EVO: Engine Mechanicals

Crankcase Ventilation

See also Installing the ultimate crankcase vent in the REF section of the Sportsterpedia.
(this mod replaces the rocker box umbrella valves to vent crankcase pressure out the cam cover)

Crankcase ventilation works a little differently on these motors than a Chevy. 1)
What you see on cars is an inlet, generally coming from the air filter, into the motor.
Then an outlet, regulated by a PCV valve, going into the intake manifold.
So it's designed to flow a little air through the system.
The other thing is that a V8 crankcase stays at a constant volume, because for every piston going up there's a piston going down.
On a Sportster motor there's no air inlet.
The engine vents into the intake flow on the upstream side of the carb instead, where there's much less vacuum.
It's not designed to flow air through it.
What's more, the crankcase volume is constantly changing.
There are check valves in line with the breather outlets.
Their function is to expel the air when the pistons go down but then restrict the air from entering the motor when the pistons go up.
The result is that beyond the first revolution, if the check valves are working properly, all you see out the breathers is the pulsating pressured air.
On a good motor, it's very little.
But if the check valves are not working properly, the motor goes into an inhale/exhale mode.
That causes a whole lot air movement and it also causes a lot of oil to get carried out at the same time.
Many cases of excess breather oil are caused by poorly functioning check valves.

A mixture of crankcase air and oil mist is produced on each piston down stroke.
This forced mixture helps to splash lube the moving parts in the engine.
It also creates unwanted pressure in the engine.
The oil mist is then separated from the crankcase air and the excess air pressure is vented out of the engine.
86-90 engines vent through a valve in the cam cover.
91 and up engines vent through a valve in each rocker box and out the hollow breather bolts in each head.

2) 3)

4) 5)

Late 1984-1990

  • 86-90 engines continued the breather baffle tube system from previous year models incorporated into the cam cover in the area behind the 86 style oil filter.
  • The baffle tube mounts into the cam cover and is what the umbrella valve pushes into. 6)
  • On each piston downstroke, crankcase pressure (air and oil mist) is routed to the breather baffle at the front of the gearcase.
  • Oil is separated from the air pressure by the one-way umbrella valve.
    • The oil then drains into the gearcase through a drain hole in the breather valve.
  • Exhaust air escapes past the one way umbrella valve in the baffle tube and into an outlet fitting on the cam cover.
    • The air is then routed into the rear of the air cleaner via an oil hose to the gearcase outlet.

Umbrella check valve comparison: 7)
Outside diameter:
26856-82 - 1.25“
26856-89 - 1.0”

Edge thickness (1/8“ in average): 8)
26856-82 - 0.036”
26856-89 - 0.041“

  • The pic below shows the left side (filter side) that faces into the cam box.
    • It's center inside diameter is slightly larger than the 1.25” OD (-82) umbrella valve.
    • The two 'C' shaped slots that do the breathing have an OD of 1“.
    • As a result, the (-89) umbrella valve with its diameter of 1” may not perform correctly as there is likely to be leakage.
Umbrella (check) Valves
L - (26856-82), R - (26856-89) 9)
Breather Baffle Tube (26917-84) 10) Cap, tube and umbrella 11)
89 cam cover with breather baffle tube attached (it should be tight but still pull out) 12)

Testing the L84-90 umbrella valve:
A working valve should help reduce oil mist. 13)
Since it's a one-way valve, air goes out but doesn't come back in.

To make sure the umbrella valve is still working;
Before you position the hose, use a bit of clean pipe and blow gently through the breather.
It should close the valve and stop air flow. You may have to find an aftermarket replacement if the valve is shot as OEM replacements are hard to come by now.
The 5 speed ones do not fit.

1991-2003

  • In 1991, along with the 5-speed transmission, the MoCo moved the crankcase breathing from the cam box cover outlet to breather bolts in the heads.
    Previously, these bolts were just used to mount the carb and air cleaner to the heads.
  • The new breather system uses one-way umbrella valves (AKA Foo Foo Valves) in the rocker boxes.
    These exit crankcase vapors through vents in the top of the cylinder head into the carb mouth to be burnt. 14)
    • On each piston downstroke, crankcase pressure (air and oil mist) is routed up the pushrod tubes into the rocker box (bypassing the falling oil from the rocker boxes).
    • Collected air pressure and oil mist in each rocker box is routed up into a sealed cavity in the lower portion of the box.
    • This mixture passes up from underneath a rubber one-way valve (umbrella valve) sitting over the cavity inlet.
      • The oil is designed to separate from the air by hitting the underside of the umbrella valve and dropping back down into a recessed area behind the umbrella valve in the cavity.
        • From there it should drain back into the main rocker box through a tiny hole behind the umbrella valve and then back to the lower end.
        • The separated oil flows into drain holes in the rocker boxes and back into the gearcase.
      • Air pressure is designed to continue up past the umbrella valve and exit a hole in each head on the intake valve side.
        • Air pressure escapes the head through the hollow bolts (one in each head) that hold the air cleaner mount.

15) 16)

  • The Parts Catalog and FSM are a bit confusing regarding how many umbrellas are used and where.
    The information is there but it's just not clear.
    The parts catalog only shows an exploded diagram of one rocker box assembly on the Rocker Arms, Covers and Pushrods page.
    Yet, the description shows that 2 umbrellas are required.
    It's the same for all of the parts on that page as well as each newer parts catalog (1 pushrod, tube ,lifter and related parts).
    This is the norm mostly throughout the subsequent catalogs with multiple (same) parts.
    It's assumed this was done to save money on printing the catalogs (replicated information deleted).
    The FSM displays the same exploded diagram as the parts catalog in the front of the Cylinder Head section.
    It's only at the end of the Installation article does it say to install new gaskets on the middle rocker box (with the breather valve on the intake side).
    There is no dedicated section on the rocker box or umbrella valves (which seem to be regarded as mere gaskets).

Installation

  • The middle rocker box is symmetrically cast so that it can be used on the front or rear head.
    And, there is a spot (seemingly) for two umbrellas. 17)
  • However, only one umbrella is used in each middle section.
    (only 2 umbrella valves are used in the entire engine.) 18)
  • Each umbrella is placed on the intake side on each head (only).
  • It is not always green as in the pic below (depends on what brand you buy).
Umbrella Valve (only 1 installed per rocker box) 19) 20) Umbrella Valve Installed Locations 21)
91-03 crankcase ventilation is done through the hole with the wire tie. 22)

2004-Present

  • In 2004 the MoCo made some changes to the umbrella valve configuration.
    The umbrella was retained but now inside a plastic housing with a pre-umbrella oil separating screen.
    Each 'breather valve' is assembled into a plastic fitting that is sealed over the outlet hole in the lower rocker box to the head breather bolt.
    The new breather valves were also accompanied with new style hollow air cleaner mounting bolts for the pressure to escape.
  • The new bolts are the same thread size as previous.
    But instead of a simple hex, it also has a shoulder past the hex for an O-ring to be fitted between the hex head and the air cleaner.
  • The breathing system is functionally the same as 91-03 with the one-way umbrella valves in the rocker boxes.
    These exit crankcase vapors through vents in the top of the cylinder head and into the carb mouth to be burnt. 23)
    • On each piston downstroke, crankcase pressure (air and oil mist) is routed up the pushrod tubes into the rocker box (bypassing the falling oil from the rocker boxes).
    • Collected air pressure and oil mist in each rocker box is routed up into the breather valve unit in the lower portion of the box.
    • This mixture passes up from underneath the breather unit.
      • The oil is designed to separate from the air by hitting the underside of the screen / umbrella valve and dropping back down into the rocker box.
        • From there it is routed back to the lower end.
        • The separated oil flows into drain holes in the rocker boxes and back into the gearcase.
      • Air pressure is designed to continue up past the breather unit and exit a hole in each head on the intake valve side.
        • Air pressure escapes the head through the hollow bolts (one in each head) that hold the air cleaner mount.

24)

Just as with the 91-03 umbrella valves, only 1 breather valve per side is used.
And each one is placed on the intake side of each lower rocker box.

However, unlike the single umbrella valves in 03, each breather valve in 04 and up engines is directional.
(as in there is one for the front and a different one for the rear)

Each one consists of a poly fiber over a rubber flap. 25)
The fiber pieces are the same as the brown Scotchbrite pads that are sold in the body section of auto parts stores.
You can cut your own put them in the breather valves. They are aluminum oxide and won't hurt the engine. 26)

Breather Valves 27) Breather Valves Installed 28)
2006 Breather Valves 29)
2013 Breather Valves 30)

Breather Bolts (91 Up)

Since 86-90 engines breath through the cam chest cover instead of the heads, the air cleaner bolts are solid (not hollowed).
91 and up engines breath out the heads through hollowed out air cleaner mounting bolts.

The size of the orifice in the hollow breather bolts makes the crankcase pressure rise higher (or lower) in the process of expelling the gas. 31)
Crankcase pressure was increased in 2004 by several means. One of which was the reduction of the hole size in the breather bolts.

91-03 breather bolts.
32) 33)

04+ breather bolts.
34) 35)



2) , 3) , 4) , 5) , 15)
drawing by Hippysmack
16) , 24) , 32) , 33)
photo by Hippysmack
21) , 22)
photos by Hippysmack
29)
photos by JackAttack of the XLFORUM http://xlforum.net/forums/showthread.php?p=4435889
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