Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

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Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby hennesse » Tue May 28, 2019 9:56 am

Harley did us a real dis-service with their crazy oil numbers. Why couldn't they use SAE grades like everyone else? What is the correspondence between Harley numbers and SAE numbers? Looking around the Internet, we find two distinct camps of opinion.

CAMP ALPHA Look here
Code: Select all
 58 Special Light  = SAE 20
 75 Medium Heavy   = SAE 40
105 Regular Heavy  = SAE 60


CAMP BETA Look here
Code: Select all
 58 Special Light  = SAE 40
 75 Medium Heavy   = SAE 50
105 Regular Heavy  = SAE 60




Before you jump to conclusions, let's look at Harley's published Recommendations

1952 K Rider Handbook
Code: Select all
Light           +10 or colder
Medium Heavy    +10 to +32
Regular Heavy   Above 32


1948-1957 Panhead Rigid Service Manual
Code: Select all
Special Light   Below 10
Medium Heavy    Above 10
Regular Heavy   Not specified


1959 Duo-Glide Service Manual
Code: Select all
Special Light   Below 32
Medium Heavy    32 to 75
Regular Heavy   Above 75, extreme service any temp


1969 Sportster Service Manual AND 1959-1969 Electra-Glide Service Manual
Code: Select all
Special Light   Below 40
Medium Heavy    Above 40
Regular Heavy   Severe Operating Conditions at high air temp


When I looked at oil cans on eBay, I found several AMF and late-but-pre-AMF cans that had both the Harley and SAE numbers on top of the cans. Several had 105 and SAE 60, one had 75 and SAE 40. One AMF can of Premium had the 1959 Duo-Glide recommendations printed on the back, and a same-era can of PreLuxe had the 1969 Sportster recs. Older cans only had the Harley number, so there's no way to tell.

I have some questions:

Does anyone have a big oil can collection? Any info we're missing?

Did 1950 and earlier Harley riders have fewer nerve endings than 1960 and later riders? How come there's no recommendation for 10 degrees and below for later bikes?

Harley definitely changed the oil manufacturer and formulation over the years, but is it possible that an early can of 58 or 75 might have a different SAE rating than a later can of the same Harley number?

I'm using SAE 60 in the summer and SAE 50 spring and fall - K and Sportster. We've had some sunny days of 88 degrees lately, and it was time for an oil change, so yesterday I filled it with SAE 60, even though it is still May. Went for a ride and when I got back, the oil tank was noticeably cooler than previous days. Did the more viscous oil make it run cooler?
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby wz507 » Tue May 28, 2019 12:31 pm

hennesse wrote:I'm using SAE 60 in the summer and SAE 50 spring and fall - K and Sportster. We've had some sunny days of 88 degrees lately, and it was time for an oil change, so yesterday I filled it with SAE 60, even though it is still May. Went for a ride and when I got back, the oil tank was noticeably cooler than previous days. Did the more viscous oil make it run cooler?

No, it probably ran hotter, but the oil temp was down because the more viscous oil doesn't circulate as well as a lower weight oil and therefore can not carry the heat away from the engine to the tank with the same efficiency as the lower weight oil.

If you are looking for some comparative data on load carrying capacity and heat resulting from viscous friction of oils, the links below provide test results on 80+ oils and a full description of the test protocol. A data summary as well as all the raw data are included if one cares to examine the results at that level of detail. The context of this oil test was to identify oils suitable for Norton Commandos - an engine with a reputation for running very hot and having issues with their flat-tappet cam/lifter survival - thus special lubrication needs exist. To bad we didn't submit any of the Hog oils you're interested in for testing last year, since the gentleman was testing all offerings sent to him, and then we'd know how they stack up to the other 80+ oil offerings.

https://www.accessnorton.com/Oil-Tests/NortonOil.php

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LGC6mnpGmgs

The real danger here isn't the goodness or badness of any oil, but rather that we may have started an oil thread here. God save us all if we have.
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby Ferrous_Head » Tue May 28, 2019 10:30 pm

Oh great, another oil thread. I love these.

Seriously though, oils have changed over the years. Remember back when all there was, was monogrades ?
As the chemists got better we got better oils. Chemistry took over to the point we now have oils that don't have any oil in them.

The thing is our engines have roller bearing bottom ends. We actually need a slightly different oil to modern day slipper bearing engines that rev to 19 grand.

What I do know is that it's a lot more important that you warm your engine properly BEFORE you ride it and that you keep the oil changed whenever it needs it. I suspect a lot more damage is done by the guys who fire up and "ride 'er hard" thinking they might change the oil next month. Or after my birthday. Some day.
"I know only too well the evil that I propose, but my inclinations get the better of me."
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby Bubbalowe » Wed May 29, 2019 8:36 am

Would concur Beta Camp as correct. Oddball weights were MOCO's way of confusing owners to believe the oil was proprietary for brand loyalists. Modern lubricants offer better choices so it has become a religion discussion where everyone can be right. :D
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby hennesse » Wed May 29, 2019 9:53 am

Ferrous_Head wrote:Oh great, another oil thread. I love these.

Seriously though, oils have changed over the years. Remember back when all there was, was monogrades ?
As the chemists got better we got better oils. Chemistry took over to the point we now have oils that don't have any oil in them.


Fe2+_Head - The intention of my question was historic - NOT folkloric.

oil.jpg
oil.jpg (26.24 KiB) Viewed 4553 times


Graphing the 4 Harley recommendations gives a rather confusing picture, and that's what had me wondering if the SAE numbers corresponding to the Harley numbers had changed, or whether modern additives reduced the need for high viscosity oil. ZDDP was invented in the 1940s, but probably didn't get widespread use until sometime after the war. Multi-viscosity oils (like Phillips 66's Trop-Arctic) didn't appear until 1954.

BTW, the 1969 manuals said "Extra heavy - Severe Operating Conditions at high air temp". I used 100F as "high air temp". Maybe that should be a little lower.

The question still stands- are there any oil can collectors out there who have Harley cans with both kinds of numbers stamped in the top? What do they say?
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby 57XL1002 » Wed May 29, 2019 3:10 pm

I would come closer to agreeing with the alpho group, when comparing viscosity to temperature operating conditions. Trying to compare modern oils to Old Harley Oil, is like apples to oranges. Motorcycle oil falls into as different a catagory as 2 stroke oil. Automotive oils do not have the same additives and modifiers necessary to lubricate wet clutchs, gearbox's, and roller bearing crankcases ad hoc. I believe instead of being labeled "Brand Loyal" , some people understood the differences, and bought oil that was truely engineered to protect their old Harleys. It's what's "not in" automotive oil, that's "not good" for your Harley investment. Dos centavos...
Last edited by 57XL1002 on Sun Sep 15, 2019 5:16 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby Ferrous_Head » Wed May 29, 2019 5:32 pm

Ah but Dave your graph tells a story.
As time went by HD shifted the temp ranges farther up the scale. There could well be a number of factors for this. Changes to the engines themselves. Changes in oils. Global warming ?

But I understand your point. And you have to ask yourself why Harley didn't come straight out and say Medium is equal to SAE 50.

Many years ago I asked a mate, Bennny Stafford about this He told me:
Harley don't have no oil wells. They just buy the cheapest oil they can lay their hands on. They buy the fag ends of barrels and then they mix it all together. A "Special Blend" much like Nescafe. So who knows what the real viscosity is in any given Quart."
By using their own made up index they avoided any legal issues.

Now, I don't know if any of that is true. But then Benny NEVER bought genuine HD oil for his Knuckle. And he was one of the best mechanics I have ever known.

So we might never uncover any direct reference to equations between SAE numbers and Harley numbers. But it would be interesting to know.
I haven't bought any Harley oil in the last 50 years so I can't help there.
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby roadbum » Thu May 30, 2019 10:00 am

There is a can on eBay item number:
202076312247 that reads API-SF MED HVY Motorcycle Oil. Might be from the 80's.
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby Bubbalowe » Thu May 30, 2019 3:38 pm

Harley chose not to use API, ILSAC, SAE ratings years ago as marketing strategy. Newer manuals uncloaked the mystery with SAE 40, SAE 50, and SAE 60 being equivalent. When electric start came out they recommended light oil at higher temps to protect starters as anyone that ever kick started a cold Harley with SAE 60 gets.
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Re: Harley Oil 58, 75, 105

Postby hennesse » Thu May 30, 2019 6:56 pm

roadbum wrote:There is a can on eBay item number:
202076312247 that reads API-SF MED HVY Motorcycle Oil. Might be from the 80's.


Roadbum - The API SF designation puts this at 1980-1988 according to the Camp Beta reference (See, page 264)

Now, here's a can Look here that says 75 and SAE 40 - in support of Camp Alpha's assertion. The eBay listing has two cans, one "PreLuxe" and the other "Premium", both marked similarly on the top. Most of the cans I've seen have 105-X or 75-X where X is a single-digit number, which probably indicated a batch or lot number.

Both are marked AMF and have a similar design, and I'm guessing they are both from sometime during the 1970s. Note the different markings on the rear of the cans - Premium says 58 below 32 degrees, 75 32 to 75 degrees, 105 above 75 and severe, while the PreLuxe says below 40, above 40, and severe/high temps.

The mystery continues...
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Harley 75 = SAE 40 (at least that year)
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