Remove The Outer Primary Cover On A Harley

Harley-Davidson primary cover

The outer primary cover houses the primary drive and clutch. It would need to be removed to replace the chain, tensioner or clutch. It can also be replaced for cosmetic reasons with a custom part to dress up the motorcycle. While it’s not a difficult part to remove, it may take about an hour to remove it. Before removing the primary cover on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle, it is recommended that you consult a user’s manual.


1. Drain the primary fluid. Remove the plug underneath the primary by unscrewing it. You’ll need a drain pan to catch the fluid. Once all the fluid has drained out, screw the plug back into the primary.

2. Remove the shift arm linkage. Pull the shift arm screw completely out of the shift arm linkage and gently work it off of the shaft.

3. Loosen the clutch cable. A clutch cable adjustment is located near the center of the clutch cable. Hold the locking nut and twist the bottom of it to loosen it.

4. Remove the derby cover and the primary chain inspection cover. Use an Allen wrench to unscrew the bolts. Once the bolts are removed from the derby cover, you may have to gently pry it off. Be careful not to lose the spring behind the derby cover. You’ll see a clutch adjustment screw underneath the spring. Carefully take a flat-blade screwdriver and loosen it. As you loosen it, the nut will come off the clutch release assembly.

5. Remove the clutch release assembly and detach the clutch cable from the release assembly. Unscrew the clutch cable from the primary cover. This may or may not require removal of the clutch lever.

6. Loosen the primary chain tensioner. There’s a nut with a threaded rod sticking out. Hold the nut and unscrew it.

7. Remove the primary cover. Use an Allen wrench to remove the bolts. Once the bolts are removed, the primary cover may stick because of the gasket. Gently pry it off.