Installing An S&S Hydraulic Valve Train Conversion Kit

Article & Photos By: Will Ramsey –

Originally Published In The June 2016 Issue Of Cycle Source Magazine


This month we are visiting Jess Cleary at K&S Customz in Louisville Kentucky. Jess is responsible for building every motor that has powered a Faith Forgotten Chopper. I have followed him from shop to shop for 7 years, but now he has found a solid home at K&S Customz. Jess is going to walk us through installing a S&S Hydraulic Valve Train Conversion kit in a 1978 shovelhead motor. This kit features S&S’s limited travel hydraulic lifters. In my opinion these are a fantastic replacement for mechanical lifters. We build a lot of kick start bikes at FFC and full hydraulic lifters can be difficult to kick start if they sit and bleed down. However, S&S Limited Travel Hydraulics have very little travel and therefore offer excellent kick starting characteristics, even when the motor is cold. Another advantage to this conversion kit – with the use of S&S roller rockers – is the ability for direct top end oiling through the pushrods (like an EVO). Aside from being a superior oiling system, it allows the removal of the external oil lines and cleans up the look of the motor Photo Right: The S&S Hydraulic Valve Train Conversion Kit includes Tappet Blocks, Lifters, Push Rods, and new Push Rod cover clips (because the tappet blocks are taller than stock)



In order to use this kit, you must use an EVO style cam (1984-’99). This is necessary to ensure correct valve timing. The cam must be ordered separately and it is our choice (and suggestion) to use an S&S cam.


In order to run this cam in a shovelhead case you must relieve the cast aluminum just beneath the cam bearing with a die grinder. Take care not to remove any more material than necessary. Insert the cam into the bearing and check until you have clearance.


Since we have chosen to eliminate the external oil lines and take advantage of the direct oil through pushrods system that this kit provides, Jess has already installed a set of S&S roller rockers in the rocker covers. Remember the rockers are not part of the conversion kit but they are necessary if you want to eliminate the factory oil lines.


The rocker boxes are installed and torqued to spec


Now before we can install the new tappet blocks and lifters we have to install and shim the cam and breather gear. For this motor we are using an oversized breather gear from S&S which was featured in an earlier tech article when I bored the breather hole on the mill.


Jess determines the proper end play for the breather gear by placing a straight edge across the gasket surface with the gasket installed. He uses a feeler gauge to measure the difference.


With the nose cone in place the end play of the cam can be measured by simply sliding a feeler gauge behind the cam. Assembly lube is used on all components prior to the final installation of the nose cone.


The lifters are placed in the tappet blocks and then carefully installed into the motor. You can pinch the lifters from above to keep them from falling out as you place the tappet blocks into the motor case.


The tappet blocks from S&S are counter bored (not counter sunk) and therefore are not self-centering. Jess loosely installs two twelve point screws supplied with the conversion kit, and then uses a threaded tapered centering tool to align the tappet block. Once aligned the two screws can be torqued and the remaining screws can be installed.


Finally, the adjustable pushrods are installed and adjusted according to the instructions in the kit. This is a very simple procedure.


With the new hydraulic valve train conversion kit installed and the external oil lines removed we have a clean looking shoveled motor ready to be placed in the next Faith Forgotten Chopper and sent to the customer in Denver. As always feel free to contact me regarding any questions comment or concerns and check out the Cycle Source Blog for a complete video installation of this tech.