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Cam Cover Trimming

Hey fellow riders, this tutorial offers a fairly simple and cheap way to trim your Sportster's cam cover for a more "minimalistic" look  (it is cheaper if you ride a Nightster or Iron since you just need to repaint the cover, if your cam cover is chromed, you will have to re-chrome it)..  it is important you follow my instructions step by step, please don't rush any task, you will risk damaging the cover...

First.. choose a location for working on the bike, it is important you don't move the bike once you start working on it.. why? you don't want to move it with the exposed gears.. you don't want to dislodge, get gears out of sync, gear pieces falling or damaging gears... enough said.. you get the point.. now.. drain the engine oil...

Depending on your configuration, you will need to remove your brake foot control and pipes... I know... painful, but you need clear access to the cam cover because it is pretty much stuck in place and really hard to remove.. ok.. pipes and controls gone..  the next step is VERY important, specially if your cam cover/engine is POWDER-COATED... as you know..  powder-coat absorbs everything, from bird poop to oil, the camshaft is a separate compartment of the engine, and even if you drain the oil. the camshaft will still have residual internal pressure and oil, soo.. when you start to dislodge the cam cover, oil is going to start sipping out like crazy.. and here is the important note... cover both the cam cover edge and cam engine area with masking tape.. or even better, Gorilla tape  or some other type of very sticky covering (masking tape doesn't really glue to powdercoat finishes, double sided sticky is probably a better idea, perhaps rubber cement + masking tape is a good combo) ... and have paper towels ready to absorb the oil once it starts sipping out, the bottom area is going to be specially difficult.. just proceed slowly.. no rush.. the idea is to avoid any oil from staining the powder-coat finish (specially on Nighsters), the following image is just for illustration purposes as masking tape won't stick to powdercoat:

next, have a rubber mallet or heavy hammer and a piece of wood ready...  let's proceed with the removal of the screws...  these screws have different lengths so please label them each time you remove one, below is an image you can use as a guideline:

 remove the  bolts..... you most likely won't be able to just remove the cam cover, it is stuck in place by the pressure exerted by the internal gears.. and don't even think about using a flat screwdriver to pry off the cam cover, the cam cover's contact surface (gasket surface) is very flat, and it needs to be that way, if you dent it,  it will leak oil through the dent.. a pretty bad situation... ok... now.. gently tap with the rubber mallet or your hammer/wood combo ALL AROUND the cam cover, then grab it with both hands and rock it gently, more hammering, more gently rocking (remember the cam cover has the gear bushings and therefore it is attached to the gears.. be gentle)  after a couple sessions of tapping and rocking you will see the oil sipping out, the cam cover will start separating, clean the oil.. tap. rock it... ok.. the cam cover is finally free..

Next step is also important... you MUST wash the cam cover and remove all the oil.. why? if you don't.. then when you start trimming....  the metal dust with glue to the oil, the cam cover has some tiny internal oil passages that are impossible to reach even with q-tips.. get metal dust in there and you'll be in trouble.. use plenty of dishwasher and solvents to get rid of the oil... use solvents to clean the gasket contact area... next.. cover the internal side of the cam cover with masking tape (or, a much better approach... Gorilla tape) then trim the tape as close to the shape of the cam cover so it doesn't visually interfere during the cutiing process: something like this:

after some thinking I believe the easiest way to chop the cam cover is to use a sliding metal cutoff saw because it provides the most straight and cleanest cut, but I have seen posts online using sawzall/vise combos.. I used a small piece of wood and bolt/nuts as a rig to secure the cam cover to the work area in order to make it simpler and more secure during cutting of the cover, I strongly suggest you use a similar approach.... here is my idea:

I used a compound sliding saw for cutting the cam cover, please notice on the following image that the saw is ever so slightly inclined to the right.. be careful not to chop too close to the cover walls... the inital cuts are just rough ones, you will need grinding wheels/dremel type tools to finish it.... now.. slowly proceed to start cutting... step back and check your work... a wrong move and you will ruin the cover...

on the picture above you'll see the big mistakes I made, I started cutiing without first washing the  cam cover and removing the oil, and second, I forgot to use masking tape to protect in inner parts of the cam cover, needless to say, I spent more time trying to remove the oil/metal dust goo from the cam cover than anything else on this project... 

try to make simple cuts... it should only take three passes to remove the extra metal.... the following image should serve as a guideline:

now it is a matter of using a grinding wheel and dremel type tool to remove the excess metal and fine tune the details... be patient.. TIP:  once you are done and you are satisfied with the results... use a rotating metal paint stripper brush to polish the exposed metal areas.. it is amazing that once you do it.. what you thought was a perfect grinding/finishing work is full of imperfections.. refine it... then more rotating brush polishing, keep repeating it until satisfied.. remember that the imperfections are going to be even more evident once you paint it... I painted it using the Harley Texture Black spray paint can.. Harley part number:  98606BF

Ok... cam cover is ready.. let's install it... you will need a new gearcase cover gasket... install the screws back in the correct order... install the gasket so it aligns with the screws as the following picture depicts:

ok.. slowly put the cam cover back in place... push it slowly until the screws can bite.. then start to tighten them a bit at a time STRICTLY following the following numbered sequence:


ok... once all the screws are fairly tight... you need to use a torque wrench... and start tightening each bolt STRICTLY Following the previously mentioned tightening sequence between  80-100 INCH-pounds of torque..


Here is how mine looks after trimming:

questions??  direct them to:  joebotics@gmail.com