Chain Tensioner Follow Up

//Chain Tensioner Follow Up

Chain Tensioner Follow Up

Well, how do I top that? My previous blog about the Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam chain tensioners was the most read blog in J&P Cycles’ blog history. We have been asked for permission to reprint or repost a number of times, and in general, I believe it accomplished exactly what I wanted it to.  You can see we had numerous responses from riders sharing their personal experiences. This shows that education regarding how to handle and prevent this was needed. I’d like to thank our readers for taking the time to share with us exactly what they went through. Now, I’d like to address some of the responses.

The most prevalent question was “Does this affect my bike?” The cam chain tensioners are in every Twin-Cam engine produced (from the factory) from 1999 through today. Potentially, this affects every Big Twin engine made during this time. There was an update to Hydraulic Tensioners in 2007 that lessens the impact and greatly delays the possible failure point, but they still must be periodically checked.  The wear out point is much later, but it does come.  You Sporty riders are not affected as your cams are gear driven. You guys with Evo engines are also off the hook as your engines are also gear driven. (Hmmmmm, see a pattern here?)

One thing I did not address previously is crankshaft run out and the relationship to how it can create issues with a gear drive. Yes, it can create a problem.  You must look at this prior to jumping to gear drive. If it is too far out, your choices are limited; however, the chain tensioners have allowed Mother Harley to relax crankshaft tolerances. To me, it seems that this is a self-generated comedy of errors.

Gear drives served you well Mother Harley. After all, you used them from 1936-1999 in Big Twins and 1957-2013 in Sportsters. You know how to do it. Only now it seems like we have to convince (beg?) you to.  Keep the crank run out inline, and go back to gears

Now, I would like to point out that gears can be noisier than a shoe arrangement like this. Mother Harley has to satisfy noise emission guidelines mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency, and using this type of arrangement MAY be part of their compliance. I’m not making excuses for them, but without their giving us a direct answer there may be more to it than dollars and cents. I’d love to hear from corporate Harley about this and I could almost guarantee that we would post that answer.  How about it readers? Would you like to see a response from the Factory?

By |2015-04-14T16:18:35+00:00November 30th, 2012|Categories: Editorial/Commentary Articles|375 Comments

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  1. H-D Truth October 15, 2016 at 7:35 am

    Let’s not forget the fact that this fatal design flaw was kept quiet from the public from day one. Tensioner inspection is found nowhere in the owners manual, or listed in the maintenance checklist. If known in advance most guys such as myself would go through the richual B/S and inspect them every 10k miles. But the fact is that Harley-Davidson’s attitude towards non warranty purchasers was SCREW THE PUBLIC. And that’s exactly what they continue to do. I’m not going to run out and buy a Victory or an Indian, but I can assure you that I have no restraint when it comes to telling people that I don’t ride Harleys because they are the best, or even good motorcycles, but it is purely a love affair regardless of good or bad. And with my TC 88 with 29K sitting in the garage with the cam cover off just reinforces my urges to punch the guy behind the parts counter at the dealership right in the mouth.

    • boston jim October 25, 2016 at 11:03 am

      Hey Truth, That’s nothing but the Truth ! Spot on ! What year & model is your TC 88 ? And why is the cam cover off, thinking about going Hydraulics ? Let us know, what you end up doing ! Best of Luck, BJ

      • H-D Truth November 2, 2016 at 12:08 pm

        2001 Heritage Softail,29k miles, Twin Cam “B” with the inner tensioner ground down to the metal. Ironically the “B” has more “B”earings that become contaminated with metal puree, and when the counter weight bearings need to be replaced it’s a pull the motor and split the case job. Bike is sitting in the garage with the cam cover off until I decide what to do with the p.o.s. ?

        • boston jim November 10, 2016 at 10:57 am

          Hey Truth, You have one thing in your favor ! The 99 – 02 had Forged Cranks ! Your’s is the first I’ve heard of a Counter Weight Bearing problem ? It’s an extra 14 lbs. for the motor to move, must eat up HP ? The “metal puree” will never be caught by the oil filter ! It’s highly unlikely, it would get thru the oil pump, on it’s way back to the oil tank ! Then it’s pulled from the oil tank, thru the pump to the oil filter ! What are the odds, that a piece of metal or plastic from the cam tensioner, would ever make that entire journey ? I think the oil direction in an Evo is a better system, the dirty oil from the motor, goes thru the oil filter, then back to the oil tank. So, basically, the Evo oil tank, always has clean oil, while the Twin Cam oil tank, always has dirty oil ? If I owned a TC, I’d be using a couple of those DIMPLE Magnets everywhere ! They also make & sell Super Magnet Drain Plugs ! Cheap Insurance ! Good Luck !

          • H-D Truth November 10, 2016 at 3:29 pm

            Fortunately I don’t have the counter weight bearing noise yet, but I’m sure there’s premature bearing wear from the contaminated oil. I had one a few years back that had bad counter weight bearings, sounded like a metal roller skate wheel spinning on the right side lower end.

  2. John September 16, 2016 at 2:42 am

    I own a victory jackpot. These engines are the most reliable usa made motors made. They are gear driven.they are not lowed at all.
    Wake up harley.

  3. David shaw August 14, 2016 at 11:00 am

    Good luck with corporate. Wrote them and had phone conversations this past year concerning death wobble. The crappy swingarm didn’t concern them in the least. Their response was that Harley’s were meant to be ridden only at the speed limit. Not designed for higher speeds. They know about the cam tensioner problems and all the other complaints. As long as we buy them they don’t care. Made in China parts is also a problem

  4. steven July 9, 2016 at 10:36 am

    All I want to to here is there recalling this time bomb.

    • boston jim July 31, 2016 at 9:37 am

      Hey Steven, NOPE! The BEST thing you can do, is unload the Grenade, before it goes off, under your arse! Get a New Indian, take one for a Demo Ride, SWEET!
      PS, What year & model is your POS?

  5. Sean June 24, 2016 at 8:09 am

    I’m having a problem now and I just did cams and tensnors. Bike has no power when sitting still won’t rev in natural then when it warms up its back to normal. Today on the way to work it never cleared up and never had any power. I’ve asked ever tech I know and no answers. Maybe chain tensnors, oil pump idk. Any help will be appreciated.

    • John September 16, 2016 at 2:44 am

      Buy victory or indian

  6. Tobby August 25, 2015 at 1:40 pm

    My bike has too much run out for gear cams. What I am wondering is if there is a kit that has the gears on the cams themselves (where run out would not matter), and then use the conventional chain on the outside of the chest.

    The thinking here is that I would be eliminating more than 50% of the problem as the inside of the chest would not be an issue anymore. I can easily inspect and change the outside chain tensioner every 5,000 miles or so.

    Would like to get some new performance cams so this would be an opportune time to upgrade.


    • shane hammill November 1, 2016 at 6:41 pm

      did you find out anything on this ,, i want to do the same thing if i can

      • Tobby November 2, 2016 at 10:19 am

        Unfortunately not Shane. Although I did speak with an S&S rep at the AIMexpo a year ago about it. He thought it was an interesting idea. They would only need to swap out the outside gears for sprockets, and presumably it wouldn’t take much to manufacture the sprockets. I have heard nothing about it since.

      • shane hammill November 3, 2016 at 11:54 am

        I spoke with Bob woods and he says it will not work due to gears turning opposite and chains would turn sprockets the Samend direction.. makeso sense. call me if u like 6053815866

  7. Bryan alexander May 12, 2015 at 12:34 am

    After reading your blog on can chain tensioners, I want to install gear drive on my 2011 wide glide. I also want bigger cams. Does anyone sell a kit that has both ??

    • FREDERICK WIEDMER July 9, 2015 at 4:00 pm


  8. Buster April 16, 2015 at 6:51 pm

    My first post here! After reading AND hearing about this tensioner problem I decided to have mine checked out (99 electraglide classic). Decided to put new upgrade kit in but am having a problem with the cams having too much play. After tightening to specs, the back cam move in and out on new roller bearing way too much! It looks like when the chain is on it will ‘rub’ on the new plate and that will cause serious issues. Does anyone have any ideas about this???

    • boston jim April 23, 2015 at 10:20 am

      Hey Buster, sorry to hear about your problem. If I were you, I wouldn’t start it again, until looked at by the BEST H-D Tech in your area, No H-D Dealers, Independent shops only. Shops that are racing every weekend. The 1999 was the 1st year Twin Cam, they had cam problems, way before the Cam Chain Tensioner problem, ever raised it’s ugly head. It’s amazing to me that a 1999 TC is still sort of running. Like I told Diana, 1999-2002 had forged cranks, a much better motor, IMO. Don’t rush this, your motor is still intact, keep it that way. Ask around, search out the Best H-D Tech, he’ll be 1/2 the cost of the Dealer. Good Luck, Boston Jim

      • Joan May 1, 2015 at 1:20 pm

        My husband is a Master of Technology retired from H-D we have our own shop in the Tri state area of NC, Tn and Ga for any of those looking for a great Mechanic with honest pricing ….

        • boston jim May 8, 2015 at 8:09 am

          Hey Joan, It’s Great to know there are a few Good People still out there. Are you near Dale Walksler’s shop ? I do shows & auctions all over, East of the Great Mississippi River. Please email me your contact details, MCOIL2 [at] VERIZON [dot] NET. I spend a lot of time at the bottom of Rt. 81 in Va., most of my time in New England, 46 Laconia’s ! Stay Safe, BJ

    • Mark A May 29, 2015 at 9:39 pm

      Hey Buster, I have a 99 fxdl at the dealer right now getting the hydraulic setup installed. For our year, there are two other kits required because of the cam position sensor operation.
      One of the kits is a spacer kit. If you search a little on the web or call the “stealer”, you can find exactly what you are missing for your installation.
      Hope that helps ya out and good luck.

  9. Diana Stone April 10, 2015 at 11:14 pm

    You are so so right on the crap plastic pieces in the cam chain tensioners. My bike, a mint condition 04 Heritage gave me zero indication there was anything wrong just before the epic fail. I was at 48000 miles. If this type of thing happened to a car manufacturer as much as it did Harley there would be a recall. I hate Harley for burying their heads in the sand. They know, the dealers know and every harley mechanic knows. I have 3 harleys that I have to pay out of my own pocket to fix this problem. I love my bikes but because of this I tell anyone ready to buy one to break out their wallets. Ridiculous.

    • boston jim April 23, 2015 at 9:52 am

      Hello Diana, you are so-so, right on. So sorry you found out so late. I think your best bet, is to ask around your area, & find the best independent tech. See if you can make a deal to fix the 3 bikes. All Twin Cams can use the SE upgrade kit, ( should have left Milwaukee with it). But not all Twin Cams can use the Gear Drive kit. Again, this is where you need the Best H-D Tech in your area. Any nitwit with a M/C lift, can put in a Gear Drive kit, but, will it be set-up right ? Don’t take anymore chances with your $$$ ! I’ve owned Harleys almost 50 years, been in love with them 60 years, Laconia is 2 hours away. I live just outside Boston, there’s only a handful of Techs, I’d take my bikes to. The 1999 -2002 Twin Cams had forged cranks, (good thing) 2003 to present have cast cranks, (Not a good thing). IMO, Twin Cam Bikes, like AMF Bikes have NO Resale value. There are millions of them out there with problems, just like a ticking time bomb, never knowing , when it will blow. If you want to pick my brain, MCOIL2 [at] VERIZON [dot] NET, Good Luck, Boston Jim

      • Keli June 1, 2015 at 11:28 pm

        Hello Boston Jim, finding great information here. I have an 01 FLHPI with 20g miles, a 94 Dyna, 8g miles and a 75 Shovel, 35g miles.. My question is on the ’01 FLHPI (since the EVO and Shovel are gear driven). With what you stated above 99-02 twins had forged cranks, is my cam at least likely as not to have problems, and should I consider changing to gear driven? Couple of friends in the past year just had cam roller problems, one had rollers explode in engine (ouch). I agree with Diana, there should of been a recall.

        • boston jim June 30, 2015 at 1:53 pm

          Hey Keli, I’m sorry, J&P didn’t notify me, about your comment ! Just got back from Laconia last Sunday. IMO, I believe the forged cranks are a bit truer, than the cast cranks of 2003 to the present. If you love this bike, take it to the BEST independent tech in your area. If it passes specs, I’d go the Gear Drive route, if it doesn’t, I’d go with SE, JIMS, etc., hydraulic upgrade,lots of Great companies making great parts. Too bad, the bean counters at H-D don’t really care, one way or the other. Be Safe, Boston Jim
          PS, Shovel & Evo motors have a BIG nut holding the motor together. The Twin Cams are pressed together, many have moved, called scissoring. A Great Motor Builder will balance it & weld the crank.
          mcoil2 [at] verizon [dot] net

  10. Meh March 30, 2015 at 7:56 pm

    Sportsters have FOUR cams and don’t run afoul of noise regs, therefore any contention that the chain arrangement exists for that reason is a lie.

    The chain timing and roller bearing on the output shaft and pressed crank are obviously cheaper to assemble and time is money in volume production. When Timken bearing kits and geared timing drives are now sold as UPGRADES that gives the lie to any contention that the budget default is superior.

  11. Mark March 8, 2015 at 4:09 pm

    i started hearing an unfamiliar noise in my engine. (2008 fxdse2) never rode after hearing the noise. Its at mcdaniels harley in south bend, in. Estimate is 2,300 $. They are replacing cams, over 1,000$ of this is labor. I see on jp’s video they change the cams without removing the cylinders. The parts ordered also show cylinder head gaskets and etc. bottom line after watching the you tube video i believe i am being yanked by the dealer doing excessive labor that isnt required to change the cams. What do you think?

    Also thank you very much for your information and time invested in bringing this tensioner issue to light. Because actually i thought and wished it was only the tensioners. Idk, maybe it is. Im at the mercy of the dealer. Ugh. Bike only has 13,694 miles on it, i am original and only owner and rider.

  12. charles abbott Attorney March 3, 2015 at 3:37 am

    Yes! Finally someone writes about motorbike breakdown cover.

  13. BILL Porupsky February 4, 2015 at 9:47 am

    I’m do an upgrade on my 2001duice and I would like to get an estimate on the total job with or without changing cams

  14. Randy Farabee September 5, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Hi…I am getting a 2007 Harley VRSCDX and am wondering if the timing chain tensioner problem also in the Revolution engine…it has 14000 miles.

    Many thanks and Best Regards…Randy

    • John September 16, 2016 at 2:48 am

      No mate your safe.

  15. Metlking July 4, 2014 at 1:12 pm

    2008 FLSTC: So does the “Zipper’s Performance Products Red Shift Dual Piston Cam Chain Tensioners” shown in this write-up address the problem or is it just another replacement that will need replaced again someday?

    I saw the same question was asked, but never found a definitive answer!

    • Metlking July 4, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      The reason for asking is my friend had this summers “Route 66 Ride” spoiled by catastrophic engine failure due to a cam chain tensioner disintegrating and clogging the oil pump……… he had an older (2005?) Roadking

      • Marty July 5, 2014 at 2:51 pm

        If your friend had a failure with a 2005 twincam engine it probably was one of the last mechanical tensioners (spring operated) not hydraulic. Which means it would not fix the problem by itself because the zippers performance pistons are just that hyd. pistons with shoes . I think He needs to upgrade to the hydraulic system first.

        • Mike August 4, 2014 at 5:28 pm

          I have a 2000 deuce with 21500 miles. It’s been a great bike with no problems. I’m not a mechanic. What should it cost to replace the TC with gear driven cams?

  16. Roland Agustin March 26, 2014 at 8:18 pm

    Is it possible yo use gear driven cams on the inside of the can plate and a chain with a tensioner on the out side. Does anyone make a can that this can be done?

    • Boston Jim March 29, 2014 at 3:15 pm

      YO! What’s the point ?

  17. Ed March 21, 2014 at 7:17 pm

    My tensioner went bad , real bad , my question how far do I need to tear down my motor? I’m going to gear drive! Do I need to do a total rebuild?

    • Boston Jim March 22, 2014 at 4:46 pm

      Hey Ed, sorry to hear that, but, you had ample warning. Answer; all the way, your crank needs to be checked for true (runout), before throwing $ at gear drive, total rebuild, seems to be in order, from your real bad situation. Find the best Harley tech in your area, some work as H-D techs, & do work on the side. Go on S&S website, find certified Tech in your area. What year is your motor ? Fact; 1999-2002 forged crank, 2003 – present, 5 piece cast crank, pressed together ? Good Luck !

  18. marty February 1, 2014 at 11:31 am

    I Last commented on this issue on 12/22/12 so this is an update. I decided to go with the screaming eagle hydraulic setup in my 2002 fxd. Did the work myself. I found my original spring tensioners about 75% worn at 27000 miles. I had to buy the special tools. I upgraded to s&s cams but didn’t use the s&s adjustable push rods, and it was a good thing i didn’t, because when i took the rocker covers off i found my breathers clogged with gunk. So i replaced those also. I bought the tools through Georges Garage. Great tools,Good price. I have 4000 miles on the new parts and my bike is running Great!

  19. Bill Munson December 29, 2013 at 7:25 am

    03 Roadking Outer primary guide blew out. As soon as the rattle started I knew what happened. Removed the cover and what a mess. Drained the pan cleaned the cam case. The oil filter did its job. Made a few tools. The guide was $80 at dealer. Pulled the outer gears and replaced. Pullin pipes was the hard part. Not disappointed still love my scooter and just part of owning a Big twin. I’m 65 retired been wrenchin for many years.

  20. Larry Denney November 21, 2013 at 8:47 am

    As the owner of a 2004 twin cam, I’m fully aware of the issues that spring style shoes can/will create. I too would like to see the motor company man up and accept responsibility for this issue, and provide a remedy , one that is fitting to their past , present , and future consumers of their products.
    In a perfect world I would like to see HD convert all the twin cams manufactured to the gear drive arrangement, at their cost, they built it, they should fix the problem once and for all to those who have plunked down their hard earned money for a big twin.

    • BOSTON JIM November 21, 2013 at 2:15 pm

      Larry, I hear you Bro ! But sadly, it’s not a perfect world. H-D won’t even admit it, the cam shoes are a maintenance issue, like brake pads. I’m amazed, that POS TC motor is into it’s 16th year, as long as the Evo.
      And guys are still buying them, with all the info, that’s been out there the past 16 years. I’ll keep my 2 Evo’s. Recently demo rode a dozen new Indians, over 2 weekends, nice bike. Also sold most of our H-D stock we bought for $8-12, for $65.50, & buying Polaris stock. H-D has 2 new water puppy’s on the market, time will tell. BE WARE, BE SMART, BE SAFE !

  21. dpmisbac2 August 20, 2013 at 11:24 pm

    I have a 2010 road king with 3000miles on it. The box is rattling like crazy and seems louder than the engin. I know engins tick and i like to listen to the motor when I drive. I talked to the harley dealers and they say it is a valve tranny noise. Duh!!!!! I was told that it was a no fix and that they were arguing with Harley Company about all the complaints they were getting. I suggested he look in the box and he said there was nothing wrong ( same thing harley company told him). I am seriously debating what to do with it. Can’t sell it so Im thinking about trading it in on a Electra glide classic with a 103 motor. I hope the noise problem doesn’t arise. Not sure if I can trust Harley anymore and this will be my third one. Confused and going to open the box and look. I said it could be the chain along because I have been a maintence machinist for 18yrs fixing problems like this in machinery and I am a certified shop journeyman shop machinist and it sounded like a flopping chain to me. Heard enough of them over the 30+yrs being in this field. Pi**es me off though. Can I trust them or not: that is the question that prevents me from going up on another one.

    • BOSTON JIM October 27, 2013 at 12:00 pm

      Hey Dp, it’s been almost 10 weeks since your last post. I was wondering, what you decided to do. Yesterday, I was reading Dec. BAGGERS Mag., had a GREAT story about REVOLUTION PERFORMANCE, they balance & weld TWIN CAM cranks. If I had a POS Twin Cam, I’d be sending them my motor. Check out Dec. BAGGERS or, wishing you the Best of Luck, Be Safe, Boston Jim

  22. sprocket July 8, 2013 at 10:05 am

    Volvo, Doosan, Kato,etc.

  23. Brad Beall June 20, 2013 at 10:44 am

    I’m having a hard time pondering how Harley-Davidson, with what is probably the world’s most loyal and dedicated customers, could see fit to burn each and every one of their customers who bought a new Twin-Cam engined H-D.

    A gear-driven cam arrangement would have only cost a bit more. If you look at the shape of the cam sprocket area, it looks as if it was originally designed for a gear drive, but then the higher-ups at H-D figured that they could pocket a few more dollars by making due with a chain-driven set-up. WTF???

    I know, Honda and all the other import bike mfrs. use a timing chain, but they also use a sprocket that rides against the chain, not some el-cheapo plastic shoe that is all but guaranteed to wear out and cause catastrophic engine failure.

    I’ve been a die-hard Harley guy for 40 years, even through the AMF years, the belt-driven primaries that left many of us walking home, and the early 80’s when nobody was buying motorcycles of any description. However, this was the last straw. If H-D will do something like this, and then try to blame it on the owner for a lack of maintenance, then I’m finished with Harley-Davidson. I’ll not spend another dime at their dealerships on parts, tires, oil, or even their over-priced clothing. My still running 2002 Twin Cam FXSTSi with 18,040 miles on it will sit in the garage until I drop dead. Until then, I’ll be riding my Hondas, Triumphs, Suzukis, etc. and NOT worrying about my chain tensioners. Screw H-D.

    • Ed July 3, 2013 at 2:40 pm

      I have a 2003 Ultra Classic Just got back from a trip, my front cylinder is noisy around the head area!
      Sounds like what you are talking about, is happening to me.
      What upgrades on performance could I do while I have this problem fixed!
      Different heads?

      • BOSTON JIM September 30, 2013 at 9:44 am

        Ed, wake up, you need to do what Kim said 2 posts below. If you love this H-D, & want to keep it, pass it down to your Grand Kids, it’s the only way to go. Ask around, find the BEST H-D TECH in your county. Good Luck & Be Safe !
        PS, 03 were the “1st of the worst”, 5 piece cast cranks, pressed together, POS !

        • michael September 30, 2013 at 3:50 pm

          I fixed mine for ever…03 Road King the Kid …

    • Gary Kamieniecki July 24, 2013 at 6:43 pm

      I agree with you 100% . Mine is a 2000 flfts with a 95″that self distructed. HD had years to fix that problem, but sooner make it a cash cow ,and are still not telling consumers about this on going issue!

    • Donny November 2, 2013 at 5:42 pm

      I’ts called a idler sprocket. Good idea. Probably shot down in flames by a pre- engineer.

    • Meh November 5, 2013 at 10:47 pm

      “Almost all mfrs. have been using this plastic shoe method for 50+ years successfully.”

      With MUCH LONGER shoes, lest we forget.

      Sportsters still have gear drives which PROVES they are no barrier to meeting noise emission requirements. The Sportster cam layout is completely superior to any Big Twin (except the aftermarket four-cammers). The Twinkie engine is built CHEAP because HD can get away with it. Modern HD buyers are far less likely to be mechanics than in days of yore.

      “Only a very few motorcycles have ever had gear drive cams, and those were for racing use.”
      British bikes routinely had them. They worked well there, too, and are superior for pushrod engines which is why they are used in automobile racing applications under very high loads.
      Chains are “sufficient” for street bikes, but not the POS HD design. Check the runout specs in the 19-f*ck1ing-forties vs Twin Cam slop. If I made a part with that much runout in class my machine shop instructor would have an excrement hemorrhage….

      • Boston Jim July 23, 2014 at 1:30 pm

        Hey Meh, All Indians up to 1953, & all the NEW Indians by Polaris , all have Gear Drive Cams & Gear Drive Primary’s, from motor to the trans, (No Primary Chains) ! I’ve been out riding the New Indians, on 9 Demo Days, 24 different bikes, they are really nice, 111″, with 119 lbs torque ! Test ride one !

        • John July 23, 2014 at 6:04 pm

          I agree BJ,
          The way I see It, it all boils down to the Hyd cam chain system will tolerate more runout than the gears so the motor company can slap those crank and wheel assemblies together fast (like peace work in a factory) It’s all about the dollar and Not quality workmanship.
          Another thing that bothers me is the Harley employees are sworn to secrecy.

    • Johny Wells March 1, 2014 at 7:42 am

      I read about Brad being a Harley owner tried and true and how he said harley is starting to be a joke.I for the world of me can’t understand how Harley can’t assume the responsibility for their pathetic design.I have a beautiful 2002 FLHRI and I was afraid the tensioners would come apart and take my engine with it.I took it to east coast Harley where I live and found out not only were the tensioners ready to come apart at 31,000mi the crank needed to be replaced as the gear that sits on the end of it had some serious movement in both directions.If I knew about the gear griven cams I would have paid to have them installed instead of the hydraulic that still needs to be checked.This is my second Harley and for me can’t understand why Harley has such a loyal group that they can treat them this way.Metric in the future for me I guess.

      • Boston Jim March 29, 2014 at 3:13 pm

        Hey Johny be Goode, Take a Demo ride on a new INDIAN, 111″, 119 lbs torque, nice ride, for $18,999.-

    • John July 22, 2014 at 9:51 pm

      I feel the same, 2003 Fatboy with the 5 piece crank.
      Decided to have the gear drive installed
      Took the bike to a well known and respected harley machinist/ mechanic to check crank run out, Mine showed .009 runout, .003 to .004 more than the factory max run out.
      Was told the Gear drive would not work for me because of excessive crank runout would cause erratic gear clearance and eventually destroy the gears, along with a short lived engine oil pump. A straight forward answer that I appreciated.
      SO, All I can do is upgrade to the new chain tensioner @ $1,500 and hope to get 50,000 miles on it before it explodes. The Macon Ga sales mgr. told me the extended warranty would not cover Cam chain tensioner failure because it was a wear item but no where in the factory maintenance manual does it tell you to inspect it at intervals. So I am stuck with this POS.
      This is one of the best motorcycle industry’s best kept secrets. I am done with the Harley motor company.
      John, in Hampton Ga.

      • Grogg July 9, 2016 at 5:56 pm

        Why doesen’t a group of owners get together and sue these ass &$@’n

  24. kim ziegman May 22, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    HD built the rubber mounted engine with chain/hydraulic tensioned cams to hide the vibration and crankshaft runout produced by a pressed together crankshaft. Your engine will never be right until you put a trued, balanced, and welded crank with gear driven cams. Quit talking about it and do it.

    • John September 9, 2014 at 7:44 am

      Kim, you are correct.
      But to have the work done as you suggest
      Remove and dissemble the engine
      Ship the crank and wheels for trued,balance and weld
      Re assemble and install after the expense of the gear drive.
      You are looking at around ( $4,000 or better ) and not likely to recoup the cost.
      I love my bike but dislike the motor company for not telling you that ( this is a wear item and not covered under warranty. The factory shop manual does NOT show this to be an item to be inspected at intervals.

  25. Mark Gibson May 15, 2013 at 1:53 pm

    Cam chain tensioners wear out, period. It doesn’t matter if it’s your ford truck, honda car or your harley davidson.

    You have a metal chain running across a plastic tensioner at 3000 times a minute creating “wear”.

    It’s not a matter of “if” – its a matter of when. The touring and dyna models went to the twin cam in 1999 and the softail models in 2000. The evolution models are not affected {infected?). Cam chain tensioner life-span varies and is determined by weather, oil, frequency of service – oil filter quality, driver habits environment – blah blah blah. Its a good idea to inspect them – but , when?

    Gear drive cams get expensive, but not near as expensive as – worse case scenario a new motor – $3600 – motor
    $800 – labor
    $150 – materials – (gaskets, fluids, filters).

    Gear drive cams also increase horse power and although don’t guarantee fail proof, will increase the life expectancy of your twin cam motor.

    BTW the hydraulic tensioners wear out too – just not as quickly.

    If you love your roadking, superglide, fatboy …
    gear drive cams are a good sound investment.
    If all goes to crap in there and you have to change everything – the cost delta between the gear drive cams and chain drive cams becomes basically the cost of the gears and cams. $800 – $900

  26. Bob Miller May 14, 2013 at 12:06 pm

    I always have that hidden worry about this happening when on a trip.I love my road king classic and do a lot of traveling not a bar hopper.always take extra care of it.Wish HD would do something about with that being said.I alway enjoy working on my bike.But coming up on 20k for miles better get a pro to check it out.before my next trip

  27. ricky May 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I have à 2000 dyna glide bought used, how would i kno if Its evo

    • larry May 14, 2013 at 7:47 pm

      1999 saw the last of the Evo’s…. your 2000 would be a twin cam…

    • Gerry May 15, 2013 at 4:22 am

      If your Harley is 2000 and up and not a Sportster you have them!

    • Gerry May 15, 2013 at 4:24 am

      I believe they went Hydrolic in 2013. But don’t quote me……..

      • Tim July 9, 2014 at 12:54 pm

        They went hydraulic in 2007.

  28. michael May 12, 2013 at 9:40 pm

    what in the 2013 streetglides as for chain tensioners

    • michael May 12, 2013 at 9:58 pm

      let me ? again ? what’s a2013 glide have the hydraulic tensioner ??? Please help if anyone knows ? Thks !

      • BobC May 14, 2013 at 1:29 pm

        2013 Street Glide has hydraulic tensioners. Much better quality, should last at least 60-70,000 miles, or more.

        Old style spring loaded tensioners and “quiet chain” drive went away with ’06 Dyna’s and ’07-later Touring and Softails. The new chain and tensioners are pretty rugged. I just changed out the old style on an ’06 Street Glide, with 34,000 miles, and minimal wear on the old tensioners, with the new style tensioners, chain, and the Screamin Eagle oil pump and cam support plate. Not that expensive, or hard to do for a reasonably competent shade-tree mechanic. But, since your in there, all the cam bearings (inexpensive) should be changed, too, but the tools to do that can be a little pricey.

        • michael May 14, 2013 at 3:08 pm

          Thanks Bob ! That’s what I need to here… Hate that tek tek tek sound. I ride hard & fast . Ride safe man >…

        • Donny October 31, 2013 at 10:09 pm

          Still has shoes. Will ware -out .Will cause same problem. Will cost big bucks to fix if left too long. (about $150-200 for the tools keep them handy if you want 100,000 + you will need them)

  29. george blumfield February 22, 2013 at 8:06 pm

    Dear Sirs:
    Subject: spring cam chain tensioners on 2005 FLH Standard
    Old style spring tensioner# New style tensioner #
    outer # 39954-99A outer # 39969-06
    inner # 39964-99A inner # 39968-06

    There must be a reason that they changed the part numbers about 2006; was it because the spring tension was changed and perhaps the pad material made better.
    I feel that it is too much money to invest in the hydraulic tensioner HD kit.
    Please email me any comments; thank you

    • Wiley May 15, 2013 at 6:38 am

      I really pushed my luck with the cam chain tensioners. I travel frequently as well as ride daily in town. I have heard all the talk about the tensioners and realize the potential problems. But, I just kept putting it off……the old “I’ll get to it later”. I ride an ’03 softtail and it has 80,000 miles on it. I’m planning a trip to Tennessee and I was just getting nervous about the tensioners. I do all the regular maintenence on the bike and I have a guy that does all the heavy stuff where I don’t have the specialty tools.
      When I decided it was time to do the change out I opted for the hydraulic replacement parts. Yes they are about 20% more expensive BUT, you get the new cam support plate AND the awesome Screaming Eagle oil pump with improved oil volume/pressure and improved scavenging. That in itself is well worth the extra 20%! This conversion is less expensive than gear drive cams and I believe will save significant money over time.

  30. Bear5669 January 13, 2013 at 4:20 pm

    Does this problem effect those bikes that have upgrades? I boughty bike 2003 ultra with the 105 screaming eagle.

  31. Murray January 4, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    Damn, just sold my EVO before I heard about this crap. Got an 05 road king, looks like it time to sell. Hate to look at imports but it’s time.

    • James January 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm

      Murry I guess You are what We call a quitter ,, When You got Your 1st , You had to know that these are kinda primitive machines, So a little fine tuning is a must do, This is what separates the Men from the boys, Men do a little fine tuning , Its what Gives the Harley a personality, Makes You more apart of the machine, But some people get it most dont, So Honda on HD wont miss ya,,

      • James Bond January 27, 2014 at 7:07 pm

        James, I guess you are what we call a Idiot. If you pay twice as much as a Honda for a Harley, then it should be twice as much better. If you dismiss the defects of the twin cam as a mare fine tuning issue then a fool and his money will soon part. I say stop buying there junk and make Harley start building the bikes we paid for.

  32. mike January 2, 2013 at 10:19 pm

    thats why ill never buy a harley they are over priced.

  33. Neal December 31, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    I had to change mine out on my 2000 Heritage Springer @ 25,000 miles, bike is well maintained and ridden with respect. HD should warranty their mistakes and understand with a good warranty, and to admit mistakes on their part would keep loyalty to their product and profit up. The way they are going about things is like the government, screw everyone over and just raise prices for everything to account for a poor product. I would love to purchase american products, but even HD is using many parts from other countries to increase profit by using an inferior product. What is the UAS coming too? I feel for our kids and what they will have to endure because of all the greed in the world these days. BOTTOM LINE – HD – STAND BEHIND YOUR PRODUCT AND ADMIT WHEN YOU MAKE A MISTAKE. BUY AMERICAN, YOU TO HD!!!

  34. Thomas December 29, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    How do you measure “run out” to know if the switch to gear drive is possible?
    I am considering the switch. I have used Amsoil synthetic since day one on my 2002 superglide, and the engine runs like a top. I have 43,000 miles on it now, so from what your post says, I’m living on borrowed time and miles. If I disassemble the cams to measure this, and find out I can make the change, then I want to do it all at once while it is disassembled and hot have to take it apart again.

  35. Ed December 27, 2012 at 9:40 am

    One other thing that burns me about HD. I have a 2007 FXSTB. The bike comes stock with a black cast aluminum rear wheel that has round holes. It is a nice looking wheel. There is a matching belt sprocket and a matching break disc available. There is little or no difference in cost for the matching parts. However, HD installes a black spoked belt sprocket and a generic break disc. Again, the stock ones look okay and they work but HD opted not to install the matching parts on the stock bike. So, if I am picky and I want the matching parts, I have to buy them and install them. No one wants the the stock parts so I am stuck with those. I could go on and on about what HD could have or should have done but I am sure you all know what I am talking about. It is called planed parts sales.

    • Ed December 27, 2012 at 11:57 am

      Most people are not aware there is an option. There are some dealers that will install the matching after market parts at no labor charge if done at the time of sale but they give no credit for the stock parts. Of course, no one wants the stock parts. You may be able to get $10 for them on e-bay. So you have to pay twice for the parts.

  36. Capt.Pigeon December 27, 2012 at 7:57 am

    I just purchased a 2002 Heritage with 12,786 miles, when should I start worrying about the tensioners? What is the difference between the EVO and tc88 motor? She is 100% stock. Thanx.

  37. Jesse December 26, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I experienced a tensioner failure on a cross country bike trip in my 2006 Road King. The nearest dealership was out 3 weeks. So, I had to cut my losses and trade it off for a 2008 Street Glide. The 08 has a hydraulic tensioner. So, I hope this will prevent the next failure from ruining my vacation. I’m a HD die hard until the end.

  38. millerg December 25, 2012 at 6:39 am

    Hey Chico are you too dumb to understand tounge&cheek humor.

  39. boston jim December 24, 2012 at 5:43 pm


  40. Bobby Moser December 24, 2012 at 1:28 pm

    Has anyone tried the new after market cam tensioners sold by J&P ,the one in the picture at the beginning of this forum?

    • Bud December 27, 2012 at 8:35 am

      Just an FYI. That kit is designed primarily for 2007-present models. Don’t order it for your earlier model unless you have already upgraded to the hydraulic tensioners.

      • Bobby Moser December 28, 2012 at 2:30 pm

        Thanks I have a 010 fxdwg wanted to know if it would be a wothwhile investment!

  41. Ed December 24, 2012 at 10:26 am

    Harley Davidson is like a plumber who when given no specification installs a builders model toilet. It looks okay and it works so the plumber saves a few dollars and no one is the wiser. Maybe when the homeowner realizes he could have had a better toilet for a few dollars more he will call and have the toilet replaced. More work and more money for the plumber.

    Maybe the plumber should have told the homeowner there was a better toilet available for a few dollars more at the time if the initial installation. That would have been the right thing to do. At least the homeowner would have the option initally and would be able to make a judgement. The homeowner may have appreciated the option and may call that plumber back for a bedroom with bathroom addition or for some kitchen remodeling at a later date.

    However, the homeowner was unhappy with the builders model toilet and blames the plumber for a poor installation. The plumber never gets a call back.

  42. Myles December 24, 2012 at 12:18 am

    what is the cost of the bearing puller and press are these seperate tools pretty sure they are. How long to do the job according to the book
    my 03 classic has had a rebuild due to this failure. the previouse owner had the repair done. unfortunatley no gear drive. 500 miles on rebuild when i got it 16,000miles this one at a salvage aution runs killer. H.D. says trade is $6,600 i wonder if they assume the motor is junk due to the age and cam failure prob. which is inevidable. either way, good reason to keep the Bike.

    • Joe Brasser December 24, 2012 at 3:06 pm

      You don’t need a bearing puller or press, I just installed a set of Andrews 37G gear drive cams in my 06 Heritage all I needed was a wheel/gear puller and bolt cutters. If you feel you can’t put the gears on the cams socket and a brass hammer then you can rent the tools. I ordered my Andrews gear drive cam set off of Ebay, it came with everything I needed except the EZ install pushrods I bought the Screaming Eagle pushrod kit at a local bike shop. It took me 2 hours to install the new cam set and the bike runs awesome. Do a search on Ebay for “gear drive cam kit” and you will find a ton of kits for sale. Total cost to me for parts was $820.

  43. Myles December 24, 2012 at 12:02 am

    what is the cost of the bearing puller and press are these seperate tools pretty sure they are. How long to do the job according to the book

  44. Rick Neal December 23, 2012 at 5:52 pm

    As the owner of a couple of Harleys, I had this problem two years ago with my 2004 Heritage. My tensioners were badly worn, but had not failed. To be safe, the repair shop went ahead and replaced everything including the oil pump, due to the high volume of debris that was ground off of the tensioners.
    I had an extended warranty, as well as a three year, unlimited mileage, service contract with the dealer. When I confronted the dealer ( after the service contract had recently expired), the dealer actually denied even knowing that such a problem even existed ! I was going to buy a new Road King-
    But now I know that I would just have to go through all of this again, so I am going to invest in gear
    drives, and keep what I have now. It’s to bad we pay top dollar, and then have to build the motor ourselves. Harley definitely needs a wake up call.

  45. popeye December 23, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    iv’e got a 82 XLHA , 98 FXDL , 98 FLSTF and a 2002 FLHRCI this 95 ci road king has a intake leak that seems unstoppable the shop has resealed it 9 times anybody got any ideas why its not sealing ? new flanges soft and metel re-enforced seals have been used, what are they not doing? now all this T/C issues its only got 11k on it soon as they stop it from sucking air im getting rid of the POS twin cam . Go EVO !! Mother Harley need a class action wake up call!

    • John December 24, 2013 at 9:47 am


  46. popeye December 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    iv’e got a 82 XLHA , 98 FXDL , 98 FLSTF and a 2002 FLHRCI this 95 ci road king has a intake leak that seems unstoppable the shop has resealed it 9 times anybody got any ideas why its not sealing ? new flanges soft and metel re-enforced seals have been used, what are they not doing? now all this T/C issues its only got 11k on it soon as they stop it from sucking air im getting rid of the POS twin cam . Go EVO !! Mother Harley need a class action wake up call!! Anyone got a cure for my air leak ?????????

  47. Limey December 23, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    The reason for the change to chain drive was not because of noise,or the cost of cam gears,it was due to the cheaper method of producing the crankshaft.
    Up to the TC,the Big Twins had 5 piece,or with late Evo’s 3 piece,cranks.
    The crank pins had a taper that was pulled into the flywheels with nuts.The nuts wre nipped up,the crank was trued to 0.001″ or less,and the nuts were torqued up.
    The TC cranks are pressed up with interference fit paralell crank pins.BANG and it’s done,whatever you get is what you get in the way of runnout,no correction possible.The chain drive allows for greater tollerance in runnout,hence the change.
    The MoCo changed the crank material a couple of years back,the factory tollerance on runnout is now 0.012″.YES TWELVE THOU.
    Those with engines of 96″ and above take note,the interferance fit of the crank pin is not all it could be.If the engine is laboured in a high gear,the crank can twist on the crank pin.If it does this you will get increased vibration.If you have gear drive cams,it will take them out.

  48. Dale December 23, 2012 at 9:57 am

    Bought a 2007 FLTCUI, in Oct 2006. Noisy transmission, oil leaks, heat, you name it. Not worth the $$$$. Not road worthy in my opinion. Shame on Harley. Got rid of that dog. Came across a 2007 XL1200 Sportster one day when not even looking and bought it on the cheap. The owner couldn’t ride anymore, health issues. No probs with it after 2 years now. Only issue I have with it is it gets squirrley in a wet road easily. But it’s a good machine. This is what I should have bought in the first place. If I buy another bagger it will be something metric.

  49. Ed December 23, 2012 at 9:40 am

    About the scheduled service. The dealers charge a considerable amount for the scheduled service but I think in many cases the work does not get done. On one occasion I picked up my bike after the scheduled service. The schedule called for adjust cluch and check tire pressure. When I left the dealer the clutch was still sloppy but I did not have time to go back and complain. When I got home I checked tire pressure and it was at 25 PSI (checked with a couple different gauges). Both of these items were signed off by the mechanic. Then I thought, what else did they not do? Did they just change the oil and take the bike for a test ride? Now I do most of my own work (not that big a deal). No more money to dealers for scheduled service. There are some things I can’t do because I do not have the necessary tools. I find a good independent mechanic I can trust to do those things. Also, I almost lost my exhaust pipe because it was removed by the mechanic and never tightened back down when reinstalled. What else was not tightened down?

  50. Noisy old bastard December 22, 2012 at 10:02 pm

    have a 1999 Dyna Lorider switched too a s &s carb. As well as s&sgear drive cams, having only one issue since installing them. Cannot get the correct idle once the engine warms up, also cut my fuel mileage in half. Use to get 200plus miles to a full tank now getting about half that amount. They sound great though and much better fuel response. But keep in mind about the drop in fuel mileage when considering this change.

  51. Craig Duncan December 22, 2012 at 9:31 pm

    In response to bikes not running straight, no one mentioned rear wheel alignment. That’s a key ingredient of the bike’s overall alignment. Of course, with belt drive, there’s only a limited amount of adustment that can be done and still have the belt run correctly around the pullys. Worth looking at as even a minor adjustment here can make quite a difference!

    • Ed December 23, 2012 at 9:00 am

      On my bike the wheel alignment was checked by several different dealers and the factory reps. I was told over and over the alignment was correct. No help there or maybe they just did not want to do the work under warranty.

  52. marty December 22, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    yes i think twin cam harley owners should all hear from H.D. on the issue of hyd. tensioners vs gear cam systems i have 27000 miles on my 2000 fxd. i’m the secound owner and i think the tensioner shoes are original. i was told by the original owner that the engine has always had mobil v twin oil since new. but i guess i’d better inspect the shoes for wear,and decide which way i’m going with this.

  53. Bobby Moser December 22, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    From 1999-2006 hd used cam “silent chains which had shaper edges ,caused more wear on tensioner pads .2007 to present has a true “roller chain”it has less abrupt edging less contact with an improved nylon pad and is firmily and consistently tensioned by a hydraulic adjuster .This has improved the problem,but 2500 mi oil changes shoul still be done.I have a 010 wide glide 8000 miles with no sign of tensioner wear.

    • tank December 22, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Will the hydraulic tensioner bandaid retro to ’99-’06 models? and how much? Hard to recommend after the carnage I’ve seen the last ten years. The camplate and oil pump are junk also. The entire camchest is junk. One of the worst things you could do is put performance chain drive cams in there. This reduces the life span more than running the stock anemic EPA cams. The Screamin’ Eagle camplate seams ok, but their so-called super pump is also cast like stock…junk. The only reason any sane person would opt for stock replacement would be budget or warranty in hand. 10 years ago you were limited on your choices of upgrades, matching performance parts from different manufactures… Now complete camchest kits are available. They include cams, gears, camplate, oil pump, lifters, pushrods, and gaskets. They retail for about 2 grand. A good choice if you ride hard and plan on keeping your rig. On the OEM side inspect every 20k mi then pay your $700.00 and up bill if your lucky enough to just replace the shoes.

  54. Art December 22, 2012 at 11:43 am

    I have a69 glide with 140,000 miles on the original gears no problem so far. No new HD for me!

  55. Chris December 22, 2012 at 10:57 am

    Great story. I just went through this on a 04 RG. The tensioners disinigrated and left me walking. Ate the oil pump. Cost to repair about $700. Why can’t HD figure this out in the factory? Are they already built in China?

  56. Ed December 22, 2012 at 10:43 am

    Way back when, I had a new 1971 boat tail. It was a kick start and and kicking was a bitch espically on cold mornings. The vibration was bad and on a trip the vibration would put my fingers to sleep. I got tired of kicking the the hell out of it and finally sold the bike. The new owner said he installed new cams and now the bike would start right up. He said the vibration was not bad. Cams and timing are a big deal!

  57. milehiharley December 22, 2012 at 12:25 am

    i have had several EVO’s all make it to 60,000 + miles and the only prob has been the rollers in the lifter on one, when i got my 06 ultra,(in 08) first thing was the anual trip to sturgis, next was to build the engine to perform like it SHOULD. my homework showed that the gear drive was a better alternative in the long run. it does get a bit noisy when hot, but i wont have to be pulling the cams out every 30,000 miles either. i’m already well past that 30k mile marn now! the same tensioner issue is also prevalant in the Nissan 4.0 engine!! its apoor design in both instances,,,plastic will always loose ot metal

  58. Mad Dog Mike December 21, 2012 at 11:42 pm

    Our dealer denied any problems exist to a friend of mine…and his HD is a Nighttrain with 33,000 miles on it..I asked him if he had it “fixed”..and he did not even know what I asked him…he took it to dealer who then denied the facts sad..Class action lawsuit eh….

  59. James Brock December 21, 2012 at 11:14 pm

    I just bought my second first was over 40 years ago, a pan head, hard to start and leaked oil every where. My New bike is a 2000 Duce and a 88 engine with the up grades, cam gears/cam and oil coolers. I was not sure of the difference as to what the bike was stock until my son purchased his first Harley, also a Duce, 2001. We went for his maiden ride and of course, Father and Son have to see who is the big dog. Well my bike blew his off the road and he was surprised, so was I. that is when we opened his case to see what the difference was, and his chain guides were nearly metal to metal at 27 thousand miles. I want to thank you for posting this article and the fix and we are doing his as mine this winter (now) Thank you all and Marry Chistmas to you all…

  60. mark '10 fxdwg December 21, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Noise regs are real, they are federal mandates. In my opinion chain drive cams are a bandaid.To me, it seems, why not build ’em with timken bearings & tighter tolerance standards for the bottom end from git go. Go back to the bushings for the cams. how ’bout synthetic oil as a factory fill? Try gear drive cams made in AMERICA from the factory when the bike is new (helical?), stringent tolerances in that area as well. With thousands of engines built per year, what would be the per unit cost? My guess is maybe $400, bet I’m within 20% either way on that one.

  61. john December 21, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    bottom line is harleys cost alot of money to buy and to fix harley dont care when the bike is sold they are done g m is the same as ford and all the rest the dealers dont offer much help there answer is is buy a new one after 3 r/glides all with cam bearings that wont ever happen i can buy new motors a hell of a lot cheaper than anew bike and have change the h d company is pushing us away from american bikes THEY DONT CARE

  62. t.aloi December 21, 2012 at 8:06 pm

    just checked hd stock price .stock brokers are recomending a strong buy. hd is laughing all the way to the bank.

  63. Tommy Lauy December 21, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    Maybe you need to try a cheverolet v8. I have had several and know of several more that have surpassed 200, 000 miles with no more than an altrnator or water pump changed. But back to Hd. I have an 01 low rider and am concerned about the possible damage that could happen with this tensioner. I will check the outer shoe to see what it looks like before I tare the intire thing apart. But yeh that does sound like a brainer for an engineer to have to decide, plastic shoe that a steel chain could roll on and eat through like a chain saw or two steel gears of the same hardness that will mess together perfectly. If the decision was to get the bike back in the shop after 20 or 30 thousand mile. Than yah, plastic is the way to go against steel. Its not like they need the shop money. They make enough off of apparel and accesaries to give the bikes away for free.

  64. J.W. December 21, 2012 at 5:38 pm

    Guess I’ll be keeping my’90 FXR forever, what the hey, it handles better than any new one anyway. Good article.

  65. Larry Holland December 21, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I called Harley customer service about the cam tensioner, and the person i was talking to got very upset, and said Harley was not getting any response from thei dealers about and as Harley was concerned there was no problem and this was just part companys trying to sell parts. This call I made was 11-26-2012.Like I said customer service got very upse with me.

    • Ed December 21, 2012 at 3:37 pm

      If the motor company would fix these little problems when they come up they would not have a bunch of hotheads out there slaming the company. A little preventive maintenance performed during regular service would go a long way to promote customer satisfaction. It would not cost the company much and they may seel a lot more bikes to people who are ready for a change. When they sell more bikes, they sell more service and parts. It is a win win.

      • Ed December 21, 2012 at 3:55 pm

        J&P Cycles could offer these parts at cost when you buy $100 or more. Just a thought. Not sure what the magic number is.

        • Ed December 23, 2012 at 10:59 am

          By the way, this would prevent HD from making money off their own problem and would be good for J&P Cycles.

  66. Bryan Needham December 21, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    If Harley would like to sell me another bike they will have to answer this.

  67. stud December 21, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    03 e-glide replaced at 37k
    wear was evident, replaced with Hyd cam plate and 204 cams. The pads are easy to check yourself, the inside one can be seen by pining it open and using an inspection mirror and a flashlight. Or you can look at the outside pad and judge the inside to be about twice the wear. I wanted to go to gears but dealer gave me the gears are to loud bit. I had a trip coming and couldn’t wait. So far its good, the cams sound good. and it raised my rpm for shift points.

  68. Ron December 21, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    Why hasn’t anyone said how happy they were to find two needle bearings on their crankshaft in 2003? I changed my heritage back to timken bearings, 510 S&S gear drive cams, super E carb, fueling cam plate and lifters, flat top 95 screaming eagle pistons and cylinders, S$S super stock heads and a baker 34 tooth drive sproket. Now I got the bike I should have got when I bought it new.

  69. Kasper December 21, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    Im with some of you guys too. I’m 54 and owned three HD’s. A 99 FXDX and a 00 FLHT and now I have a 89 FXSTC. In fact I traded the Electra Glide straight across for it. Need I say more? Pretty sad really how much money I’ve wasted. Any way I’ll keep the Evo but my next ride will probably be a Honda.

  70. Kevin Reagan December 21, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    I just replaced the cam chain tensioners in my ’09 FXD at 47,500 miles. The outside tensioner was about 50% worn, and the inside tensioner was around 40%. Since I had to tear it down to inspect them, it only made sense to replace them. I had been considering going to a set of gear driven cams, but they just weren’t in the budget at this time.To everyone bitching about corporate Harley and corporate America, nobody says you have to buy a Harley, and nobody says you have to live here. I like my Harley and living here. Don’t like Harley, buy something else, they all have their share of issues. Don’t like America, go where ever you think it’s better and don’t let the door hit you in the ass! By the way, good article!

  71. sid.40 wrench December 21, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    i meant.. enjoy the ride!! sorry guyz

  72. sid.40 wrench December 21, 2012 at 12:37 pm

    spend a little and do it right. crank trued and welded @ darkhorse. gear drives and t.t.s. master tuner.DONE!! enjoy the right with peace of mind

    • Michael December 21, 2012 at 2:33 pm

      Bet that was some coin, huh wrench? Complete tear down to deal with the problem around 50.00 worth of plastic parts is OVERKILL. (Unless you get your labor free)

      • sid December 21, 2012 at 10:11 pm

        yup..get my labor free..sorry!!

  73. Doug Taylor December 21, 2012 at 11:28 am

    Hi all. I had been aware of this debate for a while and have seen the 50k foobar cliff on the pre-hydraulics. However, I have a ’07 Road King (hydraulic tensioners came OEM) with over 140k miles with no engine work yet [compression 180/177]; but two clutch packs and two sets of tranny bearing knocked out from rigorous use while downshifting in the mountains (mountain breaking is for the uninitiated) while two up and max GVW. The bike has run the hills and mountains of all 49 continental US States and all Canadian Provinces -just made it back from Alaska in September. The bottom line is that my hard ‘plastic’ chain tensioner shoes when checked (and replaced) were about 1/4 to 1/3 worn and in great shape. Kevlar belt vs steel chain……give me the belt. Well designed HARD synthetic material (carbon fiber is one synthetic example) vs many metals……the arrgument goes on. I have no problems with mine and they looked set to continue on to 350k to 400k of hard riding.
    On a closing note, Harley’s real problem is their use of shifter bushings (front and back) rather than bearing assemblies. Vibration (like flexing a coat hanger wire) inevitably causes failure. My last tranny bearing went when the shifter seal let go due to shaft wear, and lost all the tranny oil on the interstate before I becoming aware. The front bushings have been replaced multiple times (no small job) and the wear has even notched my casing……now use a JP aftermarket spring tensioner assist on the front.

  74. Ed December 21, 2012 at 11:22 am

    2001 Road Glide 95 inch. By the way, I had the throtle body changed twice because when the bike got hot the butterflies would stick. I also had the engine sensors changed twice. No fix. I even got a new spedo from HD on their dime because the spedo quit working. The needle would go all over the place and then quit altogether.

    • Ed December 22, 2012 at 10:04 am

      Also, at 60K I had the new hydrolic chain tensioner with billet cam plate, increased capacity oil pump and new light weight push rods installed. I put another 10K on the bike before I sold it. It ran well for that last 10K. The low RPM vibration was still not great but the engine idle was more stable and the bike did not quit at idle anymore. The bike always ran strong on the highway. Could the cam chain tensioner have been the source of the problems I experienced after 30K miles?

  75. Ed December 21, 2012 at 10:59 am

    2001 Road Glide 95 inch. My Glide ran great for the first 30K (no problem). I had regular scheduled service done at great cost with my HD dealership in order to maintain my warranty. Two trips to Sturgis and the performance was outstanding. I was very happy. It was my third trip to Sturgis when it all went south. I got to sturgis and the bike would quit unexpectedly. There was a several error codes on the spedo. several times when I restarted the bike the engine would race to 4 grand. I would have to shut down and wait a half hour to restart. I disconnected the battery to reset. I went to Rapid City Harley and they had all the factory reps on hand. Everyone went around scratching their heads, looking at service manuals and running diagnostics. Bottom line, they could not come up with an answer. They told me to keep riding and maybe the problem would correct itself. Anyway, very unhappy, I rode the bike home like that. I left the bike at a dealership and they spent severl days playing around with everything they could think of. They somehow got the bike to run fairly well but for the next 30K the problems never really went away. From what I read, it was the fuel injection on the 2001 which HD changed in 2002. That could have been the problem but no one seems sure. I can’t tell you how many times I had to go in for service. Twice I had to have the bike picked up because it would not run at all. I never got any help from Harley Davidson. I finally found a independent mechanic who got the bike running normally and I sold the bike. Thanks HD. They should have given me a new fuel injection system. Yeah right.

  76. craig l December 21, 2012 at 10:24 am

    i have a 04 flht and replaced the tentioners at 70000 km. thats when mine crapped out. went to gears and am happy with them don’t notice any differance in sound or power

  77. alaskalowrider December 21, 2012 at 10:20 am

    mine is a 03 low rider 88 ci with 30000 miles I read about this issue on some other forums so decided to get it upgraded to the new hydraulic Screamin Eagle setup and some Fueling 525 cams and lifters I’m glad I did as the outer shoe was about half gone and the inner shoe was about ready to crumble. about 90% worn, the mechanic said one reason the inner show wears more is because of the chain being rough so he did some deburring on it ..hopefully its good for another 50000 or so…one thing to watch for with the new hydraulic setup is you oil pressure going south if the outer shoe goes away..

  78. Larry Kirkpatrick December 21, 2012 at 10:00 am

    I have an ’06 Sportster and whenever I have a question at the dealership about something, their standard line is, “in order for that to happen, you need to trade up and get a real bike.” After reading all of these comments and after putting a set of Progressive suspension shocks(Harley said nothing was available, I need to trade up) on the Sportster, this 1200xlr may be my lifetime bike.

  79. Carlton Kraft December 21, 2012 at 9:51 am

    well done my man!

  80. Terry W. December 21, 2012 at 9:21 am

    Thanks for the great info on the cam tensioners, have 24K on my ’06 Roadglide and will check them during the holidays as I do have some noise from the cam chain area, also read with interest the riding problems with the R-glides, mine has a tendency to “move sideways” when I run over any painted line, piece of paper, etc. on the road, could this be steering head bearings, swing arm bushings, tire pressure? I keep everything within published specs and able to control the beast but bothersome, thanks and keep up the good articals

    • Michael December 21, 2012 at 10:34 am

      A little “wander” is a natural state of being on 2 wheels. Painted lines, pavement snakes, roads that are grated for ice, steel bridges etc. There is a good article in the current American Iron about this issue and adjustments that maybe necessary for steering wobble/head shake. I had considerable head shake related to my front tire being worn, cupping. If you haven’t replaced the rubber up front on your 06, it may be time.

    • stud December 21, 2012 at 1:31 pm

      Thats normal Tracking. It is much worse on tires that have a center groove.

  81. Jose December 21, 2012 at 9:19 am

    How can people be soo stupid to believe Harley would do this “to satisfy noise emission guidelines mandated by EPA” when they continue to use gear- drives on EVO’s and Sportsters? Do they not require the same rules as other bikes? True money-driven.

  82. The Scotties December 21, 2012 at 3:48 am

    My wife Karin & myself (Jim) did over 100,000 miles each on her Heritage (2000) & my RoadKing (1999) in 2004. At 101,000 miles my cam tentioners were smashed, oil pump, conrode spilt 14cm on crank.
    Always maintained by HD dealer, HD maintenace manual only went to 50,000 miles & even when we contacted Milwaukee research & their best twin can had only done 70,000 at that time.
    We were told ‘what to you expect for those sorts of miles & given no help what so every.
    We rebuilt mine with gear driven cams – slight whine at low revs, but more power & no issues after 64,000 additional miles.
    We checked my wifes bike – the cams, oil pump & crank were gone as well.
    We just rebore hers to 1550cc & kept the rest standard.
    I intend to change my wifes cams to gear driven when I have the opertunity.
    Both our twin cams now have over 165,000 miles on them & they have travelled to every country & principalities throught Europe, from NrodKap in the Artic Circle, Russia, Istanbul, Gibraltar, etc
    We’ve had a blast & still ride them, but closer to home with the cost of fuel over here (Scotland).
    Hope this helps someone, Safe riding everyone &
    Happy Hogmanay xx

    • Roger H December 21, 2012 at 10:47 am

      Had gear drive Andrews cams installed #288126G in my 03 Ultra. Mpg is down about 20% but conditions have been cold in the low 50’s since. Is the reduced mgp to be expected with the new cam or is it related to cold conditions. Anyone have experience or advice on this?

  83. dennis December 21, 2012 at 2:10 am

    go fore it. if they want a future Harley need’s to warranty at least the parts to fix this….

  84. slimey limey December 21, 2012 at 12:34 am

    i have a 99 fxd… 40+ years as a wrench, do all of my own work. since new:
    a. cam bearings-8,000 miles, dealer fix
    b. new tensioners and chain-27,000 mi, my dime
    c. new chains & tensioners, cam plate, oil pump, & upgraded to 95″ and 211 cams- 48,000 mi, my dime
    d. new crankshaft (big end front rod flat spot) with new chains and tensioners, oil pump, cam plate- 63,000 mi, my dime
    e. bought new motor, added gear drive , 95 in, andrews 55g, head work- 82,000 mi, many more of my dimes
    f. no problems @104,000 mi. trouble free!
    fingers crossed, but i think its ok for now.i figger i spent 3500 $ on crap before i did the gear drive. save your money and do it the first time you need chains/tensioners… my .02

  85. Professor December 20, 2012 at 11:29 pm

    SO, and ’05 DWGI 95″ Big Bore with 203’s is in the .003 tolerance and could do the S&S upgrade? Howdoes the Harley chain drive compare tot he S&S? Going to do this soon, but neededucated! Thanks! P

    “I just ride ’em; I don’t know what makes ’em work.” Donald Southerland to Telly Savalas in Kelly’s Heroes.

  86. john December 20, 2012 at 11:24 pm

    my 07 roadglide has cam bearings at 29000 trans bearing at 39000 and lower tripple tree and bearings dealer said no lube but i paid for maintainence every 5000 like the book said lake erie hd in avon ohio never did what i paid them to do put a new starter in and it was the battery over 3000 bucks in a 35000 dollar bike now at 48000 miles what next 15 h d s and this is the worst one ever h d foctory rep no help at all my bro has 130000 on a yamahaw and laughs at me stay away from lake erie hd in avon oh

  87. Tim December 20, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    I had a 03 Road King, at 15k I installed Andrews gear drive cams along with the gear driven oil pump, power commander ect. The preformance of the bike was well worth the cost of the changes not to mention the peace of mind. The stock shoes were not worn but I did not want to take a chance on them failing. Just traded the “King” for a 13 Road Glide I am already saving up for the gear drive set up for the “Glide”

  88. Den December 20, 2012 at 10:53 pm

    I lost my motor on my 1999 roadking at 27000 miles I found out after the fact, went with the HD replacement motor 6500.00 hundred dollars later when the real problem was the chain tensioners not only did they wear out they clogged my oil passages just another way for Harley to make more money off us .

  89. Ridin December 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm

    I am reading all this and wondering if the blown motor I just replaced was created by this. I have an 07 FLHX, which started out with an 88, went to a 110 and then a 113 with heavy breather. I now have a 113 again, it have a 120R case with MSO paper, SE260 cam, with S&S non-bleed lifters and I use Amsoil 20W50.

    Mileage on original motor was at 24K when the motor went. I had a lifter explode, cracking the case and blowing the cam plate into two pieces. Mechanic says the motor failed because previous owner skimped on the oil pump and used stock HD lifters instead of SE or better. I am beginning to wonder if the issues described in this article are what caused my motor to go. And before anyone asks…yes I do ride the shit out of my bike…hell it has a 113…fast is good! The previous owner rode normally,but only ran it down the track a couple times.

    Should I considera going to an S& S gear drive to prevent future problems…open to thoughts?

  90. gusotto December 20, 2012 at 10:13 pm

    Any input on the Haydon M6 BT 07 tensioner?

    From what I’ve seen, good reviews.

  91. Mr. Miyagi December 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm

    I have a 2004 FLHTCUI and love my bike but after reading the last 2articals I am getting worried about my bike which has 37,000 miles on it. So far no problems but I know I’m running out of time. I am going to check the cam shoes but I don’t have alot of extra money to spend on repairs that Harley should have dealt with at the engineering stage. I too like reliability so I may sell my 88″ and buy an evo or shovel or better yet and forgive me Lord for saying this buy a Yamaha. No can’t do it, I have to buy American. Maybe a Victory. Waje up Harley lets hear from you.

  92. motorcyclemarv December 20, 2012 at 9:41 pm

    I really like my 2010 FXDC. Nothing is as balanced & handles like a H-D. They are fun to ride. With that being said, todays H-D dealerships and the Corp. are all about the money. Just look at these multi-million dealerships. The TC is a bike that can not be tuned without the dealership, not even the idle. If you are wealthy none of this should be a problem. To put a Zippers Thundermax ECU and S&S cam gear drive on a new motorcycle still cost around $1500 to $2000 if you do your own work. At least then you can connect your lap top and tune your motorcycle and with the gear drive there will be less worries about breakdown. To bad the corporation has lost touch with so many loyal customers. HOG and the Corp. do a lot of charity and good deeds for people. Too bad they don’t have the same attitude & veiwpoint for their loyal customers. Todays Harley-Davidson Corporation has lost touch with todays bikers, usless you have a high 6 or 7+ figure income.

  93. TexasJohn December 20, 2012 at 9:26 pm

    I believe the NTSB should make HD recall this item since it is a safety issue. But on the other hand, it is a wear item on any vehicle and needs replaced after a certain time and mileage.

  94. Don Kowell December 20, 2012 at 8:50 pm

    I changed mine at 28K for piece of mind, but I use Amsoil. It DOES make a huge difference.

  95. Don Kowell December 20, 2012 at 8:48 pm

    I changed my at 28K for piece of mind. Very little wear, but I use Amsoil. It DOES make a big difference.

  96. tom anguish December 20, 2012 at 8:35 pm

    All manufacturers have issues.Harley could`ve at least offered the upgrade kits a cost.

  97. Paul F. Schrodt December 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I was there at Sturgis when Wille un-vailed the New Twin Cam ! And I spoke Right UP and told him and the engine engineer ; ” That chain & tensioner is what went BAD on my Jap Bike ( Honda 750 ) that I Raced 35 years ago ! That’s a BAD IDEA ! I am NOT buying one !” You should have seen thier faces ! Thier chin dropped, mouth open, eyes Bugged Out ! I am still riding my 89 and 90 Evo’s !

  98. Richard December 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm

    If they don’t do it already (I haven’t seen one)…I wonder if J P Cycles could offer a variety of upgrade/repair kits to correct/improve/repair the cam chain tensioner issue…maybe several different options…budget..performance etc. A kit that has all the parts to do the job.
    Also wondering if anyone can comment on after market tensioners engineered and now offered by CYCO gaskets ( ) . ?? I have a 2005 twin cam 88 stock …at +/- 50,000 km…only minimal wear to the tensioners. Thanks for the good information.

  99. gary December 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm

    had gear drive put in at 12000 on an 08 ultra tensioners were already chipped one mechanic said gear drive wasnt necessary due to the NEW CAM TENSIONERS after reading this blog I am glad I went with my gut feeling besides I like hearing the whine

  100. Richard Singer December 20, 2012 at 7:45 pm

    In 2005 I had read an article pertaining to the chain tensioner problem. I had my bike serviced at Harley in Pueblo. Co to have it ready for the Run For The Wall. I wanted the chain tensoner checked and the cam bearing checked. The bike is a 2000 Heritage. When I arrived for a over night stop in Odessa, TX the motor was making terrible noise. The next morning Harley Dealership from Odessa came and picked up my bike. The engine was shot. They did not change the cam bearing in Pueblo, which at the time I had 28,000 miles on it. The case was cracked due to Pueblo technician torqued a longer bolt rather than the shorter one in the case. We had to order new cases from Harley. Since the engine was apart I had them install the S&S gear drive for the cams and do away with the cam tension chain. Long story short, Pueblo Harley would not stand behind the problem. It cost me around $4200.00 plus 3 weeks living in a motel and a car rental. I wrote Harley about this and they did nothing. I was offered $1200.00 in store credit from Pueblo Harley. Nice guys!

  101. Jim December 20, 2012 at 7:29 pm

    Just had my tensioners checked on my 2009 FLSTC with 45000 miles. I have changed oil every 5000 miles and there was barely an imprint on the plastic. However since we had it apart I had the Zipper twin piston type installed. Based on my experience it’s not as big a deal as I had thought. If the wear rate had remained consistent it would have lasted 100000.

    • Bobby Moser December 28, 2012 at 2:23 pm

      How is the Zipper kit working out I am thinking about buying one for my 010 fxdwg thanks!

  102. Jim/PA. December 20, 2012 at 7:27 pm

    Foregive me, but what is EVO ? I have a 2011 hertiage softail ? I have been looking at a new Goldwing, I had two before and never had any trouble.
    H.D is starting to scare me not to mention break the budget.

    • Shane December 21, 2012 at 12:06 pm

      Please correct me if I’m wrong guys, Evo refers to bikes built from about 1984 to 1997 with a gear drive single cam shaft. Bikes other than sportsters built after that were Twin cam’s driven by a chain and have the afore mentioned tensioner’s.

  103. Jim Phipps December 20, 2012 at 7:17 pm

    I have a 02 Electraglide standard with about 37 K on it. It’s noisy and needs attention, but I’m one of the seemingly few Harley owners on a budget.I take a 3K trip every summer and now l don’t trust my bike,with good reason. Could someone please be a little more specific on what a dealer would/should charge to replace the tensioners with standard or hydraulic replacements? I live in a small town and don’t have a lot of options! Please don’t give me the “if you don’t have money you shouldn’t be riding a Harley” spiel. I’ve been riding bikes consistantly over 40 years!

  104. VINCE GIOVANIELLO December 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm

    I want to thank J&P Cycle for their Blog on the “88” Twin Cam Chain Tensioners. Like quite a few others, I was not aware of this problem. I had my “99” Ultra Classic checked out at the Modesto Harley Shop. Had 35000 on it and both shoes had about a 32nd too a 16th in ware on them. The shoes are about an 8th in thick. They also found that the Hard Facing was wearing off the cams. Opt to have the upgrade kit installed, including S/E plate, HD oil pump, Hyd Tensioners, secondary cam chain and cam drive sprocket. Along with the S/E 203 cam kit, I had them change out the old ball type cam bearings for the new roller type bearings. As you may be aware of, the first “99” twins had problems with the ball type bearing. Figured while they had it apart, to “Kill two birds with one stone”. I may be a little lighter in the pocket book, but more comfortable with my Ride…

  105. steve December 20, 2012 at 6:49 pm

    I am a retired mechanic heavy duty that is. I do not understand why harley Davidson has not designed a helical gear cam. This would cut way down on any noise pollution and would most surely be bullet proof. I have gear drive in my fxdwg for five years and has been good but it is noisy cause the straight cut gears. Ther is no reason that they could not design a hypoid type drive, I am sure they have engineers that could do it.

  106. X bones 09 December 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    Okay Mother Harley, Scott brings up some good ideas and we would all like to hear from you directly. I had little knowledge of this until Mr. Scott wrote his two articles. Thank you Scott, your informative words could have possibly saved me thousands of dollars. My only question is why didn’t the dealer or Mother Harley inform me of this before you did. Much disrespect to Mother Harley.

  107. FAST EDDIE December 20, 2012 at 6:39 pm


  108. Warrior December 20, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    And you continue to buy H-Ds why?

  109. RyanJ December 20, 2012 at 6:19 pm

    Great blog and follow up! As I just purchased a 2000 dyna with 40k on it a couple months ago! Getting it taken care of right away!

  110. Ken R December 20, 2012 at 5:49 pm

    All great info in the article and the posts. My big thing is why HD always and I do mean ALWAYS has the buyer fixing things that should have been done in the engineering stages of the motorcycle. Something as simple as putting a wiring harness for an MP3 player on the sterio system, but no you have to spend $300+ to get one. The gear drive is an easy fix that costs big money again for the buyer. But what about if there is too much run out on the crank? More big money. COME ON MAN!!!!!
    I think I will look at Victory next time, as much as I love my Harley, it may be time.

  111. Bill B December 20, 2012 at 5:22 pm

    Good info. Thanks guys. Just bought a 2000 RK with 14K. Had 10K dealer service. The engine sounds a little noisy but runs good. Waited 50 years to get my 4th HD. 1st was a 1943 knucklehead and was as old as I was in 1960, by the way it cost me $80.00. Then in 1962 I got 1945 trike for $40.00. It was a gas station machine used to pick up and deliver cars for service. Then around 1964 I got a 1945 45ci flat head which I fixed up and road for a year or two. I have ridden something ever since, over 50 years. In 1972 I opened a Yamaha dealership, couldn’t afford Honda, but sold that after 5 years. Didn’t like retail sales. Thats what happens when your hobby becomes your work. I enjoy reading all the comments on this issue. May the wind always be at your back!

  112. Steelhorse Jack December 20, 2012 at 5:16 pm

    Hi Everyone, We have 3 Harley twin cam 88 all three bike have well over 100,000 kms. All three bikes have had the screaming eagle cam tensoiner update when they were all @ the 80,000 km mark
    The cam followers at that point ranged from 1/2 to 3/4 wear. The bikes all run on AMSoil 20/50 The two Ultra classics and now pushing 200,000 kms. I will be checking them out later on this winter to see how they are looking. we keep you posted if anyone cares

  113. Ramble_on December 20, 2012 at 5:03 pm

    Another point of interest I’ve learned. I was at Biktoberfest 2011 and seen a display that had the stock cams with chain and tensioner mounted on a display next to a gear drive set up on display too. They had it to where you can turn each set up by hand. The gear drive was easy. The chain set up would hardly move at all. The tech there said if the cams had the same specs (lift, duration Ect.), you could gain about 5 horsepower just by going to the gear drive set up.

  114. Ed December 20, 2012 at 4:58 pm

    This is Harley Davidson. What can I say. Fifty years ago I took a stock 1941 Knuckelhead and built the bike I wanted. It was difficult to build that custom because the parts were just not available at that time. I had to make due. The bike I built was very similar to the new model softails except it was a hard tail. Even the paint was similar to the new metal flake HD is now offering. I always said, If only I could go to work for HD, I could get them on track to what people really want. I did not pursue that interest and I am sorry because I could have made a great contribution. HD is finally getting close to what it should have been years ago. Now they should go that extra mile and get there before it is too late. Custom and reliable. What people want!

  115. Jim December 20, 2012 at 4:56 pm

    The inside tensioner will normally wear out before the outer due the leverage design of the spring. The inner has a shorter dimension from the centre of the shoe to the centre of the pivot point which results in more pressure on the shoe, very similar to using a crowbar. The longer the handle and shorter claw gives more power.

  116. Mike Powers December 20, 2012 at 4:14 pm

    I’m amazed at the number of twin cam riders who have no clue about any of this. They know as much about their Harleys as they do their Buicks…..not much. Just keep dolling plastic to the dealers for routine services that are costly, and repairs that should not have been needed. Had a TC and an EVO. I still have my EVO. Error codes are for computer programs. Harley won’t fix these issues, as that is an admission. Maybe their next generation engine won’t be such a cheap POS.

  117. Keith Miller December 20, 2012 at 4:08 pm

    Sorry S&S

  118. Keith Miller December 20, 2012 at 4:07 pm

    So I read very little,but ill tell you this. Those tension-er destroyed my lower end, I have nothing good to say about the company personnel, but I love the Harley bike. So with a new lower rebuild I also put in 510 S&P cams gear driven and I love them and will do it again in a second with a new one

  119. James Milliken December 20, 2012 at 3:48 pm

    I have a 2010 Soft Tail Delux, is the problem with this bike also . ??

    • Michael December 20, 2012 at 5:20 pm

      It’s a twin cam right?

    • TexasJohn December 20, 2012 at 9:33 pm

      All Twin Cams even 2013 models have this issue.

  120. Larry Dowling December 20, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    Harley is run by criminals who would make the founders roll over in their graves. How many will die or be maimed before these losers DO THE RIGHT THING???

  121. BobnTX December 20, 2012 at 3:37 pm

    Have 2002 Ultra, tensioners gone at 54,000. Waiting for the money to upgrade to Hyudraulic tensioners, bigger oil pump & new Andrews cams. $1500m at independent shop. Will go to gears if my run out is in specs.

  122. Gerry December 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Have to wonder if your fondness for the S&S gears is because JP Cycles sells them and only Harley dealers sell the Screamin Eagle kit

  123. Matt December 20, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I changed my Tensioner at 30,00 miles in my 04 heritage. It was worn half way. I used Andrews cams and gears. Runs better and gained about 5hp. No difference in noise. The best upgrade I made yet!

  124. Rick Popescu December 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    I have a 2001 Ultra, now as per the amount of oil that is required in the lower end. The book says 3.5 qt. However the local Harley dealer says 4 qt. Which is correct? Dont want to much pressure dont wana B replacing seals.

  125. Chris GoOrdnance December 20, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    I believe the gear-driven cam set-ups are noisy because the gears are cut straight across instead of at an angle like ‘helical cut’ gears are. I know there would be some additional tooling expense on the initial production set-up, but I offer this as the real mechanical solution for S&S, HD and other manufacturers. reliability an dquiet operation – what’s not to love?

  126. kerry December 20, 2012 at 2:16 pm

    I have a 2009 dyna low rider have always used synthetic oil. have 8700 miles on it when should i check tensioners? It idles fine. when i am in first gear the idle is to slow to keep it moving normal or abnormal?

    • Michael December 20, 2012 at 4:23 pm

      87 hundred is nothing. Just broke in. As for the idle, my first thought is check your clutch adjustment. Might just need tightened a little. Find a repair manual. About 65.00 at the dealer. Simple to adjust the clutch tension.

  127. Don McCall December 20, 2012 at 2:05 pm

    Thank you J&D for this very important info! I took my 2005 Dyna Wide Glide to my mechanic, Kelley at Full Throttle (not a Harley Dealer) and had him check it out after reading your article. He was aware of the problem and with 36k miles he thought it wise to look at. I was lucky that he found very little wear but my bike is very well maintained by Kelley and myself! I use Redline oil and I still believe it is better than the Screaming Eagle do all oil! May have saved my motor! Thanks

  128. WHIG December 20, 2012 at 1:39 pm

    I would very much like to see a response on this from Harley. I would really like to see them acknowledge this issue and the stress and strain it has caused some of their most loyal customers. Furthermore, I would like to see them come up with an incentive program for those who’s bikes were killed by this issue.

    • WHIG December 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      At least they could have given me 10 percent off the new cam assy. They wouldnt even do that! It seems as if they have trained there staff to play dumb about the issue. Unbelievable. I will definately be considering another make on my next bike purchase.

      • stagehand-7 December 20, 2012 at 8:31 pm

        It might be worthwhile to contact the consumer protection agency.Their job is to investigate this kind of issue!I bought an 04 electa classic new,and at 200 miles I went to a ’95 my 30,000 mile service my engine mounts were mechanic(not dealer)suggested a gear drive as my tensioners were almost gone.I went with the geardrive and now have 70,000 miles with no problem. I did lose some gas milage tho.

  129. Sam December 20, 2012 at 1:06 pm

    Can we get a response from Harley about the recommended time to replace them? Its a tensioner, its going to wear out. I would rather spend money on preventative maintenance then the bigger cost when it fails.

    I’ve had 2 friends with twin cams have their tensioners replaced at 50K. Both were severely worn and in Florida it’s easy to rack up the miles quickly so until I hear otherwise, thats what i’m shooting for.

  130. Bob J. December 20, 2012 at 12:50 pm

    I have a 2003 Super Glide. At 21,000 miles, I checked the outer cam shoe. It was half worn and was pitted. I had the stock cam chain setup converted to the Chain Driven Hydraulic 96 inch setup with new SE 204 Cams and bearings and adjustable pushrods. A higher volume oil pump was also installed. Runs great and the Hydraulic Shoes are supposed to be more durable/better materiel than the 88 inch cam shoes.

  131. paul December 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm

    Got 06 nighttrain,25000 miles, at 11000 on road trip it would not get out of gear. sit for 1/2 hr and everything cool. did that 4-5 times. no problems since. Have used Hd synthetic since day 1. Did have hd shop look for problem but they came up with nothing. been on Hd’s since 78, rethinking my commitment in view of their non-response on this issue. prior to this 06 have been on shovels, might flip back.

    • Michael December 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      Harley will be never admit the cam chain tensioners are a problem. The recall would be MASSIVE. Better to deny and call it a maintenance issue. As an owner all you can do is eat the expense. Or sell. As for me, there ain’t no such thing as an inexpensive Harley. I’d rather ride a hog than anything else. Harley is like a disease. Ate a hole in my ass where my wallet used to be.

      • Ed December 20, 2012 at 1:38 pm

        I am a die-hard Harley rider. That is the problem with HD. They know I will not quit regardless of how they handle this issue. Fifty years and still going strong.

        • dale December 20, 2012 at 2:52 pm

          yea me also, I loved my panhead I would never see me riding anything except a Harley. I am so angry with Harley over the new bikes it just make me sick to my stomach. A good friend bought a 2012 street glide he is already having problems , clutch went out on the road at 20k for him . I have friends with BMW’s. Motto guzzi’s ect. same old shit as back in the 60’s 70’s Harley just will not sweat the small stuff to make their bike bullit proof. I hate the idea that Harley does not build the best bike in the industry!! it is not right for our own 100+ year old American bike builder to be building bikes with inferior quality as the european bike builders!!

          • Michael December 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

            Well I gotta say Harley has come miles in terms of reliability and quality of build. The new bikes are smooth, powerful (relatively speaking) and ergonomically excellent. Harley survived all these years cuz’ they were like volkswagens- easy to work on. But reliable? Most of the time. I can’t tell you how many basket case Harleys were in my Dads and his friends garages. In some state of build. The old saying was you knew it was a Harley in the garage cuz it marked it’s spot (oil leak).

            Most motor companies out there would be happy to have the loyality of a Harley buyer. Are there better quality bikes out there? Sure. Would I have one? Sure. But it’d be a second or third in line in my garage.

  132. 06 Road King December 20, 2012 at 12:38 pm

    Im at 57000+ on my 2006 Road King and my 88 still runs strong. Is there any indication of excessive wear or will it just blow. Im replacing it this winter.

    • Michael December 20, 2012 at 1:11 pm

      I have an 06 EG with the 88cu. My tensioners were worn in about the 50% range when I had the repair done. The repair came as a result of the inner cam bearing failing. That WAS immediately noticable. Still tore up my engine. I can’t speak to the issue of whether or not a cam chain tensioner failure would be immediately noticable but my guess is YES. At 57k your bike is just a repair waiting to happen. The hydralic tensioner upgrade is a good (but not inexpensive) fix.

    • slimey limey December 21, 2012 at 12:50 am

      just had a 06 fl come thru the shop… tensioner shoe wore out, broke to peices, and the tensioner arm was riding against the chain, metal to metal… sounded like a grit filled supercharger, and ran like poop…. many $$$ to put that one right, chains, bearings plate, oil pump, all of the stuff it in the chest… owner used synthetic from day one…. the mileage, you ask? 56,000 plus a few….
      makes ya wanna get it checked right now doesnt it?

  133. Fireball December 20, 2012 at 12:23 pm

    The Cam on my 99 Road Glide has have gone out twice. The first time Harley was good enough to replace the engine, yes the engine (at 35k miles). The second time, they replaced the Cam only (after the next 25k miles). I put on another 30k and am getting nervous the cam will go out again. She still runs really good but suddenly doesn’t idle quite right and there’s new sounds from the cam area…$$$$, ringing in my ears. I’d LOVE to see a formal response from Harley! Moving to gear driven cams might be next but I’m not sure exaclty. Common Harley, kick it in gear and help us brothers out!

    • Ed December 20, 2012 at 1:01 pm

      If she is not idle right, the tensioner could be the problem. My bike did not idle properly for a long time and I could not seem to find a cure. After I went to the hydrolic tensioner the problem went away.

    • Ed December 20, 2012 at 1:17 pm

      By the way, I even had the engine mounts replaced because of the extreme vibration at idle. There was a recall on engine mounts but HD did not pay for the replacement. The new mounts made no difference. I tried several other things but they made no difference.
      If the chain tensioner is sloppy that may cause an idol problem and maybe even starting problems. Your bike may quit when sitting at idol.

    • Ed December 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      Sorry for the spelling error. I should not be drinking and writing.

  134. Bruce December 20, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    I have a 2002 Ultra/ Upgraded to the S&S 510G which is the gear system. Also put a Thundermax ECM on it and I love it. Have about 10k on it since upgrade and everything is great.

  135. Ken Slater December 20, 2012 at 11:26 am

    I’m just bought a 2009 Harley Road King Classic, which is my first Harley. It is being delivered to my home today. I’m a novice with motors and an wondering whether the cam tensioner failure effects my engine too. Thanks in advance.


    • Michael December 20, 2012 at 12:52 pm

      Short answer–Yes. Your bike is a modern twin cam. Is it likely a problem for you yet? No. At some point in the last few years Harley went to a hydralic tensioner. Not sure what year. But they have much better longevity. None the less, they will wear out too (75k-100k). Talk to your dealer. If you don’t have the Hydralic tensioner, your bike will need this repair in the 25k-50k region.

  136. Chuck P December 20, 2012 at 10:52 am

    Wife and I have a variety of twin cam motors. An ’00 88B, an ’04 88B and an’07 96. I did the replacement of the shoes on the ’00 88B at about 37K miles, and at that time I had another ’00 88B, now traded away for the ’07 96″. Had no problems with replacing the shoes. The ’07 I haven’t looked at yet as it has the new system. The ’04 hasn’t the miles to be concerned.

    My problem is that I am satisfied with the performance for what we use them for…touring mostly. I have to agree that gear drive would be my best cinsidered fix, however…all the gear drive replacements that I have considered are not a STOCK cam grind, but set up for more performance….and less gas mileage. I have used synthetic oils WELL before Syn3 was even out on the Harley shelves. All my bikes have stage-1 intake and exhaust mods. If anyone knows of a gear drive cam with the stock grind for the manufactured year…..Well I’d certainly like to hear about it. Many of you are saying that replacement at 10K was needed….by whose eye? I did mine first at 37K nd 37K. With my ’07 96….The factory manual doesn’t give wear check mileage in the factory maintenance schedules in H-D bible. If someone knows of a stock grind cam, gear drive set up….fxsts2004 [at] sbcglobal [dot] net.

    • Buck December 20, 2012 at 11:31 am

      The 10K replacement was at the techs reccommendation. He was going to replace with original parts at about $50 I suggessted and did the hydraulic upgrade a little over $400 in parts Dealership charged no additional labor for upgrade becuase I was replacing cams already

    • pete solovey December 20, 2012 at 4:19 pm

      andrews makes a cam with similar specs to stock. part number288112g, 12g gear drive, same grind available 216812, 12n for conversion cam plate. you would use 2007 or later cam plate tensioners chains and sprockets, cost about 475.00 plus cams.

    • ray n December 20, 2012 at 7:16 pm

      fyi, there are cam grinds that aren’t ‘stock’ maybe 1 step up that will actually improve fuel mileage.Check out Feuling Parts or S+S. Have you considered FI
      modules or fuel management controllers?

  137. r. fawcett December 20, 2012 at 10:49 am

    are these cam tensioners on my 2012 flstc, if so how big of a problem are they on the new bikes

    • gusotto December 20, 2012 at 9:57 pm

      The problem can chain tensioners are on ’06 and earlier.
      You’re ok but we’ll need time to see if the new tensioners are better.
      So far, I think they are.

  138. John Bruner December 20, 2012 at 10:46 am

    I just bought my first HD it’s a 1999 Fatboy FLSTF with 16,000 mi. on it. I just had the 15K mile check up done on it at the HD shop. Would they have checked this during this inspection? My bike is belt driven. Am I still at risk?

    • Chuck P December 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm

      I believe your ’99 is an EVO motor, not the TC88B. The EVO motor does not have cam chains.

  139. Tom Pdeacock December 20, 2012 at 10:45 am

    I own a 2001 Wide Glide, at 17,000 my tensioner and cams went south and I had it switched back to gear driven. The first time I rode her afterwards I immediately noticed the throttle response was greatly improved, the engine had it’s ‘whine’ back, and a throatier sound eminated form the pipes. My mechanic, sure as heck not a dealer mechanic ( I don’t go to dealer’s) informed me the reason behind the belt drive was to lower noise emissions, and to take the ‘whine’ out (again noise lowering efforts), and to know my mechanic is to know he’s 100% reliable.
    I swear by the conversion back to gear driven, I have experienced the two first hand, and am not pleased one bit that I had to spend close to $2000 to fix an issue that was HD’s engineers fault/mistake in design. I sure as heck was not going to reward them by spending my money in their shop and besides, I would have probably been looking at a bill closer to $3000.

  140. craig huddle December 20, 2012 at 10:42 am

    have 2001 sceaming eagle 95 do i have gears ? i am having trouble sending question not sure if you already received this

    • motorcyclemarv December 20, 2012 at 8:41 pm


    • Shane December 21, 2012 at 11:17 am

      No, you have a twin cam you will need to have your cam tensioner shoes inspected.

  141. Larry December 20, 2012 at 10:40 am

    I experienced this issue with my 2006 Road King (50,000Km/30,000 miles). I’m particularly bitter about the failure of the cam tensioner and resulting failure of oil pump etc. I had my bike serviced at the local authorized dealership Steve Drane Harley Davidson on Vancouver Island British Columbia Canada….my servicing cost in the neighbourhood of $1000.00 fluids, including brake fluid and a fuel filter…less than 100km later I lost oil pressure….the service writer told me to drive it in (not red lite on and lifter rattle). The engine was torn down and they informed me it would be cost effective to replace the engine with a remanufactured one from HD about $7000.00 all told and about 2 months turn around time…or trade my bike on a new one (I was allowed 5000.00 trade in value). HD is pushing extended warranties on new and older models….these engines are designed to fail….checking the cam tensioners was once part of regular servicing…my shop manual does not state this anymore….yes HD is making big dollars on repair and replace…why build something to last…for the price of these bikes they should be so much better……I should have been more in tune (no pun intended) with my engine and this tensioner issue..thanks for the article…

    • James December 20, 2012 at 11:27 pm

      I couldn’t agree with you more. I’ve had issues with my 10 Street Glide. H-D Corp told me sorry, you cant always get what you want. For $20 + how about less problems and fork tube seals that don’t leak

  142. craig December 20, 2012 at 10:37 am

    have 2001 sceaming eagle 95 do i have gears ?

    • jim watkins December 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

      i also have a 2001 hertiage mine worn out at 23000 miles went with screaming eagle hyd to fix and auto adjust primary chain adjuster the engine runs so much better now

    • gusotto December 20, 2012 at 9:52 pm

      Don’t think so.

  143. Dean DeBoe December 20, 2012 at 10:19 am

    I for 1 would like to read the reply from Harley!!! Your passionate thought process for all of us concerned is a testament of great customer service

    • Jon Lepicier December 20, 2012 at 11:45 pm

      I’m sure their law dept is working on it.

  144. Ed December 20, 2012 at 10:15 am

    This is the weak link. It is unfortunate when HD builds bikes that will run 100K without a problem that you need to do $1000 worth of service every 20 0r 30K in order to have pease of mind. Great for mechanics but not so good for owners. If this is not on the service schedule then the work should be done under warranty. It is not listed on my service schedule.

    • Chuck P December 20, 2012 at 11:54 am

      So proud someone besides me HAS the book AND actually reads it.

  145. Gene Sannes December 20, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Your comments are spot on, but one item might help. When installing the gear drive on the current engines, the gears have to match. If there is too much gap at the tooth contact or too tight you get either a loud noise or a whine. When the gaps are correct, there is no more noise than the chain made which is very quiet. I’ve had two Harleys done (2005 Road Glide and 2009 Ultra Classic) and they are almost as quiet as the chain drive. The man that did the work, was the one that told me that the gears had to match or there would be noise.

    • Jeff Miller December 20, 2012 at 6:46 pm

      What brand of gears were put into your motor? I ride mine like I stole it, have since I got it, 100+ on open back roads. Just under 40K miles. Used regular Penzoil 20w50 WITH “ENEGRY RELEASE” Yes, this stuff will drop your engine temp considerably, mine almost 20 degrees !!! Put some in your clutch and trans too. 2000 Kinger that couldn’t spin the rubber how fries it. Hey guys, heat kills, get rid of it here ENERGYRELEASE.COM !!! I use this in my delivery fleet of vans and diesels and in my GS400, it does 135, OFTEN, 155 on those special open roads. Do this test if you don’t believe me, put a dab on your drill bit and use a drill press to put a 1/4″ hole in 3/8″ plate, I don’t buy many drill bits anymore either. HEAT KILLS !!!

  146. John December 20, 2012 at 10:11 am

    I have a 2011 FLHTCU with 12,600 miles on it ( also have an 04 Roadstar with 31,000 miles on it, poor thing just sits in the garage now). I am not a wrench by any strech of imagination so I am now going to be worried about this until I can read up and figure out just what you are talking about! Planning on a 7,000 plus trip next July 2013.

    • Chuck P December 20, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Get the factory Harley Davidson maintenance manual for your model & year. ALWAYS remember that your local shop does not open their doors for fun…but for profit.

    • gusotto December 20, 2012 at 9:32 pm

      Your 2011 FLHTCU doesn’t have the affected cam chain tensioner.
      ’06 and earlier are the affected bikes.

      You’re good to go next year ( provided the world doesn’t end tomorrow.)

  147. Buck December 20, 2012 at 10:02 am

    I ride an 06 NightTrain with 88B engine Was having 95 kit with cams installed at 10,000 Dealer called me to say cam tensioner shoes were already worn out Since they already had engine down they at my request upgraded to hydraulic tensioner for price of parts A little over $400 for the kit Total job about $2200 Was told hydraulic was much more durable

  148. Ed December 20, 2012 at 9:42 am

    I changed to a hydrolic chain tensioned on my 2001 Road Glide after 60K. It was just about shot at that time. I was not aware of a problem. I just decided to do it as I was having work done on my engine anyway. I was only a short time away from a failure. I was running with syn oil. The cost was about $600 including parts I purchased from HD.

  149. red December 20, 2012 at 9:36 am

    in my research, i found out the links are stamped out & as the tooling gets worn the edges get sharp resulting in wear.that’s why the broad range in mileage on failures.i’ve heard it’s beneficiak to polish the chain.99 FXDS-CONV had it checked at 25k & was mobil 1 20/50 v-twin & change every 2500.current odo 29k.

    • Dan December 20, 2012 at 3:52 pm

      The hole problem is that hd springs on your tentioners are not the same some may be 20# some maybe 40# thay are not calibraded this would be so easy for hd to fix but as we here so often hd doesnt care its win win for everyone but hd riders mine were bad 2500 miles changed to ss kit gear drive about 3 4 hours 50.000 no problem sense 2002 deuce now 95 in thunder header scr heads good to go

  150. Russ December 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

    As someone outside of the H-D world, I’m trying my hardest to understand why they’d use plastic in the chain tensioner vice some sort of aluminum or a similar soft metal. While it’s true that you’d still have wear and degradation of the tensioner or the chain, at least you could install a magnetic plug to help gather the metal debris and keep it from flowing further into the system and possibly preventing catastrophic failure. I’m not an engineer (at least in the modern sense of the word) but I did stay at a Holiday Inn last night 🙂

    • Chuck P December 20, 2012 at 11:38 am

      The stock shoes are a compound called phenolic resins. Aluminum is not magnetic Russ.

    • Rossco December 20, 2012 at 11:40 am

      I bought an ’06 crossbones, to keep my ’50 Pan company, in the garage in the winter. The Crossbones is new enough that I haven’t had it apart, at least yet. However when I was first told about the chain tensioner issue, my first reaction was”Why don’t they just use some kind of a roller with bearings instead of a shoe”? It just seemed to make sense.

  151. Bruce "Montana" Cory December 20, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I was a Warranty and then Service Manager for several large Harley-Davidson Dealers, the Cam Chain issue was one that thought by many to be over blown by press but it was VERY real and often around 20k miles on the pre-07 models and closer to 45k miles on the post 07 models……it’s a very expensive repair if done at a dealership and NOT covered underwarrant the shoe is concidered a wear item like brake pads, and the writer of this is correct harley went to this system to slack off on tolerances, when i saw all the problems with the original twin cam 88 and not a lot of changes as they increased CI ….Thus Why i Ride a YAMAHA !!! after 30 plus years working for HD

    • Bud December 20, 2012 at 10:51 am

      How many of the new style hydraulic chain tensioners have you seen fail?

  152. Ed December 20, 2012 at 9:01 am

    You will never get Mother Harley to admit to anything. A blown engine, if it happens at the wrong time, could cause death or serious injury. This is criminal. I think the only thing that would get Mother Harley off dead center would be a class action law suit. I had a Road Glide that did not track. If I took my hands off the bars for a second the bike would veer to the left. I went back and forth with the factory reps and never got the issue resolved. They said it was within spec. In fifty years it was the only bike I ever owned that would not track when I took my hands off the bars.

    • Keith December 20, 2012 at 10:26 am

      Going thru the same B.S. w/my 2012 Road Glide. only I get the wobbles between 45-50 mph with hands off bars. HD tolde my bike was within specs and HD doesnt recomend riding with hands off bars! lol bunch of crap!

      • Chuck P December 20, 2012 at 11:51 am

        Keith, play with your tire pressure. If the front tire is ‘cupped’ at all it can also cause this to happen. You don’t mention the mileage you have on you present front tire. There is also the “fall test”, which is shown in the December issue of American Iron.

        ED. I ride an ’07 Road Glide. Something is out of alignment. Remember weight difference on one side or the other will cause the same thing, so empty your bags, fairing and trunk and check it with a road test.

        • Ed December 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm

          I tried everything you can name. It is not the tires which I changed three times. It is not the way I sit on the bike. The Harley rep told me that 5 lbs. of pressure on the handlebar was within spec. The Harley rep told me to put a 20 lb. weight in the right saddlebag or sit to the right, both of which did work but is that the way it should be?

          • Ed December 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm

            One other thing. When you ride 750 miles in a day, is it reasonable to say 5 lbs pressure is acceptable? Can you imagine holding a 5 lb. bag in your outstreached hand for 10 hours. It is a bit much when you are trying to enjoy the ride.

          • Dave December 20, 2012 at 6:01 pm

            I have heard that this problem can be attributed to the front fork tubes. Either different oil levels or something that isn’t quite right. I even heard of some guy that when he took his forks apart the tube lengths were not the same. Check it out.

          • Suprgld December 29, 2012 at 9:32 pm

            Sounds like the rear tire may not be tracking the front properly or loose bearings in neck.

      • bill December 20, 2012 at 1:30 pm

        Had the same wobble with mine. Check rear tire pressure. That fixed my problem.

      • Ed December 20, 2012 at 2:38 pm

        The Harley rep also told me Harley Davidson does not recommend riding no hands. DUH! When the need presents, do you want to veer into traffic? I do not care what they say and I believe most would agree that the bike should track straight on a straight and level road when you take your hands off the bars. Some weight distribution may be necessary under certain circumstances which is understandable. You are talking to a guy who used to ride standing on the seat.

      • yanmarley December 20, 2012 at 5:55 pm

        My ’11 FLTRU does the same thing, let my hands off the bars at lower speeds and she starts to wobble increasingly until I take control again, same response – shouldn’;t ride with hands off bars. I have ridden all kinds of crap – Harleys as well as everything else you can think of – over 50 years and never come across such a reaction, was told that the steering head bearings need tightening but upon taking it back to the dealer they say they are within tolerances. Why are the neck bearings supposed to be tightened at the first service – would GM send out a new Camaro and instruct that the steering box needed tightening at 1000 miles? I think not.

        • Chico December 21, 2012 at 12:00 am

          I had that problem on a 2000 Roadking. I put it up on the stand and checked it front to back. I found that the swingarm bearings were shot. I thought to look at that because it had happened to be before in the early 70’s on an old swingarm Electra Glide.

        • Ex H-d tech December 21, 2012 at 3:24 am

          Also like some of you have said get a manual and look and see what all is done on your service many of you are told about the cam chain tensioners but seem to not remember being told about this or want to spend the cash,just like you are told about your fuel filter change and don’t want that checked till it breaks down then want to cry about it if you listen to your techs they will tell you the truth about anything going on with your bikes

        • Ex H-d tech December 21, 2012 at 3:37 am

          Oh and by the way I’m sure I’m going to take a lot of shit for saying all this but you should take your bike to someone that knows what they are doing or what to listen for to find these problems before they become costly many of you wanna be techs don’t have the capabilities to read a manual and understand what you are looking for or what to listen to or at

      • slimey limey December 21, 2012 at 12:13 am

        i’ve seen a few evil handling fl’s, most are fixed with basic cheks (tires/pressure, wheels) but some require a slight tightening of the stem bearing nut. be sure it’s done right! but it can make a bagger into a sweet handler…

      • Ex H-d tech December 21, 2012 at 2:34 am

        A lot of the problem with pulling one way or the other or wobbles is the tire pressure on your tires you wouldn’t believe how many ppl don’t check that and if you run your psi what h-d recommends you get this you needs to run the psi’s 2-4 psi more you get a crisper handling bike and better tire wear,oh and by the way they don’t tell you that just like the tensioner till they start whining or go out they should be checked at 15 to 20k and if you are servicing your bike regular and I am not talking about just changing your oil it can ba caught early before it messes up your engine

        • Ed Keller December 25, 2012 at 8:20 pm

          Although I don’t work on Harley’s back in the day I was a mechanic for a Triumph motorcycle dealer. Anytime a biker complained of tracking problems we would first of all check wheel alignment. That is, make sure the rear wheel is aligned with the front wheel. It involves using a straightedge that’s long enough to span both front and rear wheels. All four points of the two wheels must touch the straightedge. Adjust the rear wheel to do this.

          • Mike M. December 30, 2012 at 7:02 pm

            A good straightedge to use is a eight foot fluorescent bulb.

  153. Tom Donathan December 20, 2012 at 8:52 am

    I had a performance build done on my TC-88 last winter by a former HD service manager who has his own shop now. It was an 06 softtail with 6000 miles on it. The cam tensioners already had significant wear and most likely would have been shot at 10,000 miles. I frequent his shop and he has done many repairs caused by tensioner failure. Not a cheap repair and it sends metal filings through the engine.

  154. Craig December 20, 2012 at 8:51 am

    I would love to hear H-D’s side of this story.
    Good article. Can’t see it being all about the cash savings though, or it would have been done in the AMF years.

  155. Turtle December 20, 2012 at 8:06 am

    I had my 2002 Electra Glide done at 60,000 miles not cheap but I got the updated shoe material. I currently have 80,201 and still going strong. I don’t dog it but I don’t run it only on Sundays either as you can see by the mileage. I don’t run it hard but I don’t putt along either. When I need to I get into it and it responds like a champ.

  156. 68shovel December 20, 2012 at 7:39 am

    Oh bullshit

  157. Steve December 20, 2012 at 7:35 am

    My 08 Heritage Softail Classic has 80,000 miles on it… bought it new. My dealer said the hydraulic tensioners in it are the way to go. I brought my 03 Electraglide Classic, with 54,000 miles on it, to get checked out. They checked the cam cavity and said l had 60% left on shoes so could wait til next year to do replacement for $1000 or $1500 for hydraulic. I’m not a good gambler so they are doing the hydraulic upgrade now, prior to my trip to Arizona… Love my Harleys and have put way more money in my 4 wheel rides with comparable mileage.

  158. Boris December 20, 2012 at 7:28 am

    I forgot to mention, I believe if I didn’t have any crank runout, that I wouldn’t have all that much for any extra noise. I had to use an undersize pinion gear. Wifes I didn’t. Hers is much quieter.

  159. Boris December 20, 2012 at 7:26 am

    I put in a set of gear drives after I put in a mis machined set of chain drive cams that mad a lot of noise. Took those out and put in a set of gear drives. The tensioner shoes were wearing a lot in the 5,000 miles I had put on with them in my 2000 Ultra. Wife’s 03 RK I swapped out at 1,800 miles Those even had wear on them. This past summer a friends Classic had a chunk of tensioner shoe come off and take out a cam bearing at around 24,000 (01) he now has gear drive. He was lucky it didn’t damage much else. Did put a different oil pump in. Pay me now or pay me later!

  160. Holeshot December 20, 2012 at 7:13 am

    I can answer for the factory.

    Gears are too noisy.

    Its that simple……….

    • Twain December 20, 2012 at 7:26 am

      I got abetter answer—HD makes a killing changing out crappy tentioners.and fixing blown engines.

    • Bob K December 20, 2012 at 1:43 pm

      I agree on the factory’s answer. And that is what I was told when my shoes went out.

      I changed my first set out at 32,000 miles and the second set went out 7,000 miles after that. H-D did spring for new parts, but I used the money toward the S+S cam kit. I traded the bike in after another 40,000 miles with no more problems. Thinking the newer models would be the new and improved. Been using the Mobil 20-50 sythetic with an oil cooler. My new bike has 27,000 miles on it and the shoes still look like new. I think heat has a lot to do with it, especially on that inner shoe as it wears down much faster.

    • motorcyclemarv December 20, 2012 at 8:15 pm

      Holeshot, why were the gears OK for knucks, flatheads, pans, sholvels & evos and now there too noisy in a TC? Todays Sportster is 1200cc with gears. It must not be too noisy.

      • Mike January 19, 2013 at 1:15 pm

        I think the old shovelhead bikes with geardrives sound better than the new bikes with chains. I have a Deuce with 88tc and will change to geardrive when it is time. I had an old ironhead sportster and a flh shovelhead and I loved the way they sounded. maybe some people need to ride Goldwings.

        • George January 3, 2015 at 11:30 am

          1997 Goldwing, 400,000+ miles without a teardown.
          See it at Daytona Bike Week…keyword…Ride
          no need to say more.

    • Beezup December 20, 2012 at 11:59 pm

      If “gears are too noisy,” howcum Sporties still use a full four-cam geartrain? They’ve evidently had that crankpin runout issue under control until Twinkies…

  161. Ken Klein December 20, 2012 at 7:07 am

    I have an Electra Glide Ultra Classic, 2003. I had to replace this part in November 2011 at considerable expense. I was lucky as parts were removed from the oil pan…

  162. Ken December 20, 2012 at 6:55 am

    I had mine changed out Nov. 2011. It was not cheap!!!

  163. Norm December 20, 2012 at 6:34 am

    The crank should not have anymore than .005 run out. If u r with in this u will be fine to use the gear drive cams.

  164. Leroy December 20, 2012 at 6:09 am

    put the gear drive in at about 60k – really love the performance – the 05 RK has 102k miles on it now and still going strong – but the noise has increased.
    i figure i’ll ride it till it breaks and fix it.

  165. MillerG December 20, 2012 at 5:49 am

    No problems with Pans and Shovels Iv’e had.So sorry about your luck.Those bad AMF years.ha,ha

    • Chico December 20, 2012 at 11:50 pm

      Bad AMF years huh, I rode all over the U.S. on shovels and iron heads. All the BS about then not being any good was started by the dealers so that they could sell the evo’s. When you don’t know, you parrot. Don’t be a parrot. You never know when a monkey is gonna pull your tail feathers and screw you.

  166. DOM M December 20, 2012 at 4:57 am

    I would love to hear what the factory has to say about this problem.

    i would also like to know if they plain a recall fix,hope so, like to keep the faith in Harley,and buying American.

    • Dave December 20, 2012 at 9:54 pm

      Dom M I had a 2006 FLHTCU with the 88 Twin Cam, she was a beauty but had no horsepower. I traded her for a 2011 Limited with the 103 motor. She could run but blew oil out the air breather and got all over the right side of my bike. It seems like that may be a problem because I learned that it seemed to happen to the limiteds and ultra classics. I contacted HD and shared my frustration. I was told they would pass on my feedback. Not long after I traded for a GL1800.

  167. Mason December 20, 2012 at 4:14 am

    Bought my 04 Wide Glide in 03… What a DOG it was..Not even sure it could get out of its own way…First week i ordered a Screaming Eagle 95″ kit, complete with Ignition and Reignheart pipes…now she runs great breathing air…hated the cams on this kit, B grind I think, so i switched to Andrews high lift long duration cams, completed with gears driven as I knew their followers were junk on the new Harleys…Never looked back…I heard to many bad things about the new , and unimproved followers….Love your article on them though..many thanks

  168. jawin_jonn December 20, 2012 at 4:11 am

    Thanx for the kick in the ass to take a look at the tensioners. I got a 04 Roadglide in ’07 w/24k miles. It’s got 70k now, so I was real nervous after reading the blog. I mentioned it to the counter guy he said by then they had harder material and since I always used Harley Synthetic oil that there shouldn’t be a problem. I opened it up and found it to worn about .010″ per 10k miles. I estimated with caliper and a trained eye to be about .070″ worn with about .170″ left til it hit metal. They’re prolly about 1/4″ (.250″) new. 170k+ more miles? Hope so!

    • Twain December 20, 2012 at 7:21 am

      You can not accurately assess the rear tensioner with out pulling the cam plate out — your on borrowed time —change it before it blows– Don’t forget the old and brittle shoe factor and metal fatigue of the spring —seen it happen and Ill bet the Bozo at the HD dealer wont stand behind his words with his wallet —IE—(shouldn’t be a problem) when it comes apart.

    • motorcyclemarv December 20, 2012 at 8:06 pm

      Jawin_Jonn doesn’t realize the wear is not linear. Once wear sets in the shoes will wear faster and faster.

  169. RuffRydr December 20, 2012 at 2:43 am

    You may not have addressed the issue of the crankshaft run out but several readers made the comments about it. I remember reading it in the comment section. Good blogs stimulate great conversations and the topics get well covered. Keep it going man.

  170. Jammer December 20, 2012 at 2:38 am

    Just my luck, I just got rid of a ’82 Dina Evo Screamin Eagle a cpl. of years ago..aint life a B*****. Anyways, would luv to hear a responce on this issue, I’m dealing with a ’06 H.S.Classic 88. Right now, she’s pushing 68grnd. on the odo..2013 Sturgis sceduled..dont need to be laid out in the middle of cowtown Kans. leaving Hou.Tx…Come on H.D. Corp. Gurues…lets hear your side of this issue !!!

  171. Roaslee December 20, 2012 at 1:25 am

    Not a Chain Problem ;; But can anyone tell me how to fix this:
    I have a Ultraglide Classic 2007 which has been convert to a trike. I love it but I get the creepies on my face which I believe are coming from the vibrations through the Bars. ANY ideas of how I can dampen this down.

    • Bruce Rester December 20, 2012 at 9:54 am

      In the days of the venerable 45 trike they were equipped with an adjustable-rake wide glide front end. The standard 30 degree rake Harley uses is not correct for a three wheeler, causes squirelly handling. You need to increase the rake to 33 to 35 degrees, either by raking the gooseneck, or replacing the trees with adjustable or raked trees. Increased rake will require extending the front end by a few inches so the bike will still sit level. Whoever converted your bike to a trike should have known this.

      • chuck wolfe December 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm

        champion trikes in garden grove ca has the trees and an extension for down tubes. they work great on my 08 ultra converted to a trike. job is easy to do.

        • Rosalee December 21, 2012 at 6:11 pm

          Hi Chuck,
          I have some information on Champion Trikes and know of a gentleman in Hamilton ( Wing Trikes) that would beable to advise of the parts etc we need.

      • LifeRyder December 20, 2012 at 6:09 pm

        Bruce Rester is spot-on. I’m sixty and remember my daddy telling me that ‘pearl of wisdom’ back in the early seventies. Strange have some will forget. Had to do the same type of ‘rake’ adjustment on daddy’s ’69 FLH when he found a hack & installed it.

        My younger brother has an ’03 FLHTCU w/hack option and you can bet you tail no rake adj. was done…the handling prove that. Not to mention when the dealer set-up (married) the two, the angle was off….way off. In less then 8k both rear and hack meats were FUBAR.

      • Rosalee December 21, 2012 at 1:49 pm

        Hi Bruce,
        Merry Xmas, yes that was our next change we were going to attack. Need to source parts and make a start. In the mean time got to get some riding in while the weather is good. (Done the suspension, Lighter clutch.)

  172. Carl Bausch December 20, 2012 at 1:12 am

    Riding a 2000 FXSTS (Springer Soft tail) since Aug 99 with 88B engine. Cam ball bearing cage failed at 23000 miles. I caught it before any damage and installed 510 Andrews (S&S) gear drive cams with roller bearings (plugged the chain oiler wholes), adjustable push rods (left the topend untouched), with Screaming Eagle slip-on mufflers, rejetted carb,and K&N air filter, I’ve got all kinds of torque through all ranges. Just wish I had a six speed tranny to bring down the rpm at cruising speeds. With lowering kit and 15″ pullbacks I’m riding an old school easy chair (laid back and low). Did all the work myself. Now I just can’t get enough road time even in Sunny Florida.

    • Johninwaegwan December 20, 2012 at 6:52 am

      Plese tell me more about your 15″ pullbacks. I have a 2011 Cross Bones and been looking for something like that. What brand and model?

      • Chico December 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm

        Flanders has them.

    • mike December 21, 2012 at 12:14 pm

      Hi, got a 04 softtail standard and felt the same way about rpm’s. 6 speed to expensive, so replaced front wheel (sprocket) from 32 tooth to 34 tooth. I bought t6 alum to save weight. Cost 125.00 and 125.00 for shop to put it on. Lengthened all gears and makes cruise easy rpm. you will like it

  173. dicky December 4, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    Post 2007–>Just use synthetic oil, then its not a problem. OR, take the cover off and check the shoe every time you replace your front tire.
    Just looked at mine after 25k, not a single sign of wear on that shoe. Mobil 20W-50 V-twin since break-in.

    • Jammer December 20, 2012 at 2:40 am

      Was thinkin of that very thought..sense you second the motion..I’ll ask my dealer their thoughts…thanks..

    • kane December 20, 2012 at 9:28 am

      i use mobil 20w50, changed cam shoes at 45k,they were half worn, went to hyd shoes.did my friends 2005tc with27k miles he wouldn’t have gone another 1000miles and his eng would of been toast he uses crude oil and changes it when ever,i put gear drive in his and they are quiet his runout was .0001

      • jim December 20, 2012 at 3:33 pm

        I had a 2002 heritage soft tail bought it to fix up had to replace the shoes at 52,000 miles the tech said another 1000 miles and the motor would have shit the bed. Installed stock shoes sold it after i took it to Fla. bike week, this bike was rode hard and put up wet so what the heck stock will work out good enough since the new owner babies her now.

    • dcsmitty December 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

      I have a 04 superglide with 26,000. Always used syn oil, harley or mobil 1. front shoe was about 1/2 worn, rear was even more. you can’t inspect rear shoe without removing cam plate.

    • Gary December 20, 2012 at 9:29 am

      Careful, there are TWO tensioners, one on the front and one behind the cam plate, the only way to see the one in back is to remove the cam plate. My front looked “fair” at 70,000 miles, but a month after I checked it, the one in back blew, front shoe was still intact. I switched to S&S gear driven. BTW, I also switched to AMSOIL Synthetic in 2004 on my 2002 Fatboy…. now with 95,000 on it.

      • twowheeler63 December 20, 2012 at 1:14 pm

        Gary, I use a small mechanics mirror and flashlight to check the inside one. That being said, if the outside needs replacing, the inside will too.

    • twowheeler63 December 20, 2012 at 1:12 pm

      I use 20W50 Valvoline synthetic blend and an AC filter in my 2001 Road King. I have 124000 miles on it, and have replaced my tensioners 3 times. It’s about a 3 hour job for me at home. I don’t hot rod my bike, but, I do pull a camper trailer several times a year. I also have a 1963 FL, so maintenance is just a part of my life. I don’t see a problem with the tensioners. Machines are not maintenance free.

    • dale December 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm

      Yea right my 2004 – 88 synthetic since new every 3k
      bad noise at 23K mi. shoes worn out . I replaced them with stock replacement to save a dime . I still have noise . planning on tearing down this winter
      scared of what I will find.
      If Harley ever makes a statement or a fix on the cam drive will be a miricle .

    • Slayer88 December 21, 2012 at 10:38 am

      Absolutely correct, while this issue is a problem for some, the vast majority will never have a problem.

  174. Gordie December 4, 2012 at 6:25 am

    Hey Scott, great article as was the last one. What are the possible options here and the cost factor? Hydralic shoe tensioner vs. gear driven. Is this something I can do myself? I def don’t want a blown motor. I have a 2000 Ultra with 25k on it.

    • Bob K December 20, 2012 at 1:29 pm

      The gear drive ran me $750.00, add in for a set of Screaming Eagle adjustable pushrods (H-D kit) for another $150.

      Save yourself much time and labor and just use a bolt cutter to cut out the stock pushrods and tubes from the motor. That’s what the Screaming Eagle kit is for. You can use your stock pushrods if you pull the fuel tank and the rocker boxes off of your motor.

      S+S considers their 570 Cam Kit as a stock replacement for a stock 88 motor. It really improved how my motor responded.

      Yes there is a slight whine with the gears. Nothing that isn’t tolerable. Not even close to a super charged motor blower whine. You don’t hear it during idle.

  175. Steve szasz December 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm

    I heard the reason was patent rights on the gear drive by S&S

  176. Steve szasz December 3, 2012 at 10:19 pm

    I heard the reason was due to patent rights on the gear drive system by S&S.

  177. David E. Loy December 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Harley can’t say anything. In court they would be liable
    for hundreds
    of blown motors. And they should be. Including mine.

    • Jammer December 20, 2012 at 2:43 am

      OOoouch..sorry to hear that, was it over the shoes ?? & what was your odo-reading ??

    • Cliff P December 20, 2012 at 6:33 am

      Yeah mine too!!! Seems like around 40k is the magic number!

      • Jimbo December 22, 2012 at 1:09 pm

        I have an 06 Electra Glide and had my entire cam set up, including oil pump plate, replaced at 60k but my Harley dealer covered it under warranty. It all depends on how the paper work is done on the warranty claim. I now have 123k on my bike and no problems since it was done. Castrol Syntech oil and changed every 5k just like the book recommends.

    • Steve Johnson December 20, 2012 at 9:38 am

      My chain tensioners went south and just about messed my up on my way to Sturgis. I had the ‘new bike warrenty’ and insurance took care of a great deal of the replacement cost. However, Harley wanted to put the exact same cams and tensioners in the bike that were causing the problems. I just ate the cost and upgraded the cams and installed a “Power Commander”, also. No problems so far and the bike runs great.

  178. Tomb Sycles and Salvage December 3, 2012 at 7:36 pm

    Nice post. TC engines cannot be accucurately tuned these days. unless the models are originally carburated. No manufacturer’s software is available to do so, which opens the door to aftermarket components. For all who love our bikes… where does this latest (snit) by HD parent, leave the small, dedicaded HD bike shop owner?

    • Drnknbkr December 20, 2012 at 12:59 pm

      Out in the cold,,,what you think H.D. gives a rats ass about you aftermarket guys? Get a grip Einstien. Hell they don’t even care about their loyal customer base. The bottom line is profit to the share holder,,just like every other bloodsucking American corporation.

      • Smiddyguy December 20, 2012 at 4:46 pm

        It would be nice to have a intelligent conversation about this topic and come up with some viable answers for HD owners to improve our bikes without some liberal coughing up “hate corporate America” and “dirty capitalist” leftist propaganda crap….you sound more like a Drnknmoron than anything else. contribute something productive or shut up!

        • LifeRyder December 20, 2012 at 5:52 pm

          I was just about to tear ‘Drnknbkr’ a new airhole when I saw you (Smiddyguy) had posted. Thank you, my BP has returned to normal.

        • tony December 21, 2012 at 5:46 am

          I like that commet

      • bushwacker513 December 20, 2012 at 11:05 pm

        amen bro.

      • Jon Lepicier December 20, 2012 at 11:40 pm

        I agree 100%. The bottom line is all that matters now.

    • Chico December 20, 2012 at 11:37 pm

      Dirty Dave’s a shop down in Edinburg, Texas computer diagnostic software works on the Delphi system Harley is using is compatible with Harley Davidson electronics. But, to be certain which one it is, you may want to give him a call.

  179. Ryan Wolfe December 3, 2012 at 6:56 pm

    What I can’t figure out, is this same setup is used in many automobiles, and lasts for hundreds of thousands of miles before wearing out. Typical cheap ass Harley.

    • Johninwaegwan December 20, 2012 at 6:39 am

      Hmmm hundreds of thousands of miles? That’s a pretty good car. Maybe it has gotten better lately but I remember riding Yamahas and Suzukies and I’d be lucky to get 20,000 out of a cam chain and tensioner. I have replaced lots of chains and tensioners in cars with a lot less then 100,000 and my Ford and Hyundai wiich use rubber belts with tensioners recommend 60,000 and 80,000 respectively and my mitsubishi had a 60,000 mile limit on its chain and tensioner. Just trying to keep in perspective. 🙂

      • PAPA D December 20, 2012 at 3:24 pm

        What’s with the foriegn autos? Hyundai? Mitsubishi?

        • Johninwaegwan December 22, 2012 at 8:09 am

          I live in South Korea. US and European cars are a lot of trouble to maintain here unless they are new.
          I should have said the Ford I had, don’t have it no more.

      • Bob Mack December 20, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        What about belt drive cams like Ducati use. Never had a failure on mine. Either that or maybe Harley ought to ask Porsche what to do like with the Revolution engine.

      • George Hill December 20, 2012 at 11:31 pm

        Well…I have seen gears and chains go with only 30 miles on them, and I have seen engines go OVER 700.000 miles without the need to be touched. Alieng- ment CAN be a problem, but generally it is one of two different things 1. Timing; the chain could be not aliegned-with the dots ec. 2 The timing could be too
        slow which can cause excessive chain kick-back and flop. Then again, they are not EVERYone made perfect. They CAN come from the factory with a flaw. ALSO, make sure (on the Harley)that the points cam is upright. It can be put in upside down, and still run…BUT it will be excessively noisey, and not run RIGHT. MY 74 BMW 900 hasn;t been INto for ANY thing, and has just a few more than 300,000 on it. It does need carbs cleaned up (ethanol), a new kickstand spring, fork boot put on(I have themnew, but no time to replace them)and a good compound job…O, sorry. I have been into the starter one time.

      • Tommy Lauy December 21, 2012 at 6:38 pm

        Maybe you need to try a cheverolet v8. I have had several and know of several more that have surpassed 200, 000 miles with no more than an altrnator or water pump changed. But back to Hd. I have an 01 low rider and am concerned about the possible damage that could happen with this tensioner. I will check the outer shoe to see what it looks like before I tare the intire thing apart. But yeh that does sound like a brainer for an engineer to have to decide, plastic shoe that a steel chain could roll on and eat through like a chain saw or two steel gears of the same hardness that will mess together perfectly. If the decision was to get the bike back in the shop after 20 or 30 thousand mile. Than yah, plastic is the way to go against steel. Its not like they need the shop money. They make enough off of apparel and accesaries to give the bikes away for free.

        • Mike December 22, 2012 at 7:38 am

          Tommy, from what i’ve read, the inner shoe tends to wear more than the outer. Mine were pretty even inside and out, but at 39,000 both were near the wear limits. I upgraded to the SE kit and 203 cams.

        • Johninwaegwan December 22, 2012 at 8:19 am

          No doubt the Chevy V8 is a good engine. I guess they are building them better than they used to and then there is synthetic oil now days too but I have changed a lot of Chevy timing sets at right around 100,000 miles. Back to the plastic tensioner, I wonder of something with a steel roller bearing wouldn’t be better.

  180. lowriding lenny December 3, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    Oh forgot to tell you my bike gently drivi only has 25.000 miles on it with new oil every 2000 miles

  181. lowriding lenny December 3, 2012 at 6:13 pm

    My 99 lowrider is in need of theese repairs thanks for the info and extended outlook on this problem $1000 fix for me .

    • Mark December 21, 2012 at 1:21 pm

      It is mentioned that 99 and up has this issue. It should be noted that the Touring bikes in 99 had the twin cam engines the softtails and dynas still had the EVO engine. The twin cams in the softtails and dynas didn’t start until the year 2000. FYI

      • Tony C December 29, 2012 at 7:49 am

        1999 Dynas have the TC88, softails still had the Evo in “99.

  182. N.J. Frank December 3, 2012 at 5:36 pm

    What is the minimum crankshaft tolerance for a 88cu. Twin cam engine? I would like to install a S&S 583 easy start gear cams on my 06 Dyna. Can anyone help me out here???

    • Ken Thompson December 20, 2012 at 10:24 am

      S&S says .003 is max runout at end of crank.

      • TexasJohn December 20, 2012 at 9:18 pm

        Saw a video with a stock 96, with 1700 miles. Had .010″ runout on the crank.

      • mike December 20, 2012 at 11:03 pm

        S&S advised me their is no issues with 2007 + bikes and new tensioners…. Plus did say, the crank tolerances have been laxed and advise against any newer bikes going towards gear drive

    • rusty December 22, 2012 at 4:20 pm

      I caught mine at 33000 miles and put the ss in her
      and she is a new girl gear to gear is the way to go
      Harley excs only care about $$$ they knew about it
      and are going back to the AMF days minnes a 2001
      and being almost 60 yrs oldI’ll run the bitch into the

  183. David Youngclaus December 3, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    You say that gears can be noisier than a shoe arrangement. I’ll agree with that, but it’s hard to believe about an EPA problem. What is the decrease in DB levels between gears and shoe? Do you mean that the exhaust systems out of the factory and / or HD after market parts can’t mask a little gear noise? It’s just another maintenance issue HD owners have to deal with. When you try to invent the wheel, you usually get a flat.

    • Johninwaegwan December 20, 2012 at 6:45 am

      I agree, the noise thing just doesn’t sound right (pun intended) I haven’t checked it out for the Harleys to see what all is out there for gears but if noise is an issue with gears, they could do like some car companies did years ago and make one gear out of fiber.

      • Johninbham December 20, 2012 at 9:18 am

        Fiber (plastic) shoes, fiber gears, notice any similarities?

        • Steve Ashcraft December 21, 2012 at 7:34 pm

          Chevy 6 cylinders used fiber timing gears for years and they held up very well.

      • Larry Banning December 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm

        After reading many articles about the cam tensioners I decided to go to the gear drive and now I don’t even think about it.As far as the increased noise problem,I do not notice a big difference so to me this fix is a no brainer.It would have been nice to have Harley take care of their problem but it is all about the money.

      • john3347 December 20, 2012 at 11:51 pm

        I well remember the nylon camshaft gears that the auto manufacturer’s used for a few years. I was an automobile mechanic during that time and I made a lot of money on those timing grars. I replaced so many that I could drain the radiator and replace the chain and camshaft gear and have it all back together and putting the coolant back in before it cooled enough to not scald you if you spilled some on you. Got paid something like 4 hours pay for that job.

        Nylon, fiber, or plastic would not be the answer for Harley-Davidson.

    • Stvenkng December 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm

      The “noise” excuse just does not fly… I have an 03 Mustang Cobra with a ported factory supercharger and that thing wails like a Banshee at 4500 rpm, no cam gear will ever make enough noise to become an EPA issue, not even under this current group 0f overbearing, power grabbing “Protectors”.

    • shovelheadrider61 December 22, 2012 at 3:17 pm

      True that Youngclaus! Don’t re-invent the wheel! EPA reg’s are looking at exhaust noise and exhaust emmisions. DB levels from your cam is going to annoy the rider, not cause levels to rise through your tail pipes! I run drag pipes on everything. A little extra noise from a gear drive isn’t going to drive me to the nut-house!!!

  184. boston jim November 30, 2012 at 7:34 pm


    • JD December 20, 2012 at 2:00 pm

      I saw pictures of worn out tensioners so I went ahead and changed mine. I had a lot of ware left but I have piece of mind now.

      • charles December 20, 2012 at 10:04 pm

        as in V8 chevy’s yes gear drive is noisy but they sound awesome at the same time they provide instant throttle response and are less likely to have issues much more performance obtained instantly although the gear clearances must be set correctly for the normal operating temps of each individual engine i promote gear drive for this reason but i have to ask myself how does this affect my V-Rod 2005 VRSCSE screamin eagle and should i also change it out to gear drive thanks for reading this and any response is welcomed out

    • Old Man Blue December 20, 2012 at 6:47 pm

      I am 61 yrs old and been riding a long time. This year after many miles and tens of thousands of dallors spent with Harley I am done wasting my $$$$$ on bikes that won’t go the distance and have to be hopped up to get the HP I paid for… Harley is not getting one more of my dallors ever.

      • Jon Lepicier December 20, 2012 at 11:36 pm

        For the money you should expect more out of Harley or come down on the price or up thr warranty.

      • pourstout December 21, 2012 at 9:37 am

        I,m with you Old Man Blue. I am 62 and soon to retire. Had the tensioner work done on my “01” Superglide and after previous issues with Greedy Bastard Motor cycle Company this is the last of my dollars they’ll see. I intend to purchase new when I retire but it definitely won’t be one of theirs.

      • Long time Harley December 21, 2012 at 10:36 am

        This gentleman sums up my views on HD, never again

      • Egg Man December 21, 2012 at 7:08 pm

        It’s the same with every type of manufactured product these days. The direction from management is “Cut costs and maximize profits”… Companies don’t care about their customers anymore. They don’t even consider making their products better to increase sales, that’s too expensive to them!! Sales and marketing people are out to dupe you with advertising not promote good products. If companies spent their money making good products instead of paying crooks to market crap they’d be better off in the long run and so would we!!

      • Christopher Edward Albaugh November 23, 2015 at 12:06 pm


    • Mark December 21, 2012 at 1:26 pm

      Nice article.
      Can you tell me when did HD upgrade the plastic material used in the hydraulic cam chain adjusters?
      Keep up the good tech info. Much appreciated.

    • John December 21, 2012 at 6:08 pm

      My my, such irreverent comments! The fact is, almost every motorcycle and automotive engine on the planet in the last 100 years uses a chain or belt to drive the cams. Has no one ever looked inside a motor before???.

      Everyone sounds so surprised that this will wear out some day, but the truth is…..under normal use, the chain drive system was designed to last well over 100,000 miles. The plastic shoe is actually a solid piece of teflon that is very slippery and durable.

      Almost all mfrs. have been using this plastic shoe method for 50+ years successfully. Problem is, the chain becomes a chain-saw after many, many hard throttle snaps, cutting into the plastic. Only a very few motorcycles have ever had gear drive cams, and those were for racing use.

      The sad truth is that H-D could have easily and cheaply made the Twin Cam a gear drive. A more elegant solution would have been helical gears with NO noise at all, making the Twin Cam bulletproof.

      But, being a practical person that uses my vehicles like they have to last a long time, my 2008 TC has over 100,000 miles with no problems what-so-ever. I’ve always used synthetic oils and lubes since day one. Why quibble over a few dollars every 3,000 miles, and run your machine sanely.

      • electricinblue December 22, 2012 at 11:05 pm

        Thanks for the info on the cam drives, is there after market tentioners that are beter than HD,s parts?My 99 jaguar has the same problem , premature wear of the plastic pads for dohc drives. Ill be pulling the cover off my 05 RKC THIS WINTER.

      • B.B. December 29, 2012 at 9:09 am

        good point john, that’s whats in all the there stock primary chains.

      • John L August 25, 2015 at 5:52 pm

        The average Harley owner has no clue that the cam chain drive tensioners need to be inspected every so many miles.
        In Fact it is not in the Harley Davidson Maintenance manual to be inspected on a time line I have the factory maintenance manual and it is not an Inspection item. Therefore the damage should be covered By Harley even after warranty, BUT they told me it is normal wear item. Even an extended warranty that you have to buy from Harley will not cover the damage to your engine from a failed cam chain tensioner. THIS IS HARLEY’S BEST KEPT SECRET. And they need to be exposed.
        John L

    • bikaMan December 22, 2012 at 5:23 am

      At 35k my 02 roadking tensioner went out. Put in the gear drive, sounded like a bucket ‘O bolts. Traded the king for a 99 Fatboy (evo motor). Been happy ever since. Evo for me.

Comments are closed.