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Detent plate


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  • Detent plate

    This has probably been discussed to death but I have never found a definitive answer. The Detent plate retaining clip is a point of failure on the 91-03 sportsters. I’ve heard replace it with an e clip but can’t find a decent resource on where to get the correct one. I’ve been to all the auto stores as well as Home Depot and the like and still haven’t found a suitable alternative. Right now I have two 1/4” e clips holding it on, double stacked but the plate still has a bit of wiggle if I toy with it. I don’t really want to button up the motor without the peace of mind of knowing for certain it’s not going to fall apart. Sportsterpedia website has some great suggestions

    but what I would really love is a direct resource on the exact clip to use. Short of threading the tip of the brake drum I can’t find a solution that guarantees that the clip will stay on. I have found OEM clips online but it seems like they may likely fail in the future. Any suggestions would be appreciated thank you

  • #2
    I asked one guy who knows his stuff and he said he welds the Detent plate in place but that was the extent of his explanation, it seems questionable in case you would ever need to remove it though I don’t know why you would ever need to. Still might be a good solution but not sure the best method of doing that either. I am also informed that the design of the original clip is such to absorb minute amounts of “side load” so I’m not 100% sure that welding the plate in place would be such a good idea?
    Last edited by Cooldean69; 01-23-2023, 9:22 PM.


    • #3
      From the sportypedia site:
      "A 1/4” E-clip is the closest under-match for the shaft groove OD (E-clip ID .207“ relaxed, shaft groove .228”).
      So you'll need to stretch the clip a minimum of (.021“) just to get it over the groove which could stress or break the clip.
      Just because a clip goes on without falling off does not mean it will stay on."

      You say you have two 1/4" E-clips. What is the OD of the groove that they are on?
      it says the factory groove OD is 0.228", which will stretch the 1/4" clip and stress it - nothing is good when stressed out.

      found this spec on a 1/4" E-clip:

      Maximum Thrust Load:255 Pound-Force
      Free Diameter: .207 in
      Groove Diameter: .210 in
      Groove Diameter Tolerance: +.003/-.000

      So, that means the groove for the 1/4" E-clip could be 0.210" to 0.213"(+0.003 tolerance limit)

      Why not machine the diameter of the groove to 0.213" to allow use of the 1/4" E-clip without causing it stress... that would only be a lathe cut of 0.0075" to reduce the groove diameter by 0.015", to make it 0.213" - the upper tolerance for the 1/4" E-clip.
      Not sure, but an idea to use standard manufactured parts.

      Huyett also supplies a bowed 1/4" E-clip:

      Click image for larger version

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      Bowed External E-Clip
      Maximum Thrust Load:255 Pound-Force
      Groove Diameter:.210 in
      Groove Diameter Tolerance:+.002/-.000

      This has a bit tighter groove tolerance of +0.002", so groove diameter could be machined to 0.212"(0.016" smaller than typical stock diameter).

      I also see there is a Heavy Duty E-Ring for increased side loads:

      Click image for larger version

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      "...the reinforced E-ring at the right functions best for applications characterized by high vibration, RPM and cyclic loads.
      The reinforced ring is interchangeable with the E-ring but grips the groove bottom with 3-5 times the radial force and has greater resistance to fatigue failure. In most cases, its outside diameter/shoulder is larger than the E-ring’s, which is another factor to consider...."

      Perhaps this could be an option to allow the use of a 1/4" E-clip.


      • #4
        I haven't seen any problems with the factory clip, apart from trying to remove them. My suspicion is that people who have problems with them are re-using a clip they have damaged during removal. Get a new clip from the dealership (assuming they still stock them).



        • #5
          Harley Davidson 33653-90
          1991-2003 5-Speed Sportster Detent Arm Retaining Ring
          Our custom work is designed from scratch. We offer manufacturing of OEM parts for a number of different classic bikes including Harley J, JD, UL, VL, Knucklehead, Panhead, Shovelhead, EVO, HD, Sportster, Springer, and that's JUST the Harleys. We also offer custom work designed and manufactured specifically for your customization or restoration needs.

          33653-90 Retaining ring detent arm

          xlforum thread: 03 xl1200c Detent plate retainer clip

          Q: "I got a new OEM clip and installed it. Problem is I can almost push it off with my finger. The old one was hard to get off. What am I missing here? I feel like I installed it correctly. It's seated in the groove. Please help"

          "I got some E-clips from the hardware store and put on mine, no problems in the last few thousand miles."

          "...For me, the cleaning of the pins and red loctite and tapping them in fully seemed to do the trick, but another trick was NOT using the OEM detent plate retaining CLIP! I instead used a heavier "E" clip and a thin washer that made it tight. Every plate I re-installed with THIS setup has NEVER had the problem again."
          Last edited by TriNortchopz; 01-24-2023, 9:48 AM. Reason: zodiac


          • #6
            I am not a machinist although that would be a great skill to have. I prob won’t be altering the shift drum. I have also heard that the factory clip usually fails when someone lays the bike down and the shifter mechanism knocks it out of place. So as long as I keep the bike upright maybe I won’t have to worry about it. As far as the 1/4” e clip I had bought a 5/16” clip (next size up) and it was a bit too large and loose. I ordered some 8mm clips from Amazon (mistake) and what I received would not work at all so I ended up fitting the 1/4” clips on. I will likely go with another factory clip as per Jim’s suggestion. Sorry for beating a dead horse but I just wanted to start an open discussion on the subject and there is a wealth of tribal knowledge on this site i was just seeing if anyone had an idea I hadn’t heard about. Thanks guys


            • #7
              Thanks to all who replied. Trinortchopz that link to the retaining clip from good motor company looks interesting as it is not the same as an oem clip I may order one to see how it fits up I think they’re only like $2 so thank you for that. Baker makes a shift drum with reverse shift pattern for speed shifting in which the tip of the drum that holds the Detent plate is threaded. This would be the all around best solution but I’m not going to spend that kind of money. If I ever do a performance build in the future I will definitely go with the baker reverse pattern shift drum but right now I’m working on an old 883 that I got for cheap and just trying to make it work but also make it nice and address any issues before they become a problem as I build it back up. Some good info on this page much appreciated everyone
              Last edited by Cooldean69; 01-24-2023, 11:14 AM.


              • #8
                Any reason not to get the next smaller size E clip and grind the inside to the fit you need with a die grinder and stone?


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