1979 Sportster

Model Production Numbers

  • XLH 1000 6,525
  • XLCH 1000 141
  • XLS 1000 Roadster 5,123


  • XLH: Vivid Black, Brilliant Red, Concord Blue, Chestnut Brown. 1)
  • XLS: Black/Gray. 2)

Vehicle Identification

Frame VIN Numbers

Starting in 1970, the only numbers used for the purpose of identification are on the right neck and frame downtube.
( except for the MoCos short-lived decision otherwise) See under Engine Serial Numbers below to reference “the 1979 Exception”

  • The frame is stamped with a Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) identification.
  • There are still other stampings on the different parts of the frame combined with certain features that can be used to date the frame.
    But the only numbers used to identify the entire bike for ownership purposes is the VIN number stamped in the right side neck.
  • In addition to the neck VIN, an identification label is located on the frame giving the VIN and date of manufacture.
    This label was required by law for identification.3)
  • The serial number is the 3rd through the 7th digit. All serial numbers run consecutively regardless of model year. 4)

Click Here to view Ironhead Frame Identification in the Sportsterpedia for more information.
Click Here for more information on serial numbers and VINs in the Sportsterpedia.

9 Digit VIN for 1979 Sportsters
Sportster Model
(first 2 digits)
Serial Number
(next 5 digits)
(2nd to last digit)
Model Season
(last digit)
3A - XLH
4E - XLS
10,000 and upH - (1979 HD)9 - (1979)
Example (4A 11790 H9) designates a 1979 XLCH 1000, stamped on the engine right case and right side of the steering head on the frame 5)
Example VIN on Frame Reads: 4A 11790 H9

Engine Serial Numbers

The engine serial numbers were still stamped in the case but longer used for identification purpose of ownership on 1970-up model Sportsters.
That is, except for the early 1979 VIN debacle by the MoCo.

  • From January 9 to February 8, 1979, (1200, 1340 and 1000cc) motorcycles had the VIN stamped on the engine number pad instead.
    Click Here for more information on the 1979 Exception in the Sportsterpedia.
  • Otherwise, the engine VIN is stamped on the right side of the engine crankcase between the cylinders.

Related Manuals and Documentation

Below are some suggestions for manuals for your ride.
You should have, at minimum, a Factory Service Manual (FSM) and a Factory Parts Catalog for your year model.

Factory Service Manuals (FSM);
The FSM will have the most accurate information, procedures and specs.
Clymer and Haynes make service manuals also for Sportsters but some of the information is in error to the factory FSMs.
And some of the information in the aftermarket manuals is vague in information or procedures but they may have more pictures.
So it is generally said you can get use from both an aftermarket manual and the factory service manuals but get the factory manual first.
Click Here to view the Factory Service Manual page in the Sportsterpedia.

Parts Catalogs;
The Parts Catalog has part numbers of course but it also has exploded parts views.
And some of the exploded views are confusing or not related to each other on the same pages.
But, all in all, the exploded views do help finding what goes where.
Most of the fasteners listed in the relevant parts catalog individual pages have thread sizes and lengths also in case you need those.
Below is a simple list of original and “latest edition parts catalogs. The in-between year books may show different part numbers for the same year model bike.
Click Here to see the Factory Parts Catalog page in the Sportsterpedia for parts catalog uses and a full list of parts catalog numbers from 1957 to present.
(complete list of other parts catalogs and supplement catalogs that pertain to each year model on the bottom of that page)
Some often acquire several year model parts catalogs and that page will help you decide which ones are right for you.

Suggested Manuals:

  • Factory Service Manual (FSM):
    • Original: 1979 XLH/XLCH-1000 Service Manual (99484-79)
    • Latest Edition: 1979-1985 XL/XR Models 1000cc 4-Speed Service Manual (99484-85)
  • Factory Parts Catalogs:
    • Original: 1979 Sportster XLH/XLCH-1000 Parts Catalog (99451-79)
      • Written in April, 1978 and should have the closest list of original parts for 1979 XLH and XLCH models.
    • Updated Edition: 1979 Sportster XLH/XLCH/XLS-1000 Parts Catalog (99451-79A)
      • Written in November, 1978 to include the XLS model.
    • Latest Edition: 1979-1985 XL Models Parts Catalog (99451-85A)
      • Written in 1990 and lists parts available in 1990 for 1979-1985 models.
  • Factory Owners Manual:
    Note: The oil tank capacity is wrong in both these manuals. Neither has been full vetted.
    • Original (January, 1978): 1979 XL-1000/XLCH-1000 Owners Manual (99466-79)
      Does not include XLS models. Bike pics not correct. They are of the XLCR instead.
    • Updated Edition (December, 1978): 1979 XL-1000/XLCH/XLS-1000 Owners Manual (99466-79A)
      Revised to include XLS models. Bike pics corrected.
      Click Here to view or print this manual from the H-D Service Information Portal.

Pics of Manual Covers.
Below are pics of used manual covers (original and latest editions) related to 1979 model Sportsters.
See the full list of pertinent catalogs in the link above.
Click on any pic below to enlarge:

1979 FSM (99484-79) 1979-1985 FSM (99484-85) 1979 Owners Manual (99466-79) 1979 Owners Manual (99466-79A)
Parts Catalog (99451-79)
Parts Catalog (99451-79A)
Parts Catalog (99451-85A)

The Ironhead Multi-Year Parts Catalog Curse

Below is a summary of an article on the Sportsterpedia Parts Catalogs page regarding parts book errors.
You can also read the full article from this link: The Ironhead Multi-Year Parts Catalog Curse.
Due to all of the errors and non corrected editions, it's always a good idea to acquire several year parts catalogs surrounding your year model.
Which year catalogs you'll need will depend on many factors but the main Parts Catalog page in the Sportsterpedia will help you decide which ones you need.
Click Here to see the Parts Catalog page. A full chart of all the parts catalogs made for Ironheads is at the bottom of the page.

  • Not all multi-year catalogs will list factory installed parts on your bike.
  • You may need several year catalogs to determine factory installed parts for your year model.
  • Some parts first appeared or only appeared in Parts Supplements, Service Bulletins or other literature
  • Later catalogs may show parts for older models that were never factory installed on them.
  • Some catalogs have missing parts and/or missing models in some parts listings.
  • Some illustrations do not have a part number listed.
  • Drawings may or may not look like your part number.
  • Some exploded parts diagrams show the assembly in the wrong order or missing pieces.
  • There may be misleading information about parts that fit your year model.
  • Fastener lengths and thread pitch may change depending on catalog used.
  • The MoCo knew about and tried to correct at least some of the parts catalog mistakes.

Search the Sportsterpedia

See the Navigation menu on the upper left of this page.
From there you can go to the main Ironhead section menu, the Reference section for general and in-depth procedures, and the Misc Resources for documentation.


The following illustrations are displayed for historic and period specific parts identification only. Refer to the original OEM documents for additional information. 6)
Click on any illustration below to enlarge.


Click Here for the main technical menu in the Sportsterpedia.
Also see the “Misc Resources” section on the bottom of that page for technical docs and information.

Model Designations

  • Model Designations: XLH-1000, XLCH-1000, XLS-1000

The 57-69 service manuals and other literature from HD cover multiple years.
And the 1957-1959 “XL” is included with the information in these manuals up through 1969.
However, the 1970-1978 FSM also includes an “XL” model in the specs but does not refer to the 57-59 XL motorcycle.
Starting in 1977, there were also XLT and XLCR models (these are both included in the “XL” verbiage).
The “XL” noted in 1970 and future literature simply refers to a street legal “Sportster” model motorcycle.
The last XLCH was made in 1979 but both “XL” and “XLH” verbiage was used in manuals and literature up through the 2003 manuals.
(referring to the same bikes).
“XLH” became the mantra for the base 883cc model but the manuals also refer to XLH1100 and XLH1200 Sportsters.
1979-1985 service manual is titled for XL/XR models and the specs in are listed for XLH, XLCH and XLS models.
2004-up manuals dropped the “H” altogether. So 2003 is the last year the MoCo referred to a Sportster as an XLH.


  • Wheelbase: 7)
    • XLH, 58.5 in / 148.59 cm
    • XLCH, 58.5 in / 148.59 cm
    • XLS, 59.6 in / 151.38 cm
  • Overall Length:
    • XLH, 88 in / 223.52 cm
    • XLCH, 88 in / 223.52 cm
    • XLS, 89.6 in / 227.58 cm
  • Overall Width:
    • XLH, 33.8 in / 85.85 cm 8) (1979 XLH,XLCH,XLS-1000 Owners Manual -79A states 33.75 in)
    • XLCH, 33.8 in / 85.85 cm 9) (1979 XLH,XLCH,XLS-1000 Owners Manual -79A states 33.75 in)
    • XLS, 29.2 in / 74.16 cm
  • Overall Height:
    • XLH, 46.5 in / 118.11 cm
    • XLCH, 46.5 in / 118.11 cm
    • XLS, 42.5 in / 107.95 cm
  • Saddle Height:
    • XLH, 29.7 in / 75.43 cm 10) (1979 XLH,XLCH,XLS-1000 Owners Manual -79A states 29.25 in)
    • XLCH, 29.7 in / 75.43 cm 11) (1979 XLH,XLCH,XLS-1000 Owners Manual -79A states 29.25 in)
    • XLS, 29.7 in / 75.43 cm 12) (1979 XLH,XLCH,XLS-1000 Owners Manual -79A states 30.0 in)
  • Road Clearance:
    • XLH, 6.9 in / 17.52 cm
    • XLCH, 6.9 in / 17.52 cm
    • XLS, 6.8 in / 17.27 cm


  • Engine type: 4 cycle Overhead Valves, 45 degree V2
  • Hemi-spherical style heads
  • Displacement: 60.9 ci / 997.5 cc (1,000 cc advertised)
  • Compression Ratio: 9:1
  • Bore: 3.188 in / 81 mm
  • Stroke: 3.8125 in / 96.8 mm
  • Horsepower: 61 @ 6,200 RPM 13)
  • Taxable Horsepower: 7.2
  • Torque: 52 ft-lb @ 3800 RPM
  • 4 Cams
  • Gerotor type oil pump.
    Oil pump pressure (gauge mounted in place of oil pressure switch):
    • Minimum: 4-7 psi (idle)
    • Maximum: 10-20 psi (3500 rpm)
    • Normal riding conditions: 4-15 psi
  • Ignition: Prestolite Electronic Ignition System (breakerless inductive discharge)
    • Timer Air Gap (ignition rotor to sensor): .004”-.006“
  • Ignition Timing
    • Retarded: 10° (1/32”) BTDC
    • Automatic Advance: 40° (17/32“) BTDC
  • Spark Plugs (2):
    • #4 (14mm)
    • Gap: .060”
  • Fuel System: Keihin (non-cv) Butterfly carburetor.
  • Starter


  • Fuel Capacity:
    • XLH / XLCH 2.25 gal / 8.517 l 14)
      Reserve: .25 gal / .946 l
    • XLS, 3.6 gal / 13.627 l
      Reserve: .60 gal / 2.27 l
  • Oil Capacity: 4 qts. / 2.83 l (quoted from -85 FSM)
    • Actual amount on oil change is closer to 2.25 qts Click Here for more information.
  • Transmission Capacity: 1.5 pints / .71 l


  • Multi-Disc wet clutch-pack with alternate steel and fiber friction plates.15)


  • Constant Mesh 16)
  • Left Side Shifter
  • Speeds - 4 Forward
  • Number of Sprocket Teeth (XLH / XLCH / XLS)
    • Engine: 34
    • Clutch: 59
    • Transmission: 21
    • Rear Wheel: 51
  • Gear Ratios (XLH / XLCH / XLS)
    • 1st: 10.63:1
    • 2nd: 7.70:1
    • 3rd: 5.82:1
    • 4th: 4.22:1


Early 1979

Starting in 1970 thru E1979, Harley Davidson partnered with Goodyear for a new “special” tires and rims for standard “high ground clearance” Sportster models.
Standard or Low Clearance models did not have the “special” rims and use standard tires.
Click Here for the Ironhead tires and wheels page in the Sportsterpedia for more information.

Tire pressure based on 150 lb rider. When weight is exceeded by 50 lbs or more, increase the rear by 2 lbs and front by 1 lb.
Repeat for each additional 50 lbs of weight. 17)
Tires: (both the Special Goodyear and the Yokohama tire brands are all obsolete now)
Rim size and contour are cast or stamped into the exterior surface of the rim.

  • Standard Sportster Models;
    • Front 3.25/3.50 x 19
    • Rear 4.00 x 18
  • High Ground Clearance Sportster Models: 18)
    • Front;
      • Goodyear MM90-19T (3.75×19) Sport Rib (tire pressure 18 psi / 1.24 bar) 19)
    • Rear;
      • Goodyear 4.25×18 All Traction (tire pressure 30 psi / 2.06 bar) 20)
  • Low Ground Clearance Models:
    • Front 3.25/3.50 x 19
    • Rear 3.50 x 18

Late 1979

Wheels with standard rims were now used along with standard sized tires.

  • Front:
    • For laced (contour 2.50×19 TLA) or cast (contour 2.15×19 TL) 19“ wheels: Goodyear Eagle A/T or Dunlop K181 (MJ90-19).
  • Rear
    • For cast (contour 2.50 TL) 18” wheels: Goodyear Eagle A/T (MN90-18).
    • For laced or cast (contour 3.00x16D) 16“ wheels: Goodyear Eagle A/T or Dunlop K181 (MT90-16).
  • Tire pressure based on overall weight.
    • Up to 300 lb load including rider, passenger and cargo:
      • Front 26 psi / 1.79 bar
      • Rear 30 psi / 2.06 bar
    • Up to GVWR maximum load:
      • Front 26 psi / 1.79 bar
      • Rear 32 psi / 2.20 bar
    • Caution: Maximum cold inflated pressure, Front (32psi), Rear (40 psi).


XLH 1000

What is the Current KBB Value? 21)

XLS 1000 Roadster

What is the Current KBB Value? 22)

XLCH 1000

What is the Current KBB Value? 23)

  • Dual Sport


  • All models:
    • Front - 9 spoke cast wheel (assembly #43311-78).24)
  • XL and XLCH
    • Rear - 9 spoke 18” cast wheel (assembly #40962-79).25)
  • XLS
    • Rear - 9 spoke 16“ cast wheel (assembly #40963-79). 26)

Back to Sportster History Index

1) , 2)
1979 Painted Parts List pg 510, 10-82
3) , 4)
HD Service School service bulletin #596 dated September 16, 1969
5) , 24) , 25) , 26)
1979 Harley Davidson XLH/XLCH/XLS-1000 Parts Catalog
illustrations from various academic journals
Harley-Davidson 1979-1985 Service Manual
8) , 9) , 10) , 11) , 12)
1979-1985 HD Sportster Service Manual pg 2-1
Harley-Davidson 1979 XLH, XLCH, XLS Owners Manual 99466-79A
Harley-Davidson 1970 - 1978 Service Manual
1957-1969 HD FSM pg 4A-3
1970-1978 HD FSM pg 1-1
Harley-Davidson 1970 - 1977 Service Manual
18) , 19) , 20)
Harley-Davidson 1970 Service Manual pg 1-1
This website uses cookies for visitor traffic analysis. By using the website, you agree with storing the cookies on your computer.More information