Adjusting Pushrods With Solid Lifters

Published in The June 2015 Issue Of Cycle Source

Article & Photos By: Will Ramsey –

Will Tech

The season is finally upon us, here in the Midwest, and it’s time to get the bikes back on the road. The do it yourself guys (our loyal Cycle Source readers) are changing fluids, lubricating cables, cleaning out and tuning carbs, changing batteries (if they didn’t leave them on a trickle charger…. Ooops!), and adjusting pushrods… Getting your bike ready for another season simply reinforces the relationship between man (or woman) and machine. There’s just no better feeling than working on your own bike. I love encouraging everyone to learn more and more about their own bike. To reinforce this sentiment we will continue publishing tech articles to help everyone get connected to their two wheeled machine. This month we will discuss the simple procedure of adjusting pushrods on a bike with solid lifters. Many builders, are partial to running solid lifters on kick start Shovelheads and Panheads. When you kick start a bike, you basically have one stroke of the motor to bring that girl to life. Everything needs to be working in your favor. Solid lifters (when adjusted properly) allow the valves to be exactly where they should be every time you drop the kicker arm. In the following tech article, Kekoa will show you the simple process that we go through at Faith Forgotten Choppers to adjust the pushrods on a motor with solid lifters.


If your bike has an electric starter please disconnect the main ground wire from the battery to avoid any accidents. Kekoa removes the spark plugs from the heads to eliminate any compression when he cycles the motor by hand.


The push rod covers are easily removed by pulling the spring loaded collar down and removing the top section of the cover.CSM-JUNE2015.pg18_Page_1_Image_0004

If the top section is stubborn, a screwdriver can be used to gently pry/pull the cover loose.


The pushrod covers are simply collapsed and then held up to allow access to the pushrod adjustment. Many people use wooden clothes pins to hold the covers up. We prefer to use tape since it gives us a little more access to the adjusting screw, and does not add any additional friction when “feeling” for the proper adjustment. It may not look pretty but it works great for us.


Kekoa cycles the motor by depressing the kicker arm. This can also be done by shifting the transmission into gear, jacking the rear tire off the ground, and rotating the rear wheel by hand. Watch the pushrods as you cycle the motor and notice that each pair moves in a staggered fashion. When the pair of lifters are both at their lowest position, that cylinder is on the compression stroke and those push rods can be adjusted.


The jam nut must first be broken free to allow the adjusting screw to be turned.


The push rod length is adjusted by simply extending or shortening the rod using the threaded adjuster. This is a “by feel” operation and it gets easier every time you do it. The pushrod should be set so that it can be turned with your fingers but has a slight amount of drag. Now, slight is a relative term that can only be qualified through experience; so get your hands dirty and get some experience.


Once the pushrod length is set, the jam nut must be torqued to secure the adjustment. In order to accomplish this, Kekoa uses three wrenches. Two are used to hold the adjustment of the rod length in place while the third (middle) wrench tightens the jam nut. Be sure this is “good and tight” so that the rod length will not change while the motor is running.


The same entire process is repeated for the other cylinder.


Once the adjustments are complete the pushrod covers are extended and the top retaining section of the cover is placed back above the spring collar. A screwdriver can be used to gently pry the spring collar down while sliding the top section back into place. With everything buttoned up Kekoa heads out for a gratifying test ride. There’s nothing more rewarding than a job well done. With this tech article, I’m encouraging you to get a little closer to your bike. We are always here to help so please feel free to contact me with any questions comments or concerns!

3 thoughts on “Adjusting Pushrods With Solid Lifters

  1. Top wrench should be on second and first when tightening and loosening the pushrod. The first nut lengthens push rod turning pushrod clockwise and shortens it turning it counter clockwise. Tighten with a good drag

  2. The jame nut is the middle nut and rods should be adjusted with a good drag using thumb and two fingers, not a slight drag

  3. Kekoa,
    Isn’t the jam nut the one close to the lifter block with the slot in it? Wont that make the jam nut wrench the lowest wrench not the middle one? Why do you need the top wrench on the lower end of the pushrod?
    I don’t get why you need 3 wrenches, seems just 2 , one on the top of the adjuster and another to loosen and tighten the jam nut at the bottom? What am I missing?
    No critiquing just trying to get this right on my 48 pan. Thanks

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