June/July 2000 Tech Feature
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   Installing the KING Clutch
   By Lyle Landstrom

Terry Duffy and Rob Olsen have collaborated with one another and have developed kevlar friction disks for Indian clutches. I have been working with Duff on some other matters and also was a member of the VI list. Duff and Moen decided that I was to be the Guinea Pig because on the list I had expressed my dissatisfaction with the stock Indian clutch. 

Announcement of new clutch plates here (May issue)

Article in this issue + more 
tester feedback here.

On my particular bike, a 38 chief with 48 engine, there was quite a bit of grinding when shifting into 1st gear upon startup when the bike was still cold. I had tried all the usual tricks like disengaging the clutch and kicking the bike over to free the plates with limited results. My friend MJ told me that the shift into 1st was easier if you parked the bike in neutral between 2nd and 3rd. Then upon start up, shift the bike into 3rd which is constant mesh (this stops the clutch) and then shift into 1st. This helped the most for me. But there still was a little grinding and it shouldn't be necessary if the clutch worked correctly in the first place.


When the clutch plates first arrived, I took them out and inspected them. These are no homemade style plates where someone has glued linoleum flooring to a piece of sawed out aluminum traffic sign, but are quality stamped aluminum disks with kevlar friction material bonded to them. They are professionally finished and look to be a quality product. The set contains eight disks which replace the original style fiber disks.

Bike Preparation

The first thing I did was prep the bike. The left floorboard needs to be removed (2 cotter pins through the pivot bolts) and the clutch linkage removed from the clutch actuation arm (1 cotter pin). Swing the linkage out of the way. Then remove the clutch actuation arm and the clutch release worm nut. You might need a channel lock pliers for the worm nut, Put a rag around the knurls so you don't mar them.

Primary Cover Removal

I then loosened and removed all the bolts holding the primary cover on. I had to give the cover a good rap with a rubber mallet to break the bond from the gasket. Most people would drain the primary first but a mess is always more impressive so I put a pan under the primary to catch the fluid when the primary was loose. Make sure your pan is large enough. If it isn't, kitty litter makes good floor dry. You will have to turn the clutch worm with a screw driver to remove the cover because the worm bushing (pressed into the cover) is threaded onto the worm shaft.

Remove Pressure Plate

The next step is to compress the clutch springs so you can remove the 6 nuts on the ends of the studs. There is a $40.00 special tool for this but you can reverse the primary cover and use the clutch release worm bushing and the outer surface of the cover to serve the same purpose. At some time in the past, some Gomer chromed my cover so I cut out a plastic donut to serve as a protective spacer between my fancy chromed surface and the rivets on the spring disk. This probably isn't a bad idea either if you've got a nice aluminum primary as there's a lot of pressure in the springs and you don't want to gimp up the surface. You will need to turn the clutch release worm to tighten the reversed cover against the springs to compress them. Remove the nuts. There's supposed to be some flat retaining washers under the nuts which will need to be removed as well. My bike didn't have these. Once the 6 nuts are removed, you can pull the pressure plate, spring plate, springs, clutch worm, and the release bearing off. It all comes off as one mess.

Remove Old Disks

Now that everything was out of the way, I was able to take the old disks out. You might need to bend piece of coat hanger to make a hook to facilitate the removal. Make sure you get all the disks.


Cover off.

Using cover as spring 
compression tool.

Pressure plate, spring plate, 
springs and worm removed.

Installation of New Disks

The King Clutch is a replacement for the fiber disks only. You need to inspect your old steel disks. In my case, I had what looked like half original steel disks and half newer steel disks. There are 6 steel disks in an Indian Chief clutch. Make sure you have them all. They need to be absolutely flat and the notches which engage the inner clutch hub need to be in good shape. You should inspect the corresponding reliefs on the clutch hub as well. My steel disks and clutch hub were in good shape and reusable. In fact, my old fiber disks looked like they were in good shape as well. I still pitched them. One thing, do not modify the new clutch plates. Do not drill them or file grooves in them, it is unnecessary.

Click on pictures for full size
It was recommended the new fiber plates be pre-soaked for about 30 minutes before use. Most people would pre-soak the plates before starting but I had to build a planned break into this project. Because this was the halfway point, I decided this would be a good time to soak the plates. I went to my wife's kitchen, found a coffee can, and dumped the contents into the garden. I now had a suitable container for soaking the plates. There was a discussion on using Automatic Transmission Fluid in the primary a few weeks ago on the VI list so I decided to use it as it's cheaper than the Harley primary oil I was using. Now was the time for a beverage. Having no coffee, I had to drink something else.

After my 30 minute beverage break, I installed the clutch plates. The order is as follows: Install a friction plate first, then steel, friction, steel, friction, steel, friction, steel, friction, steel,  friction, steel, and lastly 2 friction plates. The two outside friction plates make up for the thick original fiber plate that Indian used for the outside plate.

Install Pressure Plate Assembly

The assembly of the pressure plate is the reverse of the removal. Before putting everything together again, you should inspect your springs and clutch release bearing. New springs are 7/8 inch long and old ones should be tossed if they are shorter than 13/16 inch. Also they should all be the same length for even pressure. My springs all measured about .86 so they were OK. My clutch release bearing however was less than ideal. This was all happening on a Sunday when nothing was open in town so I elected to reuse it thinking I can install a new one later.

The trick to installing the pressure plate assembly is to make sure the holes on the spring plate line up with the notches on the pressure plate to facilitate slipping everything over the clutch studs. You will need to use the reversed primary cover and screw the release worm to compress the springs enough to install the 6 nuts on the studs. Once the assembly is on, tighten the nuts down so the spring plate is against the shoulder on all the studs. I didn't have the retaining washers so I couldn't install them. If I did have them, I would have had to bend up one side against a flat on each nut to keep the nuts from loosening.

Primary Cover Installation

At this point most people would install a new gasket. I was going to make one from gasket material but it turned out my material was not quite wide enough. Therefore I decided to reuse the old gasket. I reinstalled all the primary cover bolts and tightened them. I also installed the worm release nut and the seal that goes inside the nut. Now you can reinstall the floorboard. Make sure you refill your primary. You can use the fluid from the coffee can you used to soak the plates in. Do not overfill it.

Adjustment of Clutch

It was recommended to me that all the play be taken out of the linkage for the clutch to properly work. I found this to be true. To do this, you need to install the clutch release arm so that as you rotate it counterclockwise, it just begins to engage the clutch at the 2 O'clock position. You might have to reverse the clutch arm as the flats are eccentric to allow for a better range of adjustment.  Then position the "heel" of the pedal so that it just contacts the floorboard. Adjust the connecting link so it's just long enough to reach the actuation arm. When the clutch pedal is depressed, there should be about 4 hours of movement at the actuation arm. That is, the arm should go from about a 2 O'clock to a 10 O'clock position. The clutch starts working immediately upon the pedal depression, i.e. zero slop.

Soaking. Use ATF or your regular oil.
But don't pour ATF in your primary unless you run a sealed-off tranny.

Installing. Take care that the pressure plate slides nicely on the studs before fitting springs.

Friction disk.

Measuring springs. Toss them if free length is less than 13/16" (some say .84"/21.6mm).

Closing up.

Initial Impressions

Upon start up I discovered that I didn't have the "zero slop" required. I then shut the bike down and readjusted the linkage. After re-starting, I pushed in the clutch and shifted immediately into1st gear. There was absolutely no grinding. I could still feel the gears engage but without any grinding. I went for a short ride and discovered you can feather the clutch easier like a modern bike without grabbing. I also noticed a stiffer feel at the pedal. Duff tells me it's because the springs are going through a greater movement as they are compressed as soon as the pedal is depressed. This makes sense but I also think it's because of my needing a new clutch release bearing. I didn't have time to order a bearing and make the deadline for this article. I am now in the process of finding a replacement bearing. I believe the stiffer feel is from the bearing. Loosening the fiber dampener at the pedal didn't soften the feel of the clutch much. The stiffer pedal isn't bad, it's just more than what I had.

The next day, I went for an extended ride through town and found out the clutch behaves the same weather the bike is hot or cold. I still didn't have the grinding and found that it didn't slip under hard use. Several days later, I went for another extended ride and thought that the clutch pedal had softened up. This could be from my out of round ball bearings in the clutch release bearing had re-seated on the bearing races. 

Currently the clutch is performing flawlessly. The feel at the shift lever is the same. I did not have to adjust the shifter detent on the tranny top. 

Adjust linkage for "no slop".

The only things I changed were the fluid type and the fiber plates. I doubt the fluid had anything to do with such a significant change as I have ran a variety of fluids in the primary, all with pretty much the same result. I honestly believe the King Clutch made the difference. I must point out that my old fiber plates were in pretty good shape and were not overly glazed.

My bike might not have been the best test bed for this clutch as my old clutch's release bearing was in tough shape. In fact some of the ball bearings were oval shaped. If this clutch works this good on my bike, it should work on anyone's bike. Currently, I'm investigating obtaining a new bearing. I also think that I can reinstall a larger transmission sprocket. I used to have my bike geared pretty tall but went to a smaller sprocket because the old clutch tended to grab around town. 

This clutch has solved the grinding my bike used to experience. It performs excellent when the bike is hot or cold. It can be feathered easer and does not grab. I also noticed that I didn't have to downshift as much as I can feather the clutch easier in a taller gear without the bike jerking. The King Clutch won't make your bike behave like one with a constant mesh transmission, you still have the old sliding gear arrangement, but it is hands above the old clutch. It will also significantly extend the life of your transmission. Considering what regular replacement fiber disks cost, the King Clutch disks are a worthwhile investment.

Ride it, man!
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