced. Depending on the extent of the wear, it may be necessary to replace other related components as well, such as the chain, primary chain tensioner, or the entire primary drive assembly. A professional mechanic can provide the most accurate diagnosis and guide you on the necessary repairs or replacements.

    Remember, it’s important to address this issue promptly to prevent further damage to the primary drive system and ensure the smooth operation of your motorcycle.


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