2003 FXSTI downshift issue

Discussion in 'Softail Models' started by SGAL1, Oct 6, 2011.

  1. SGAL1

    SGAL1 Member

    I’ve had an issue show up on my 03 Softail the last couple of days and I was wondering if anyone has seen this before?
    This issue has happened three times in the last three days so I’m guessing now it’s not just a fluke.
    The problem is:
    As I’m approaching a stop light ..and I’m attempting to down shift from 4th gear, I pull in the clutch and try to tap it down to 3rd, 2nd, then 1st there is nothing there. It almost feels like there is no gear to down shift to...just nothing. As I brake to slow down for the stop...if I let go of the clutch just a little and feather the throttle a little something will grab and I’m able to then down shift. Then the problem won’t show itself for another day. I’ve ridden to work the last three days and this happened once each day.
    Do you think it’s my clutch cable that may need to be adjusted?
    Thanks for reading my post...
  2. glider

    glider Veteran Member

    I would start with a clutch adjustment and from there check out the shifter arm itself where your foot shifts the lever for binding. Quite often the shaft that the shifter peg is mounted to gets rusted and it will bind.

    This will show you what I am referring to even thou it isn't a softail...

    Harley Davidson Community
  3. fin_676

    fin_676 Experienced Member Staff Member Moderator Contributor

    It sounds like the gear change leaver is not fully returning to the centre position after the first down shift
    so as Glider has said possible binding of the gearshift mechanism a strip clean and light lubrication should sort it out

  4. SGAL1

    SGAL1 Member

    Ok then...that sounds like a good game plan. I have the service manual so I'll adjust the clutch first. Then check the shifter arm for any binding.....clean and lubricate as needed. I really appreciate your input guys and I'll let you know how it turns out. Sounds like I have my weekend project lined up.

    Thank you!!!
  5. TQuentin1

    TQuentin1 Well-Known Member Staff Member Moderator

    The other thing to look at, is to make sure that the foot shifters are not loose and have moved on the splines. If the shafts were off for some reason, make sure they were installed with enough angle. If not, it will make the shifter shaft or peg bottom out on the floorboard before you have actually completed the gear shift. Letting out the clutch grabs the dogs and makes the shift happen.


    BUBBIE Well-Known Member

    I have NEVER felt comfortable with the word Tapping...

    I use a FULL "Push or Pull" "HOLDING" that shifter in position UNTIL clutch is let out and IN Gear is felt...Doing this,,, I know I'm in the Full shifted position and Holding It There insures that it will shift INTO the gear..

    Try the above, Most old time bikers use That method.:D


    Also there is or MIGHT be a need to perform an adjustment on the shifter on tranny.. Done in 3rd gear. to EQUAL shift play.
  7. fatboysteve

    fatboysteve Member

    SGAL1 I'm having the same issue with my 10 Fatboy let us know how things turn out.
  8. SGAL1

    SGAL1 Member

    I used the word Tap as a referecne only....and your very correct, shifting needs to be firm and deliberate...but I don't think it's my shifting. I've been riding Harleys for close to 30 years and I've yet to see this issue show up.
    I went to the dealer today and their service guy agrees that I'm probably due for a clutch adjustment....as well as checking the lubrication and free movement of the shift arm at the case. I'm starting to lean towards the shift arm personally but I think I'm going to work on the clutch adjustment first....then I'm going to check out the shift arm.
  9. SGAL1

    SGAL1 Member

    I wanted to give a follow up to my original post and tell you guys what the resolution was to my downshifting problem. There is a guy at my work who is an x-Harley mechanic and he told me that he worked on a bike very recently with the exact same problem. He confirmed that it is most likely crud or gunk that has built up on the shift arm and that removing that shift arm assembly, cleaning it up and re-lubricating it should solve my problem. Well last week I stopped by my local Harley dealer and spoke with the service department and they asked me how long it had been since I had my clutch adjusted.
    We figured it had been about 5,000 miles so they said I was actually due for a clutch adjustment also. They also agreed that the shift arm could quite possibly need to be cleaned and lubricated and this could also be part of my problem. They offered to do a clutch alignment and clean and lube the shift arm assembly for $45. I thought that sounded like a pretty good deal so I made an appointment.
    Since Biketoberfest was that weekend they also recommended that I spray a bunch of WD-40 down at the base of the shift arm as a temporary fix…which I did that night. The WD-40 sat all the next Friday, and that Friday night I sprayed it down again in an attempt to let it really penetrate down in there. Let me tell you I really noticed a big difference in the shifting on Saturday. It seemed to shift a lot smoother. My appointment at the Harley dealer was last Sunday and they also did the clutch adjustment which also helped I think with my shifting. I believe the majority of my problem was with the shift arm needing to be re-lubricated but I also believe the clutch alignment helped. They mentioned also that I had too much primary case fluid in there so when they re-filled it, they filled it to the proper level. On my first Softail (87 FXST) I was told to fill the primary case fluid to just below the opening of the inspection cover. They told me on my 03 Softail the fill level is much less than that…(another lesson learned). Anyway she shifts like new now…and I wanted to share what I learned with anyone who wanted to see how this all turned out. Again…I appreciate everyone’s input. Thank you for pointing me in the right direction.
    1 person likes this.
  10. Dr. Dolittle

    Dr. Dolittle Experienced Member Contributor Retired Moderators

    SGAL1 - thanks a million for coming back and telling everyone what the resolution to your problem was. It's what makes this forum as great and helpful as it is!