I Love Harley-Davidson, But You Must Know This


November 7, 2012 | By: Scott Holton

Here is the ignored elephant in the corner……

There is a potential major issue in the Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam engines. This is a statement of fact, not a bunch of wild guesses.  I’m not here to bash Mother Harley, but you should be educated to its causes, and possible solutions. 

Okay, what issue are we looking at? It’s a very serious one that is enough to alarm you.   However, you can fix these defects and end up with a nice bike. Our objective today is to educate, and we are also going to outline some ways to fight back.   Yes, even the new Harley’s have serious, potential problems.  Even the expensive CVO (Custom Vehicle Operations) bikes have issues not to be taken lightly.

Here we go…..

The problem is the design of the cam chain system.  It uses plastic “shoes” riding on the cam chains that can (and do) wear out. Harley has made some changes in later model bikes, but even with the new hydraulic tensioning system, it is not a true fix.  What is the problem?  The shoes rub against the two chains and the plastic shoes wear out.  When they wear in extreme cases, there will be metal to metal contact and this grinding creates metal shavings that can result in a catastrophic engine failure. If not caught soon enough, this can be so bad that the entire engine can be destroyed; cams, pistons, crankshaft and even engine cases broken.  It is a wickedly serious possible engine problem.  Be aware… it can fail as soon 15,000 miles (in extreme cases).  Even the newer hydraulic system can fail at 50,000 miles or less.  The cam chain tensioners have a section in every service manual that covers the Twin Cam engines and is very enlightening.

If your pipes are loud, you may not hear or get any warning.  The oil pump passages can clog up without making any noise whatsoever except when the engine starts tearing itself to pieces. 

The scary thing is every Twin-Cam engine has the potential to have the cam chain follower issue, even the new models.  Check things out before this happens to you.  If it has a cam chains, it has the potential problem.

It is our intent to make you aware that pre ’06 Dyna’s and the 1999 to 2006 Twin-Cam Harley-Davidson engines have possible, serious issues and they can mess up.  How? In the most severe cases, as the spring loaded cam chain follower fails it shreds plastic material that fouls the rotary gear oil pump cutting off oil flow to the engine that can cause sudden catastrophic engine failure and destruction.  Also, metal to metal contact in these shoes produces metal filings to disperse into the oil prior to being filtered by the oil filter.  If this happens be prepared (worst case) to buy a completely new motor as rebuilding the engine may not be feasible. This is not a likely situation, but a realistic possibility.  

Are the 2007 and newer, updated Twin-Cam engines immune?  No.  Do not be fooled.  Hydraulic cam chain followers are now used to get rid of the stiff spring that put too much pressure on the followers rubbing on the cam chain, but this is “no cure” as it only “delays” the problem.  Instead of the engine failing at 15,000 to 30,000 miles, it now fails at 50,000 to 75,000 miles.  There is only one true cure… getting rid of the chain system entirely and switch to gear driven cams.   Harley-Davidson should, in my opinion, make this a standard fix and not an after the fact option. If you can’t afford to install the gear drive system, then you need to disassemble and inspect the inner and outer shoes every 15,000 miles or risk engine failure.  The shoe material can also clog the oil pump destroying the engine.  There are plenty of motorcycle magazines explaining how to fix this problem and they can fail beyond the factory warranty period.  The problem has not been fixed; only delayed to fail above 50,000 miles and when the engine fails it may not covered under warranty.  Check the fine print in your extended warranty as this cam chain related failure may not be protected. Dealers will tell you it is a failed maintenance issue unless you take the steps we suggest. 

You won’t even get a straight, honest answer from Harley dealers regarding this engine defect.  As I did research for this article, I called a local dealership, and the service writer would not answer my questions, and frankly gave me quite a song and dance, refusing to forward my questions and concerns to the mechanic or management. Disturbed and curious, I read a number of different service manuals, and while the drawing of what is good and bad with the cam tensioner shoes is published, there is no inspection interval listed. This leads me to believe Mother Harley knows a problem exists and Harley-Davidson dealers are actively not giving straight answers to customers. How can they not have published inspection intervals? The only mention of this possible failure is in the troubleshooting guide under “Valve train noise.” You will not hear any rubbing sounds or receive any indications the cam follower has failed even if you have quiet stock exhaust pipes on the bike. This is an issue that nobody wants to talk about, but is a real threat to your pocket book.

OK, now that we have ruffled everybody’s feathers, how can we combat this? S&S has truly been visionary in solving this issue. They had the foresight to develop a gear drive system to combat this very issue. It is my opinion, that all Twin Cam engines should have this conversion done, so you can rest easy on your higher mileage TC engines. The gear drive replacement is an excellent and the only true bulletproof solution.

As an alternative to gear drive, our only choice would be periodic tensioner shoe inspection. While not outlined in any Harley Service manual I’ve seen, looking at them and replacing as needed should be done every 15,000 miles. There are nice pictures of what to look for, but no recommended inspection interval. If you decide not to go gear drive, this is emphatically recommended. This periodic inspection can make any future warranty claim valid. On earlier engines, an update to the later style hydraulic tensioners will relive pressures and delay required service, but periodic inspection is still recommended. Check things out before this happens to you.

One way to help understand what may be happening inside your engine is to cut apart your oil filter at each oil change. Look through the pleats for any metallic or plastic debris. If you see junk, it’s time for your engine to come apart. You may be able to save your engine’s life by doing this.

Another thing to consider is better oils. Today’s better performing premium oils can delay the destruction.  While a bit more expensive than conventional oils, oil is still cheaper than engine rebuilds. Here, synthetics, such as the Bel-Ray Synthetic (part number 900-405), the Revtech MTP Synthetic (part number 740-786) or the Lucas Synthetic (part number 900-687) may be your best choice.

As we have a decent oil filtration system in our TC engines, a way to help the filter is to apply a magnet such as PN 740-742 to the outside of the filter. This will help trap any metallic grunge that may be floating in our oil.  Remember though, most of the bad stuff is plastic, and the magnet will not capture that.

I have tried not to bash Harley regarding this, and I’m sure they don’t care about my opinions. It has been my objective here to educate, not to assassinate the dealer network. Being forewarned is to be forearmed. As we pointed out earlier, if you have a higher mileage TC, you might want to inspect the tensioners before they bite you.

Comments (497)

Hey all. Very good article. Harley isn’t the only motorcycle culprit with this design. It’s rather prolific in the motorcycle world. I like the direct drive idea. I’m looking to get my first Harley. I can’t afford new, so the bike I get will have the direct drive installed!!!

Converting to gear driven cams is a mistake as there is too much end play in the factory crankshaft assembly which will cause the pinion shaft gear to worm around. You can actually feel this at higher speeds (80+). The best and safest upgrade is the modern style cam plate and tensioner offered by H-D. It is proven to be reliable and all you have to do is check every 50,000 miles.

Then my idea is a good one…buy new run the living dog shit out of it and enjoy then TRADE for another new one at around 30K…and dont worry or fuck with the tensioners…sounds like a plan

What a plan. Pass it on to the next sucker?

Well if you feel that way YOU go ahead and do a complete workup on yours then go trade it. If 1000+
eases your conscience by all means have at it.

And NO….NO…….NO….I’m not passing it on to the next sucker…I’M TRADING IT IN AT THE F****N HD DEALER YOU MORON…

THEY….THEY……….are passin it on to the next sucker just like they always do….what the hell is your problem….you prolly dont even own a bike…LOL

Besides, on these newer HD models, even at 30000 I would seriously doubt they needed ANY adjustment other than maybe a quick inspection and maybe not even THAT…like people said on here there are other makes that have similiar problems, me i’m gettin a little bit tired of the harley bashin. I ride a new HD I dont whine or make excuses just enjoy it. It’s a fine machine and I for one am PROUD to ride American Iron…’nuff said

I’ve had my 2000 Dyna Glide Sport for almost 2.5 years now. Bought it used with 30,060 miles on it and didn’t get much history from the previous owner. I had put around 10,000 more miles on it when I first heard of the chain tensioner issue. I checked the tensioners and found they normal wear as illustrated in the article above but since it was already opened up I changed them. My Dyna now has just over 75,000 miles on it with minimal wear. I still check them on a regular basis but they are still good. I looked at gear drive cams for my bike and the S&S stuff was priced around a $1,000. I don’t have the authority to discredit this information but I do feel that if this was such a huge problem then the demand for product would be helping to lower the costs to around that of any other comparable cam shafts. Just my two cents worth. Oh and I’ve been riding for 37 years and this FXDX is by far the most adaptable bike I’ve ever ridden. Wish Harley would bring this model back.

Normal wear? I’m sure if you read the whole blog , you would consider your self one of the LUCKY ones.

I don’t understand anyone who doesn’t wrench on their on bike. As for the cam chain tensioner problem, pull the cover and inspect the damn thing! When the time is right go with the gear drive set up. Install ‘em correctly with the proper lash setting and forget about ‘em. Amsoil from axle to axle and ride on…

Speaking about lubrication, I have used Harley synthetic oil since new in my flhtk. Is Amsoil the very best lube a guy can use in engine, trans., and in the derby cover?

I’m not an oil engineer but I have seen cooler running temps, smoother running, smoother shifting, no more trouble finding neutral, and better fuel mileage since switching to AMSOIL.

Thanks fo the info Cav!

Hey Cav! You are a wise man, smart, too! Dave would be wise to heed your advise. AMSOIL is the best oil money can buy. We have been the unofficial AMSOIL dealer for Laconia Bike Week since 2004. We supply ACME Choppers and Laconia H-D with their AMSOIL for rally week. Contact me at mcoil2 [at] verizon [dot] net if you would like to get AMSOIL for wholesale $. Boston Jim & Nancy

Thanks for the great article! I have a 2015 street glide and want to take out the plastic parts and replace with the steel gears after reading your comments

Everyone who is considering a Harley needs to read this in-depth article about the potential issues and expensive labor costs you will most likely face if you own a Harley.

I’ve had many problems with my 2012 Twin Cam engine, and I have pretty much given up on Harley’s at this point. At least until they develop a fix for the problems.

It’s really a shame that such an expensive product is sold with so many defects and the average consumer has no idea the types of costs you could be facing. Yes my bike was under warranty, but trying to get the warranty honored was a complete headache.

Read away and buy a big Harley at your own peril.


What a load of shit, you and Boston Jim need to buy and ride your Polaris Canadian junk and quit trying to make people think Harley’s have all the problems. Sounds like you both work for J&P.


Evidently he hasn’t ridden a Rushmore 103
and rolled out on a 2015 FLHTP Electra Glide Police


HD got it right with these new machines, love that hi output 103 and you cant even tell the fairing is there…I haven’t ridden Indians but I know of THREE reason not to but one:

1. Victory….nuff said
2. No dealer network established, finding parts and foreigners to work on em could be trickey
3. Nobody I know is planning on riding one, HD guys won’t accept them as they aren’t really Indians…go ahead, buy one I will pass

2 of my buds got 2015 HOGS last week after seeing mine in person…HD is back on top and THIS machine will keep it there!

Ride Safe

polaris is american dumbass ! and pretty fu**ing bulletproof at that , I eat , breath, and sh*t harley davidson. the guy has a very truthful point, he’s not out to bash harley! he’s just stating the fu**ing facts , if you can’t handle it then don’t read the fu**ing articles. I think he did awesome job looking out for the rest of us that do love our hogs !

Check your web site on Polaris DUMBASS , offices in Mn, Main headquarters in Canada. Bulletproof , what do you think CAN AM means?

can am is owned by bombardi you fucking idiot , polaris and can am are two different companies , polaris started up in mn and has always been american dumb fuck ! it was started up by two farmers that built the first snow mobile and the rest is history! there’s a honda america , which has a head quarters here in the U.S. as well , check your website ! Does that mean honda is a american company as well ? according to your dumbass it would be ! fact is your dumb ass got pissed off because he stated a fact , american iron magazine did a article on the same thing !maybe if you weren’t so small minded you’d take it for what it was worth ! are you that fucking ignorant !

I’ve got a 97 FLHTP EVO, runs good has lo miles, I’m considering trading up to a 15 FLHTP. They’ve made a lot of improvements in 17 years (excluding the twin cam, which I’ve never owned)

Should I trade my trusty EVO or just keep it? Harley has some good prices right now (after you get done slapping the dealer around a bit) I do like the new rushmore models, I may go for it.

What do you guys think abt reliability of the new 14 up 103s?

I’d buy a New Indian, Chief or Scout ! The Chiefs are all Gear Drive, cams, primary, NO stupid ASS, chain tensioners ! I’d keep the Evo ! If you read all 1000+ comments on the 3 different J&P Blogs, you’ll keep the Evo, & sleep well at night, not worrying, if your Twin Cam will make it to Sturgis or not !

Are you really saying that a Polaris “Indian” is a better motorcycle than a Harley? Polaris ha what a joke. I spend all day every day working in a multi line motorcycle shop and can tell you anything made by Polaris(under any name) is pure crap. As far as dealer networks and factory support they are almost as bad as the Chinese crap that the shop across town sells but will not support.

Hey Chad, yeah, I’m saying that Polaris’s bikes are better than any 1999 & up Twin Cam ! And the Undisputable King of Custom Bikes, Arlen Ness, likes them too ! And what was H-D thinking, when they took the trapdoor out of the Sportster, when they started the rubber mount in 2004 ? Maybe you should
transfer to a H-D shop, then you’ll see all the crap H-D gets from China, then you can Bad Mouth them ! Do your Homework, this is NOT your fathers or grandfathers H-D ! The current CEO, came from Johnson Controls, hadn’t even rode a bike, yet ! First thing he did was Fire, Erik Buell who forgot more, than the CEO would ever know ! And, all us “Baby Boomers” thought AMF were the worst years ! Merry Xmas, I hope Santa brings you an Indian ! Boston Jim

i’ve had two polaris 4 wheelers and haven’t had any problems with mater of fact i ride year round with a bunch of other guys that have hondas, artic cats, yamahas , and can ams, me and two other guys have never had an issue with our polaris’s. and as far as service goes never had a issue with that either . don’t know what shop you work at but it sounds like it ain’t worth a shit , they probly don’t pay worth a shit either! the gear drive that polaris uses will always be better than the chain set up that harley uses , that’s what my harley has in it now ! pretty sad that harley couldn’t have done it to begin with !

keep the evo , what the dealers will try to give you for
it will almost be a slap in the face . I have a 99 fat boy with the evo, 07 fatboy with the 96 ci and in oct i got a 2015 fat boy with the 103 ci . theres not that much of a real difference in the 96 & 103 motors as far as performance , I went with the gear drive set up in my 07 and have been extremely happy with that choice and plan on doing the same thing to my ’15 once the warranty runs out , but out of all three my favorite is still my evo . if you can swing it keep the old one and get the new one ! you can never have to many harleys !

Well, I traded the 97 Police and a 2001 Venture in on a new 2015 103 Electra Glide Police. Damn, this is a sweet ride! Big open rotors and fairing air vent reduce the buffeting and crosswind hassle a LOT. Still getting used to the linked ABS breaking but I think I scored a pretty good cruiser. The damn cop seat was WAY too high for me so off it went and I put an Ultra LO off a 2012 on it, it sits perfect. Instant Electra Glide Standard which is the scoot I wanted all along anyway.

I still have my 98 Heritage EVO which I will not sell so I’m good. I got this 15 FLHTP for a great price, about 7500 less than a “regular” civilian one, for that kind of difference who cares if it doesn’t have a radio? Biketronics has a kit for $400 if I want one that bad. I’d highly recommend to anyone who’s thinkin about a new Rushmore to check out the Police models. Bug the hell out of the dealer he’ll come up with one if he doesn’t already have one. They’re out there, and most of them you won’t have a waiting period on. You will NOT regret straddling a new Rushmore, believe me!

yeah ! a good friend of mine went last week and got a 2015 police bike and my other buddy who i also ride with got a new limited , they are leaving out tonight with the bikes in trailer heading out to arizona to ride in the warm weather for three weeks so i’ll get updates how well they like them ! congrats on yours though , i hope it gives you many years of carefree enjoyable memories ! ride safe

Got 39,000 miles out of my 2003 anniversary road king and sooooo needed to change the shoe. Went hydrological.

Hey Medula, you’ve got the 1st year of the worst motor, IMO ! The 1999-02 had forged cranks, H-D birthday present to 03 H-D buyers, cast cranks ! DUH ? All of them, 99 to present, the NEW 100K motor, were designed to be made cheap & quickly, the cam chain tensioners are very tolerant of a sloppy motor, unlike gear driven cams, where the motor needs to be tight, & true. Why do you suppose they had to put chains & counterbalance weights in the TCB motors, (softails) ? All the new Indian Chiefs, have a gear driven 3 cam motor, & a gear between the motor sprocket & the trans sprocket, NO primary chains, Great Design !

Robert, your 2014 model has a different and improved system. It’s not without its issues, but it is a major improvement over the early Twin Cams.

New Sporty, two cams allows you to straighten out the valve train which makes it more efficient and allows the pressure from the valve springs to be distributed across two cams rather than one, thereby reducing the load on the cam(s) relative to that seen by Evos and earlier bikes (all gear driven).

Gear drive cams require pinion shaft runout to be within .003″, not .100″ as stated by Bill Kruse.

If the flywheels are within spec, gear drives, while they do make a mechanical noise, aren’t “noisy” if they are installed properly. You have to establish the proper lash (.0005-.001″) between the gears. There are oversized and undersized gears available to establish the proper lash. If they are too tight, they will whine, if they are too loose, they will chatter. When set up properly, gear drives are no noisier than the stock system, though the noise is different. If the gear drives are just slapped in without proper procedures being followed, you bet, they can be noisy.

The condition of the chains plays a big part in how fast the shoes wear. Some chains have relatively sharp edges on the links which will wipe the shoes out. I’ve seen them gone at less than 10,000 miles. Some chains have nice, clean edges that don’t shred the tensioner shoes nearly as bad. I’ve seen a bike with 75,000 miles that looked great. How hard you whack on the throttle and load the shoes will make a difference as well.

The shoes are brittle. Once they start to wear, they start coming apart in chunks, then massive destruction can happen very quickly. Check them regularly; if necessary, clean up the links on your chain and you will likely get some extra life, but know that the writer is correct, these shoes can be very problematic in the early Twin Cams.

If you read Kruses’ reply again it says .10 run out, and once again how many riders have or know of someone who has had tensioner trouble. This is a parts vendor running a scare scam.

you think its a parts scam, I know 3 folks I ride with that have the best oil and services don regularly and its cost 3 of us I ll be the 4th this winter out of 10 that the shoes have went to sh*t this year. it starts at 25000 miles to 38000 miles, think what you want but folks like you and those who like you WILL pay the big $’s rebuilding if not replace the motor for having a blind eye. take the cover off look at outter shoe use small mirror for inside and you will be like the rest of us a little p.o. ed and I change oil @ 1500 miles in trans. primary ,engine so look at 15,000 to 20,000 or pay the big bucks. call if need be (e mail).

Amen brother.

What really irritates me is the fact that HD has not done anything to make things right for those of us that have purchased motorcycles with our hard earned money. Sure, they offered the “Upgrade kit” for $500.00 and another $600.00 for labor. That really stings in not only my wallet but my hind end as well.
Granted, I can save the labor fees as I can turn a wrench but it still, to me and obviously a lot of other Twin Cam owners, leaves a terrible taste in my mouth.
After wanting a Harley since as far back as I can remember, I finally took the plunge and bought my first FLSTC this last June. In September, I started her up and immediately heard an ominous metal on metal sound. Cam Tensioner Shoes!
Now, I am in the process of not only converting from 88ci to 95ci, but converting to gear drive as well. I’m waiting for the Cam Tension Shoe tool so I can pull the the the Cam Plate to check the run-out. Regardless, machine work will be done and I will have a gear drive setup in place by this spring and will hopefully be able to make it to the ROT Rally this summer. Would I have bought the bike had I known the issues in advance? Probably. Would I have been a more informed buyer. Possibly.
I am hoping I am not the only one here but I just “knew” this particular bike was for me. So, with that said, having the previously mentioned options still would not have swayed my decision to purchase my 2000 FLSTC. The bike cost my a little over 6K and by the time I have it back in running, reliable running, condition I will still be under the 10K price tag. Maybe someday I might win the lottery but untill then, I will be perfectly happy with my purchase and upgrades. I just wish HD would have had the balls to come clean and make it right. Thank you for reading my 2 cents worth.

Hey Ed, you’re overdoing the 1500 mile oil changes, just a bit ! If you were using the Best, (AMSOIL) you could go 10K on the motor oil, 20 K with the Trans (75W-110), primary is 10 or 20 K, memory lapse. I’m using 20W-50, motor, 75W-110, tranny, & 10W-40 in primary, (less drag), might start using ATF in the primary, this spring. Always, put your H-D away with a belly full of clean fresh oil, every winter. Use a good filter, AMSOIL, H-D, or S&S, NOT K&N, they are crammed full of cellulose material, so restrictive, that the By-Pass valve is always open, letting unfiltered oil, flow into your motor. Beware, Be Smart, Be Safe, till later, Boston Jim

You should probably get a harley manual, bike lift with jack, some tools and learn to upkeep your own ride. I’ve owned harleys for 35 years and have come to an understanding. First Harley Davidson warranties aren’t worth the paper their written on. (First hand experience with them, all the way to them calling the police on me) Every company makes shit to wear out. I just don’t like the look of the new indian (sorry if you own one). I would like to have an original. But I do like to wrench on things.Back to my point. If you can’t take a cam cover off and change the shoes yourself find a friend who can or just pay that dealer the ransom he wants. But I suggest you all learn to mechanic on your bike if your going to ride. You Tube is a big help there are some really nice mechanics willing to share knowledge.

I have a2014 sgs please tell me this bike is safe from this problem..

You should probably get a harley manual, bike lift with jack, some tools and learn to upkeep your own ride. I’ve owned harleys for 35 years and have come to an understanding. First Harley Davidson warranties aren’t worth the paper their written on. (First hand experience with them, all the way to them calling the police on me) Every company makes shit to wear out. I just don’t like the look of the new indian (sorry if you own one). I would like to have an original. But I do like to wrench on things.Back to my point. If you can’t take a cam cover off and change the shoes yourself find a friend who can or just pay that dealer the ransom he wants. But I suggest you all learn to mechanic on your bike if your going to ride. You Tube is a big help there are some really nice mechanics willing to share knowledge.

Thanks for the warning gear drive sounds like the true fix, after all spending 20 grand or better on a Harley not many people like my self can afford a new engine every 35 to 50 thousand mi. S&S is a well proven, they have always bettered what ever harley builds.

You must remember the MOCO adamantly stated that these motors were supposed to last 100,000 miles with no major problems. What suckers we turned out to be.

I beat the hell out of my 2000 Roadking for 50K miles, and have put another 10 on it since I grew-up a little. I’ve never had any issues with my motor, but I am definitely going to check the cam tensioner before next season. BTW, I’ve been using Full Synthetic since break-in & have only used K&N oil filters. Maybe I’ve just been lucky.

Hey Steve, was wondering, did you buy your 2000 H-D new, & what’s the total mileage today ? The 99 – 02 Twin Cams, has forged cranks (good thing), H-D’s 03, 100th birthday present to us, was a cast crank, to the present, BOO ! From 99 – 06 (except 06 Dyna) they had the strong spring loaded, cheap (made in China) tensioners ! Starting with the 2006 Dyna, H-D started using the hydraulic cam chain tensioners, much better, BUT, not the end all, they still need looking after. I also am, a Big Fan of synthetics, AMSOIL, is the only oil I use in ALL, my vehicles. I’m not a Big Fan of K&N, look at the tiny print on box, made in Thailand. I know for a fact, their air filters let in a lot of air & DIRT ! The bike will be faster, but, will die a premature death. The oil filters are made from the same filtering media. I’m looking at an Oil Filter Chart, from an Donny Petersen column, Sept. 2004, American Iron Magazine, that states; K&N-171c has 164 sq in of media, H-D 63731-99 has 63 sq in, WOW, what a difference, in the same size canister. There is so much media, crammed into the can, it restricts oil flow, that K&N has the Bypass Valve set at 14 psi, while H-D is set at 10 psi. The TC oil pump, is so much more powerful than the Evo pump, pushing oil against a much more restrictive filter, than the Evo filter, IMO, the Bypass Valve in the TC, MUST always be open, letting unfiltered oil, circulate thru the TC motor. One more fact, the Evo filters oil, after it leaves the motor, the TC filters oil, JUST BEORE, it enters the motor, think about it ! MERRY XMAS, to all !

The best way to own a harley is to do what my cousin has done for the last 30 years…buy the damn things new run the hell out of em then trade em in every 2 years with 20-30000 miles on aqnother new one…you get most of your investment back depending on model and no worries abt hi mileage failures…that’ll be the way I go from now on…I’m also old enough to be able to afford it.

My 2000 Road King had 40,000 mi. on it and was getting real loud with valve train noise. Opened it up and saw that I had just missed a tragic failure. The tensioners were in pieces. I went to gear driven cams and piece of mind.

What a bunch of bulls—. Myself like most Harley riders have many times been around hundreds of other Harley riders, whether it was at bike week poker runs, bike nights, etc. How many riders have you heard complaining about this so called major problem with the chain tensioners. probably none! I just recently changed mine at 75000 miles, they looked great , I believe I had another 25000 miles left on them. If I hadn’t already purchased the screaming eagle kit to go back in my fatboy I would have put the cam cover back on. I run Mobil 1 oil, am a daily rider as we can do this here in Florida. This info put out by J&P , sounds like a promotion to sell S&S gear drives. That seems to be what Mr. Holton pushes as the quick fix. What they are not telling everyone is the gear drives are not for all bikes. If your crankshaft run out is over .10 the gears will wine and wear excessively. Everyone knows there can be problems with anything.

Bill some people might be a bit embarrassed to admit that their $15- 45 thousand dream bike was taken out by a .50 piece of plastic that should have never been engineered to be used in this application in the first place. (Would you tell someone at a show and shine that his bike sounds like shit. I’ve heard these things when they are gone and they are very distinctive in sound and by this time it’s too late. Big bucks time. ) I really think after this much time the MOCO would have accepted some responsibility by now. But no they haven’t

You can’t run gear drives on the newer models(told to me by the tech at S&S) because the crank shaft runout must be within .0015 and harleys tolerances on the newer soft pinion shaft is about .003. Please don’t get to scared just check them occasionally. You only have to pull the cam cover and you can see the outside tensioner.

Leonard; I agree.

RE an earlier post I made, it is much easier to trade Harleys once you’ve shelled out and made the initial “jump” to a new one. I know not everyone is in a position to do that, thankfully however I am. One thing harley dealers are known for is giving outstanding trade in values for 2-3 year old bikes with under 30K miles. My plan is ride the hell out of it, trade in on new and let the next owner worry abt the cams. I’m not debating how long the cams will last, but the concensus here seems to be 30-35000 miles. Hell, my new 15 will be long traded by that point. That for me is the best way to go. Indians are not an option FOR ME anyway.

I have a 2007 road king custom TC96. I found it last year with just 1100 miles at a bankruptcy auction and got a steal. Anyway, I changed all the fluids, cleaned it up, and put 500 miles on before the lifters started tapping (lost oil pressure). (oil and filter are fine) I wanted to have an idea what to look for before opening it up so I’ve been reading up on oil related problems with the TC96. I heard of the plastic guides clogging the oil pump inlet but it would seem odd that this would happen on an engine barely broken in. Any HELPFUL suggestions/comments are appreciated.

You WILL need a new oil pump and camchain tensioners however before all of this inspect them and see if they are worn or missing. Harkey engines are not bullit proof anymore like the shovel engines!
I put on 25000 a year and Harley really screwed us on bikes costing $15,000.00 and up. Now I EXPECT problems!

I still own my shovel . Have a 2008 night rod special with 31000+ and the only thing ever changed is air cleaner, oil, and I think I changed plugs once. Had it up to 144 before rev limiter shut me down just last summer. I ride my 2007 springer classic mostly now. Took it down lately because of noise, did have some wear but shoes looked good at 11000. I think noise was actually coming from shift rod tapping on side of inner primary.(loose ball joints at rod ends) Love my quiet V-rod. And no I haven’t had any valve adjustments done at 10000 miles asHarley manual calls for, which if done by the book calls for removal of the engine from frame. Just wait till you start loosing power from flat cams then pull it and replace cams with hi performance cams and then see if she’ll hit 175MPH like she should.

Just pull off the cam cover and take a look. Use the Harley service manual (No other). It will walk you thru the whole process. You may have to change your pushrods to adjustable if you don’t want to pull the rocker boxes off. You tube is helpful .The mechanic from S&S will show you everything you need to know on the cam change video.

Ty soo much i just did the compinsator sprocket as was same in 88 as 96 hot start issues

Hey Harley-D,

What did adding a 2nd came to the TC do besides nothing and adding at least one problem?

And to add to my previous response, since I missed this REAL GEM, you are about the dumbest person I have ever heard of, short of the mentally handicapped. Im pretty sure, if I started hitting you in the face with engine components, you couldnt tell a camshaft (or spell it apparently), from a spark plug.

Go buy a bicycle.


Man, how many horror stories am I going to read about?

OK, So, I’m considering a Low Rider for 2014. THEN I come across all these cam chain articles. (I’ve never owned a TC, or even a BT. I’ve owned one 883 about 20 years ago. I’ve ridden a few Harleys.).

I’m glad I didn’t go for the Big Twin that I was recently looking at.


I absolutely refuse to work on any bike I own. AND I’m not into leaving it at the dealer for ANY amount of time, besides regular maintenance.

The Yamaha VMAX uses both gear and chain on their engine.
SUGGESTION: Boycott Harley-Davidson BT products until they change the design of their beloved 45deg. VTwin to something more ‘reliable’ than what I’ve been reading about, in articles like these.

I need a bike. Not a horror story.
I like Honda now. I had an 83 V65 I just sold. It ran, and never failed, except for a battery. The thing could barely keep the front wheel on the ground when taking off from a stop. That’s at moderate take off speeds.

Good Luck and wake up all you H-D people that can’t seem to get away from the “Harley mystique”, which is bound to fail.
Boycott H-D until they come up with a solid design.

Hey Sporty, you are absolutely RIGHT ! Twin Cams are POS ! Since last August, I have ridden 24 New Indians, on 9 Demo Days. All 3 cams, GEAR DRIVE, NO primary chain, GEAR DRIVE from motor to tranny, just like all the Indians from 1953 & back. Check them out, 119 lbs torgue, I think you’re going to like them. Boston Jim

Idiots like you shouldnt have vehicles at all, you should have to walk. Thats probably too much freedom though, you might need a chaperone to make sure you dont hurt yourself.

If you refuse to work on anything (because youre too dumb), then you shouldnt own anything (because youre too dumb), and you certainly shouldnt, and cant, rightly criticize anything they build, since youre too dumb to work on it.

But apparently, you’re “smart” enough to read “articles” and learn JUSTTTT enough to come up with an “informed” opinion to rant on a website, when in reality, you’re just as ignorant, perhaps more so, than you were before. Oh, and rant on the blog, OF A PARTS DISTRIBUTOR; that would be like someone thats too lazy to fish, complaining about the build quality of a fishing boat. Who the f**k are you.

Congratulations, you’re a schmuck.

I was just going to tell you you should lighten up just a bit. But then I read the blog you were responding to and realized you WERE being light on him. He has absolutely no business on, or around a motorized vehicle. Maybe a big wheel would fit him well, but then he would complain about having to pedal it.

NEW SPORTY. Get a life and learn how to spell.second you know nothing about Harleys at all. Maybe u should buy that v max jap crap and hang with girls.

good. looks like harley finally found a way to keep ******* off their bikes! move to japan or china while your at it!

You’re reading too much…most of that is horseshit. If you’re THAT worried you have a 2 yr warranty get on it plunk the damn thing in gear and RIDE…ride the hell out of it you aint gonna hurt it. Then when 35000 mi or so comes around trade the damn thing on another nre one! Pretty simple…

OK so “I” need to check my tensioner shoes on my 07 Street Glide soon since my bike just turned 30K miles, (I know no much riding but that’s changed since I told corporate America they can kiss my a** and retired) 30 some years in the field installing, programming and maintaining industrial robots mostly for autos. Back to the “I” need to check my tensioners. Riding to me isn’t about showing the world that I have more money than brains, I have loved every Harley I have ever owned despite their obvious flaws,, 77 sporty,, 79 FXEF I paid cash for new when I was 19,, 97 Roadking FLHRI and finally my 07 Street Glide,, “I” made enough money doing my gig that “I” could have been classified I guess as a Yuppie but I never sold out,, references to a “Certified” Harley Mechanic that doesn’t work for a Dealership are interesting to me. My philosophy when it comes to bikes is if you can’t fix it then you shouldn’t be riding it, but that’s just me. “I” maintain my bike myself and fix whatever goes wrong with it. I like a little window dressing and even had my 79 custom painted once but what’s more important is the condition of what keeps you moving and what keeps you safe. I work on my own and do some work for very close friends for beer money because that is part of the game, if it wasn’t then in my mind I would be just a wanna-be biker. The original article was well written and informative, end of story. People complaining about the cost of repairs should realize they are including labor on something that in my opinion they should be doing for themselves. I don’t care how many certifications you give another mechanic, he is not going to care about my bike as much as I do, to him I am nothing more than a paycheck. No offense intended, I am merely stating the realities of human nature, I also don’t count on any politician left or right for my salvation. Change your oil religiously, get a service manual and educate yourself on how to maintain, repair and modify your ride or find something else to do with your time and money. I run Mobil 1 20w50 and add a few ounces of motorkote with friction modifers. I’ll be interested to see what my tensioner shoes look like. END


I also ride a 2007 FLHX it has just over 115k miles on it. It’s all original engine with a D&D fat cat, stage one high flow and I run Syn3 oil. The engine itself is all stock and never been broke down. It still has the original Cam chain tensioners which I have taken a look at by just popping off the cam cover. They still look good. I’m not easy on my bike, it has seen many 6500rpm shifts and the speedo has been burried over 120 on occasion. All that has failed from my abuse is the input shaft door bearing in the transmission. It lasted till 80k and the belt failed at 90k. Engine wise it has given me excellent service and if it blew on the way to work this morning I wouldn’t blink to rebuild it just the way it is. I don’t need high horse power, big cams big pistons in a daily rider. I’d rather have something that’s going to stay together and get decent fuel economy. I bought the bike from a dealer as a used rental, it had 15,500 on it when I bought it in February of 08. I was working for Earl Smalls HD at the time and we heard many questions about the longevity of the new hydraulic tensioners. I set out then to figure out just how long they’ll last along with the rest of the bike. 115k and counting runs better today then it did brand new. These engines start getting broke in good about 50k. I would suggest keeping an ear out for the Main drive gear bearing around 50-70k.

Good for you. Your one of the few that has one that the MOCO said that was supposed to last that long.

Are you worried about that dredded tire that goes bad too Or the dredded clutch that can go bad or the notorious problem of the forkseals going bad? Yeah it is a chain with plastic shoes, but does anyone actually expect it to last for ever? Well you shouldnt..and if the manual told you to never check if you had oil in our bike would you follow that to? Its common sense yeah sh*t goes bad and keep up woth maintenance on your bike….this guy…is trying to sell you sh*t…….

I never expected a $.50 part to destroy a $5000. motor. This whole problem is redumdent . The MOCO CO. got away with murder. Yes there are fixes but com on give me a break.

I just purchased my first Harley, a 2000 FLSTC Heritage Classic with 38000 miles on it. The bike looks like it has been well taken care of and Cowboy Harley in Kyle Texas said the bike had passed all of the inspections required when buying and then selling a used motorcycle.
Since I am new to Harleys, I am starting with a clean slate, so to speak. I hear what, to me, sounds like gear noise coming from the front half of the engine. Engine performance seems fine to me but, after reading your article, I am concerned I might need to put her in the shop to convert from a chain driven cam to a gear driven setup.

Is there a way I can check to see if the Tensioner Shoes are worn without completely tearing the engine down?

Thank you.

gear drives are very noisy, are you sure yours hasn’t been changed.

No, I haven’t…yet. I know what gear drives sound like in a small block 350 but am unsure if that distinctive whine carries over to a Harley.
Thanks for your reply.

George m Sweeney. Just pop off the cam chest cover and have a look there right under the cover with the oil pump and cam support plate. very simple to check. may have to take off front pipe to get cover off. If you need help give me a shout more than happy to walk you through it just ask….

Custom Iron Works. Thank You for replying and pointing me in the right direction. I’ll let you know once I have checked.

I pulled the cam chest cover and it is not gear driven. Also, I saw small strands or threads of Nylon hanging from the outer cam shoe. I’ve tried taking pictures but the angle and light are poor. I’m waiting on the tools I purchased online to appear this week so I can check the inner cam shoe. Thank You all for your replies and advice.

Good work Scott!! Some points are very interesting and informative like gear drive system, Oil pump system and numbers that you mention in this blog.

Ivv been bitten by these tensioners 900.00 repair bill by harley-davidson this is no bull they told me that’s what they do.

I would definitely not recommend these as ways to break the ice however.
If I knew how to bake cookies, I would do that and send over a
care package but Im much better at telling jokes so I go there and entertain, shake hands and thank the men and women who serve our country.

Whether these are taken live – while you are doing a real
gig – or whether you have them done on a false stage, will depend on you.

31 K on my 03 Supper Glide would like to up grade cam new bearings and switch to gear drive, but would like to know more about the noise the gear drive reportedly delivers?

31K on a 2003, 1st really bad year, (cast crank), your ready for an implosion any minute. Noisy gear drive cams, are the least of your worries, your crank needs to run real true. If I were you, I’d be checking my dirty oil filter for plastic or metal pieces, first. Then check with the best Independent H-D Tech in your area. IMO, theres no value in that bike, so check the cam chains, if bad, replace, if you really love this bike or there’s sentimental reasons for keeping it, then upgrade to hydraulic tensioners. Talk to the Tech, what would he do, if it was his bike, ask about checking the crank for trueness, gear drive cams, new SE cams & support, & how much money is in your budget ?

I bought a 2005 Ultra with 25K on it. I found out about the cam chains and immediately had an autorized Independent Harley technician ( Not Dealer), install the cam gears and have had very minimum noise at all. I now have 45K and running like a champ. I do have a long history with Amsoil synthetics and they have superior lubrication qualities.
Hope this gives some level of confidence to you guys out their with the potential problems.
Big C.

I have a friend that told me of these cam tensioner problems years ago. He was a employee of H-D as a test rider and tried to let the mgmt. of the problems but was ignored for the most part. Nice to see someone else has noticed and has addressed a solution. It is sad that H-D won’t own up to the issue. I just had another friend that had to replace his complete engine due to the catastrophic failure mentioned in the article. $5000 for a replacement engine is a lot of money.

Redundent subject seeing i’ts’ over ten years old and the MOCO didn’t do anything about it, sucked us all in and got away with it. Time to move on. TO SOMETHING ELSE. What a wast of time and money.

Will pulling the cover and checking the outer shoe let me know if the inner is ok?

Tom, what year is your bike ? The answer to your question is NO, the outside could be good, & the inner ready to implode, some guys use a dental mirror, but, the best way is to pull cam plate. If it was me, I’d be going the S.E. route, with hydraulic tensioners. If you’ve got any concerns, right now, cut open your present oil filter, go thru the pleats, checking for orange or white “made in china” plastic, quick, cheap, inspection. If you find plastic, you might have saved your motor & a few bucks, good luck. BEWARE, BE SMART, BE SAFE ! BOSTON JIM
PS, AMSOIL is the BEST synthetic V-TWIN OIL !

Yup…agreed. Amsoil is best. Bought a used 99 road king in 02 with 28,000 Klm’s. 1st year of the twin cam 88…and carburated! There was a recall on a cam issue that the previous owner assured me was taken care of. I rode that bike all over north america and at 92,000 Klm’s, I brout it in to the dealer for a checkup. The plastic on the tensioners was worn down to the metal and the chains were getting gouged with most of the plastic gone ( likely in the engine) I asked the mechanic what my o,pitons were. He offered to pull it apart and replace the cams, chains and tensioners with a set he had pulled from an 02 TC88. He said someone had come in, bought the bike new and asked for a stage 3 upgrade befo,re he put a mile on it and the stock cam parts were in a box in back. 900.00 bucks later, I had new cams, chains, tensioners and tappers to boot. So off I went riding all over bells creation for another 5 years. At 146,000 Klm’s I brought it in to get a check up. The mechanic told me the tensioners looked new and everything he could see inside looked like new…no obvious wear. Who am I to argue? Stock bike except for super trap slip ons and tons of cosmetic stuff but 100% stock engine top to bottom! That was in 2011. Last year I got her up to 159,600 Klm’s. No issues. Put her away for the winter and this spring I insured her, fired her up and took off on another adventure. In June a buddy was hurtin for cash and sold me his 2010 FLHTCU. Pulled the insurance off my trusty RK and put the ultra on the road. Heat heat heat…hot hot hot!!!! Great machine on the hwy…love the 6th gear the extra gallon in the tank and the extra power the 96 gives me but in town and traffic the heat is ridiculous. I attribute the overall longevity of my Rk to Amsoil. So I put amsoil in all 3 holes of my ultra, switched to high efficiency plug wires and iridium NGO plugs. It,s coled down a bit but not enough. Now I’ve got V&H true duals on order and a V&H fuel pak to take care of the tuning. Damn fuel injection…damn ECMs! The moral of this story is I have a 15 year old road king TC88 with 160,000 and still running good with no leaks or issues. Amsoil people!!!!!!

Checking the outer shoe is NOT an indicator of the inner shoe wear. You need a small dental mirror or pull the entire thing to inspect the rear shoe. It usually wears much faster than the out. We can only assume more spring pressure or something. If your outer is showing signs of obvious wear, your inner will be toast. There is a company making a new shoe out of a better hyfax type material now that far outlast the Harley shoes and it is a cheap repair. Couple of hundred bucks in and out. You can google aftermarket cam tensioner shoes. Don’t buy the crap off of e-bay for these. Who knows where they came from. The otehr longer term solution is hydralic. In Canada, you are looking at 1500+ for this job.

Hi Alan, do you have a link to that better shoe?

Metric bikes all use this system. You don’t see them failing all aver the place. Also, the flip side of this is: if your crank travel is out more than a couple thousand, you will detonate your engine with gear drive cams. Funny how they never mention that bit of info in these fear mongering articles.Want to know more? Email me.

Thanks for the post Jordan. Yes, I do want to know more! I have a 06 STC and love the bike. It has 40K. I have been following this topic so recently inspected the tensioners. Pleasantly surprised to see they show very little wear. I will continue to check every 5K or so.
When I do replace tensioners, I know I will need to install adjustable push rods, new plate, oil pump and bearings. ( harley kit is about $500 + push rods) Should I also replace lifters and cams? A complete job could cost to $2k or so.
Does it make any sense to go gear drive or will that just create new problems?
Does it make sense to spend 2k in the cam chest (on a bike with 50k +/- miles) or maybe I should spend the 5k for a new HD engine.?
I love this bike and don’t mind putting money into it. I Just want to spend the money prudently.
Your opinion would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, David F

Hi, Jordan I bought a 1999 road king 18,000 miles can you tell me a little about the post you wrote about gear drive cams. Thank You jimmy

i hve 2002 electra and i just replaced mine at 66.000 miles. they were badly worn but never got noisy. i went back with new tensioners made out of new material thats supposed to last longer. i do not like gear drive on account of noise.

I have a 2005 FLHT that had to be repaired around the 40000 mile mark, very expensive repair unless you can find a local certified mechanic that does not work for Harley Davidson. With my situation the adjusters fell apart and clogged the oil pump meaning I had zero oil pressure! The motor did not sound right so it was shut down real quick, which saved the rest of my motor! The sad part is that Harley knows about it and does nothing to fix the issue! I went with a hydraulic tensioner that is a screaming eagle setup. Cost around $2000.00, my guess is that this would have been $3500.00 at Harley dealership!

Michael I just today checked my tensioners, and was I pleasantly surprised. I have 21,000 on the clock and about less then a 32nd ware on the front shoe, can’t believe it after all the nightmares I’ve been reading about.I consider myself lucky so far. You can bet I’ll be checking them next fall, or every 5000 miles from now on.(Glad I put Mobil1 in it at 5000 miles)This also gives me a chance to gather all the stuff I need to change them out.

I had mine done the hydraulic tensioner, better oil pump and backing plate it was only $900

oh by the way that was at 61000 miles

where did you have it done?

Harvs Harley
in macedon, ny

So, as far as cam chain tensioners….aside from changing the entire engine to gear driven cams, plastic shoes on a metal chain is the concern? Parts wear… That’s why they made the shoes plastic, they are supposed to wear without damaging other parts (the chain). That’s what scheduled services are for, I know that’s just an excuse for them to make more money, but it’s just more cost effective for manufacturers to use less expensive materials on high wear items, it’s going to need replacing at some point, would you rather pay to replace cheap, plastic parts, or expensive steel parts? Yes, they have engineered better systems, and if you want the better, newer stuff…buy the newer bike. I don’t doubt that we all know how to maintain our bikes, but Harley doesn’t keep any secrets as to what parts will fail at what point. I always hear people complaining about their bike is a pos because it started making a clicking noise at 12k miles…. “Did you have a valve adj. at 10k?”
“…….clicking… Parts wear”
Engineer a 100% efficient engine, and I’ll give you every paycheck I make for the rest of my life.

BOOOO, Trick or Treat !
Do you have a job ?
Can you explain to me, why todays H-D Sportster, 58th year (since 1957), his father, the KH (FLATHEAD) Sportster, his Grandfather, the 45 Flathead (1929-73) all had 4 cams, 86 years & still going strong, without an EPA noise problem ? The single cam EVO, (motor that saved H-D) makes more engine noise than a Twin Cam, with all their chains & BS, I don’t think so ! I’ve recently rode 33 new Indians in 4 days, they have 3 gear driven cams, 119 lbs of torque, very nice bike. Take a demo ride ! I’ve owned H-D’S since 1967, been to every Laconia Rally since 1969. I’ve ridden around the block a few times, BUT,I would NEVER buy a POS Twin Cam !

Having owned 2 sportsters over the years, a 93 883- 1200 stage- 3 conversion wild as all hell(100hp.)and a 1200 custom.I wish I had kept both. No problems at all with the custom . The conversion could’nt run no more then 10 tho.miles, hydro shook apart all the time.I put 75’000 miles on that bike, what a blast. both ran like top’s. Can’t wait for all the fun to start with my 03 FXDWG this was supposed to be my last bike(retired) got a good deal on this bike ,knew all about all the problems , all easy fix’s not too expensive to fix in my case ,after all I didn’t buy it new. It only had 3500 miles on it. and was only 10 years old. So it’s worth fixing even if I have to pay some one else to do the work. Boy if I had bought this new it would be another story. Imagine I if payed 20 grand plus for a bomb.The part that pisses me of the most is the MOCO knew about this almost rite away and 10 no 13 years later they have done nothing but put a band-aid on the problem. Friction wares every thing out. Lets wait and see what happens to this water – cooled head thing , if any thing else it will be a disaster for the next 10-15 years also. Pre- engineers designed these on Friday put in production the following Monday or so it seems. Still have hope though my local guy is a talented wrench says twinkies are not bad at all after the little stuff is taken care of. Evos have gone the way of the shovel-head now most are on their 5-6 rebuild now. Ya you can buy a new one but Twin Cam’s are the way to go now, not much choice now. By the time they get all the bugs out of these things we’ll be winding-up rubber band powered bikes anyway.

Hey Donny, good luck , with the 03, 1st year of the worst motors,IMO. 99-02 had forged cranks, 2003, 100th birthday year, the MOCO, knew they’d sell a million extra bikes, most look alike, great for paint shops, anyway they make a 5 piece cast pressed together crank, wow, big deal. They should never be dynoed, the crank will move. This months BAGGERS (DEC) has a great article about TC cranks, http://www.revperf.com, check it out. If I ever come across a sweet deal, like you got, 1st thing , I’d do is send my crank to REVPERFORMANCE.

Jim, why would I dyno a stock Twin Cam? Don’t plan on racein or building this thing at all. just ride the wheels off it —– slowly. and keep ears and eyes open. I’ve enjoyed it so far. I ride solo so I have nothing to prove to anybody. Python 3′s and a stage 1 kit are all I need buddy. most comfortable bike I’ve ridden so far. Mrs. loves it also. Like you why would I spend $5000-$6000 grand for speed when that’s not me.

Victory motorcycles Freedom 106

Right on. I have spent 20 years in industrial maintenace setting. Seen all kinds of failures. They only had to look in side the primary side, the adjusting shoe is made of UHMW. long lasting not a fix but a better material all- round.By the way how do you adjust your valves in a bone stock raw HARLEY. They don’t come come with adjustable push-rods?20,000 on my FXDWG and not a sound from the top end. I bet the bottom-end is another story.

I have never owned a HD motorcycle, as the price was more than I could afford. However I always dreamed the day would come. In 2 yrs I will be able to afford moving up to HD from the rice burners I’ve been riding and now I stumble across an article that shatters that dream all to hell. Over the yrs I’ve read
many articles addressing aftermarket fixes for design
flaws in HD’s and heard a number of accounts from HD owners of costly eng- drivetrain failures on HD’s
before they were a year old or had 20,000miles on them. I guess some dreams never come true, sad as
HD’s are such an awesome old school classic American
motorcycle. I’m a long haul trucker and I just do not have the time, or $$$ to keep a HD running. I’m still dreaming of owning a American made motorcycle, just that the name tag will read Victory not HD.

Well, Raven, I know how you feel. I bought my first Harley, after I retired, in January 2011. I’ve ridden all types of bikes for 50 years, but I LOVE this motorcycle! It’s a 2003, 100th anniversary edition, Night Train. It had 10,016 miles on it then, and it now has 34,710…and I live in Michigan.

I read all the “horror” stories about the spring tensioner shoes, and was very worried about mine last winter when I was at 24 thousand, so I watched some You Tube videos on how to check them. It’s pretty easy, and mine were almost like brand new!….very little to NO WEAR! I felt a whole lot better, and, while I know some people have had trouble, and I agree it’s not the way I would put together a motor, still, it’s a very small percentage, overall, of all the Harleys on the road.

My advice is find a Harley you really like…maybe even rent that model for a day to make SURE it’s the one for you, then….BUY IT!….I doubt that you will ever regret it….I haven’t, and I have to say….I LOVE THIS MOTORCYCLE! lol

Good luck.

I read some place that the cam’s are crap also (bad grinding ). Bad QC on their part. Sounds like you have had good luck so far. Keeping them.

Raven, don’t listen to Dan ! Everybody, loves their 1st H-D, it took him 50 years to buy. He didn’t do much research or read ALL the 900+ comments on the 3 Blogs here at J&P Cycles. IMO, he bought the 1st year with the 5 piece, cast, pressed together crank, the “first of the worst”, motors. Buy a 1984-99 Evo Big Twin Motor, cheap money & Bulletproof !

just talking about the 2004 for um Harley Davidson Ultra Classic with less than 50,000 hubby looked at one at hd dealer the mechanic was selling for 13,995.00 I think its too much he says it rides really nice especially when you’re going 100 lol
just wondering about these 2004′s there is an awful lot there selling that this Harley Davidson

Cathy, don’t buy that POS ! The first 4 years of the Twin Cam were bad, only thing they had GOOD, was a forged crank. So, for their 100th birthday, they gave us a present, a 5 piece cast crank, pressed together, HAPPY BIRTHDAY H-D. These motors should never be dynoed,the crank can move. The Twin Cam chain tensioners are very forgiving, allowing H-D to build a cheaper motor, more quickly. Look around, buy a low mileage EVO motor (1984-1999) for cheap money. I’ve demo rode 30 different new INDIAN CHIEFS recently, for $ 18,999.- & a 5 year warranty, that’s what I’m buying next. I have 2 EVO”S, would never buy a Twin Cam !

This is a true story. It happened to me. My bike is dead now from the death of the tensioners. It will not be fixed anytime soon. Something like this was my issues when I bought this bike. I did concider buying a different brand. I still love the sound of a Harley which I have for over 40 years. Now I will look for something else to ride.

Mine went out at 22,000 had it fixed for about 1500.00, it lasted about 700 miles. Down again what a bummer.

Thanks again. correction on name.

Thank you! I am glad I took the time to read your article. I live in Ft. Wayne IN. rode up to Mackinaw bridge at 42k on my Fatboy and the salesman ar 42nd parallel Harley told me. Not my local s. side dealer or “official” mechanic here in town where I bought my bike. Gaylord MI is awsome and kudos to you and the 42nd parallel Harley in Gaylord. I’d rather buy from an honest man 600 miles away then spend local if I knew then what I know now. Be aware and on point, thanks to you, about my Harley.

Timing chain shoes and guides are a common failure item on any engine with this design, that’s just the nature of them. I’ve replaced timing chain sets on Toyotas, Fords, GMs etc…

I recently purchased a 2013 FLSTC and had to roll my eyes when I seen the “new” Harley technology using this set up, not that there is anything really wrong with it but I think they at least should have gone with direct drive between the two cams.

Anyhow, after reading this article I think it would be wise to check/replace the tensioners at 35k-45k and much sooner on the non-hydraulic ones.

I have an ’03 Road King. I bought it new and in July this year, at 57000+ miles (now 60000)I had them check my tensioner for the first time and it was worn a good amount on one side and barely on the other. I think it could have gone another 10000 miles perhaps, but had them do the upgrade. Nobody wants to spend any money on repairing anything and we all hope things will last forever, but nothing lasts forever. As far as some of the pissing and moaning about this part goes I have no complaints about my bike.

Hi, thanks for this info, this helped me to question my HD dealer and confirm that this is what toasted my 2009 engine with only 30,000 miles (50,000) kilometers on it!

This information helped me keep the diagnosis time below two hours and figure its not worth looking any further, the engine overheated and now I don’t want to spend another $2000-$4000 figuring out and fixing what has been damaged…better off putting the money into a new motor.

Am now up for a new engine…beware!

Just blew up my 95 stage 11 on my 2000 fat boy not impressed ordered a s&s to replace. Hd said they could rebuild it but back to the 88 base. Still with the same problem no thanks!,

Was informed there is no engine to replace the tc88 on the 2000 soft tail . Just rebuild to have another major let down ! No thanks ,so I just have a big pile of junk not worth a hoot!!!

Hey Gary, let me get this story straight. You blew up your 2000 Fatboy, was it cam chain related ? You ordered a new S&S motor, then was informed by S&S, they had no motor to fit your bike, is that correct ? Why is that ? Hey Harley Bros, Gary posted this almost a month ago, can somebody help him out?I don’t know CHIT about these POS, other than, I would never buy one. What a piece of work, POS !
I just spent 3 days demo riding the new INDIANS, WOW, what a nice bike, 119 lbs of torque, it pulls & pulls. I just might have to sell the 2 EVO’S !

I have a 2000 Harley Low Rider FXDL 9300 miles My cam chain tensioners just went out!!!!!!! Bike has been well taken care of and this so early?????????

I just bought a new HD Electra glide limited with the 103 engine. I take it that this engine has this fatal flaw too. What would be the recommended mileage to worry about this?

2007 and up are equipped with hydraulic tensioners which helps. You’ll still want to check them around 50-70k.

Thanks for the info Brett.

Actually the fact that they are hydralically tensioned makes no difference as the shoe that rubbs on the chain is still plastic and still is prone to wearing out.

Hi just taken my 99 fxdwg in to get base gaskets done,he’s found the tensioner on its last legs at 15000 miles, lucky escape me thinks!!!!!!!

Heard cam chain grinding at about 50,000 miles (02 electra glide). Went to dealer bought new tensioners. Went home to my garage and changed the tensioners. Less than 100 bucks. Only work I ever had to do on the bike in 70 thousand miles. Pretty damn good for a Harley if ya ask me. Used to rebuild my shovel every winter to get 10K out of the season.

Sorry to say I am a quite good mechanic as that is how i make my bread and butter. I bought my Bike as a Recreation Vehicle not a repair vehicle.Any bike that I have to rebuild every year just so i can get 10000 miles out of is not a RECREATIONAL VEHICLE in my book it would have to be a bike that I keep for sentimental value.

Wow Toyman, you make it sound easy. Did you remove gas tank and open rocker boxes to remove push rods? Or did you cut push rods and replace with adjustable ?
When I go through all the effort to remove cam plate (in order to get at secondary tensioner)I think it makes sense to spend the money (about 500) for upgrade cam plate, oil pump and hydraulic tensioners.
Also, if you use adjustable push rods it will be easier to get back into the case to replace tensioners in the future. Hopefully 50K+ miles down the rode.

The gear drive upgrade doesn’t work in Harley’s because the crank shaft is never “true” I have yet to see a true shaft that is I. Perfect balance. If you use gear driven cams on an untrue shaft the result is catastrophic engine failure!

Jason i’m glad you posted that went to Sturgis 2013 had a 96 screamin eagle engine put gear drive cams in it 10,000 miles ago before I got home from there,my engine failed,I DON’T RECOMMEND GEAR DRIVE CAMS engine has 16000 on it,changed cams for the cam follower problem.

A good deal of what I mention here was spoken about on another thread I read, and in a nut shell it also speaks of to and of the why’s and how’s this nation is so screwed up.

We got people living way beyond their means in house’s and people paying 22% to finance a $15K +++ motorcycle.

And yet those of you who can afford to play the game are the same one’s who help and have helped sell America out, you feed the speculators on Wall-Street.

Why does one get the impression that most of these complaints against Harley Davidson motorcycles are coming from the wannabe with all that disposable income. You bought an image people !

As well as that old saying that says if you can afford to buy it then you should be able to afford to fix. Harley Davidson sells an image not motorcycles. They no longer cater to the blue collar person. And haven’t since Ronny-Ray-gun bailed them out in the 1980′s.

Next time it would be cheaper for most of you and less frustrating to just buy one of their tee-shirts and just pretend your an outlaw.

Amen, Harry.

Ditto, ive had 06 & 09 Ultra Classic, 06 had no power to pass but plenty of torque on take offs….got new 09 & plenty power to pass, but 2 up u better not stop on hill, no torque on take off.in shop for compensator at 9k,had too pay $100 to get upgraded one or he said stock would just go out again & other prob. …i like the look & sound of harley but love to ride my Goldwing i traded 09UC in on…i had always wanted a harley, never again

Hey Harry, what are you riding or driving ? Foreign, I bet ! I bet you also voted for OBAMA ! If we could go back 50 years ago today, I think, it would be great. JFK would still be alive, the GEMINI (the right stuff) Astronauts, that was exciting. I’d still have 6 schoolmates, killed in Vietnam, for what ? 58,000 + GI’S gone, now Americans can tour there, I don’t get it. That was a time you could be sitting in the back seat of the family car, & pick out all the different cars, not today. You can look out your picture or kitchen window, into the neighbors driveways, I bet you see a lot of foreign cars. Do you think, the people that made your car, buy products or services, where you work, I doubt it, we are all to blame. We don’t have any real Heros anymore, unless you think SNOOP DOG is someone to look up to. GOD HELP US !

Amen BostonJim im a union man ill keep buying Harleys as long as they keep building them here I will never own a foreign car or bike im not ignorant i do relize alot of the parts are foreign made cant help that but my bike was union made in the U.S.A by americans that is the problems we have here to many people bashing what we make……….BE AMERICAN BUY AMERICAN…….

Dave and Jim your are the reason your country is f—k’d your cars are junk,assembled with parts made all over the world. offshore cars are killing you,(nothing you can do about it either) and USA & CANADA are loseing jobs every day to your neighbours to the south every day. Your country can’t seem to keep it’s nose out of other country’s problem’s. let them sort out their own mess. When it’s all over then it’s all yours anyway, no problem.One of your union’s put me out of work after 20 year’s of service, a**holes. In unions since I got out of school. I’m 60 now.If you have grand kids, god help them in about 15-20 years from now.The yellow wave will want all their money back .DOES YOUR COUNTRY HAVE THE CASH. NO…. I ride HD american iron(ASSEMBLED WITH PARTS FROM ALLOVER THE WORLD) and drive Chrysler cars and Ford trucks. ONLY. PAY ATTENTION BROTHER’S.

HAHAHAHA so true Harry I am old school I can remember looking through Easyriders every month in the bikes for sale section. I can remember you used to be able to get a complete Basket Case with frame engine gearbox basically enough stuff to build you a nice bike if you were a good mechanic for 1500 to 2000 bucks this was before the Yuppies and the Japs started buying them up and Jacking up the prices. I would never spend 15000 dollars on any motorcycle for 15G I would expect a bike to keep the garage clean and answer the phones run errands and go to the grocery market to pick up food and drink for 15000 I would expect it to have a band and provide entertainment plus be GOLD PLATED AS WELL.HAHAHAHAHAHA……….My absolute limit for a bike is 5G and thats with a new motor and Gearbox.

how old are you ??? Reagan DID not bail out Harley He imposed anti dumping legislation. perhaps u shuld stick to facebook where stupid people comment

wasn’t it a 40 percent import tariff? i don’t think he meant bail out in the hand them money sense, more the save their a*s sense.

[...] gratifying to know that you helped others out. In the past few months, I’ve written a couple of articles detailing issues that are possible with the cam chain tensioners in our beloved Twin Cam engines. [...]

Sorry about all the problems with the late model harleys but it’s good to hear brothers helping out others sense so many dealer financed shops won’t. I’ve been on the same 47′ knucklehead going on 44 years & harley wasn’t exactly customer orented in those days either. Once I stroked it I was own my own and the jockey box was the final straw with them. It’s still rigid (3rd) frame and I’ve crossed this country on it more times than some truckers! Thanks to the help of so many independents. Thought of upgrading to a pan or shovel but not till the knuck.dies for real. “ride her like it’s your last time & take care of her when she’s home”

I have an ’04 Ultra that had the cam chain tensioners grenade in Canada in ’11 at about 55K miles. I had the outer one replaced in Rochester NY (I rode it all the way there with it making a hell of lot of racket)and then replaced the tensioner plate and oil pump after I got home. Fortunately nothing more serious happened as when I took the engine apart the inner tensioner was totally destroyed. I used the HD kit that had the hydraulic tensioners. I have since put on a 95″ BB stage 2 kit and haven’t had any problems. I have run Syn 3 ever since it came out and have been pleased with the oil. I also have a ’01 Dyna that I haven’t torn into yet (it has about 30K miles on it). I will probably put gears in it when I tear into it and will probably put the stage 2 kit on it as well. Since it is carbureted I will just have to change the jetting.

ive been led understand that the crankshaft in a twin cam walks around a bit like an olds 455….hence, gears are not a great option, unless maybe they can be set up “loose”, i dunno. It’s a chain for a reason, same as the old v8′s…ever notice the old ohc yamahas from the 70′s never had this problem yet they had tensioners on their cam chains?

Luck had for me when I took my bike in for some custom work on apes and such. My hearing isn’t all it should be as I’m 63 yrs old. I have an flhtci and Sinister cycles of Las Vegas, NV. was able to catch my cams rattling. My wife heard them before me. Harley warrenty wouldn’t pay for the upgraded cam kit as I had the new bike warrenty. I wasn’t about to put the same in so I upgraded. Best thing I ever invested in and my bike runs strong.



I have a 2009 FLHTCU-ULTRA CLASSIC ELECTRA GLIDE. and after reading all your coments on the cam chain followers and the hydrolic tentioners and the gear drive systems, not to mention all the blogs from your loyal readers. and on the issues of run out. The only tweaking I’ve done to the bike is the harley race tuner, arlin ness big sucker breather and Rush true dules and the big louie Rush 4″ slip-ons. I have 15,000 miles on it now, with no issues so far. what would be the best way to go at this point??? Please advise. Thank you.

I have a 2013 Fatboy Lo, and after reading all this, I was just wondering if I should be concerned with this issue?

I bought my RK in Dec. 98 So it was from some of the first ones. I started hearing about the cam problems the second year. I had mine checked at 45K only slight wear was noted, but for good measure we changed the shoes. The replacement shoes were a tan color instead of the original white. They were changed again at 65K and they had more wear than the originals. At 95K I did the big bore and cam change again along with new shoes and cam chain. This time my mechanic/harley dealer owner polished the outer edges of the cam chain. His theory was that rough machining edges of the cam chain plates was causing the erratic shoe wear. At 110K I went to the 123K the whole ball of wax and did the stroker, different cams and gear drive. Had no problems until a deer tried to change places with me. I had always rode fast but never hard compared to most RUBS that are out there riding nowadays. Seems to be luck of the draw
Ride Ride Ride and keep the rubber side down

I have an ’03 FLSTC w/ 65,000 miles. I was planning on putting the new cam chain tensioner kit on when it came out last year but hadn’t got around to it yet when I heard a funny noise coming from the right side of the motor. unfortunately I was 300 miles from home on a holiday weekend. When the Harley shop opened 2 days later I trailered my bike in and started it up and the mechanic said he had never heard a sound like that before. I took it home and my harley mechanic knew exactly what it was. The cam chain tensioner. they were surprised it had lasted for 65,000 miles. I now have 75,000 miles on with no problems.

I replaced my tensioners for the second time a couple of months ago. The first time was at 25,000 miles and a shop did it. I didn’t get to see the amount of wear, but the mechanic said they were ready to be replaced. I did the second set at 75,000 miles, mostly because I was nervous about having them fail. A buddy of mine did the service and I watched. The pads still had a good amount of life in them, although you could see some scoring on the surface. I’ve been running synthetic oil since I bought the bike with 5,000 miles on it. For the past 40,000 I’ve been using Lucas 20-50 full synthetic exclusively. My buddy says that using synthetic oil greatly increases the life of the tensioners and that after the first set has been replaced, the future sets don’t wear as quickly due to the metal surfaces on the chain being smoothed out with wear. We put in adjustable pushrods to make the job a lot easier as well. I’m sticking with the tensioners for the foreseeable future (mostly due to cost).

Some of the less tech savvy guys may want to see if their local dealer offers a low cost cam chain tensioner inspection like this one. $25. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_yO3qKSi3wI


It happen to me, lost a motor because of these cam shoes. Big dent in my pocket. And still not resolved. Bad Design for sure and bad for business. Harley should look at the possibilities of making some changes or other options..

Why they don’t just upgrade the design ie” the cause moving item across stationary item under tension” by replacing the plastic pad with a roller bearing gear on the tensionier ??? is beyond me the weak point then would be the spring, when it breaks or tension wares out. same could be done on hydraulic tensioniers I’m sure thus removing the spring failure. just my opinion! until then enjoy the Ride….

Agreed. Probably a cost issue. Gears would be better though, because as the chain stretches there will be slight timing changes between the two cam’s. Probably nothing that would affect normal driving but none the less….

hi… it’s me, g- man again.. justa respectful note to those who think they may have a superior edge with another brand of bike… i have worked on & ridden lots of different brands most of my life now & have not come across the perfect bike yet. sooo, get real, expand your horizons & think a little. one of my best ridn’ buddies does have a honda VTX.. guess what ? it’s died on him 3 times now, electrical problems , still under warranty towed to shop once after quitting in his driveway ( lucky) once out on the road, one more time at home with a fuel prob of some sort. he’s not very happy, says if one more thing goes wrong he’s buying a harley… true story – so there you have a true life example. his first bike was a harley he had to share with his brother & he’s thinkin’ his last bike will be a harley as well… i’ll have to ask him where his bro is… ha! ha! ha! later gang.

was thinking about “upgrading” from my 98 fxdwg to 2006 or newer ultra, might just keep the old evo.

keep the 98 evo i have the same bike and will not trade up. if i want a bagger i will get an EVO bagger

keep the evo. or get a real nice rebuilt well shovel…I’m a reasonably talented mechanic, rode yamahas for twenty years (from age seven on, dirt and street) and am quite brand loyal, when they impress me originally, and then bought a 70 FLH. Good, real good motor, and when stuff does come up, so easy to deal with after years of dealing with fine and complicated japanese design. I call it my tractor, partially cause of weight, partially cause i get most of the bearings or bushings i need off the shelf at the local john deere dealer.

Harleys……….Love to look at them…..best paint and chrome quality on the market……Sucessfully cater to a lot of weekend bad ass wanna bees and novice riders desparate to look cool. Lets be honest guys if Harley made airplanes would you fly in one? 95% of all Harleys bulit are still on the road. The rest made it home.

Good points. If Harley made airplanes they would be the best looking and well made planes on the market, but they might be too heavy to get off the ground.

go jump on your kawasaki. hope you break down. most bikes on rural roads or long trips are harleys. bet they wont stop when they see you on that jap piece of sh*t. most wont. harley riders are good to one another

Matt you must of forgot that your Harley has overseas parts on it and some from just over the boarder. And if anyone riding a Milwaukee /Oriental iron is too good to help someone because they choose to be different, they are not very good people.

That’s so true about not being able to get off the ground.The motto at HD Design is why use 1/8 inch steel plate when we have all this 3/4 inch steel plate we need to get rid of? Lightness is a word spoken in an ALIEN LANGUAGE at HD Desgn.

FUD I agree with you 100%. In my experience most Harley riders are not very cool people at all. How can you be down to Earth when you followed what 90% of the other guys are doing and paid 4 times what a Harley is worth just to be able to wear a Harley advertisement sign and be able to say that yes I ride a Harley. HAHAHAH LOLOLOL that is really sad.

have owned several Harleys years back loved the bikes just not the dependability have had 2 Kawasaki Vulcans cause with kids could not afford a Harley. at 1/2 price to a Harley got 70G miles on each never a single issue just traded for new rides I am going to try a Harley again this fall. but Vulcans are not sh-t
there just not a Harley. mine never let me down.

and you probably ride a suzuki right ? cause people who talk Sh** about harleys have never owned or even ridden one. so stfu unless you can back what you say

I have an 06 road King. At about 20000 miles I was antsy about the cam chain tensioner problem. I switched to the gear drive andrews cams and got more power in the process. I rode the engine hard and at 95000 miles I did the top end and converted to a 95 inch kit. It has 113,000 miles on it now and never a worry about Harleys bogus cam chain tensioner design. Also as the chains stretch over time it effects your timing and your power declines. Gear drive never changes your timing as there is no chain to stretch with wear. Also got a 2008 Ultra now with about 23000 mile now and will be changing to gear drive soon.

i just installed MOTORKOTE in this ’05 dyna. this will add time before damage occurs. i got it at walmart. in the auto additive section. you can check the website out, http://www.MOTORKOTE.com made inUSA this stuff works ! engine runs smoother & quite .

I do not feel oil or rideing styles are a major contributer to the early style shoes wearing out. I have seen many one or the other shoe wore severe and the other with minamal wear. I feel the back of the chain leaves something to be desired. I have been polishing the back of the chains with a buffing wheel. It makes a huge difference. Many shops will have an old chain or two around in the metal scrap pile, take a look at the back of the chain under a good magnifying glass and you will see how rough they are. buff one up so you know what wheel to use and make sure to CLEAN thorghly. I feel this will give you many trouble free miles. Remember this is still a mechanical wear point just as pistons, cylinders,valve guides ect. Thank-you and have a safe ride




I own an 07 fxst. Could this be a problem for me?

I had a related failure on my 1999 FDX Dyna Super. At 11,000 miles the cam outer cam bearing let go and put metal into the cam chest.

It turns out that the original TC88′s in 1999 had ball bearing on both front and rear cams (outer bearings)

I talked to the service manager at my local dealer and he “Didn’t know anything about it”. I asked about TSB’s (Technical Service Bulletins) on the problem, and He looked at me like I was from another planet. Plain and Simple, The dealer service department(s) are under the influence of the factory. They are basically warranty shops and depend on the factory warranty payments to keep their doors open. What a load of fertilizer!!!

I discovered that Harley fixed the bearing problem on 2000 Model Years by replacing the weaker ball bearing with a large roller bearing on the rear cam. The Service kit from Harley comes with the roller bearing.

The failure took out the old pump when it sucked up a large chunk of the bearing sheet metal ball retainer. While I was in the cam chest, I replaced both tensioners……. They showed some wear which made me nervous, but they were not worn out. Now it sounds like I did the right thing.

I will be taking my 2000 Ultra Classic apart and upgrading to the Hydraulic 2006 setup this winter. At 46,000 miles, It may be on borrowed time.

If you are interested in joining our motor bike club
you must have a full face helmet,riding gloves,leather jacket (can be vinyl,but must look nice) fringes on
brake and clutch levers>unless you ride an automatic scooter that’s fine. we always ride single file and passing each other is prohibited and grounds for being
excused from the motor bike club! Some of the activities we have are birthday parties(no Alcohol)marshmallow roasts, sit around the fire and sing etc.

LOL!!!! Thatd be the day someone tells me! How to ride!

Get A Rice Burner! “Less Headache”

GO Rice Burner Motor Bike Club!

Note: if you’d like to join our club you must have a 70cc or greater and no more than a 450cc. Oh, did I say a foreign make, Anywho We will “beep” when we see you losers broke down on the expressways…

I had exactly this problem with my 05 Wide Glide. The stock tensioner surfaces were ceramic and disentigrated at 32K and destroyed my oil pump. Fortunately, it happened in the parking lot of a Harley Dealer and I had Extended Care (100K) which paid the bill. Unfortunatley, when I had a thorough maintenance tuneup at my (former) HD dealer at 27K absolutely nothing was done or said about the potential problem. It is apparent now that the tensioer surfaceswerenot even checked. Caveat Empore. Paul

Sounds like you all need to switch to Victory


forgot the 2007 Heritage I wrote of in earlier post had 2600 miles on it when I bought it yes thats 26hundred,,,I changed to syn.oil a week after I got it home,,still noisy ,could it be the the same problem ?

Very old news Folks. Thanks anyway

This is an issue that an aftermarket parts manufacturer could profit from…

Instead of the rather expensive gear driven set-up, which is limited to engines with minimal crank throw-out, why not make tensioners that use small sprockets that ride on the cam chain, instead of the plastic shoes used on the stock tensioners? Of course, the steel “arms” that the original H-D plastic shoes are attached to would also have to be different, to accommodate the sprockets, but like I said, a parts manufacturer should be able to crank out something like this with little difficulty.

Yep, that’s my idea, but it’s not patented, so why don’t one of you parts manufacturers go ahead and come out with a new product? My only fee for the idea is one set of the new sprocket-type tensioners for my ’02 FXSTS(i).

Access to a machine shop and a few hours and there you go a MUCH MUCH better solution and have the sprockets run on needle or ball bearings it really shouldn’t make a difference as they dont carry a LOT of tension. A++++ for a EXCELLENT IDEA.

I have a 2000 FLHRCI with 248,000+ miles on the original engine…fact. I had the tensioner problem at around 35,000 miles. Showed up as oil being pulled into the breather at sustained high speed. Oil pumped out the breather all over the exhaust. Looked like the Red Barron shot down! Stopped, cleaned up, checked oil and proceeded down the road. After the second time, opened the timing case and both tensioners pads were near metal! Since then have inspected regularly and replaced three times and am ready to pull again. I considered gear to gear and elected to maintain the stock (upgraded) tensioner system and have had no problems to date. And I drive the bike like I stole it………….. So, with that said I believe the stock system is satisfactory and only requires responsible maintenance. I spent many years past modifying my bikes. I finally settled down at 62 and understand and appreciate the engineering that has gone into these machines. God Bless Harley Davidson……………….

I have a 95 sporty is this something I should look in to…Ty Dave

Ty Dave
Not to worry.
You have gear drive now.
Different animal.

sounds like the old saying you know why they make metric bikes to keep idiots off of Harley’s I am a Harley -Davidson dealer a lot of these post are plum stupid I have at the most have had 2 major failures due to customer just not paying attention to his bike alot of failures are due to UN proper use of manufacture oil not doing services when need excessive riding habits 2000 when twin cam came out not 99 sportsers have no place in this discussion 50,000 is the recommended time to replace them yes they are made of neoprene plastic there gonna wear if you hear a premature noise coming from vale train then most likely its giving you a tail tail warning that the are going out but you keep riding an not have it looked at the its your fault you just trash your engine ……….

Then if that is truly what you believe, you need to go buy a new car or truck and tear into the engine routinely to be sure it is not going to disintegrate., Oh and according to some other posts if it does fail it is YOUR fault for not doing oil changes twice as often as stated in the manual and opening the motor every 25k just to be sure something does not need replacing.

Dear Sir:
I am 80 years old and have had harleys off and on since 1951. Although I am no mechanic, but I have tinkered with them for years. I completely agree with your assessment of the current chain tensioner problem. I think that the problem is completely overblown and is a product of agressive riding habits and inattention to oil changes, etc. and tinkering with performance so called upgrades. It is said that jack rabbit starts does not harm the tensioners, but it does. Dirt bikes with tensioner pads wear out quickly if jack rabbit starts are a habit.
As a licensed professional engineer, I feell that you comments are completely valid.

keep the evo. or get a real nice rebuilt well shovel…I’m a reasonably talented mechanic, rode yamahas for twenty years (from age seven on, dirt and street) and am quite brand loyal, when they impress me originally, and then bought a 70 FLH. Good, real good motor, and when stuff does come up, so easy to deal with after years of dealing with fine and complicated japanese design. I call it my tractor, partially cause of weight, partially cause i get most of the bearings or bushings i need off the shelf at the local john deere dealer.

oops…wrong column. was in reply to a different post/ but you know 1975 yammies have plastic shoe cam chain tensioners that are still good in 2013 with 50,000 K? I have a few….

Twin Cams came out in 99 on most Harleys, the rest of the big twins were converted to the lemon in 2000. So you say I’ll know when to replace my tentioner when i start hearing excessive noise coming from my motor? I dont use the manufactures oil, basicly because i want by bike to last. What im hearing from you is more dealer BS.

BS. nobodies running improper oil, the tensioners are junk and it’s a know problem. The local HD dealer has admitted it to me, as he knows he’ll never sell me a new bike, in love with the 70 FLH. He’s a good guy, actually keeps shovel parts in stock, pretty rare and the only reason I know him.

I just bought my first Harley late this year (August) I love the Scoot ,but it does have a noise in the front of the engine, after test riding I told the salesman about the noise ,he started the bike and gunned it ,told me that was a normal sound but did sell me the extended warrenty. Oh ,it is a 2007 Heritage sofetail..I have had a couple of other riders listen and say it is normal sound,,,I have been riding for 40 years and this is the first time I have been concerned about long distance riding ,,should I be ? Any others owning the same bike have this noise and is it normal?

I ride a 1991 H.D. full blowm custom chopper, Evo, No problems, 80 ci gets me down the road, who needs a twin cam anyhow, I would never buy one, at worst, put a 124 evo in my currant bike, too many people think newer is better, like twin cams, the only people maken money is H.D. dealers.


I have an 07′ FLHX with over a 120,000 miles and have used Amsoil since the second oil change! Never a problem in the cam side, have replaced the inner primary support bearing for the trans mainshaft twice and a clutch hub due to the Asian manufacturer of the H-D part? Yes we know they do this… I am curious for when I do pull it down to see where she stands on wear, now that I’ve it out! Amazes me, as I have over 750,000 miles under me with 5 Harley’s starting with my 65′ Pan 2 Shovels a Evo and now my TC! Yes they have come a long way, better and staying close to the same in many ways! It was harder in the early years for sure, but have always worked on my own except for the machine work as my machinest has come along way all the years we have been together!

I have read almost all of the blog, which happens to very long. So I think I need to add my two cents. I love this articale and am glad that someone is bring the issue to the top. I have had many arguments with my dealer and the mechanics about this issue. So here is my experience and advise. I have two ’02 Dynas and they both have the problem. I fixed one and as soon as I can I will fix the other. My fix is to go with the gear drive cams. Not only will you save your engine but you will get a noticable increase in performance and response to the throttle.

I had 30,000 miles on my bike and discovered the problem when I went to punch out the engine. After b–ching at the deal. I immediately went to gear drive because of the good thing I heard about them. I have now put over 45,000 miles on the gears with not even a hint of a problem. I didn’t have to change the oil I use (good old fossil 20W50) or change to hydraulic tensioners or polish the chain. It took me 3 hrs to do the work and the hardest part was to measure the runout. By the way it’s not .005 for the earlier models it’s worst more like .002. My runout was .0015 so I was good to go. My advise is to convert as soon as possible before the runout gets to large. You will not regret your decision. I have recommended this fix to a number of my friends with newer bike and not one has had a problem since. I have many of them thanking me for recommending the fix. I can tell you more about this issue but I think I’ve said enough.

Shame on Harley for letting something like this go into production they should have stayed with the EVO, simple and undistructable. Many of my Bro’s have turned away from Harley for this very problem. They keep telling me “you won’t find this problem with a Jap bike”. You would think Harley would get a hint.

I sold my Harley Heritage a few years back when Honda came out with the VTX 1800. When I saw it and rode it I was sold. It was made right here in the good old USA Marysville Ohio to be exact. I got tired of Harley being stuck in the past with TRACTOR TECHNOLOGY and not moving forward. Now that they are going to be building a water cooled motor I might try them again. As far as my VTX it has 60000 trouble free miles on it. I do my own work and Honda has always prided themselves on simplicity the maintenance is a joy to do and I have so far never had any parts break down.It is stock over 100 Horsepower and over 100 LBS/FT Torque so whats not to like?

water cooled heads is gonna be nothing but a staple fix to a major problem, EPA laws are mandating such a lean burn combustion chamber temperatures are getting ridiculous. ever notice the difference in heat coming off the heads of matching compression shovels, evos and tc’s? Pushrod air cooled v twin is a good, reliable design, but the EPA regs are killing it like the two stroke. Thats also why the twin cam exists, an attempt to make the valve train quieter for regulations. And doing it poorly.

honda simplicity my ass. How can you combine that with a dislike of harley simplicity?

thats harleys latest attempt to drag themselves into new age to keep from losing more unhappy cust. like me…from 88ci in 06—-then 96ci & finally 103ci..but the prob is still the quality of the parts used to maximize profits and come up with something new every few yrs. to keep u hoping the American dream is finally gonna live up to exp…..i’m all for American but my money goes to quality not more hype….ive had 3 harleys but now (Honda) that name on any product = quality imo Lynn

Yamahas in the sport bike range from 2005 to 2010 apparently had very bad “soft” cams like early eighties chevy 305′s, lobes would go round. Remind your japanese buddies of that next time they get on their high horse, all manufacturers have problems, just the japanese make WAY more products so everyone doesn’t have the same problem. Bad electrical in early 2000 honda cbrs, virago starters, vmaxs breaking starter clutch set screws every year, etcetera

And here I thought that Harley was such a fine piece of equipment. Why would they allow this to go on, with the cost of these bikes?

I have a 08 roadking, does this aply to me?

Had 04 road king put s&s gear drive cams in @10k had 53k when I traded it no issues . I plan to put gear drives in my 2012 road glide this is not a new problem s&s has been selling gear drives for years. Harley knows about this its just one more way to there dealers busy.

Victory – the modern American motorcycle.

can u say kowasakeeee

I have had all the harleys over the years from knuckle head to the 09 96cu and 6 speed and you can’t beat the good old evo 97000 miles and runs great on my 94 electroglide.You never see a Harley in the junkyard I will still be riding mine and drinking beer out of a recycled can made out of your long gone foreign crap.

I ride a 1991 custom chopper, Evo, would not have it any other way, runs good, I am with you bro

They also sell every Harley they made. What gives?

Harley should do the decent thing and have a recall and offer to fix the problem. But again this is Harley and their only concern is profits, not so much customer satisfaction. I have a 2000 Fatboy, thanks for the scare.

This is why I changed to S&S 5110 gear drives when I bought my 04 Low Rider. Never a problem.

I have a 2004 Dyna Wide Glide. My mechanic told me about this and checked it out when I had 55k on the bike. There was nothing left. It was changed. Oil pan dropped and completely cleaned out. I had him do some inspections before I went on my next long trip. This was a couple of years ago. He new about the problem and took care of it for me. It was upgraded to one from drag. He said that I wouldn’t have this problem again

Just bought a used 04 Electra Glide. Asked dealer about these before purchase and they replace them on all bikes they take in on trade before selling.

Tells me they know they have a problem also.

if you could figure out a way to install a screen to
keep your oil pump from scavenging the shreds of
plastic, and maybe a magnet to catch any metal
flake, you would probably save alot of $$ over that
way cool gearset. H-D should be doing this! It also
helps to look at your oil pressure guage every now
and then.

unfortunately unless you own one of the higher end bikes you don’t have an oil pressure “guage” and by the time that idiot light starts to glow it’s probablly too late. That said, it might not be a bad idea to suggest to those without a guage to maybe consider a kit, cheap enough and maybe good insurance..

I have an 03 Heritage Softail. At 80,000 miles, I had to have a reman done as the cam journal broke. I was told by the head mechanic at my dealer that he had never seen this happen. Metal parts went throughout the engine but while riding, I heard what sounded like rain hitting metal (even over the pipes) and pulled over. We trailered the bike to the dealer for repair. Since I had purchased the extended warrantee, the HD service rep. said the repair amounted to $2400 and would be covered but they would only repair what broke. I explained that metal went throughout the engine and other parts were at risk because of this. They insisted that they would only fix what was broken and I would have to bring it back if something else broke or failed. I told them I wanted a reman done at that point so I worked out a deal for them to apply the $2400 repair estimate as a credit to the cost of the reman. Now, I have 150,000 miles on the bike and again worry this might happen again. The tensioners are checked regularly but the journal is a bit difficult to check. Hopefully this doesn’t happen to anyone else.

Just a quick note to say thanks for the info. I am laid up in the hospital after back surgery and now can not wait until I am able to break out the tools and open up my 05 Wide Glide with 29k..
Thanks again!

We just replaced our Sport with a 1995 FLSTC Heritage. Do we need to worry about any of these issues? Thanks in advance.

No, you have been blessed with the EVO aka the Evolution engine, IMHO the best engine ever to roll out of Milwaukee.. Take good care of it and it will take care of you. Enjoy your new toy.

hi guys, & gals , been reading up on all the comments & suggestions here… some good stuff. there is no substitute for regular maintenance either by owner if capable or dealer shop. this issue with plastic material chain tensioner shoes is not actually a new one. the old brit bikes had a primary chain tensioning device that was black plastic material of some kind over a spring steel holding tension on the slack side… now this system had the same problems you are describing for the tc engines. however replacing & maintainig the primary was much easier & not catastrophic to the engine. the movers & shakers at h-d decided to go cheap here in my opinion. they really need to rethink what they are doing here & design a proper gear set to “FIX THE PROBLEM” gear whine should not be a problem at all with a helical gear set . myself i own a 91 flhtc that i just love… as for the tc, i would not want plastic mud going around inside my crankcase, that plastic that wears off could be just as bad or worse than metal finally going around inside the engine if it closes off an oil passage or clogs & jams the oil pump. h-d & the dealerships need to be real with their customers & treat them kindly not only with this issue but anything else that may come up. we all know how hard it can be to fix a spoiled reputation… much harder than fixing a cam drive… nuff said G- MAN

I Just bought an 06 FXDI superglide with 17873 miles on it from my local dealer. A friend of mine said there was an upgrade for the cam tentioner. After reading this information I should concerned about this, not only for the cam tentioner but also the IPB ( inner primary bearing) The dealer dont really tell you squat about anything. (past service history)

The engine in my 03 road king is being rebuilt right now for the exact issue written about here. Very frustrating that such a simple inspection an fix would have saved me almost $4000.

I was a service manager at a large Canadian Harley dealership. We fixed a lot of American bikes on their way to Alaska with cam case problems on twin cam 88s. Our own customers were told to due everything by 40000kms or be ware. This includes cams,bearings and oil pump. Sometimes the plate is also no good. I have seen STOCK rear cam bearings go right away and take out everything. Cam cases have also cost Harley a lot of money. We did a lot of cam cases and engines on warranty. If you buy a Harley buy extended warranty always!!! Why do the dealers hate this issue? Service departments make little money from Harley on warranties. We rebuilt wore out engines on extended warranty yes wore out. Syn3 is shit. Amsoil adds at least a third longer life to your motor. Engine mods also always reduce life and reliability. I have 27 bikes yes 27. 3 are Harleys. Why buy a Harley? If you ride lots or tour there is a dealer with parts and service a few hours away at any time. Brake down on holidays on another brand and see how long you wait to get parts or service. Ride a nonHarley into Canada from the US and see how well your warranty works??

I purchased my very first Harley last November. I have owned every type of Japanese bike made and a NSU back in the 60′s. The 2000 Twin Cam Electra Glide was in very nice shape. With 39600 miles on it. I purchased it for 8400.00. I was reading American Iron Magazine when I came across the article about the cam chain followers. At that time, the bike was in storage at the local HD dealer. I contacted them and asked them to check the followers. They found them nearly gone. Inside and outside. I also discovered that replacing them is about 850.00 with parts. I opted for the Hydraulic Cam Chain kit that HD has on the dealers shelf. The kit installed was about 1500.00, I have worked on bikes for years and I would of done the job myself, but the tools to do the job were 500.00. I figured to let them and get the warranty while I was at it. So, picking up the bike this spring, I took it home, the cam chain tensioners failed on the way to the house, about four miles down the road. I returned to the dealer to have it corrected and had no problem until yesterday, eight months later. The tensioners failed again. Which causes a lot of gear and chain noise on the right side of the bike. HD is looking into the problem again. Meanwhile I am again without a bike to ride. This is just a small problem though. I have put thousands of miles on Japanese bikes over the years, no mechanical issues of any kind. What do I think of the Glide now. I still will not give up on that bike. There is something about the ride, the noise and the experience of a Harley. I have been waiting 48 years for this bike. This is a part of owning a Harley. Yes I miss my 150 mph GSXR 750, the Vulcan 2000 cc, the CL/CB 450 and 900. The Intruder, GS 750 and many more. Would I trade this Harley for them back. Not even if you offered me all of them back. The Geezer Glide is very special to me. I guess the one thing I missed owning the Ricers, no need for preventive maintenance, no character, no “fun”. This repair is necessary to keep your TC’s together, But a simple hydraulic tensioner kit is all you need for 40 to 50,000 miles. It also includes a new oil pump,cam bearings and the cam plate to convert your 2000 to 2006 into a 2007 and newer hydraulic tensioner bike. I recommend it, even if it hurts now, it is better than picking up a new crate motor for 6500.00 plus labor. The manual said to check the tensioners every 20,000 miles. Another book I read said check at 40,000. Do not do that. If I had waited until 40,000 or more. I would be installing a crate motor right now. Check these followers as soon as possible if you are near the 38,000 mark. Ride the best, push it if you must, take a trailer or a truck. If your on another make, no one gives a …. .

Ok.. so apparently My ’08 Crossbones is clear and should have the Hyd Tensioner.

Now whats this about the Trans..?
Just feathering the clutch ie parking lot riding.. Im getting a regular clunk from the trans.. being a long time sporty rider, is this “normal” or is this also a tensior issue? Dealer said its normal…

My 08 tranny makes a fairly pronounced “clunk’ throughout all upshifts. Figured it’s a quirk of the 6 speed since it’s my first, anybody gao a “helpful” comment

I replaced the cam bearings and tensioners on my 01 road king classic at 38,000 miles. The inner tensioner was 3/4 worn through. Good thing it was winter and a good time to tear it down.

My 2000 Electraglide had worn out tensioners (over 50%) with grooves and pitting indicating the imminient failure of the tensioners at 20K miles in 10 years. Did a 95 top end and a set of Head Quarters 34G gear drive cams in 2010.
Awesome performance through the full rpm range. 87HP and 101 Ft Lbs of torque with stock heads and it did not blow up on the Dyno! 42K today and still running strong. 70 -100 mph with just a twist of the throttle and plenty of torque. 20K (hard and fast) miles in 2 yrs compared to 20K in 10 yrs will tell you how much fun this bike is now.
We know the tensioners wear and the plastic has to go somewhere. Is it worth your motor or your life to have the “catastrophic failure” described by other HD riders in their warnings?
It was well worth the $1200 in parts( including special tools for the cam bearing replacement) I spent for the total upgrade,and not too difficult to do myself, especially when I saw how worn those tensioners were at that mileage.

Wow, This explains a lot. At 15k I took my 06 FLHT to the dealer for “valve train noise” and a faint knocking. They tore it apart & put it back together after they found it to be “in spec.”. Hmmm. At less than 20k it went back, same, same, ditto. It was still under their biggest & best extended waranty. The Service Mgr. & mechanic both agreed it was “noisy”, as did the HD District Service Rep. They all said “Drive it, if it comes apart, we’ll worry about it then.” No Kidding, DIRECT QUOTES !!! At 25k I was afraid to drive it on my 25mi. commute to work, it was REALLY rattling/knocking! I went round & round with aforementioned Rep., & he eventually told me they were NOT gonna fix it till it grenaded. If I persisted, he said he would cancel my extended warranty because I had Screamin’ Eagle pipes & a Stage ! air cleaner cover (stock air filter). Now for the Paul Harvey…..the r e s t of the story. This bike was a replacement for my FIRST brand new ElectraGlide that had one of the JUNK EARLY 6 SPEEDS that they, by their own admission could not make right. These were my 26th and 27th Harleys I have owned since 1987. I started as a Harley freak in 1976 at the age of 11. I now ride BMW’s. My R1200RT is a WAY better machine than any of the Harley’s I have had over the years. At 25k it has only had tires, & oil changes, and is just now getting broken in, not ready for the scrap heap like my last NEW ElectraGlide. I did say LAST didn;t I ? L A S T in more ways than one. Harle Davidson Motor Co. is very crappy in the way they support and stand behind their product.

Don’t know if previously mentioned, but the reason chain drive is installed from HD is due to engine noise rules imposed by EPA. Laws these days say they must burn cleaner and less noisy. A sign of the times.

Gear drive is the reliable alternative but it is noisier.

A term that also comes to mind is ” Planned obsolescense” The product is engineered to self destruct so eventually you will have to buy a new one. Makes sense from a marketing standpoint if you want to sell more units.

I hope all reading this info get their troubles fixed in time. I’m still trying to make my evo last another 20 years. Good luck!! ~W

i have a 2000road king flhrci will i have this problem i just bought it 3 months ago runs good the person i got it from brother in law he bought a new one he is a trucker he road it mostly hiway miles has 29000 miles if so how much will it cost to convert to gear drive i will do a oil change and cut open filter to check it is it a big job for a mech. or costly

at 35,000 miles mine went about about 65mph…my bike has been sitting for 2 months. right where the tow truck left it. need to fix it asap.

really? Some of you wanna tout your jap bikes? I’ve ridden several different brands over the years and out of all those, it was jap bikes trying to copy a Harley. Each one of them had their issues too! Both my Hondas had problems. the first one had one of the crappiest electrical systems you could buy. The other liked to eat cams (v4). The Yamaha I had, liked to eat trannies and the Suzuki I had also had a crap electrical system. One thing they all had in common was all those companies were trying to copy Harley! And they made some of the most uncomfortable bikes I’ve ever owned. I say that to say this; each bike had issues! I was told for years how the only difference was the name, and that might be true with the newer HDs. All I know is mine cost me the same as what a jap bike costs. And I’ve yet to have problems. It’s the most comfortable ride I’ve had thus far! And there is a difference!

yammie second gear disease it quite famous.

Ok I have a 06 Night Train. What parts are recommenced to replace if I am not going with the gear drive set up? Bike has 15k on it now. Running HD synthetic oil since new. Are there upgrade parts to buy from HD?

My 2005 Ultra sounds like the engine is coming apart when I crank it at times. It loads up on fuel, I have FI. I open the throttle and it will blow the raw gas out, backfire out the pipes and air filter. I had have this problem for 5 years and Harley cannot figure out what is causing it. Only does it at times. Last time it was in the shop they put a SE race tuner on it for some reason but didn’t help it.

not sure but i had a similar problem the fuel lines in the tank were cracked . sometimes it cranked liked the engine was going to blow ! locked up back fired i figured out the fuller the gas tank was the less the problem you should check this out

Good information. Thanks Scott and everyone else except Rusty…I own and ride a 2010 H-D FXDC and did not know all this about the cam chain tensioners. I also own and ride a 2006 Yamaha Road Star and a 2011 R1200RT BMW. Enjoy all three and their differences. I know now which bike I will sell if I need to get rid of one. I think I really miss my ole early ’78 FLH. four speed, chain and carb.

I would like to hear more about the rear-off-center issue. I think I might have this problem. I feel a slight wobble in a deep right turn on my ’06 FLHPI. Is there an easy check? A good fix?

I had a 2002 FLHT with the first set of stock tensioners replaced at 32,000 miles. The second set failed 7,000 miles later. Luckily on both situations I caught them before they totally failed. But after my second set failed I installed the S+S Gear drive with the 570 cam set. The 570 was recommended for a stock engine, 88ci. The bike had a slight lope and ran better than it ever did after the upgrade. I traded the bike off with 72,000 miles on a new 2010 FLHTC. I figured H-D learned from it’s mistake and moved on with the new hydraulic set up. Guess I was wrong. I sold off my wifes ’09 Sportster for a Honda VTX1300. So far no issues with anything other than she rides it more. I think that maybe the key if you want to ride without issues?

Had mine replaced at about 30,000 miles on my 2000 Wide Glide. Caught it before it got down to the metal. My dealer recommended replacing the tensioners every 25,000 miles. Cost about $900 to replace. To convert to hydraulic was a few more hundred & I considered gear drive but there are pros & cons with every option. I bought mine used with about 28,000 miles & ill never know how it was treated in the past, but I use synthetic oil & I kind of beat on it. I plan on having them replaced again around 50,000 miles. The dealer never hid any info from me. Just a regular part of maintaining the engine. Ride safe & have fun!

Anyone know if my 09 Ultra Classic is affected by this. Just made 30k on it. So far ,so good , no problems.

I have an ’03 ultra, at 40000 miles I replaced the cam tensioners with a tensioner shoe rebuild kit from cyco gaskets. These shoes just replace the shoe material only, reusing the tensioner body and spring. The shoe kit costs $7.00 a piece. The was the most economical way to make repairs to the tensioner wear problem for a do-it yourselfer. My biggest expense was the adjustable pushrods n tubes which prevented a lot of upper end disassembly.

Had 12000 miles on my 06 wideglide when it went down 600 miles from home on the way to DC for Rolling Thunder.Had to rent a Victory Jackpot to finish the ride.I now have 33000 on it and its time to check it out again.Its not fun to feel stranded away from home because of a design defect.One positive though,I did buy a Jackpot because I fell in love with that bike that weekend.40000 so far problem free.

I’ve read the article on the CVO twin cam issue with wear. Well here is a story for ya. I purchased a new 2005 HD fat boy 103 in 05. This year I left Hartford Ct. for Sturgis, well I did not get far. Getting on Rt. 90 in Pittsfield Mass. the bike developed a vicious vibration. I was riding with my nephew who was on his 05 road king. My fat boy has 30 k and has been my baby. I bought it to replace my 1953 Pan head, what a mistake.
After several hours at the local Harley dealer and only after the mechanic contacted the Harley rep did he discover that the oil pump exploded.
Seams Harley pins one flywheel on and the other is pressed on. Seems the pressed on flywheel came loose causing the vibration. Harley has had this issue with others and once this happens the out of balance flywheel destroys the oil pump,likewise the twin cam chain tensioner was worn badly.
I understand from a local Harley mechanic here in Ga. that Harley has had this issue with that motor but has kept it quiet. Shame on them!
You would think that spending near 30 k on a bike would not have an issue like this, especially when the bike only has 30k on it.
So for those of you contemplating a new purchase BEWARE

Just add this to the many reasons I bought a VICTORY. After years of HD bs, I jumped ship and couldn’t be happier. Love the POWER and ease of maintenance. Do yourself a favor, check out the other American made motorcycle. The name says it all – VICTORY!


Yeah, you are most certainly brainwashed if you think you are riding an American bike. Victory bikes are assembled in Iowa, but all the parts come off the boat. I’ve delivered loads of parts there and been on the docks. I’ve seen the containers that are trucked all the way to Spirit Lake. -and by the way, that all powerful Victory engine? Designed by Kohler industrial engines. There’s not a single SAE fastener on the whole bike. So you might want to think twice before you go puffing up your chest and pounding on it. You are riding a bike made by a snowmobile maker.

harley used to make golf carts and snowobiles

I have a 2006 Softail Std. FXSTI, should I be worried about the item(s) that this article is talking about? By the way, I am glad that I took the time to read it, very good information in here!

You know what I love almost all motorcycles but I just love this issue. All you Harley guys that look down your noses at fellow riders because we chose to buy something that we didn’t have to work on and then call us names. My bike was built here in the USA and I sold my Harley so I could purchase my current bike. It is a Honda VTX 1800 and it has no issues I just clocked 150,000 miles with nothing more than valve adjustment every 15000 miles it still smokes every Harley who wants to try it and it has never left me stranded EVER. And besides that it was built in Marysville Ohio using American workers so next time you dickheads on your Harleys that want to look down you noses at us people that can’t afford to ride 30,000 dollar paper weights think about the great engineering on you twin cam bikes. Ride Safe.

I’ll have to agree with Eric. I wanted a new Harley this past Spring so bad, but just couldn’t afford it. Now that I hear about the twin cam chain tensioner wear issue, I’m glad I got a used VTX 1800. I love this bike and I dont have to tear it apart every 15,000 miles. Keep your knees in the breeze, your chin in the wind, and the rubber down whatever you ride! Happy Highways!

Truely impressive, you complain about being called names and three sentences later you mass an entire group of people under the label “dickheads”. I do not know you nor have I ever looked down my nose at you or called you a name. I am really sorry that you cannot afford a Harley, oh wait you SOLD your Harley to buy your Honda, curious. If your only purpose for existence is to try to belittle other people whom you apparently feel inferior too, I’m sure you can find someone somewhere who really cares. There are several significant facts about HD that have been true since day one. Harley Davidsons require maintainance either by the owner (recommended) or by the Dealer if you are not mechanically inclined, in which case I personally recemmend you look for another brand of motorcycle. Harleys are more expensive than many other bikes but for the most part a Honda comparable to my Ultra Classic (is there such a thing?) will have a new list price similar to mine. Harleys have resale value, there is a point where they bottom out and either hold or begin to increase in price again, unlike the majority of disposable bikes made by those other guys. A Harley sells new 90% of the parts are made in America, 90% of a Honda arrives on a boat. NHRA national record (speed and elapsed time) not to mention another National championship belongs to Eddie Krawick, his weapon of choice is a Harley V-Rod. You claim to have “smoked” all commers, apparently you’ve not come upon a capable ” dickhead” on a well tuned V-Rod. Is there a Honda top fuel racing league? How many people do you know who still own their first Honda after over 45 years of faithful service? If my new twin cam requires requires that I inspect and possibly replace the cam tensioners from time to time, then so be it, it is all part of ownership in a major part of Americas History. Is the Corporation overly greedy? Yeah, but that is a part of being beholden to stock holders and participation in the free enterprise system. Will they fall on their ass again? maybe, maybe not. But if they do, thousands of loyal owners will help prop them up just like last time (witness the dude still riding hisAMF). Now that you have wasted all these “dickheads” time with your little tantrum do you mind if the “dickheads” get back to the discussion at hand as there are probably a lot of first time HD owners with real concerns about their investments. My first Harley was a 1949 Pan Head purchased used in 1966 it was still waiting for me after 39 months served as a young Marine in Vietnam and is sitting in my garage with my 1995 Bad Boy, my 2008 Ultra Classic and the old Ironhead Sportster in a Paughco frame that I recently purchased in several boxes. I am currently putting the engine together on my dining room table and my wife likes to watch me work on it, thinks it is a work of art and a pleasure to watch someone mold steel together to make a working machine. It’s pride of ownership and ability that drives most HD owners. Good luck with your Honda, I admire that you bothered to rebuild yours most people just throw them away and buy another one ooops there goes that “dickhead” thing, and good luck with that ugly little attitude of yours. Isn’t the annonymity of the internet a wonderful thing? Where else could you call millions of people (Harley Owners that is) “dickheads” in absolute fearless confidence? You should run right out to one of those “biker bars” run inside and tell them they are all “dickheads’ and after the laughter dies down and everyone else returns to their drinks and conversation the two or three honest to goodness “dickhesad” (there are always a couple in every crowd) wil probably drag you outside and beat the hell out you until some other “percieved dickhead” makes them stop. Now, can we get back to the business at hand or are the haters and the whiners just starting to circle above… Relax we ain’t dead yet. Have a real nice day and enjoy the ride, I know I will.

I know a nice little bar called “Angels” feel free to bring your disposable non Harley there and visit the “dickheads” patronizing the bar. Make sure to call all the Harley riders “dickheads” too. Nice knowing you…
Oh by the way, I was just wondering, why is it that all of these disposable motorcycle companies have to mimic the Harley V Twin engine?

not so disposable, my other bikes are 70′s and eighties yammaha 3 and four banger inlines, they had their own quirks, especially the older three banger, but they last pretty.

well said i also have a 82 shovel fxr,90 evo ultra and a 04 ultra.love all three.

Don’t be bitter because you can’t afford a Harley. I respect all riders and whatever they choose to ride, but jeez, you sound so angry! And btw, it’s not just guys who ride, but women like me.

If you ride more than 15K per year you don’t want to get buttstuck by the Dealer every 15K and have them “find other imaginary things wrong.” And keep your Bike for 10 days to two weeks. I’ll take a chance on a Harley, you can still get parts after 10 to 50 years. If not from Harley then from an aftermarket source. Higher resale too. 10+ year old Jap bikes are hard to find parts for, they may cost more than their scrap metal weight but they really aren’t worth much more than that. :-)

I had the plastic chain tensioner on my 2000 FLHTC fail two years ago. The motorcycle had 70,000 miles. I had little warning in terms of noise. When I did hear the noise it was too late. I was about 10 miles from home and the oil pump failed.
Buffalo Harley blamed my riding style on the failure. Said it was from downshifting.
The factory just switched to S&S for the rebuilds and $4,000 later I was riding again.
Take heed.

And they said AMF was crap, still riding mine after 32 years.

Rock on guy, I had a Super Glide and a Low Rider never had a problem, most issues were electrical, mine ran great, nothing wrong with the old shovel… Ride it like you stole it and when it wears out rebuild and do it again, bowling balls need love too:)

Recently I was thinking about getting a newer Harley, and just ride the ’71 Superglide on special occasions. After reading all of this, and the blogs about the Evo engine problems, I think I will just keep riding what I have, loose tolerances and all.

This article is junk since the author clearly doesn’t understand the difference between design and maintenance. Note: If you don’t change the tires periodically, they will eventually go flat. This situation could destroy you and the bike. A design issue? No. If you don’t pay your respects to maintenance of your bike, you are playing with fire. Best of luck!

Doc, I understand well the difference between design and mainanance. Show me if you will what the factory recomended inspection interval is? I went over every service manual I could, and spoke with different service managers in the HD dealer network with no results. How can it be a maintanace issue with no diections on when to check or service?

I have a 04 flht with about 45,000 mi on it. I heard about this problem when I had 42,500 mi on the bike. So I had mine checked out. Shoes looked fine.A little more wear on the rear one,but still not bad. I use conventional Harley oil. Mechanic said if it was his, he would put it back together and ride.But as I already had quite a bit of money in the tear down, I told him to go ahead and replace them. Moral is, if you can do it yourself go ahead and check them. If their good put it back together. If you have the dealer check,go ahead and have them replaced weather they are bad or not.

Put an Andrews 21 cam and gear drive in. Ended up with a noisy motor. At 30,000 miles cam tentioners were not that bad. One had a significant amount of wear other almost none. WE do mostly two up touring riding

I am planning on buying a 09 FLHX that has the SE big bore kit and all the associated add ons sure hope this won’t be an issue with it. Reminds me of the problems guys were having with the Yamaha V Star drivelines and no support from Yamaha.

I had about 80k on my 2001 dyna and ran one quart of gear oil and 2 qts of 20-50, any brand. At 80k both tensioners were only half gone, replaced and added jims adjustable pushrods, which broke at 140k, no fault of tensioner shoes, I now hate “Jims” adj pushrods.
I polished the chains with rouge and a buffer for an hour or two, they both look like chrome, and may never need to look again for another 80k or so.
The point of all this is, depending on your chain and how it is “stamped” when manufactured, will depend on how quickly it cuts into the tensioners. The thickness of the oil I believe helps too. I am not an advocate of synthetic, unless you are at redline all day long, and are afraid of seizing the motor because of abuse. I feel any ol oil is good oil if you just change it regularly, and my tenisoners and stock cams have proven this, at 150k. I ride it as hard as I anyone can, often near and above 100mph, but do have a cooler, and a filter magnet. Ride safe, change that oil at 2k. Rick in Anaheim.

whats rusty going to do when indian goes out of business again? more than likely rusty will buy a real bike hd. good luck rusty

Ride it till it explodes then re-build it !

trade it for a honda oops they have problems also

I will confirm that this information is correct. I had a 2005 Road King Classic and when I rolled 37,025 miles the engine came apart, locked up and left me stranded. I had the extended warranty and after the dealer disassembled the engine I was told only that there was a cam issue which resulted in a lubrication issue which resulted in damaged cams and a cracked engine case. This engine was well maintained with 4k mile service intervals using SE Syn oil. The engine was replaced but I then had electrical issues and some strange noises. I eventually traded and got a 2010 Ultra Classic. I have 23k on that engine so at the next service I’ll have the tech check for any issues. Thanks for the education..

Yer no older than you feel Mikey. Go get that HONDA Trike!

To Stevenkng, Amen to that. I am an old f**t that is no longer interested in standing in front of bars. My fifth HD is a 2012 Trike. I noticed poorer quality right off. The 92 FXR handled the best of all and never had a problem. Not one. (EVO)
Now all the little things with the trike HD says I just have to put up with!!!! I wish I had gotten a Honda Goldwing Trike. Better for us OLD F**ts

well boys ill tell you now,i ride a 2008 roadstar and at45000+miles i havnt had eney real problems unlike these overpriced harleys. i think ill keep my american built jap bike for now. by the way i still out run the hound dogs.

My 07 HD Softail is running just fine with 54000+. And I’m a girl, not a boy. This is a Harley forum. Beat it.

Y’all just buy a good ol HONDA and all yer problems will go away and you can enjoy riding.

A failure at 15k to 30k on the ’99 to ’06 engines is flat out unacceptable. Since H-D refuses to warranty this by hiding behind their express warranty, it is still an implied warranty violation. As such, a class action suit is warranted (pardon the pun). This would also have the effect of stopping dealerships from playing stupid about the whole issue. Glad I still ride an EVO.

Agreed. Personally I think that the dealers consider the majority of later model HD owners ‘high rollers’ and should be able and willing to pay extra to repair a wasted motor at 20-50K miles. They lay every trick in the used car-salesman book to wiggle out of liability for their product’s shortcomings. They guilt owners into covering their cheapness.

When has Harley EVER been cheap? My step-dad had pan heads, knuckle heads, and had a new Shovel before he died and he bitched LOUD and LONG about the price of parts and repair. A new Harley was always more expensive than a comparable Japanese bike.

HD always stood for “Hundred Dollar” as well as Harley Davidson…..

i have 132,000 miles on my 2005 elecra glide standard i changed cam chain tensioers at 102,000 always used amsoil rode 1400 miles to sturgis 2012 and bike is still runnig good

I have 2008 ultra classic with 32000 miles on it. Have installed gear drive cams myself and have put 10000 of those mile on sence then. I haven’t had any problems at all. When I pulled the chain and shoe the shoe was completly wore out at 22000 miles. I had no metal damage to the motor. Yes these shoe wear and could cause big problems!

ignore the errors if you can, I’m using the on screen keyboard and wearing my old glasses not a favorable combination.

Ghost Rider, not to worry, the 92 is powered by the tried and true EVO and is not suseptible to the many nasty little surprises brought about by progress. I have a 95 Bad Boy and other than a head,intake and pipe swap and upgrade to an SE57 cam my old Springer has never been touched other than regular oil changes, brake pads and tires and any one who thinks their hot rod twin cam makes any more power than my old EVO might find themselves mighty surprised stop light to stop light. I am speaking from experience since I also own an 08 Ultra Classic which I am extremely fond of as well. The ride is superior to most previous itterations though it does seem to run a bit hotterunder stop and go conditions. To address this cam tensioner issue, to be honest this is the first I’ve heard of it and thanks for bringing it to my attention. I have less than 20,000 on mine and have not noticed any out of the ordinary noises or performance issues but will start running more detailed check ups from now on. As for the guy with the Indian fettish, which copy do you own the Nort Carolina, Springfield, British, Vegas or where are they being built now and who is trying to ride the brand now? No offense but Indian died a long time ago for a reason. As for all you other Harley bashers, not all HD owners spend all their time sitting in front of bars anymore than all you Rice riders spend all your time doing wheelies and soppies or speeding down the freeway swerving through traffic giving “bikers” a bad name. Thhere is a discussion going on here about a very serious issue to some of us and all this extraneous crap is really not necessary.

I replaced the tensioner on 02 Roadking at 30k. Really worn. I am on my 5th Harley. I loved my 92 FXR. Man do I wish I still had it. I am very disapointed with Harleys attitude also. I kind of wish I had gotten a Honda!!

I had S&S 510G cams installed in my 2000 Heritage Springer in ’06 with over 50K miles on the motor. One tensioner pad was worn 50% and the other was cracked and crumbling!’
This year, I had the same cams installed in my ’07 Heritage with 75K miles on the motor. Both tensioner pads showed minor wear however, I suspect that the hydraulic units were the source of abnormal noise that was eliminated with the change over to the gear
cams. Also installed a Power Commander and had it dyno-tuned. Awesome performance! I use SE3 full synthetic oil with a K&P Engineering oil filter.

Don’t waste another dime on the Harley synthetic oil. Your best bet would be to go with something like Lucas, Amsoil, Red Line, Royal Purple, Mobil VTwin, Motul or even Castrol. All very very good full synthetics

Wow, just bought my first Harley, 2013 Road Glide, do I need to be concerned about this wear issue?

You would know if you actually read the article. It covers ’99 to ’06 TC88 motors. (hand slapping forehead)

I had a 1999 road king. Had the cam chain tensioners checked at 50k miles. Nominal wear. Harley is know for changing vendors from year to year. Must have been a good batch in my bike.

after reading your thread i wanted to ask those knowledgable people about piston slap noise on 103 and larger twin cam motors ive experienced it in a new 2012 harley ultra limited
I brought bike to dealer and complained about loud noise in front head over 2000 rpms and up i was told by harley dealer noise is comon i said ididnt here noise till bike had 2000 miles on it they told me harley had pistons coated to suppress noise till break in there recomendation was to remove lowers and remove baffles and i wouldnt here the metal on metal sound anymore i have this in writing from dealer i sold bike after i started reading stories about complete engine failures on net by hundreds of loyal harley guys and gals harley should remember that our brand loyalty depends on the quality of merchandise and treatment we recieve ive owned 5 harleys very sad about out come and harleys new way of doing things they lost a loyal rider and avid supporter

Just had my 02 Ultra do this! Cost me over $6300.00 , I also upgraded cam and power commander in that price.. So about 5300.00 for refurb , through Harley’s program, upgrade to a 95 cuc motor also.. Thats’ instalation included .. No real warning either..Just clackety , clackety..Crap!!
Cam cover came off and peices fell off in mechs hand..A shoe , the metal click..several other little parts..Has been up graded with reman to the newer hydralic tensioners ..will see..they called today, and putting back in bike ..

You’ll love the extra cubic inches and the tune! I didn’t like that my bike needed so much investment at only 25K but the rebuild really woke that engine up! Enjoy.

I have 81K on my 03 Softail, still going.

Good read. I will offer this bit of advice, I too had heard of the cam tensioners going bad and at that time it was “suggested” that they be replaced at 25k. Since I was coming close to the mileage I pulled everything apart only to find nothing wrong with anything and I even had my wrench asking me “why are we doing this again?”.

Now I will replace with the gear drive cams next time I go in there but my tensioners were fine. With that said I have always run synthetic oil and replace 1 quart with Lucas Oil Stabilizer. This combo works fantastic!

Here again I fully agree the cam tensioners are a problem but if the motor is maintained there is a way to keep these running for miles but I agree replace these with the gear drives as soon as you can. If anything get a little more lift and duration to get a little more power out of the motor.

Completely agree with this article, but one very important thing was left out. The inner cam bearing in all twin cams are junk. The first time you go in to check your tensioners, spend a few extra dollars and replace them with the torrington bearing. I even know of some people that are doing this soon after they bring thier new bike home. My 06 CVO Ultra had 36,000 on it and the inner cam bearing took out the enitre engine. Tensioners still looked good. Glad I bought that extended warranty! This affects all twin cam engines.

Had the inner cam bearings take a dump on my 06 tour classic. Scattered metal through the engine. Had to buy a 95 inch kit with the 203 cams, head job and replaced the cam tensioner with the hydralic kit. 3300.00 later, it’s all good again. Only 25,000 on the motor when it started acting up. Gotta tell ya, the difference between stock and now is BIG. I actually love my bike after the build. Had been thinking about trading it for the new 103. Not anymore.

As an aside, the cam chain tensioners were “wearing normally”, in that they would have gone another 25,000 or so before they needed changed. So not every Harley has the tensioners blow up. (just other parts that add up to 3300.00)

Wouls a 2012 Road King have this problem??

Can someone here knowledgably list the bike models/years affected?

Are not these tensioners installed ONLY on Twin Cams which are in turn installed on Softail and Fatboys and NOT on rubber mounted engines as found on RoadKings / Glides / Sportsters?

The counter balancer i thought werent present on rubber mounted frames?

If you would sort this out, a lot less “am i affected” questions would pop up.

This affects all Twin Cam engines (all models except Sportster) 1999 through 2013. There was a a chain tensioner change between 2006 and 2007 that lessens the impact on 2007 and later engines, but this only delays the wear out point, it still should be periodically checked.

I have a 2007 Ultra with almost 144,000 miles on it. I have not had any cam tensioner issues as previously experienced on my twin cam 88 in my 2002 Fatboy. I changed those as a preventive measure at ~ 78,000. The issue I am having with my 96 cubic inch is the transmission. I had to have it rebearing’ed at 90,000 and again at 132,000. I am blaming this on the tensioner on the primary chain not releasing pressure and this causing the main gear to fail and thus wrecking the whole transmission. Has anyone had this issue on a 96 cu. inch 6 speed?

Baker drive line has a fix for this. it is called a bully manual chain tensioner. I had one installed on my 08 se3 ultra. when we had it apart noticed the inner primary had gouges in from the ring gear. this was caused buy the auto tensioner ratching up to tight, which in turn puts undo pressure on tranny bearins.

Most likely cause is using sixth gear below 65mph. That causes oil film failure in main output bearing, failure is aided by side thrust from helical gears. Add to that the tension of the rear belt on the bearings and is is easy to understand. Have seen several failures, all riders used sixth gear at too low speed to enhance sound and/or mpg.

Curious about this. I have 06 Softail deluxe. I can’t imagine riding in 5th gear up to 65. It would be awfully hard on the engine just judging by the sound.

I mean 07

Mack, I agree,… but can’t understand why some guys lug the motor? My ’06 FLSTC is a 5 speed. I have changed the final output belt pulley from 32 to 34. I can’t even get into top gear until somewhere north of 65mph. Don’t lug it guys! Wind it up….THEN shift

I have a 2003 FLHT and was driven very easy with 35K miles. Had the tensioners inspected. The front showed minimal face wear, the back one looked like a small chip had broken off the corner. It was really difficult to see with a mirror and could have been overlooked, but my mechanic decided it was best to disassemble and get a closer look, That was good decision, as once it was all apart, even the front tensioner had a crack across the face and was ready to go. So just don’t trust a mirror when trying to examine the face. Oil was changed regularly and there was never any indication of a problem by looking at the oil, not sure if I had cut the filter apart whether that would have revealed anything, since the piece might have been pulverized. I didn’t see any particles in the oil passage ways or cam plate. Ended up installing a gear drive kit and couldn’t be happier. My lifters needed replacement too, so I also went with adjustable push rods. That was $1500 parts and labor.

My ride is a 2002 bagger. The mechanic that does all of my serious maintenance, has a jar full of worn out chain tensioners on the counter. He finally convinced me that my bike should be checked. (51,000 mi.) One of them was worn completely down to the metal and the other was within a few thousandths. I feel I was lucky that I did not shell out the engine. He installed Andrews 26HG gear drive cams and at 60,000 mi. it is still running strong. I also switched to a K&P Micronic oil filter which gives the ability to disassemble and reallly inspect any residue. So far I have seen none. Also the oil pressure increased. I use Amsoil as I believe it is one of the top oils avaiable. To each his own, but I believe this is a serious design flaw in the twin-cam.

I have a 2004 FLHTCI at 80.000 some thing? started.
oil pressure started going bad. I took it in and they said it was the Gage ? then the noise came. I had a seven year warrantee I told them to take it apart. They said if there is nothing bad you will have to pay for it. When they took it apart they said the crank was bent? BULL SHIT Try to blame me.
but thank god I had all my paper work. They wanted to rebuild? I said no. They put a new create motor on and gave me a one year warrantee. after all of this witch took over three months it only cost me $50 Buck.

I have a 2004 Road Glide that also had a bent crank problem that HD of Vegas discovered when I complained about the vibration and racket it was making. They rebuilt the engine with many new parts when it had 65k on it and still runs good with 86k now. I also had to have the Screaming (Taiwan) Eagle 6 speed tranny rebuilt 3 times which was ALL covered under my 7 year warranty. The dealer in Rochester NY had to threaten the insurer to get them to pay but pay they did over $7000 in repairs. Now I have a twin cam that the oil pressure folds when it gets hot with no warranty and only 35k. Any suggestions? It is a 2011 RGU and I just love the bike except for the goofy rear ABS and the over size rear tire which makes for severe handling problems on uneven surfaces. Ride safe my friends!

Had a 03 anv. Road glide cam chain ten. Failed, I was lucky, only $1600 to fix, good Harley shop, did upgrades . Mec told me the main trouble was the rough chains,they eat up the tens. Had to have new oil pump, lifters and all, bike ran great up till then always used amsolevery 3-5k not a hard rider, had 36000k on the bike,really pissed me off. Then dumb broad ran over me at a stop sign 2000 miles later. Have a new trike now, great ride but diff. Tends to run hot, some say common. To 103s.

Folks, we all know that everything wears out. That said, It is on going changes in manufacturing processes that are creating as many problems as they are curing. Faster manufacturing ( CNC machining , robotic assembly) and other cheaper cost cutting methods do remove craftsmaship like quality and produce other, newer problems. That is why automobiles can cost a hunderd G’s or more for a good handbuilt one. Hand built engines made by true craftsmen seem to last forever by even they still wear out in time. Mother Harley is in the same boat as all manufactures, make them fast and cheap as possible while meeting EPA specs and having more power than the other guy. Today’s engines are far supreme to yesterdays but they are not perfect. Nobody is perfect. Now, with all of that said, there is only one real solution. Have a very knowledgeable craftsman hand build you a Pan Head engine but don’t expect it to preform with a Twin Cam on horse power or fuel economy.

No it will probably run better with improved gas mileage.
Ride it till your sore.

There is another related issue that needs to be addressed. The cam gear them selves are failing. Having installed a brand new motor for 5K at the dealer I learned this the hard way! What I was shown was a gear that cracked and wobbled on the shaft speeding up this process. My dealer in Rice Lake, WI had two 06 ultra classics in at the same time with this same issue. I don’t know the mileage on the other bike, but mine had 23,300. Had I remember to pull my trailer hitch off before taking the bike in, my extended warranty would have covered the new motor. Just one more thing to piss me off with HD!

Thanx for the headace!

I have a 1992 Ultra classic (FLHTCU) 1340. Does this problem affect my machine, Answer please.

No. You are the proud owner of an Evo motor, not a Twin Cam..

No. You are the proud owner of and Evo motor, not a Twin Cam..

This should not be an issue with your motor. It is a single cam.

Dave, wouldn’t it be alot simpler if people would actually READ the article? Wake up people! this covers ’99 to ’06 TWIN CAMS. I still can’t believe the MoCo is side stepping the throttle by wire engineering problems. Call me crazy: I don’t want my bike to have Toyota Camry style problems -hanging it wide open or shutting it down at 70mph. Scary! I’ll stick with my old push/pull cables thank you very much.

I have a 2000 FLHT and at 15000 I replaced the cams with gear driven system from Yuill Brothers. They designed and make several cams for the HD. I had Freedom Cycle in Reno install and Dyno my HD and it never ran so great as it does after the installation. I guess I dodged the bullit by having this done several years ago. Look them up, I believe they have the best system.

This is an issue that has been fairly common knowledge for many years. As has been stated above, gear drive is the way to go for those fortunate enough to have crank runout in the .000 to .003 range. Yes, gears can ‘tolerate’ more than that, but it’s not a wize choice. All that being said, I recently upgraded my 2007 96″ Twinkie at 30,000 miles. Cam tensioner shoe wear was ‘acceptable’ but crank runout was .006. I was not splitting the cases, so I went with an Andrews chain drive cam set. What I did install was the (fairly new) Zippers dual piston tensioners. These are J&P # 633-867. Read the write up and decide for yourself. The price was right, I paid 128 bucks with GC and other discounts. As far as wear, the jury is still out on that one, as I don’t have enough miles yet, but I will inspect frequently. Don’t bash up on Scott too much, he does know more than most of us.

I have a 99′ Heritage Softail Classic with 28K on it I bought 2nd hand. 1st HD I’ve owned.
Maintained well by previous owner. Is this a problem on this bike also?
If so, what is the BEST action to take without costing an arm and leg?

Yes, your motor is within the range of those that have cam tensioner wear issues. Have them inspected and as noted above, check them every 15K-20K miles. At some point you will need to upgrade to the hydraulic tensioner from H-D or Andrews or……

He’d have a hard time figuring out where the cam chain is since he has an Evolution engine.

Dave, Twin Cams came out in 1999 Touring & Dyna models. Softails came out in 2000 with the TC(B) motor. I hope this helps when you’re handing out advice on repairs.

NO you don’t have to worry about this issue. You have an Evo engine, not a Twin Cam. Evo’s has a single cam with a gear, not a goofy chain and tensioner.


Yeah gotta love the bullet proof EVO
ride it till your sore

Your ’99 Softail is NOT a Twin Cam motor it is an Evo motor so you don’t have the same problems as the TC’s. There are no cam chain tensioners in an Evo motor,it’s gear driven. The 1st year for Softail TC’s was 2000, so you’re in good shape.Enjoy that EVO !!!

Your best bet would be find the best price on a gear drive cam kit. (http://www.ebay.com/itm/ANDREWS-S-S-GEAR-DRIVE-CAM-KIT-INSTALL-SUPPORT-KIT-CAMS-TWIN-CAM-99-06-/400336717245?pt=Motorcycles_Parts_Accessories&hash=item5d35ed85bd&vxp=mtr) If you already have a good working relationship with a COMPETENT indy shop then they won’t have a problem helping you.
You may wish to install a more aggressive set of cams…. but I would not recommend it. This #26 Andrews cam with the S&S gears is about the best combination out there. I don’t know why the #26 grind is not the stock cam used anyway…. (a lot of people don’t know that Andrews makes the cams used in the factory) This is the exact same kit I used for my ’06 Heritage. -it runs beautiful. Whether your bike is carbureted or injected you must adjust the fuel accordingly, and to get the full benefit of the cam change I would highly recommend tuning the exhaust to the cams. You can do this without breaking the bank.

Is there any way that I can get on a mailing list that will continue to send me this kind of info??

What if you have a softail. Isn’t there a whole other issue with the shoes on the balancer chain system. To inspect those requires a complete engine disassembly as the cases have to be split? What is the failure rate on those tensioners?

On Feb 29, I bought my first ever Harley. 2012 Softail Heritage Classic. A month later, while driving at approx 50 mph, I noticed a wobble in my steering when I let off the gas. Thought maybe the road was bad. Ran a few errands, then jumped on I-75 for my 15 mile trip home. I reached 70, let off the throttle, and a massive wobble started. It was everything I could do to get the bike stopped. It almost threw me off. Had the dealer pick it up after I limped home. Turned out to be that the chrome wheel spokes were not tight because of a problem with the chroming process, which in turn destroyed the rear hub. Both wheels were changed to tubeless and the rear hub was replaced. 27 days in the shop for this fix. In late May, I noticed my turn signals stopped working and my headlight would vary in intesity. Went to switch to high beam one night, and the headlight bulb exploded. 5 more days in the shop. Faulty voltage regulator from the factory, which now has a recal on it I have had three regulators on my bike). Folks, I knew when I bought my first Harley that they were not known to be reliable creatures, but I never dreamed of having majors problems right off the bat. Believe these people who are warning of cam problems. Check your bike often. Second guess Harley techs! Ask questions!

Highly recommend trading that pos for a new BMW. MORE power, WAY better gas mileage, QUALITY construction, DEPENDABILITY, BETTER BRAKING system, handles better, rides just as good. See my other post on this forum.

Hey Greg I can relate. I bought a new 2005 FXDX. One day I am riding the freeway at 70mph in the rain. suddenly, the bikes steering starts wobbling wickedly. I lay off the throttle and it stops. I took it to a HD Dealer in Riverside (I bought it in Reno new) at under 500mi. The mechanics could not find or duplicate the problem. I rode it off and the problem continued. I determined that the bike would do this on a road that was sort of “wash board”. I took it back to the Riverside Dealer and they finally figured out the problem. They charged me $95. in labor and about $3.50 for the part. They said that if I had done the 500 mile service with them, they would of found the problem at that time. I checked the service manual of what is checked and there is no check for what was missing from the bike to cause the problem that may have killed an inexperienced rider. Never went back to that shop in Riverside again, never will. Right after that though I dropped about $2,500. at another HD dealer in Loma Linda, CA for performance upgrades. I guess I should mention what the problem was and how a $3.50 part almost killed me. The top front engine mount bolt was missing. This caused the steering to wobble wickedly, but only under certain conditions! Hope this helps to save a life or two. Inspect your bike often and look in all the nooks and crannies.

T- Man Performance has their own proprietary cam chain tensioner/plate upgrade that is ideal for high horsepower/upgraded TC motors.

i’ve gota 2005 harley fxd super glide with over 39k miles and became very concerned when i read about this recently. i change my own oil every 3k miles with synthetics. fortunately, when i had it checked, everthing was ok, in good condition still. i did find out that a friend lost an engine due to the cam shoe chain tensioners failure. definitely get it checked. i’ll try to go with the gear drive cams next if my crank run out is in tolerence.

my 6 cyl,valkyrie only gets better and better as i blow by the harleys

This is actually an issue involving potential loss of life and limb. We read about this all over the web, but apparently the NTSB either does not know about it or does not think it is serious. If this happens to me I will file a complaint to the NTSB; I’m sure that if the problem is indeed widespread by fact of numbers, NTSB will act and force a recall. But I suspect that only rarely does anybody actually file a complaint. And since by luck or whatever, there may not have been a lot of actual accidents the issue is not on the radar. So the NTSB probably considers it a nuisance, buyer beware, etc. Only if we quit buying motorcycles will Harley do much, or else this is really not that much of a problem that is being overblown on the web by a relatively small group of owners (sample bias). I guess I will find out, I have an FXD that had the original cam bearing problem only grudgingly acknowledged by and now also a FLHTK. In some ways, we are our worst enemies!

I had my ’02 Twin cam since it had just under 20k on it , put 30k more on it myself , and about 3 months after an accident heard some squeaks coming from the cam chest, I took it to my local indy shop who is very reputable and does nice work without breaking the bank. He determined that the cam chain tensioners were ok but needed changing, but the cams and lifters were scored very badly. While he was inside I had him find out if the gear drive could be installed. It was in fact well within specs . HD’s spec runout tolerance is/was .003…my actual was an amazingly low .001 ,so the gear drive was a no-brainer while he was changing the cam and lifter set. No more “periodic” or 15000 mile inspection checks .It runs strong , two-up… and btw, I use Royal Purple 20W50.

Indian Motorcycles are the Best bikes made in the U.S.A. Try it you’ll like it.

Ok Rusty, I think we get the point you love Indian’s.

Rusty J,
Enough of the spam already.

Enough already Rusty. This is not about Indians. Nice looking bikes for sure. Too bad they cannot stay in business.

2012 Ultra Limited- 8,000 miles on bike. I have not had any engine issues but the brakes are another story. Vibration/shake in rear brake espically riding double. Dealer did all the usual fixes. Harley rep came & rode it. Says its normal- all the touring models are doing it. They will not do any thing more for me. They say its because of thier new frame & mount system. My last Harley- very disappointed for 25,000-GGs. They refuse to stand behind thier product.

All new touring bikes are not doing it. I have a 2011 Road King Classic and I don’t have that problem. I have 35,000 miles on my bike and the only problem I have had was a warped front rotor which was replaced under warranty. Maybe you should try another shop.

This info has been very informative, and my condolinces go out to all with these twin-cam motors, one very important fact that has not been addressed is that, if you have installed gear driven cams,and put it on a Dyno, you will put extreme pressures on the crank that WILL DAMAGE IT, NO MATTER WHAT THE YEAR MODEL. I could on with all the whys and were-fors, but I will not bore you with all that. Just do the research yourself. Some things just aren’t rocket science. Even though tolorances may be within limits in normal operating conditions, all bets are off when placing an engine in such a state that a Dyno does!!

I have no desire to put my bike on a dyno. I dont see the need for a normal use rider to do it either. If youre into bragging rights and my ” ” is bigger than yours…go for it.

Desire to put your bike on a dyno or not, if you ever have a custom map done for an aftermarket fuel programer your bike will be put on a dyno.





check your low speed sensor and MAP sensor.

June 2012 issue of American Iron (page 26 “Letters”) stated a few customers had their bike die on acceleration. Most 2009 and newer.
Harley rep passed along info that the connector that plugs into the left-hand side of the throttle body, behind the air filter backing plate, was causing the terminal pins to create dust and therefore a poor connection, due to vibration. The fix was to disconnect the connector, blow it out with air and use dielectric grease. (Thanks to post from MB)

Instant cut-offs are usually an indication of an intermittent broken or a permanently broken connection. This connection can be at the battery terminals, it can be at an ignition switch terminal, there can be a short (wire insulation rubbed off) up in the switch housing containing the kill switch, etc. I have heard of bad spark plug wires causing this condition. More rarely, a bad coil.

You need to check to see if the ECM is throwing any trouble codes then go from there. If the codes tell you nothing, take the seat off, start the bike, and start jiggling wires to see if you can duplicate the condition.

Hi I had the same problem and my H-D service tech found out that my kill switch ( or run switch they call it now) was bad, And it would cause it to send a signal to the engine to shut down. Replaced the kill switch and haven’t had that problem since. But it did take him almost a full day to find the problem. Hope this works for you.

My 2007 Electraglide Standard was stalling when I slowed down to stop .. I had the fuel filter changed and it still did the stalling.. I put some fuel injector cleaner in the bike and it stopped the stalling. The Mechanic said that I may have gotten some contaminated gasoline……Now the motorcycle runs fine and every 4 or 5 tanks of gas I will put some more injector cleaner in the tank.

DAMN , DAMN, Why don’t we all get together and make a recall happen ?

I have a 2006 ultra I got it new in Dec 06 I use fully sin. Ams oil it has over 105k mi. on it and runs great never been apart and no problems but I am going to check them it’s time I ride all year don’t want to be on the side of the road in the cold I think a lot of it in the way you ride if you love to abuse your bike been there have fun but check it often

There were NO timken left bearings after 2002 in twin cams. A retrofit kit is available, and I would recommend it with an overhaul or serious performance upgrade;(the cases must be split to do it). As to the chain/ tensioner issue, I have seen very few 07 up failures with well maintained bikes. Gear drive is cool, but as stated, requires a straighter crank than you might have. Bob Woods has a nice gear over belt set-up that can help in this area. It is not cheap, but it is top quality. Just ride it!

It started out as what I thought was an exaust issue on my 07 Road King, going along at 75 mph. Then I thought maybe a bad fuel injector ? Bad motor at 22,000 miles, how disheartning. Service at HD recomended a factory rebuit engine and that they had seen this happen before. So with labor I owe VISA $4300.00 Not bad for a $18000.00 bike

I bought my 05 standard with seven thousand miles four yrs ago. I now have 102,000 miles on it. I have been worried to death about this problem as all the mechanics i know want to fix Harley’s problem. For a fee of 1200 bucks. I took my filters apart twice and they looked good. I feel this is and should be Harley’s problem. All said and done you will have well over 20,000 dollars in a bike that everyone says is going to fall apart before 20,000 miles. This should be a class action why nobody has done it I don’t know. One more little thing. My friend rides a 08 street glide. The needles were freezing up in the fuel supply. The bike would just shut down to idle out of the blue. It is amazing he has not been run over. It happens with no warning. Harley knows about this also with no recall. If it hasn’t killed yet it will. Come on Harley fix YOU’RE PROBLEM.

Can you list years and models affected. Are ALL HDs twin Cam. I an considering buying a used Roadking, would like to steer clear of a known problem. This would be my First HD.

Pre 07 twin cam bikes. Although the best years for the 88″ bikes are the 03-04 as they had the forged crank and Timken lefty bearing. These are good candidates for gear drives and would make them bulletproof!

Are you saying that a 2002 does not have a forged crank and a left side timken? I think so.

I had an 03 ultra and had the gear drive and andrews 37g cams installed at the dealership along with screamin eagle high compression heads. This was performed at 26000 miles there was very little spalding on the followers at the time. after the install there was NO whine at all, great performance, and at 32,000 miles driven gear shed two teeth only one was found and the crank was ruined. The crank was cast not forged they replaced it with another cast crank and put the origenal cam drive setup back in, the crank had the roller bearings with the left hand press on spacer, no Timken style rig. After about 6000 miles the crank failed in the pin and started rubbing the cases. Sent the engine to Harley’s engine reman program
and had it remaned plus upgraded to 95ci for the same price. Never had anymore trouble ran great after I put my high compression head back on it. At 79,000 a little girl in a borrowed Mustang hit it head on when I was sitting in the left turn lane, replaced it with a 12 ultra, have 30,000 miles on it, sure wish I had the 03 back

The 99 to 02 twin cam 88′s had the forged bottom ends

I was told, when I went through the HD program at MMI in Phoenix, that after ’02, all twin cam engines went away from the tapered timpken bearing and changed to a flat style bearing. I’ve been a HD tech for over 10 years, done many cam system up grades and repairs. Don’t know what soft 02 is talking about, he may have been misinformed on the bearing issue, tho. Tahoe guy is correct. The dealership I worked for was less than honest with their customers regarding repairs and service. They send lots of work to mu shop with their attitude. Any way, change oil and filter @ 2,500 mi and check tension system every 15,000 and use synthetics.

me like the other writer i’ll keep my EVO tried and True never a problem twist throttle and go no worries about cam chain tensioner pads wearing out next motor will be another Evo prolly an Ultima

This article gives a ton of mis-information and is clearly written by someone seeking to either sell parts or mislead people, I don’t typically contribute to online conversations but after receiving this link from a customer I felt compelled to give my input. H-D has had ongoing problems with their tensioner assemblies in the 99-06 Twincams, the introduction of the hydraulic tensioner assembly almost completely negated this problem in the current engines. Installing Gear drive is an option, but you will need very tight tolerances in your pinion gear runout to accomodate the installation, if you own a ’07 or later Twincam you’re very unlikely to be able to meet those spec’s. H-D has released a retrofit kit for the ’99-’06 platform, we have installed hundreds of these and they work flawlessly, they are more cost effective, and do not produce the unfavorable whining noise that you can end up with after installing Gear Drive. We have consistently found that tensioner failure is directly related to maintenance, if you change your oil every 2500 miles as H-D recommended for years, you drastically reduce the chance of either system failing. I know that H-D recommends 5K intervals (this is to show a lower cost of maintenance) and everyone runs Synthetic oil, we still recommend the 2500 mile service if you want your engine to survive. Your oil filter will need service prior to 5K, it’s cheap insurance to service your bike at sooner intervals, people forget that this is what your bike uses for lubrication as well as cooling. One good overheat will destroy your oil, it will progressively lose it’s protection values with continued operation and cause engine component failure, specifically the components of your cam compartment. S&S is a great company that offers some of the best after-market products on the market, but make sure you do some research before you run out to invest thousands of dollars in a gear drive.

The only point I don’t agree with is the SE kit still doesn’t address the inner chain and some have had the shoe get eatin up by the OEM link chain.

if you concern is that great trade it in on a honda

Thank you for the excellent commentary. With your permission I would like to ask you another question: Are you a believer in the advantages of synthetic oil in the big twin engine? I race motorcycles (not Harley) and use synthetic in everything, but my dealer service manager says he has literally never seen an engine failure related to petroleum based oil and is not convinced there is an advantage to synthetic in the H-D application. I have synthetic in it at the moment, anyway.
Your input would be greatly appreciated.

I have a Yamaha Raider and the service interval is 5K on the oil changes and they have no issuse like this at all. How can you say there is a lot of mis-information when you go against your companys recomindations and say to change the interval. That my friend is being dis honest about HD. Don’t cover for them they printed it they need to stick by what they print!!

Great BLOG. It has been mentioned that there are several repair manuals .. Which do YOU find the best for someone wanting to replace tensioner assemblies without taking it to a shop.
ART Deadwood SD

I have found that the factory service manual has been worth every penny. That applies to whether you are working on a Harley, a Yamaha, or even something like a Polaris snow machine. The others like Clymer, Haynes, and the software based style are simply not complete.

I agree with the majority of what is said here, however, I installed gear cams in a 2004 Roadking with no tolerance spec issues whatsoever and they worked just fine even up until I decided to do a stroker kit. The gear cams, even with installation labor costs was still $1,500 or less which is far cheaper than replacing a motor when the chain drive setup decides to take a dump. I’m still running gear drive cams (S&S) and she is thumping along very nicely. Bottom line is do your research like what is suggested here before jumping on ANY band wagon regardless of the direction you go.


I have a 2008 Road King and imagine it’s affected. How much for parts and/or labor to do the gear drive modification. I’m a DIY guy but don’t want to get in over my head if this is a “High-Tech” job. Please advise, Thanks.

Let me know what you find out. ’07 RK 20K miles and have had mine checked and shows no signs of wear but am interested in seeing what the fix might cost.

Its not affected. Wouldn’t loose sleep on it.

Doug and Rob, As Soft 2 noted your motors are not affected. They have the updated hydraulic tensioning system. The gear drive could easily run you a grand even if you do the work yourself.

I was told by my dealer in 2000 when I purchased my FXDWG that there was a customer fix that needed to be done concerning the wrong cam bearings (should have been a dealer fix on a new bike). Well I didn’t worry about it until 30000 miles. When the bearings were changed, inspection showed that the shoes were extremely worn, but not broken and no metal to metal contact (so I was in good shape). Changed the tensioners with a supposed better version of the stock form, put the motor back together and continued to ride. I’m not a hot rodder with my fist continually down the throat of the carburetor, which I believe can be a contributing factor to failure. Anyway I will have them replaced again next year at the 50000 mile mark. I consider changing the tensioners to be routine maintenance, but it would have been nice to have an interval inspection time printed in the manuals. Check those tensioners and make the fix even if a little wear and you will have a lot of miles left in your Twin Cam.

Things like this make me that much happier to be hanging on to my EVO in my FLSTS :)

Me too. I love my 400,000+ evo. If it aint broke ride it till your sore.

Nothing that can’t be resolved through a class action lawsuit against Mother Harley. If she won’t acknowledge this known issue and warranty it for the riders of their product, then they should be help accountable. They could prevent a huge financial blow if they perform a recall like other major company’s instead of hiding it and hoping it will go away. Thanks for the info, I will definitely keep this article for future reference in the ase it is needed.

Hi Debbie
I think a class action lawsuit is the answer for this fix. After spending over 20 Grand for a bike I think they should back-up there product. If this was a new car do you think that we would have to be concerned about it not getting recalled?

You are accurate with this issue. However I upgraded my ’03 to the hyd. set up with the higher volume oil pump myself. The gear set up would be a better choice providing you are able to get the cams you want. I’ve been told that inner and outer cam bearing alignment must be dead on in that application or the inners can spin inside the casting. (fail) There are several other “denied” Harley issues such as; failed drive belts, inner tank fuel lines and rear wheel off center. Had the inner fuel line from the check valve to the pressure regulator rub a hole from the raised section inside the tank 3 times. Put plactic wire loom around it the last time which has worked. Drive belt replaced with a sidecar version that just happened to say “Screamin Eagle” on it. Working on the “oh so common” off center rear wheel issue still. (looks stupid) Remember, if you have a problem with yours, chances are so does someone else with the same model. I just love the classic comeback: “Buy a new one”.

I would like to hear more about the rear-off-center issue. I think Ii might have this problem. I feel a slight wobble in a deep right turn on my ’06 FLHPI. Is there an easy check? A good fix?

Check your rear tire (or maybe even your front one). I had this problem and it turned out to be a bad rear tire. It had some broken cords or something. There was an almost imperceptable bump on one side of the rear tire. I was sure glad to be able to fix it with just a tire replacement.

Been following this thread… Just thinking out-loud here.
Pop that timing cover of and look at the nylon shoes…
A gasket, an oil change and just replace the thing!! Cheap!! Do it every two or three years depending on mileages.


I agree checking it is easy, buy a small dental mirror at walgreens or whatnot. This will make it easy to the the one behind the cam plate.

Checking them is relatively easy and cheap. Replacing the outside one is also relatively easy. However, replacing the inner shoe is fairly expensive and time consuming. The cam plate and cams must be removed. Attenion everyone!!! While you are in the cam chest, don’t forget to replace those cam bearings!!!!!! The INA bearings Harley uses as OEM are also sub-standard!!! NEVER go into your cam chest without replacing those bearings with the MUCH better Torrington B148 bearings.

Well said Dave! Do your homework people! Whenever possible, always look for a domestic replacement part. The ONLY parts I buy from HD are ones not released for aftermarket. Its becoming obvious that the quality is being engineered out of Harley. I guess the MoCo didn’t learn anything from the AMF days. I have both wheel bearing sets to do this weekend. The Asian factory units are failing. I finally found an American supplier. (WJB) p/n DH559339 One would think that for the price of the bikes, the factory would not cut corners in all places like bearings….

A rough gear chain is the problem as well as the design,of you take the time to polish the back of the cam chains this will fix the problem.

Funny, I thought about that when I had it apart but could not find anyone who had completed doing it.

I have a 2005 90 c.i. Suzuki Boulevard. Very strong, very dependable. I’m not worried about my “cheap” Jap bike leaving me stranded anywhere. I love to look at Harley’s, beautiful machines..most of my friends ride them, but I am a worry-wart and constantly worrying about my bike would ruin the ride for me. My 2 cents.

I am one of the unfortunate ones! Thanks to H.D. for not taking ownership and pride in there workmanship, my bike 2006 softail deluxe, lost its engine. My oil was changed evey5 thousand k. No warning no lights when my engine went. I had extended warrenty and even this failed me.
Kinda makes you want to tell everyone to run away from these bikes.
On the day my bikes engine litterly blew up I had 62800ks on it. This ame day my huspand turned100,ooo on his Kawasaki cruiser. He has never had any problems with his bike . This bike had its oiled changed every 5 thousand ks also…Do I need to say anything more?

YES, Buy an Indian the best bike in the U.S.A.!!!

You’re the classic Indian idiot–no facts or common sense.

I have a 2008 FLHX with 109,000 totally trouble-free miles. Never had any of the cases opened for anything. I just ride sanely and change oil every 3,000 miles. Anyone can destroy a new motor if they ride it like the warranty will take care of you.

Evo’s rule !

Janet, I ride Kawasaki cruisers also; an ’06 1500 and an ’05 1500. Kawasaki Vulcans suffer from the same problem, although not ALL of them. The can follower shoes are alot longer than Harley’s. As such, it takes them longer to wear to an unuseable level. A worn tensioner shoe will manifest itself by marking the spark plug tubes first, then after the chain saws through them (aluminum), oil begins to leak. A quick check your husband can make is to remove the tensioner screw-on covers and look at the recessed rod in the tensioner body. If it’s recessed more than 5/16″ the tensioners need to be pulled and have “extenders” put on the rods where the factory spacer is now. It’ll literally take a half hour to check them and a couple hours to do the mod.

Janet is correct the Kawi’s will get 2 hundredthousand taken care of but they have their problems with cam chains and shoes they need to also be watched

Iv been a Harley tech for many years, and yea they do wear out over time but look at your service manuals, every 10,000 mile they are checked and every 5,000 miles it is retitend to speck, its just anything else on your bike if u neglect the bike and what it needs you will have issues with how the bike runs and how long parts last. Another thing Harley covers that part in there warrenty, so u are right but u need to tell all the truth not just the bad stuff, way to go on doing your home work


HAHAHAHAHA! Awesome. how to you “retitend to speck” a cam chain tensioner? And in what book does it say to do so every 5k miles? How do you “retitend” every 5k when you only check every 10k? Should have never started this.

Well, you mentioned that the run out might be. 005 but wait, up until 2008 the spec was. 002. Harley lost all quality control and that run out spec is. 010. If you look further the spec for the oil pump is. 004, so guess what. @ .005 you wasted the oil pump too. Very common in the twin came especially after 2008. When Harley said f**k it! Buy a new bike! Let’s get out the whole story here folks these engines have and are destined to failure. I bought a new CVO bike in 2008 and took it apart with 11 miles on the engine and found. 004 run out on the crank pin. Iimedeatly brought it to the attention of my dealer. The owner acted surprised especially when I told the spec for ever was. 002 (quite frankly that is too much) so when we contacted the factory there answer was to ride the bike andhave fun under an extended warranty? F**k it. Well the first oil pump failed @ 1000 miles, thesecond @ 4500 miles. You be the judge? We need quality control to start with. If this scares you it should! They are out and still selling the same problems. There are fixes but dig deep. Or get the extended warranty and by all means get rid of it before that warranty runs out. Just hope you don’t mind you’re bike sitting in the shop for repairs while every one else is out riding.

Evo’s rule!

Couldn”t agree more. Give me a gravity fed, carbureted, 80cid “Blockhead” any day of the week. Just wanna get my kicker installed & would like to go back to points. Seen to many guys stranded ’cause their EFI fuel pump module puked or the IGN. module crapped out. easier to carry a spare set of points & . condenser. (if the matchbook trick don’t work) Don’t need or want bigger, faster, fancier, more complicated crap. I Like enjoying scenery & the ride, don’t need to get there any faster or fancier.

While yes the spring style is one to be checked often the 07+ are far less prone to this by design Many folks are getting well over 100k on the newer design. As someone stated going gear drive is not the answer and crank runout comes into play. You are advised not to go with gear drives if runout exceeds .003 and the MoCo has a tolerance of .012 Unless you send your crank out to be balanced, welded and trued gears are not an option and if you think the SE hyd plate fixes this it doesn’t. It only addresses the outer chain and leaves the inner a Morris style flat link chain. Andrews among others have conversion cams to allow for the inner to utilize the roller style cain. With gear drives you don’t get the advantage of the higher volume pump. The 07+ hyd design has proven itself in the field and is the only way to go if you don’t address the crank. As you can see by the pics (at 90k) once the chain wears down far enough it will not go much further as the rollers bridge the center. Look into Andrews conversion cams and hyd plate. Cheaper than going to gears and can be done by most people. IMHO.



My 04 RK Custom at 24k started having trouble withreal loud noise from timing cover. Being broke I purchased new tensioners and RR myself. After 400 mi on it aft the new tensioners I still have same noise? Bike runs great actually better than it did. Now what? I’m in garage now as winter has set in Breckenridge Colorado so any suggestions?

At 14k miles a friend in ca.[DANNY HAM....R.I.P.] talked me into having him install a screamin eagle high volume oil pump with hydraulic chain tensioners…he showed me my stock tensioners and they were almost to the metal in places[uneven wear]..i nowhave 60k miles and replace oil and filter every 5k miles..costly i know but im still ridin….i have yet to inspect my tensioners but have no foreign debris in my used oil or filters.think i ll go to 100k before i take my engine apart…i feel that maintenance is the key to stayin on top of any factory [secrets]..i also use syn3 oil….also not recommended by the naysayers and whistleblowers..ride a harley….keep it harley……in the wind

I have an 04 RoadKing, changed mine to gear drive at 25000, and my tentioners were already starting to pit pretty bad. I’m glad i did now i have piece of mine, i dont have to wonder when they are going to fail.. Have a friend with an2002 RoadKing, worn tentioners cost him a motor.

I had mine checked at 37K and they were only slightly worn. I had him go ahead and change them while it was apart. I did use a reputable mechanic. ( In my Mind) He told me about the runout question and mine was well within specks I now have 79k on my 05 Road King. He pushed me into a slightly bigger cam (it has a little more lope and improved mid range power) I like the sound of the Gear Drive. I will ride it till it die’s not big on spending $ that I don’t have.

BTW, I do use RevTec Synthetic oil in my engine and Belray for my trans.

Does this apply to efi sportys as well?

Sporty’s are gear driven and don’t have chains.

Thanks for the info. I have a 2010 Super Glide. Would this apply to me as well?

I have over 21,000 miles on my bike at the moment so I do a fare amount of riding!

Any advice would be appreciated.

No. You have the upgraded hyd unit. Check them at 100k.

I have a 2009 springer CVO with 8000 miles. Does this apply to my bike? thanks

Your motor should have the upgraded hydraulic system. That said, have them checked at 50K.

I recently bought a 99 super glide with 30,000+ miles from a dealer. Should I be worried

Yep. ’99 through ’06 TC’s are affected. Have heard of rare failures as early as 7k miles. I have an ’06 Heritage Classic, checked tensioners at 30k when I heard of the problem. Looked again at 48k miles, looked like they had another 20-30k left on them, but I changed them anyway. Now have 78k on the bike and haven’t been back in the motor, but it’s about time to look again. I think the second set will far outlast the first set, as the chain has been polished by then.

i have 2004 springer does this apply

I have a 2012 Road King with 103 is this something I need to worry about

Your motor should also have the upgraded hydraulic system. That said, have them checked at 50K.

I have a 08 road king those this aply to me.


The article was well written, however you neglect to tell people about the potential dangers of running gear drive cams. You have to first see if your bike has the correct crank run out to accept gear drive. Anything over .005 run out you cannot use gear drive because the run out is too much and you can damage the teeth and then you may even brake a tooth off and then you are still talking about catastrophic failure. The only real problem solver for this issue is to do the correct preventative maintenance on your bike. Make sure that you are using a quality mechanic that has experience with twin cams. I fell that next time you post a blog about something like this you should get all of your fact straight and tell the whole truth and just not try to sell people more expensive parts.

I have a 2004 Ultra Classic. I have 21,000 miles on it and have changed oil as suggested, and still, I worry about something going wrong. I have heard of this problem before, but need to ask…..at what point, miles wise, should I begin to worry?? Will synthetic oil help prevent the problem over conventional oil? Is there anything else I can do to insure there is no premature failures with these guides? Thanks

Oil does not seem to be a determining factor. Maybe driving style. I would check them every 15-20k. I recommend you make a habit of cutting your filter open at every service and look for pieces of orange plastic.

The oil filter is not where the small plastic loogies will lodge…. They will clog up the oil pump passages and I have taken some out of oil pumps. Do whatever you have to do to get that tensioner out of there. You don’t want to see the parts of the motor that have been starved for oil….


I have a 2003 FXD. Checked the tenisioners at 30K miles, the one on the back was worn out. caught it just in time. I replaced them with the orignal ones. Also one the came lobes was missing a chuck of cam lobe. Where the hell did that go? Replaced cams with Andrew TW 21. So far so good. I have used syn since it was new. I now have 50k miles and getting ready to check them again. Regarding the missing piece of cam. I think it was that way when it was installed.

You should look at purchasing the hydraulic cam chain tensioner upgrade that Harley offers for ’99 – ’06 HD’s. You can use your existing cams. Includes a new and improve cam plate along with a new oil pump. The new oil pump is much better than the old oil pumps by providing much higher feed rate and higher scavenging rates.
You won’t have to worry about the tensioners wearing out.

My plastic was white!

The only way to tell is pull the cam chest cover and inspect. My 02 Fatbay with 20K had a serious issue with shoe wear, especially the rear one. I disassembled and repaired it myself. About 550. in parts from Lakeshore Harley. If you are mechanical at all you can do this repair. I had experience on car/trucks but never on a Harley and looking back it was a difficult job. I put in the upgraded hydraulic cam plate and oil pump. My runout was out of spec for gears. My cam chain shoes broke and crumbled with ease once I had them out on on the bench. Scary.

Check it at your next oil change!

My 2 Cents

Feel free to contact me with questions.

Jimmyuforia [at] gmail [dot] com

As a follow-up, I seriously looked at just replacing the worn spring type tensioners on the original cam plate, and if cost is major fact this can be done. You must know however it does not make any difference in dis-assembly or reassembly. The cams will still need to be removed from the cam plate in order to put the new spring tensioners on. You will not be saving any work or labor only some money. The new spring tensioners were about 80 each when I did my research. for the extra 300 or so dollars I felt it was worth the upgraded cam plate.

Cams do not have to be removed. The cams stay in the cam plate and are removed as an assembly. the worst part is getting the exhaust off.
I agree and did do the Hydraulic tensioner upgrade..

I had a 2001 Harley Ultra Classic 43000 miles that this exact situation happened. It cost me thousands of dollars in repair costs. Fortunately I did not have to replace the entire engine.

Sorry to say but there is not a set time. I had an 03 FLHPI Roadking it had 46 thousand miles when I wrecked it. I owned it since it had 5 thousand miles with no problems. I replaced it with another 03 but a Lowrider FXDL that had 20 thousand miles. This bike was rode hard and I needed to replace the tensioner within a short time. The dealer started warning me after 30,000 to get it checked. So you should keep in mind how you drive and check accordingly.

As to worry about your 21k on engine, have had and ridden HDs for 40 years, new bikes are much better than pervious models. Not bulletproof but better. Mileage and maintenance-go hand in hand. Have over 102K on my 06 Classic. Had full top end rebuild and hotter cams done at 100K. The heads still looked new. Do regular checks, use synthetic (Amsoil) oil and change every 3K and check the tensioners. Stop worrying and enjoy the ride!

I have a 2004 FLHTI that I maintain exactly as the factory recommends for hard riding (2,500 mile checks, etc.). I have 81,000 miles on her right now and do cross country through the desert in the summer (120 degrees) and ride all through the winter in Colorado. I had to change the tensioners at 52,000 miles the first time. I noticed a drop in oil pressure and went straight to the dealer. They cleaned it out, replaced the tensioners and the cam plate (which included the oil bypass valve – which had become clogged with debris) changed the fluids and sent me back out. (At that point in time, I was just becoming aware of this as a systemic issue.) She rode fine until 75,000 miles, then I started hearing a grinding noise in the cam area. (I have loud pipes so I hadn’t been hearing anything until it was too far gone.) At that point, I elected to do a reman through the factory program rather than try and band aid the problem. I had them knock it out to 95 at the same time. That reman comes with the new SE tensioner. I’ve been very happy with the 95. All this to say, I’d change out the tensioners every 25,000 or so to be safe.

I caught mine by watching the oil pressure, and when it dropped to almost 0 at idle, I strained my oil through a mesh, noting the orange plastic pieces as suggested by my mechanic. I upgraded to the next gen oil pump (Screaming Eagle), decontaminated the engine, for a total incl service of $1200. Ouch!

James, Saw your comment on J&P website about oil pressure and contamination. I have a 2007 Ultra Classi w/1675 actual miles, bought used w/ 800 on it. Bike was garaged for 4 or 5 years. Harley checked it, said they installed new pump and clutch basket and did first 1,000 mi. service. pressure drops real low when warmed up to operating temp. Is that normal? Dealer said nothing wrong.

Nothing is wrong, the oil pressure usually drops very low when hot. I work for a dealer, common question & concern. As long as the oil pressure comes right up under acceleration and stays up above 32 when cruising down freeway, its good. It’s unfortunate how uneducated some people at dealers are, and that they are not willing to at least offer some correct information to the public.

I’ve got 51,000 on my 07 Ultra Classic, yes at Idle the oil pressure is just above 0. It does move up to good pressure when I running at speed on mine.

Doe, brain fart, I have the Electraglide Classic not an Ultra. Anyway, great bike, love it.

You are correct to be concerned. On my 2006 Ultra Classic the Harley Dealership changed mine out for hydraulic actuated cam tensioners at 42000. This may have simply been a way to save them some grief in the long run since I was still under an extended warranty. If I were you I would start to inspect them every 10K after the initial 20k. If you don’t ride your bike hard it should not be a problem. Later on you might want to seriously consider a gear drive system-I plan to.

I have been using Amsoil and mine went out at 30,000 miles changed to the hydraulic cam tensioners I have a 2004 Electra Glide I changed my oil pump as well better oil pressure now

That’s it Harley should have a recall on this issue rather then the Harley owner having to deal with it Don’t ya get enough money on our constant upgrading and adding Chrome ????

Wait do I hear Class action suit any hungry Lawyers out there… Don’t be fooled only the Lawyers make out on this, Owners only get pennies on the dollar But the company would have to pay millions Enough said..

Thank you

I have over 35,000 miles on my 02′ Ultra, I had the cam chain pads inspected by very well quality mechanic. And he told me that what ever I’m doing,to keep doing it! He also stated that my engine was the cleanest one that he has ever seen. I change my oil at the beginning of every year, and I use Ams Oil 20w50. I have riden hard at times but like to love to cruise easy and smooth. I love my Ultra and baby it, probably because they don’t come cheap! Well maintained keeps it going!

I have put Harley Screaming Eagle Synthetic oil in my 2005 Springer since about 2000 or 3000 original miles from new on it. I just had my cam chains and followers checked (due to the suggestion) a few months ago at about 20,000 miles and was told they
are fine. I was told (which is true) since I do not run my engine hard ( and to my estimation the use of the synthetic oil) that every thing was fine.

I had a 2005 Ultra I bought new and put 82,692 miles on it . Ihad the owner of a dealership in Springfield tell me there might be a problem , I had it tore down and checked at 63,000 and sure enough the would have not went much further before it was a major problem. While we had it down we upgraded the cams and put new bearings in it and tensioners. This is a problem and it is a major tear down to upgrade and not cheap. Harley mentions nothing in the owners manuel or service manuel for this problem or list it as normal mataniance . So my question is what are they trying to hide. This should be a recall problem, I love Harley and would not ride anything else over my 62 years but they need to step up to the plate and do whats right by their customers. We have made them what they are today and what they will be in the future.

Stanley I just pulled my 02 classic down and my inside shoe was completly gone. Metal on metal and never heard a sound and Im always listening to my motor. That was at 39,000 miles. I opted for the hydrolic cause I could do it myself and there are problems with gear on gear just like all of them. Just pull it down every 40,000 instead of 15,000. But the shoes are fairly easy to change out. Good luck and please check them shoes now. p.s. I use Mobil 1 full synth.

You should have it checked out , or check it yourself, with 20k being a number to at least open it up, and look at the tensioners.
It also makes very little difference what oil you use, what seems to make more difference is riding it every day, and don’t let the bike sit, the oil runs off of the tensioners , and when the chain runs over it eats them up until they get oil.

That crank runout is a lot more forgiving than you realize. I have taken out at least 5 chains and put back in gear drives in engines that already had 30K. Harley engines will allow for some “limberness”. I did my own gear drive change over at 18K miles and it now has 60K and its still going strong. I installed the Andrews #26 grind. I don’t know why HD didn’t use these cams for STOCK. It runs beautiful.

Is there a whirling noise that comes from the area where the gear drives are?

There is a slight gear whine but it is not so loud that it is offensive. I have heard some gear drive kits that are very loud, almost like a supercharger. I don’t know why some are loud, some are not. My 2006 FLSTC has had Lucas full syn 20w50 since the 1000 mile service. Its got right at 60K on the clock and it runs quiet. I really like how the synthetic keeps it running cool as well.

i have put the same thing in both my tc and your right they do run beautiful ! your also right harley should have done this from the get go !

Buy an Indian, The best Motorcycle Made U.S.A.

Not helpful to the topic, just bragging about what you own. Lame.

LMAO you mean one of those wonderful Indians with a powerplus 100 , or the Harley Softail knock off with a S&S engine to funny

Shut up! These “my bike is better than yours” comments is tiring, especially if the rider has warm summer days riding experience or less than ten years averaging less than 6,000 miles a year experience.

Is your gal’s ring a wanna be diamond ?

been ridin’ since 1975. Springers, flatheads, panheads, pan/shovels, rigids, yada, yada, yada. Husband has 2000 cranberry Screamin’ Eagle Road Glide. 138,000 miles on ‘er. Ride ALL THE TIME.
He does ALL his own work on the scoot.
INDIAN ??? REALLY ?? If it’s not old and NOT
a REAL one, U can byte

I dont own a twin cam but do have a 1997 ultra tourglide. The evo was upgraded to 110 ci at 145,000 miles. The bike now has 410,000 miles and has never had an issue with metal fatigue or any metal to metal issues ever. The point being made is a good self maintenence every 3000 regardless of how you ride is mandatory to any harley and quality oil and filter(lucas/fram all i have ever used )is the key to high mileage and worry free engine life. Ps. Keep the wind in your face and the tires down and ride till your sore.

I had a 03 Indian Spirit I like the S&S motor but it was always something with that bike. I have a Friend who has a Indian Chief He rode it out west and barely made it home. had to have a new power plus installed when he got home and the tranny also.

It is a moot point. New cranks can have run out of .012 and still meet specs that have been changed to agree with the cheap pressed cranks they now offer. Too many shortcuts in mfg to name all, but my 07 EG had compensator go bad on way back from Sturgis in 09. That shifted the pressed crank out of phase to about .048 inch. Only things reused in rebuild was bottom case halves, (new bearings and trued and welded crank) and heads. 15k miles later on way to
NM the front cylinder let go, (found out there is known issue with 103 upgrade kits). Traded that piece of junk for different brand bike and couldnt be happier. If you want to make a lot of noise and stand in front of a bar posing like a bad a– biker, by all means buy Harley. If you want to RIDE, buy something else.

Mack, they are all machines and they ALL have their respective issues, it doesn’t matter the brand. The big problem here isn’t the fact that people are going to use this problem to brand bash, the problem is that this info wasn’t released 10+ years ago. Somebody knew it and sat on it, covering their own ass with fine print while their customers unknowingly took it in the @$$ on repairs.
So much for integrity.

Geez, I found this out in 2004; this isn’t new. It’s been well documented on the internet on multiple chat boards.

really not sure what is going on with harley now.
Had a 2003 sportster that i just sold this year with no problems, My 2010 Dyna constantly a problem, last one rear axle bearing went out, destructing the rear wheel, lucky I had 2 weeks of warranty left.
Really starting to think the older bikes were built better.
Whats going on with Harley?
Love the brand and the name but starting to become something that is too costly to maintain after the warranty.
My bike made every service before time and never ridden hard or abused.

Well said Miguel. I was looking for the author to mention crank run out and he never did. Almost half the stock cranks I have seen with very little mileage have between .005 and .008 of run out. Which tells you that that is an exceptable amount to the factory. So as far as I’m concerned yes harley should go gear drive but then it cost more money not just for the cams but they would have to produce better cranks.

I have an 01′ Harley Deuce and changed out my chain drive with very low millage because of said problem. I have 40,000 miles on the motor now. It is a 95c.i. running 640 S&S Gear Set. And i have had no problems as of yet. Glad to have gotten rid of the chain drive.

I now also have a 2011 Road Glide Ultra with a hand built 120R motor. When i built the motor my Harley Dealer told me that the new Hydralic chain system should last for over 50,000 miles. It does not make me feel safe but i didn’t change it at time of my build. It still bothers me so when i check the chain drive. If it is worn and looks bad i will be going to an S&S Gear Drive it they have a Gear Set for this motor.

As a 25 yrs of building automotive drag racing engines ,chain and gear drives all have their issues,you are correct about the run out .The only real fix is a belt drive,that elimates timing.vibration harmonics ,the tension of the belt is controlled by a pully no rubbing no wear.Does any company make a belt drive for the V Twin?

S&S X-wedge engine.

Wood Performance.

I own a 2004 fat boy that has been customized with a 300 tire and right side drive tranny and it has the original engine that has been serviced every 2500 miles or less and has 52000 miles on it.I put plugs in it at 50000 because I felt bad about it I run nothing except high grade fuel 92 and up with 2 and a half inch pipes w/ forcewinder breather If you want to see it for real go to leftys motorcycles.net

The preventative maintenance is 6 hours of labor. At 15,000 miles that is pricey maintenance for anyone who does any serious riding.

Well said, “preventative maintanence”. Not re-engineering 100+ years of actual bike building. With parts that are proven to twist a flywheel set on a drag race.

I’ve replaced a few of the spring tensioner assemblies with hydraulic tensioner set ups on the twin cam engines and found that simply polishing the chains before installation is the best way to avoid any future problems. I’m a ASE Master/L1 (Advance Level) Tech with over 35 yrs in the repair industry and seen my fair share of chain driven & gear driven set ups. My advise, polish the chain before installation.

The best advise on the whole blog. Polish the chains , still a bit of a pain but it works. Should have a MOCO recall.

Have never owned a 99 up TC motor and probably never will. Am thinkin about a new 15 103.

My 98 EVO FLSTC vibrates, but no motor problems I’ll live with it.

Hey Tom, Merry Xmas ! Good Point ! I’m also of the age, (65) that I can buy anything I want, the stock market has been good to me. Speaking of stocks, I sold most of my H-D stock, we bought for $8. a share, for $65.. After reading all 3 J&P Blogs, 1000+ comments, H-D had betrayed it’s customer base, I couldn’t support the MOCO anymore.
Oh, I’ll never sell my 2 Evos, that was the motor that saved H-D from the Brink. Since August of 2013, I’ve ridden 2 dozen new Indians on 9 Demo days, nice bike, all gear drive, cams, primary, just like the “ole” Indians . I haven’t rode the New Scout yet, but with 100 hp, I will, next Demo day. The price $10,999.- !I’m also liking, Polaris’s Slingshot, check it out !

Yeah, I’m gonna check out that Scout as well! She looks GOOD

Good job on the HOG stock

I know HD treats its base like shit, but $$ is the bottom line to me…I got this 15 Police unit for what they sold for in 1997!! It was the deal of a lifetime, HD wants to move these FLHTP and the customer is the winner…unless I showed you the paperwork you would not believe it, unreal. Hey, let us know how that new Scout you’ll be buying works out!

If you read the blog. the models most affected were 02?- 06 with the cheap shoes, and bad chains. Later bikes changed to hydro. Still not a fix but better.Guys like you are sooo uninformed that its not funny anymore. This is a problem that’s 15 years old and will not go away any time soon. So go ahead and beat the shit out of your bike, what do I care. Pass it on bro, you got nothing too lose.LOLOLO

Donny; As I said I’ve never owned a 99-06 TC motor. I was aware of this problem, that is why I kept my EVO and went with a new 103. From what I can determine the new rushmore motors are much better as far as this is concerned. At any rate, I also understand not everyone can afford to buy new, so they have to settle for an older one with potential problems, and that is primarily what this blog is about. Ride safe, Bro!


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