REF: Suspension

Fork Oil

HD Recommendations

  • The MoCo specifies HD Type B or E (and respective equivalents) fork oil depending on year model.
    Below is some general information gathered by XLForum members. However, the actual data on HD forks oils has never been published or verified by HD.
  • HD doesn't divulge the highly classified weight of their fork oil.
    Some say type E is equivalent to 10W, some say it's equivalent to 15W oil or more from other manufacturers.
    Just keep in mind when changing fork oil, you don't want to mix different used oils together with new oil.
    Drain and clean all previous oil before installing new oil especially if previous oil is not known.
  • HD has, however, confirmed that type B (0-10W) fork oil is lighter than Type E (5-20). 1)
    That being said, if you want to stay with HD oils, you can mix B and E for an “X” weight of your choice to tune your forks.
    All HD fork oils are petroleum based, non-synthetic oils.
  • Also, the kinematic viscosity (at 40°C [mm2/s = cSt]) was mentioned on the HD site for Type E. 2) 3)
    Mid-point -46, minimum- 41.4, maximum- 50.6
    (ISO 3448 Viscosity class ISO VG 46, ISO VG 46 = SAE 15)
  • Additional information provided by Tomcatt of the XLForum (through conversation with tech guys at Red Line Oils)
    • Harley Davidson type “B” = 34.3cSt@40°C
    • Harley Davidson type “E” = 39.2cSt@40°C

Aftermarket Fork Oil

  • If you want to use aftermarket fork oil besides the HD brand,
    It's best to start with an oil weight that has been proven to work in most general situations.
    The general preferred weight of fork oil is 15(W) on the XLFORUM in whatever flavor you like.
    So, start by using 15(W) oil as noted and test it yourself.
    Depending on your weight, the bike's weight including add-ons and baggage, shocks and etc.,
    You might swap to a lower weight fork oil for softer or a heavier weight fork oil for stiffer fork action.
  • Generally, it's recommended to start with stock oil height.
    Test ride, if bottoming out, then add oil.
    Generally, long forks can add up to 2 oz, short fork 1 oz extra oil.
    Anything more than that tends to cause hydro locking, so it is best to add just enough oil to control bottoming, which may be less then 1 or 2 oz.
    Generally, if adding more oil than above to control bottoming, (and assuming preload and oil viscosity is correct),
    The main spring is too light and needs replacing. 4)
  • It's not recommended to use any less than stock oil levels in the forks.
    The less oil, the quicker it will get contaminated and/or break down.
    (as well as less resistance to heat build up and more likely to have foaming and cavitation problems)
    The minimum oil level that won't start sucking air in to the damper tube is not known. 5)
  • A lubricant's viscosity varies with temperature.
    In some areas, the fork oil is already heated up past 100°F by the sun before you start to ride which lowers viscosity and softens the fork action.
    Likewise, in the winter months, your forks may never reach up to the low end of the viscosity chart below.
    (which keeps the viscosity high thus stiffening fork action)
  • Below is a sample list of alternative fork oils and their published viscosities.
    Some aftermarket brands include the words “Type E” or “Type B” on their label.
    Some may say that's to make you feel like your getting the same quality or “Spec” as HD fork oil.
    (especially since there are 26 letters in the alphabet and they chose the same two as HD)
    After reading through their TDS sheets,
    It's obvious that different fork oil manufacturers have a different idea of “exactly” what viscosity that HD “B” or “E” actually is.
    Most brands have their own special additives to condition seals, control foaming, oxidation, rust, corrosion and etc.
    These additives play their own role in viscosity at certain temperature levels.
  • Most of the data came from SDS or TDS as noted but that can be misleading also.
    SDS says one viscosity, TDS says something different.
    SDS viscosity weights obviously reversed (typo) on some.
    Some TDS sheets look to be a cross or makeshift average between a brand's petro and synth weights.
    There is incomplete or missing viscosity SDS data….it's enough to make you realize just how tough the oil business' competition is.
    It is the intent of this article to fill in all the blanks on the fork oil chart, but what is missing was never written by the company(s) that made the product(s).
  • Somewhere in some of the oil SDS data you'll find phrases like:
    “The data presented herein is based upon tests and information, which we believe to be reliable.” 6)
    “No warranty or representation, express or implied is made as to the accuracy or completeness of the data and information in this data sheet.” 7)
  • So viscosity really is a 'buyer beware' subject.
    And it's trial and error to fine tune to your specific needs/ wants/ riding style.
    The figures on the chart below are subject to change by the respective manufacturers.
    And they are meant as a learning tool of what you are actually buying as opposed to what you are being told you are getting.
    Check the labels and current SDS/ TDS data before relying on the fact that “this works for the other guy”.
    Rely on what works best for you regardless of what the data sheets say.
  • Many aftermarket companies will publish their data version of Harley Davidson fork oil.
    Although there may be some truth in their data, there also be a lot of embellishment.
    Be aware that some of their data is simply tossed around from one site to another (much like rumors go in sewing circles).
    The only way for you to actually know the specs on Harley fork oil is for you to have it tested at a reputable lab.
    Don't depend on “They” for historical data for your bike.

Fork Oil Viscosity Charts

Viscosity Comparisons

This chart was compiled as an example of different fork oil data as published by the respective manufacturers.
These figures came from the actual respective company's SDS / TDS sheets and are subject to change by them.
See the updated SDS / TDS information from each manuf. before trusting any charts on the internet.
You can also go to the Widman Calculators online and input your own information to print out a chart.
This helps with missing information not listed in the chart below.

Fork Oil Nominal Viscosity cSt Viscosity cSt Viscosity Visual
Brand Viscosity @ 40°C (104°F) @ 100°C (212°F) Index Color
Harley DavidsonType E 8)41.147.72160
Maxima9)(petro) 5wt 16.2 4.41 202 Clear
10wt 37.4 7.72 182 Clear
15wt 47.1 8.49 151 Clear
20wt 71.1 11.28 151 Clear
Lucas Oil (synth) 5wt 25.34 5.5 148 Blue- Green
10) 11) 12) 13) 10wt 42 7.6 153Blue- Green
15wt 49.2 8.6 154 Blue- Green
20wt 77.5 12.4 161 Blue- Green
Red Line 14) (synth) “Like Water” 6.24 2.51 365Clear
2.5wt 8.96 4.16 507 Light Blue
5wt 15.87 7.35 512 Yellow tint
10wt 31.66 13.42 438 Light Red
30wt 69 17.5 275 Orange tint
Belray 15) 5wt 17.4 4.2
7wt 29.3 5.5
10wt 36 6.6
15wt 52.9 8
20wt 77.1 10
30wt 115.3 13.1
Amsoil Susp. Fluid 16) 17) (synth) Light #5 15.9 4.4 209 Green
Med #10 31.8 7.3 206 Blue
Motul 18) (synth) 5wt 18.1 4 119 Amber
10wt 36.2 6.1 115
15wt 57.2 8.4 119
20wt 79.5 10.1 106
Motorex Racing Fork Oil 19) 20) (synth) 2.5wt 15.10 4.2 201 Red
5wt 22.6 5.6 205
7.5wt 35.9 7.7 192
Motorex FORK Oil 21)(petro) SAE 10W/30 68 Yellowish
Castrol Fork Oil (petro)22) 5wt 15 3.8 Clear & Bright
10wt 32 6.3 150 Red
15wt 46 Red
20wt 68 8.6 Red
32 32 5.6 Light Yellow
Castrol Fork Oil (synth) 23) 2.5wt 16.5 4 Red
5wt 28.1 5.7 Red
10wt 42 7.5 150 Red
Spectro fork oil 24) (petrol) 5wt 21.7
10wt 33.3
15wt 47.2
20wt 72.7
Spectro Golden Cartridge 25)(synth) 5wt 16.2 3.5 150
7.5wt 26 4.5 150
Spectro Platinum SX400 26)(synth) 2.5wt 9.2 Clear

PJ1 Fork Oil (petrol)27) (Highly refined mineral oil (C15-C50) is 70-99% weight) Synthetic anti-seal swell additive added. Says they are all of High Viscosity Index and Light Red in color. No viscosity weights are published however even in SDS. As a matter of fact PJ1 has the same SDS data sheet (for and that includes) 6 different weights although they publish that they have 8 different weights. Meets or exceeds OEM is published

HD Compared to Redline

Independent testing (not affiliated with Harley Davidson) was done on HD Type E fork oil. 28)
Based on the data from that testing, the chart below was created using the Widman "Graph your oils" web page.
The chart is a comparison of HD Type E, Red Line Medium, Red Line Heavy and the 75% RL Medium / 25% Red Line Heavy fork oils.
Temperatures from 0C / 32F to ~ 50C / 122F (the data on the web page goes up to 80C).
You can see clearly how the higher (442) viscosity Index of the Red Line Medium fork oil changes viscosity less at colder temp.
This should give a more consistent suspension at lower temps. Again, trust your own results / testing.


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