One of J&P’s Own is Bitten by the Cam Chain Tensioners Curse

//One of J&P’s Own is Bitten by the Cam Chain Tensioners Curse

One of J&P’s Own is Bitten by the Cam Chain Tensioners Curse

Editor’s Note: This blog is co-authored by J&P Cycles bloggers Scott Holton and Brett Koranda.

It’s always a feather in your cap as a writer to know that your submissions are read and taken seriously. As a technical writer, it is very gratifying to know that you helped others out. In the past few months, I’ve written a couple of articles detailing issues that are possible with the cam chain tensioners in our beloved Twin Cam engines. These articles have been some of the most viewed posts in the history of the J&P Cycles blog. That in itself is very humbling, and I would like to thank all the people who took the time to read each one. As a direct result of these articles J&P Cycles Product Merchant and Blogger Brett Koranda took his 2001 Road King Classic into his favorite bike shop, High RPM Speed Shop, in Dubuque, Iowa, to have these inspected. To his horror, Brett himself was bitten by the chain tensioner failure. We’d like to share some photos of this type of failure, and get some information straight from Brett about what he saw and/or heard leading up to taking his motorcycle to the shop.

Scott-Brett, what led you to bring your bike in to have the cam chain tensioners looked at?

Brett-It was time for my seasonal service anyway. I can handle the standard owner’s manual maintenance, but I also know my limitations. Since my bike was sitting around 25,000, I thought it would be best to have my guy, James, go through it more thoroughly. Based on your post regarding the cam chain tensioners, I asked James to check those as well. He said he’d be glad to, but suggested that I go ahead and change them out since I bought the bike used and couldn’t say for sure when they were last examined or replaced. He said that the parts aren’t that expensive, but it does take time to get to them, so we may as well be safe. Dang good advice as it turns out!

Scott- Did you see any symptoms that led you to believe you had something wrong?

Brett- None – not one! I don’t have an oil pressure gauge so the “dummy light” would have been my only clue and by that time, it would have likely been too late. Luckily it was a lousy cold and rainy day when I took her in, so I trailered her to his shop. That fact probably saved me from a complete catastrophe. If I had ridden her, I wouldn’t have made it to his shop.

Scott- Were you surprised that your tensioners were so far gone?

Brett- Yes I was. I’m not a trained technician, so as a layman I was really in the dark on this issue and the potential fallout. When you see how bad they were, it’s dumb luck that something didn’t happen resulting in a destroyed engine.

Scott- What have you and your mechanic decided to do to fix the issue?

Brett- The cam chain tensioners have been replaced. There has been an ongoing issue with maintaining oil flow due to some minute debris plugging some of the paths in the cam chest. James is getting that squared away now.

Scott- Did you consider gear drive cams as an option?

Brett- I considered it, but am a little concerned about the upfront cost involved. I know that I have to have the tensioners checked more often now and in the long run won’t be saving that much, right now cash is king! I have to take a calculated risk for now.

Scott- While I do not want to pin you down here, how much is this issue costing you?

Brett- All told, we’re hanging around the $1,500 range. I want your readers to take this seriously. Listen – I baby that old girl. I run high-end synthetic oil, premium gasoline and keep up on maintenance. She’s not a bar-hopper that I just ignore then fire-up and run a mile or two. I flat-out was unaware of this crucial matter.

I have a few pictures to share that graphically illustrate failed cam chain tensioners and the associated debris that can go through your engines.

Failed Cam Chain Tensioner in situ.

Failed Cam Chain Tensioner in situ.

Cam Chain Tensioners from Brett's bike.

Cam Chain Tensioners from Brett’s bike.

Debris from tensioner failure.

Debris from tensioner failure.

Our intention here is to educate you, the riders of these engines and encourage regular inspections to keep this from ruining your day, and not bashing one company in favor of another.

By |2015-04-14T16:18:07+00:00May 9th, 2013|Categories: Editorial/Commentary Articles|345 Comments

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  1. […] HD upgrade it's about $500 in parts and the same or more in labor. But you can have it checked. One of J&P's Own is Bitten by the Cam Chain Tensioners Curse | J&P Cycles Blog I Love Harley-Davidson, But You Must Know This | J&P Cycles Blog Good Luck!!! And don't be […]

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  3. Road King rider September 9, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    In 2011 I brought a 1999 Road King with 28,000 miles. After researching my options I’m ok with my first generation 88 Twin-Cam. I put 20k on her the first year.
    Im sensitive to new engine noise and around 48k I heard a engine noise I couldn’t pinpoint. First we checked the primary. It had the right tension.
    So I’m still hearing a rattle, grinding noise that’s getting worse. With that I took my bike to John’s cycle.
    After the mechanic checked my bike I was told my tensioners were done. Like I said “I like the bike” so replacing the tensioners at $750+ was my least expensive option. John’s mechanic is one of the most knowledgeable Harley guys around and his work is top notch. Ok so here I am at 68k and I think I’m hearing the same noise from my tensioners. This time I’ll replace the tensioners with the S&S cams and my put a screaming eagle stage 1 or 2 kit.
    Righteous Iron

    • boston jim October 3, 2016 at 12:15 pm

      Hey RK Rider, It sounds to me like Jonn’s Cycle put the Cam springs back in, instead of going to Hydraulics ? You should have gotten more than 20K, with Hydraulics ! You don’t put in S&S Gear Drive Cams, like they were Spark Plugs, the Crank needs to be checked for Trueness ! If with-in Specs, GO FOR IT ! Good Luck, BJ

  4. boston jim July 28, 2016 at 3:12 pm

    YEP! What Donny said! I think?

    • merle September 26, 2016 at 6:58 pm

      I have a 2015 Dyna Low Rider. Within a year I put Screamin Eagle Stage 3 in it with 585 cams and 10.5 to 1 pistons. It is totally awesome. Dynoed at 102hp and 108ftlbs. But……now seeing a lot of shake in my motor. Considering the rest of the stuff to make it a stage 4 machine…..but the shake worries me. Can anyone recommend a fix for the shakes? Initially looked into balancing and blueprinting the bottom end, then found out about chain driven cams with nylon chain tensioners. I have 27485 miles on it now, so according to this article I am due for a sad day on the side of the road. So then I considered gear driven cams. I get so many conflicting stories, I need guidance from an unbiased source…..can anyone help?

      • boston jim October 3, 2016 at 11:23 am

        Hey Merle, I guess you didn’t buy the 7 year warranty ? The 99 – 02’s had Forged Cranks, H-D’s Birthday present to us was a 5 piece CAST Crank, pressed together, Prone to moving, twisting , scissoring, whatever you want to call it, it Sucks ! Some Experts say, you should never DYNO a Twin Cam for the above reasons. I’d start by checking the Rubber Motor Mounts, it’s about the only thing you can check yourself ! Custom Cycle Engineering has a Great Set, made in the USA ! My GUT Hunch, it’s the Crank Scissoring ! If I was you, I’d stop riding it, you’re DONE for the year, Before you Blow It ! If you Love this Bike, Find the BEST Tech in your area, tear it apart, find out the problem ! Then decide, fix the crank, balance/ blueprint , true, & WELD the Crank ! Go Gear Cams, etc., whatever, because Now, your motor is practically BULLETPROOF !
        PS, Or, Trade it in on a New 2017 M8, the NEW EVO, with 8 valves, it really looks like a Keeper ! “What’s Old is New again”! Good Luck, BJ

  5. Mario Acosta July 28, 2016 at 2:23 pm

    Thank u

  6. DONNY July 27, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    Mario, just buy another motor and start from scratch. What do ya say Jimbo?

  7. boston jim July 27, 2016 at 10:12 am

    Hey Mario, 1st you need the BEST Tech in your area, in your corner! The crank run-out needs to be checked first! You don’t just run out & buy a Gear Drive Cam Kit, & install it, like spark plugs! You have the last year of the Forged Crank, Good Thing! I’d be checking the websites of S&S or WOODCARBSdotcom or Andrews! Good Luck, Boston Jim

  8. Mario Acosta July 25, 2016 at 2:51 am

    What gear kit would my 02 flhr use?
    Thanks for an informative article

  9. boston jim July 19, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    Yep! What Donny said !

    Glide Wobble ? Is that like Rock & Roll??

    Us children of the 50’s & 60’s, now where that term came from!! BJ

  10. DONNY July 19, 2016 at 5:32 pm

    The cam chain design is 15-16 years old. They don’ t do the shoe s–t any more guys. BTW I love the Dyna Glide wobble. Got to ride like me– an old lady, then it will last forever. You tell em Jimbo.

  11. mark.e.harrison July 19, 2016 at 2:49 pm

    BIG THANKS for your comments on the cam tensioner’s folks.
    To me its accounts running the show, a penny saved is profit to the share holders. Then the owners of the Harley Davidson Dyna Glide range plus the other models Harley us the engine in having to pick the bill up for penny saving accounts,.
    But the penny’s are now $100’s (£100’s) to save your pride and joy from self destruct.
    Harley seem to have taken the stand of “out of site out of mind” which has left a lot of customer as this blog shows this to be true total pi**** off with there total lack of customer care and focus. This will be hard for Harley to regain ground lost through bad engineering and customer will look to other motorcycle manufactures.
    If you look at the design of the Dyna swinging arm it goes through the rear of the engine which is rubber mounted front and rear of the engine. The top of the engine has a steady on it, so the engine can move around the two rubber mount. I fitted True Track (reduces oscillation) plus two new rubber mounts to reduce the movement of the engine which also reduces the swing arm movement. Then fitted a set of Hagon nitro shocks to finish the job off. Another design problem and another cost to me.
    I love riding my Harley and ride it with pride, and go out as much as I can.
    I have booked a trip for 2017 to ride from West Yorkshire (UK) to Lisbon (Portugal) some 2500miles round trip and the faith I have in my bike is not Harley doing but the after market suppliers.
    Take care, and all the best Mark

  12. boston jim July 18, 2016 at 4:32 pm

    Hey Kid , Spot on ! After the Wonderful EVO Years, it’s like the AMF Days all over again ! WTF ? Stupid Phucks !

  13. Colorado Kid July 15, 2016 at 10:13 pm

    Spot on Mark. Harley should have had better engineering than that plastic cam chain tensioner. I had my 2001 Roadking upgraded to gear drive and it was fine but not cheap. I have had 5 Harleys through the years and YES I do believe they are overrated and overpriced. If I ever purchase another bike Harley is not in the mix. This is all based on my experience. Be safe.

  14. boston jim July 15, 2016 at 7:50 pm

    Hey Mark the Brit, Nice to see you ride USA Iron! And, you fixed the problem, before you Destroyed your motor! Wise Man ! What you said is spot on, BUT, most of the Blokes here, think the MoCo is looking out for them!
    Beware, Be Smart, Be Safe, Best of Luck, Boston Jim

  15. mark.e.harrison July 15, 2016 at 2:19 pm

    Hi in 1999/ 2005 was a spring loaded slipper that ran on the chains in two places, in 2005/2006 Harley changed to the hydraulic tensioner’s and have kept with this to today.
    The one thing HD did on the 2005/2006 to today is have the cams running on needle roller bearing in crank case and straight in the cam support plate. They did increase the oil pressure by up dating the oil pump. The oil pump up date was to deal with the hydraulic tensioner’s plus to put pressure in to cam plate as they run straight in the machined casting. This was a cost cutting on HD part.
    I have a FXDXI 2004-5 and I have had to fit S&S 510G gear drive which has needle rollers in crank case and ball race bearing in cam plate. This is all based on, if the crank runs within 0.002″ so the 510G could be fitted This was not cheap as I live in UK. The 510G has been in the engine 5 years without a problem. But I do change the oil every 2000 miles in engine / gear box / primary which helps to keep engine components running in fresh oil and hopefully in best condition I can.
    Oil is cheaper than parts but crap engineering can only sorted by stripping out and be replaced by quality after market parts which is cost to every owner which HD should have done in first place.
    HD need to be looking over there shoulder as other motorcycle manufactures produce cruisers without these problems, and the cost being passed on to the customer to sort.
    All the best Mark

  16. boston jim July 12, 2016 at 8:27 pm

    Hey Steven, Every Twin Cam since 2007, has Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioners ! I’d buy the 7 year warranty, to go along with that 7 year payment! When & if something goes poof in your motor, that’s the time to look into the Gear Drive System! If you could do it NOW, crank is true, etc., you’d lose the 2 year warranty! Good Luck ! BJ

    PS, Tests, showed that AMSOIL 20w-50 MCV, would lower the oil temp 30 degrees on a 88″ Twin Cam ! fatzusadotcom

  17. Graham Sutton July 9, 2016 at 8:00 pm

    Thank you for sharing this!
    My 09 Dyna is at about 20,000

  18. steven July 8, 2016 at 10:29 pm

    I’m out 23000 dollars on this bike not encluding interest . I have 7 years to pay for this piece so I’m pretty screwed now. But it is what it is ,im going to try to do what ever I can to make it last. So any advice . sincerely. Fatboy s

  19. steven July 8, 2016 at 10:18 pm

    Question would it be wise to put hydraulic tensioners in my 2016 fatboy s , an can I put a gear drive in it? Any info would greatly be appreciated.

  20. steven July 8, 2016 at 9:09 pm

    I just bought a 2016 fatboy s 4 months ago an I’m scared this will happen to me. If I new this was how a harley motor was made I would have never bought one. I just spent 508 dollars on a set of love jugs just to cool it down , but it still get hot in a little traffic . next thing I’m going to get fan oil cooler that’s another 500 hundred. An if that ant enouf I havt to look at the timing now, what the he’ll. Harley the best looking bike out there. But that’s it , it for looking at not riding.

  21. boston jim May 13, 2016 at 6:57 pm

    Hey Kenny, You Are A WISE MAN ! THEY ARE POS ! They will be starter Bikes, for the next Generation ! They are Not in Demand, Not Desirable, No Value ? They were made cheap, there will be millions for sale, CHEAP ! There will be 100’s , if not 1000’s of shops, started to keep them on the road ! You reap, what you sow ! Whats funny, is the Grandfather of the Sportster, was born in 1929, the 45″ Flathead, morphed into the KH, IN 1952, then morphed into the overhead Sportster in 1957, which morphed into the Evo Sportster in 1986 ! They started in 1929 with 4 cams, & today, 87 years later, they still have 4 cams ! No Chains & all the Bullshit that goes with the Twin Cam ! WTF, MOCO ? You don’t look forward, Don’t look back, the Indians are circling the wagon ! Nice Bikes !

  22. Kenny Wise May 13, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Twin Cam’s are JUNK!!!

  23. boston jim April 3, 2016 at 12:57 pm

    Hey Bugsby, You’ve had some Bad Luck, WOW! I’ve been warning people about this problem, for 17 years! I get more chit than thanks, I don’t care, I have 2 EVO’S! I’ve Demo rode 2 dozen New Chiefs, But, yet to ride a Scout! I’m wondering WHY, you didn,t buy the Big Scout, with 100HP, it’s lighter than your bike? I wish you the Best of Luck! fatzusadotcom, Boston Jim

  24. boston jim March 29, 2016 at 10:01 am

    Hey Mr. Adult Biker, What’s your story, Bike problem? The problem has been here since 1999, 18th model year! Only the uninformed, don’t know about it! If you hung around a H-D Dealer the last 17 years, you would have never heard of this problem! H-D considers it a maintenance issue! LOL, Boston Jim

    • Phillip Bugsby March 31, 2016 at 12:07 pm

      hi jim

    • Phillip Bugsby March 31, 2016 at 12:25 pm

      99 roadking classic,1st heard bout this issue feb 07. Had my HD dealer ck them at 49000. Too late,had to have a whole new upper. Dealer installed same defective spring tensioners and i later learned about the hydraulics. After less than 10,000 i paid again for hydraulics and the orange ones were already groving. Have always used synthetic oil. Now have 95 motor,mild cams and powercamder,bike runs awesome and should . However i’m done with harley junk,just bought an indian scout 60 and warn guys to stay away from harley except spotters.

  25. boston jim March 18, 2016 at 10:22 am

    Hey Steve, That was a Pissah comment, you were spot on! All the Knuckleheads on these 3 Cam chain Blogs, should download & print what you had to say. The Primary chain issue is a Big problem, most are unaware of! Look at your Buddy, he didn’t know about the Cam chain problem & that’s been around since 1999? I think H-D did the Bad Design on purpose, to keep the $100. tech’s busy. The New Indians don’t have ANY chains, it’s all Gear Drive, everything! Be Safe at the Tail, Boston Jim

  26. Dodie Ferguson March 1, 2016 at 11:02 am

    Should definitely be a recall but that’s OK I have a Yamaha and Honda so I can still get there

    • Steve March 18, 2016 at 7:43 am

      Just checked a buddy of mine 02 Electra Glide.
      He never heard of the chain tensioner issue.
      20,000 miles. oh yeah they need to be replaced.
      What pisses me off is this is listed as a maintenance item (Bull Shit) .
      Have to cut out the push rods or dismantle rocker box
      to get at inside tensioner.
      What crap design and huge expense for those that don’t wrench.
      opted to put in S&S adjustable rods with new Torrington cam bearings. still an expense had to buy bearing tool from Heartland for $144,rods $179, bearings $18, few other items and lube $25.
      still cheaper than a shop, I would estimate would be around $900 to $1200.
      My 97 is more reliable
      Just changed Primary chain tensioner on my 013 street glide with one from Hayden. Made a big difference. Much less clunking wile shifting and the bike has a neutral you can find.
      That’s gonna be an issue coming to much tension on main bearings. Crap design, it will ratchet up and not down. Hayden is spring loaded and constantly adjust the chain tension.
      When the motor goes its S&S.

      Heading back to the Dragon for the third time in may
      There meant to be rode rain or shine.

  27. Dodie Ferguson March 1, 2016 at 10:58 am

    Too many other companies this would be definitely recall not a money maker

    • DONNY March 1, 2016 at 12:32 pm

      Me. Every spring.

      • boston jim March 2, 2016 at 10:04 am

        Hey Donny, Got Snow? How’s everything? Boston Jim

        • DONNY March 2, 2016 at 4:29 pm

          Jimbo, 6″ overnite.

  28. Mike Evans October 15, 2015 at 7:30 pm

    WHY HAS HARLEY DAVIDSON NOT BEEN MADE TO RECALL ALL THE V-TWINS ASSOCIATED BY THIS???? If this was something to do with the BIG 3 AUTO COMPANY’S It for Sure would have been recalled… So why not HARLEY DAVIDSON….

  29. Danny Noel October 3, 2015 at 12:35 pm

    Bullshit. Iam 58 years old and I love harley. But this twincam motor should hav a recall on it. I checked my tensioners at.8000 then at 12000 now they are out at 17000. 2003fxdl. Lov the bike . Ive put a lot of money in this bike. Gonna put more in it looks like it. Its this time of the year that I like riding the most . All my club rides iam missing . Thank god I hav a 1977 ironhead but its a hard tail bobber. Also iam disabled cant ride it far but can get my fix in. Iam not going to fix my problem with another problem. If my runout is not .oo3 then its S&S time. I almost traded this bike a few months back for a 94 fl. Glad I didnt this would hav been somone elses problem. But karma is a bitch. I’ll fix it and fix it were it wont be problem again. And I like Ultima oil syn.

    • boston jim November 17, 2015 at 4:26 pm

      Hey Danny, You don’t really believe Ultima makes it’s own oil ? The Ultimate Bike Oil is AMSOIL ! Along with a “complete oil change by Scavenger”, your bike will have a belly full of clean fresh oil, like the day, it rolled out of Milwaukee ! FATZUSA dot com, got them both !

  30. mr.maihym May 18, 2015 at 5:05 am

    Why are these tensioners not pulleys? Is this an extremely ignorant question? It seems to me that if these tensioners were a more practical pulley system the life of the tentioners would then far exceed a pathetic 25,000 miles. Pardon me if I’m coming off condescending but I feel it’s just one of those issues that allow mechanics to stick it to a budget rider like myself. I own a 2000 heritage and it has only 32,000 on it. My dad has a 2007 fat boy with only 20,000 on it much like the road king in this story the tensioners needed replacement. I found it ridiculous when my dad came back saying how much it costed him. I’m dying to know

    • boston jim May 18, 2015 at 10:02 am

      Mr. M, I can’t believe your POS Twin Cam, outlived your Dads, WOW ! The 2007 to present hydraulic tensioners are suppose to be 10 times better, than your spring type tensioner. You both got lemons, yours Good, Dads BAD ! Can you do everybody on this blog a Big Favor ? How bad was Dads tensioners & how much was the repair cost ? Syn or Dino oil ?

      What have you decided to do, your sitting on a time bomb ? One thing you have going for you, 1999 – 2002 Twin Cams had forged cranks, the only TC’s I’d own.

  31. Redneck April 8, 2015 at 12:04 am

    Can someone tell me why Harley has not issued a recall on all the early Twin Cams without the hydraulic tensioners. Seems to me that should be something they should have done or even better convert all Twin Cams to the Gear Drive.

    • runamuck April 26, 2015 at 7:50 am

      1500$ is laughable. the tensioners are around 75$ and I replaced my own. It is not a very difficult job.

    • boston jim May 1, 2015 at 4:37 pm

      Redneck, Why would they, they designed all Twin Cams that way, on purpose ! It was made to get thru the 2 year, unlimited mile warranty, that’s it. The chains tolerate a real sloppy build. A factory gear drive cam ( like New Indians) would have required a near perfect crank. They could have made a Great motor, like S&S, but, H-D choose not to ? Today, H-D gets a new CEO, lets hope, he’s not a bean country, like the jerk that just left ! Beware, Be Smart, Be Safe !

      • Redneck May 7, 2015 at 11:53 pm

        Makes me miss my old Evo and now HD will get another 1000 plus out of me to fix an issue that should have in my eyes been fixed to start with especially on how much money they now cost. If I could afford it I’d opt to buy a S&S Twin Cam and never have to worry about it but I’m not rich and I’ve worked my way up slowly throughout the years to get to a TC. I started with an old 73 Ironhead back when they were around 5000 – 6000 used. I really hope H-D pulls their head out of you know what and get back to being a company has pride in their product. Isn’t that the reason they got out from under AMF.

        • boston jim May 11, 2015 at 1:06 pm

          Hey Redneck, I wasn’t impressed when the 1999 Twin Cam arrived. It’s not better than an Evo, that’s why , I still have my 1st 2 Evos. They both have real value, unlike a used Twin Cam, which is more like a aluminum beer can, use them, & throw them away. H-D should sub-out the motor building to S&S, ALL, their motors are Great. I can’t figure why the 117″ Wedge hasn’t taken off.

          Did you know ? About 10 years ago, H-D had a motor remanufacturing program. You took your bike to your local H-D Dealer, he would take out the motor, crate it up, & send it to H-D. They would take it apart, & rebuild to factory specs, if you had bigger cams, etc., too Bad, they were tossed into the trash barrel. Then 5 years ago or so, during the economic recession, & all the Clone Chopper Companies died, S&S took a beating. At the same time, H-D was looking to save money, S&S was looking for work, H-D & S&S made a deal. Now when you took your tired bike to your H-D Dealer, he would take out your motor, crate it up & send it directly to S&S for rebuilding. Recently H-D stopped their remanufacturing program. I guess the Dealers had enough warranty work to keep them busy. Lucky for us, S&S is still rebuilding motors, they’ll even use your Big Cams, etc., if still good. IMO, that’s a Good Thing, what would we do without S&S, a company that loves H-D as much as we all do. If you ever get to go to one of H-D’s birthday parties check out S&S, in Viola, Wi., a real family owned, Made in USA co.. Sorry for the rant ! BJ

          • Redneck May 26, 2015 at 4:33 pm

            Boston Jim, I agree S&S is the place to be and I’ve never had any complaint from any product they have produced. I’ve put S&S parts on my first Ironhead, then the EVO and will end up putting them on the TC. I might just go with the hydraulic tensioner after looking at cost vs. benefit, since you can get that kit through Screamin Eagle with the high flow oil pump and then slap on some S&S 551’s. You can get all that for about the price of the gear drive kit without having the high flow oil pump. I just wish that Harley would not conform to the modern business practice where their priority is to please the stock holder and not the customer. You would think after the AMF years they would concern themselves on making the most reliable machine as possible. If it weren’t for the MC, I would probably buy a Custom, Victory or Indian instead. Now I’m stuck with paying thousands for the bike and thousands to make it run right.

      • Mark . E Harrison May 8, 2015 at 2:23 am

        I have left some blogg note on this matter before and the more I read and the more money I spend to rectify S**T engineering design the more I feel let down The core rout of this problem is the cost saving excercise HD did when designing this engine has been push on to the poor buggers who now own them. As I live in the UK we have a limited market place so costs to rectify these issues are high ie:- what it is in the USA in $ we pay in £ plus import tax which is approx 27% on top.
        Yes I love riding my bike but its to a point that the piss has been well and truely taken by HD and they don’t give a S**T because they have had your money.
        I will run my engine till its had it day and fitting a S&S as it will work out cheeper in he long run than replacing the parts from HD.
        All the best Mark

      • Spider September 25, 2015 at 7:58 pm

        Harley doesn’t care about the customers just the almighty buck. I know I worked for harley.most tensioners are good for 40 thousand miles. If they really cared they would hand put geared tensioners in but would have lost out on the repair revenue. One problem not addressed is if the bearings go bad on the gears it will eventually damage the crankshaft.

    • layton July 13, 2015 at 8:14 pm

      why would they do something like that, it would cost them an incredible amount of money.if you have it done make sure they actually know what their doing. just like anywhere they hire people who know very little about harley engines and their tearing into your 30,000 dollar bike . do a little research on their mechanics first

  32. Bill Sumners February 7, 2015 at 9:19 pm

    Hello hd riders: well way back in 2001’i purchased a new road king,flhri,at 15,000 miles the tensioners wore thru,took out the oil pump..etc..did some research..only one way to go..gear driven cams .andrews 26 g,from J&p
    Then 95″ kit from hd….Vance& Hines slip-on muffs from J&P .and a 34 tooth pulley ( poor mans 6 – speed) !!! What a difference…this old scooter, now with 48,000 mi,can actually keep up with a stock hd w/ 103″.suprise,suprise!!!!!!!!!!!

  33. Cliff August 4, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    At 30,000 I decided to start looking into the tensioner issue…good thing I did. I had a very qualified (not a dealer) shop install the Screamin’ Eagle hydraulic fix with the upgraded oil pump…about $900.00 labor and parts. Turns out it was money well spent, the outer tensioner was about 2/3 gone and the inner might have gone another 10 miles. Do not ignore this potential problem. It apparently varies from bike to bike, but it’s not something to ignore. I’m not a bike mechanic but it appears that the inner tensioner is a pain to get at. I highly recommend the SE fix…the bike even seems to run better.

  34. James Garrison July 23, 2014 at 9:13 am

    Great article and thanx for scaring the hell out of me as my 02 Roadking has 45k on it.I should probally have my tensioners looked at but if they’re bad I’ll have to park it as I dont have 1500 bucks.

    • Boston Jim July 23, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Hey James, you have the last year of Forged Cranks, (99 – 02), the ONLY Twin Cams, I would even consider to buy ! I believe the NEW replacement tensioners (spring style), are much better than OEM, (made in China) ? Find the BEST H-D Tech in your area, ask him options, it might be a Cheap Fix for you.
      Your stuck, with an undesirable bike. The Dealer doesn’t want it, as a trade. Heck, they won’t work on a bike 10 years old. And any H-D rider with 1/2 a brain, knows about this time bomb problem ! So, it’s up to you, if the bike has any sentimental reasons, to keep, have a Independent H-D Tech, open up the Cam
      case, you might be surprised, it only needs new tensioners & chains, at least you’ll know, if the motor is going to die, suddenly. PS, cheap inspection, pull dirty oil filter today, open it up, look for orange or white plastic, symptoms of tensioners failing ! Don’t ride it, till looked at by H-D Dr. Best of Luck, Boston Jim

      • Dennis July 23, 2014 at 2:05 pm

        Just pull the cam cover and look at the tensioners, if worn down replace. Even if you took the bike to a Dealer to do all the work it would not come to 1500 dollars. Replacing the cam chain tensioners is not a hard job.Depending on how much you ride it may never cause you a problem.Have it(or check it yourself) looked at, replace if needed go ride

        • RTF July 23, 2014 at 3:01 pm

          You need to install gear drive and fix the problem. Replacement is not the answer because you still have metal on plastic. Bad design by Harley. I have had 5 Harleys over the years and I’ve had enough of them. Overrated and priced. You have to put money in them when if they were made better you should not have to. Sorry folks, you can have them. Good luck and be safe

          • Boston Jim July 24, 2014 at 1:15 pm

            Hey RTF, If it were only that simple. There’s only a small % that pass the “true run-out test”, eligible for “Gear Driven Cams”. I just had a good friend yank his POS 110″, & put in a 124″ Crate motor from S&S, $5800.-, loves it ! All the “ole Indians” & the New Polaris Indians are all Gear Driven, Motor, Trans & Primary. I’ve ridden 2 dozen Nrw Indians in 9 days of Demo Rides, NICE BIKE !

          • Buich May 1, 2015 at 3:35 pm

            You are exactly right! Rode them for 40 plus years, even thru the AMF years. No more. I have one with 20000 miles and they are wore out. Harley won’t even talk about it.

    • DONNY July 23, 2014 at 3:47 pm

      I was quoted under $500. to replace the shoes only.

    • Reddog2001 December 11, 2014 at 9:11 pm

      $400 bucks, a decent set of tools, a shop manual, a couple you-tube videos and you can fix it yourself. Don’t fall for the mystique factor that the “stealer” wants to sell you. Harleys are the easiest bikes (except for maybe the electronics these days) in the world to work on. If you are skilled enough to ride it, you are skilled enough to repair it. Not to mention the pride you will have when you tell your buddies “yeah, I do my own work, ya know. Hey, ya want it done right, ya gotta do it yourself!

      • layton July 13, 2015 at 8:21 pm

        i was quoted 900 for stock 1200 for hydraulic by a harley dealer is that too much. i have a speacial edition fatboy ann. with a factory 95 ci motor. it has had mobil 1 its whole life has 19,000 miles and holds 20 lbs at hot idle and 45 lbs at 65 mph. it is a 2005

        • boston jim July 14, 2015 at 8:58 am

          I wouldn’t go back to any H-D Dealer, unless it was warranty work. Find the Best Tech in your area, ask around, ask your local Dyno man. If your bike doesn’t pass the Gear Drive set-up, your best bet is the hydraulic tensioners, adjustable pushrods, etc. There are a lot of Great kits out there, but, I’d stay away from H-D, you don’t want to reward them, for Phucking up in the 1st place, when they knew better. I’d choose a company that has a better fix than H-D, & who cares about their customers. Good Luck !

  35. Meh July 6, 2014 at 3:40 pm

    If chain vs gears were a legitimate EPA issue they would no longer make Sportsters which have 4, that’s FOUR, count ’em F-O-U-R cams and no cam issues since the K-model!

    After replacing the chain abortion on a customer bike whose shoes failed (taking out the oil pump and requiring an engine pull to remove all the FOD) at under 40K miles of gentle old-guy use, I’d go gear without hesitation on any TC. If crank runout is excessive then that’s a good reason to gut the engine and fill it with S&S innards.

    Harleys are for people with lots of disposable income or who wrench their own as I do. As with Italian motorcycles, have fun but be ready to pay to play.

    • Boston Jim July 7, 2014 at 10:12 am

      Hey Meh, you’re absolutely right ! The Grandfather motor, for all Sportsters was the 45″ Flathead, w/4 cams, made from 1929 to 1972/73 ? I met up with a friend at Laconia in June, he finally got fed up with his 08 CVO SE Ultra, 110″, all kinds of problems. Yanked motor, put in a crate S&S 124″, Touring motor, loves it, $5800.-! Money well spent ! Boston Jim

  36. TBob February 21, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I have a oil analysis done on my oil at changes, like Blackstone or many others services. Not unlike people with expensive air planes or hot rods.
    If I even see any plastic,, then I’ll worry. As of now, no problems , but only 3000 miles on a 2003.

    • boston jim February 24, 2014 at 10:52 am

      Hey TBob, how many of these oil tests have you done, at only 3,000 miles, I don’t think you have left your driveway in 11 years. PS, 1999-2002 Twin Cams had forged cranks, H-D’S 100th birthday present to you, was a 5 piece, pressed together, Cast Crank. It would be a lot easier & cheaper to open up your dirty oil filter, than sending your oil out, looking for plastic, Good Luck, Boston Jim

      • Boston Jim March 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

        I’d like to take this opportunity, to congratulate John Parham & his staff at J&P Cycles, for the 3 blogs about the MOCO cam chain problem, today the 3 blogs have 1000 comments, mine here is 1001. If we have saved a few motors, & saved owners a few bucks, we have done our job. BUT, don’t let up, every day you meet a H-D Twin Cam owner, ask him about his cam chains, ask what year his H-D is, tell him pre 06 Dyna & pre 07 Big Twins, all ” spring” tensioners are worse, than all 6 speed trans bikes (hydraulics), an easy way to spot them in a parking lot full of bikes. 1000 comments is a lot, but, there must have been a million Twin Cams built since 1999, 1000 is a drop in the bucket, but, a 1000 wiser. Everyday, I meet someone, who never heard of this problem. Keep spreading the word, get your hands dirty, open up your dirty oil filter, BEFORE, you dump good clean oil in a BAD motor, then, you’ll really be pissed off. Beware, Be Smart, Be Safe, Boston Jim

        • HarleyPatS July 10, 2014 at 3:31 pm

          When I got my brand new ’03 Dyna and broke it in, I had the gear drive cam setup installed. I had the money & I didn’t want the worries. One of the best investments on that bike. Also, after a lot of trial & error, I corrected the rear-steer, hi-speed wobble problem with a good set of Progressive Shocks. I get arguments all the time from so-called Harley mechanics that it was something else like, my swing arm bushings, etc. But, I was getting the rear-steer, high-speed wobbles when the bike was brand spanking new! Right after I installed the Progressive shocks 8 years later, rear-steer & wobbles was gone (old swing arm bushings and all)!

        • Reddog2001 December 11, 2014 at 9:30 pm

          Actually 2002 was the last year of the solid bottom end. 03 to 06 are fairly solid tensioner wise also. It was 07 where the issue really began to evolve. I can only guess as to what was different, but I’m thinking that a new supply of cam tensioner shoes at the factory was not up to par, and prone to premature wear-through. This would explain why some crumble at 10k and others sail along to 40-50k without issue. I don’t blame H-D design for this issue, but the possible supply of inferior cam shoes. The newer hydraulic tensioners, and shoe compound, still need checked every 10k miles or so. Just to be on the safe side. It only takes an hour and gives you an excuse to be get your wrench’s greasy

          • DONNY December 15, 2014 at 3:19 pm

            reddog you better get your dates right . Up to 06 when they changed to hydro. tensioners did the problem get a little better. Not a fix just a little better.

  37. Alan C February 20, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    It is not a matter of if they will disintegrate , but when the tensioners will fail.
    Does it really makes sense to have a something plastic that basically sands down inside an engine and contaminates oil, oil pumps, and bearings. Logically not. I have not done mine but am about to. Have not decided on the screamin eagle kit or S and S gears. I run amsoil synthetic 20w50. The bike is quieter and cooler and that is not just amsoil talking. So, I guess the answer is -go gears, run top quality oil, problem solved permanently. Go Screamin Eagle, have a better alternative to the spring tenhsioner. They will still wear down, but it will take longer and still run high end oil or replace the spring tensioners and check them every 10k and run high end oil. It is a matter of dollars and choices. Whatever I do, I will run amsoil. Run it in my Expedition and you can hardly tell that it is running at idle in the driveway. The choice is personal, however, you definately need to check them often or as they say a
    “castastrophic failure” will ensue.—in time. It appears that this may be a chain isue, but more likely a heat issue. Southern bikes seem to more prone at early miles. Makes sense-higher temps, oil thins, the plastic on the tensioners soften, chain heats up like a hot knife—poof-tensioners are being sawed through. Possible.

    • Ernest February 22, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      I just removed my srping tensioners today. I also run AMSOIL and I’m true believer in this high quality oil. My bike has 28,000 miles. The primary chain tensioner only had a .20″ groove. I’m going with the new billet camplate that comes with the high volume oil pump and S&S timing gear kit that includes 510 cams, lifters, adjustable pushrods and use AMSOIL of course. All parts came out to $1700. It’s about a 4 hour job. This can easily be done if you have mechanical skills.

      • Craig Houghton February 25, 2014 at 12:06 am

        I installed S&S gears, Andrews 510 cams, Fueling Billet cam plate, Timken Bearings and a Fueling high volume oil pump. No more lousy EPA mandated chains and unreliable scary tensioners. Oh how she sings and runs like a dream. Let’s not forget that nice stainless two into one. I saved so I could save my 2000 forged crank, carbed baby. You should do it to.

      • Craig Houghton February 25, 2014 at 12:09 am

        I installed S&S gears, Andrews 510 cams, Fueling Billet cam plate, Timken Bearings and a Fueling high volume oil pump. No more lousy EPA mandated chains and unreliable scary tensioners. Oh how she sings and runs like a dream. Let’s not forget that nice stainless two into one. I saved so I could save my 2000 forged crank, carbed baby. You should do it to. Let’s not forget the Mobil1 or AMSOIL. Get molecular and run smooth and cool.

        • Boston Jim February 25, 2014 at 11:06 am

          Craig, you bring up a Great point; 1999 – 2002 Forged crank. I have a question for Scott Holton; are the 99 – 02 crank runout more true than the 03 to present Cast cranks ? In the future, IYO, will the 99 – 02 motors, be prized, like the 56 Panhead, 66 Shovelhead, 84 Evo motors ? IMO, right now, 2003 to present Cast crank motors, remind me, of the AMF days, the motors & bikes are NOT in demand, nor prized, except the 1978 XLCR ! Then again, at the time, FXR’S didn’t sell well, today, they are in Great demand. GO FIGURE ! Time will tell !

  38. mark twigg January 18, 2014 at 2:58 pm

    Read this post and just bought 06streetbob with 6 speed gearbox am i right in thinking that the 06 1450 twincam motor has already got the hydraulic tensioners as a upgrades standard.

    • boston jim February 24, 2014 at 11:03 am

      Mark, you are right in thinking, the 2006 Dynas with the 88″ motor were the 1st year to have new hydraulic tensioners, BUT, they are not BULLETPROOF, only better.

  39. Robert December 13, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    Hello, I read the whole blog and comments but, Can anyone tell me if the 2013 Softail Deluxe with the 103 engine needs this cam tensioner check? Im I good or what? Please respond as I am freaking out.

    • Mark.E.Harrison December 16, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      I own a FXDXI1450 Sports YEAR 2004/5 which had the problem cam chain tensioner part # 39954-99a / 39964-99a which I have stated in the blog that I removed and fitted 510G S&S gear drive plus power commander which is required or another similar device to help the fuel system. This is also in Novembers American Iron page126 &133 with riders having this problem and its not going to go away. I was one of the lucky owners that my crank was in tolerance to fit the 510G gear drive if your run out is more than 0.002″ you will have to go to the 2006 up grade which is the hydraulic tensioners and new up graded oil pump but as I have stated in my other blog the cam runs straight into the machined casting which to me is wrong, should a bearing race. This makes that only a bearings need to be replaced not a housing. I have heard of folk having problems with the 2006 onwards having problems but not as bad as 2005 and prior.
      If you have doubt have them checked but at the same time have adjustable push rods fitted these means the heads don’t have to be removed saving cost in the long run. If you have some knowledge and have confidence of doing the work yourself then you could check the tensioners as part of your winter service ready for the next years riding, giving a peace of mind. But fit the adjustable push rods will make the job easier . All the best Mark

    • boston jim February 24, 2014 at 11:08 am

      Robert, did you get an answer yet ? Read my above comment to Mark, & cut open your dirty oil filters, not sure what color plastic, from CHINA, H-D is using today !

  40. Robert December 13, 2013 at 3:23 pm

    I just bought a 2013 Harley Softail Deluxe with the 103 cu engine, with 2,000 miles on it. Does this engine have the same chain tensioner problem as the other Harley engines? Please let me Thanks

  41. Johny November 26, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I took my Road King with 33,000mi on her and they went to install the new se hydraulic cam chain tensioners an when they checked the crank the timing gear that bolts to the end of it was out of shape an the gear would move back an forth with all this play.I was told I needed a new crank.Harleys are a nite mare an I thought they would have improved by now.Its been over two wks an my bike is still in the shop!!!!

    • BOSTON JIM November 26, 2013 at 10:47 am

      Hey Johny, sorry to read about your problem, WHAT are you going to do ? It’s to bad, you didn’t trade it in, & let H-D get burnt. What year is your bike ? If I were you, & I loved my bike, I would send the crank to http://WWW.REVPERF.COM, they will true, balance & weld your crank, it will be BULLETPROOF ! NOTE; 1999-2002 Twin Cams had forged steel cranks, for their 100th birthday present to us, the MOCO gave us a 5 piece CAST crank, pressed together POS motor !

      • Reddog2001 December 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm

        Watch the S&S you-tube videos about crank strength. Welding cranks actually weakens them.

    • jeff ryan November 26, 2013 at 12:09 pm

      Crank on the wife’s ’06 FXSTI was out of balance, too. Dude in NC wanted $850 to true it out, for an extra $100, ordered an S&S wheel and crank assembly, 4.5 inch stroke. Topped off with a pair of SS 585 e-z start cams. In 5,000 trouble free miles as a 106, gets the same mpg (39) as the old mill.. Why have to run the gauntlet all over again in another 33kmi?

  42. eric June 8, 2013 at 7:30 am

    After reading your articles about the cam chain tensioner issues, i took my 06 fatboy to have it checked out. My fatboy has just over 61,000 Miles on it, has had synthetic oil since its 10,000 mile service and was running great. Since it wasn’t due for any services i asked the Harley service manager if they would just check the cam tensioners under my extended warranty. Patrick tools me the cam tensioners are covered and the preventive check is also. AS It turned out, my bike wasn’t running as great as i thought. My cam tensioners had started to break apart and pieces had already gotten into the oil pump. HD replaced the oil pump, can tensioners and back plate with the screamin eagle high capacity pump, hydrollic tensioners and backplate. If it had not been for your article and news letter my fatboy would have been a victim of the cam tensioner curse. Thanks for your articles and news letters.

    • boston jim June 11, 2013 at 11:46 am

      Hey Eric, good for you, that’s great news ! I wasn’t aware, the check-up was covered by extended warranty. Be safe, boston jim, ps, on my way to my 45th LACONIA ! pss, hope you didn’t put SYN3 in.

    • Pete October 29, 2013 at 5:13 pm

      After reading about this problem. ( Thanks JP). I took my bike, 03 Heritage which I inherited from my big Sis to my cousin who is a Harley Engine Mech. 23000 Miles and he told me I was 10 Miles or Minutes away from eating the engine. Changed the cams. Upgrade and installed gear drive.. I am a happy camper. Thanks to all on this blog for the info.

      • Jeff Ryan October 30, 2013 at 12:01 pm

        Harleys with evolution engines are the most maligned motorcycles in the world. Why not an evo powered hog? No chain cam woes in an engine which will run almost forever, and they’re cheap as hell. My wrench has a ’95 Fat Boy with 30k on the clock, asking five large for a lady whose husband passed away. He rode the wheels off it at Biketoberfest without a single problem. If I didn’t already have two other road bikes, Mr. FB would be in my garage this afternoon. Looking for an inexpensive used bike? Go evo or go home. This from a dude who just crammed 5 grand into an ’06 FSXTI in order to fix.. you got chain failure. (although we did make it into a nice little 106″ stroker!) My two cents.

        • BOSTON JIM November 7, 2013 at 8:15 pm

          Jeff, I wish you the best with the 106″ stroker, I hope you welded the crank & went gear drive, now that’s a bullet proof motor. Beware, Be Smart, Be safe !

          • Jeff Ryan November 8, 2013 at 10:40 am

            Yep, SS 585 gear driven cams plus the monster SS crank with 4.5 inches of travel. Opened it up just before the cases went to hell. My girl loves the extra 30+ ponies and rides the wheels off it.

            Note: The post made by me touting the attributes of Evo powered 90’s hogs was not intended to denigrate owners of twin cams, just a suggestion when looking for a reliable 1st or 2nd motorcycle. Five grand for a big twin makes these 1990’s model bikes an attractive choice when seeking an affordable, bulletproof backup bike we can ride to work in the rain, and not have to worry about dings, dents, and dirt. Great first bike, too.

          • Boston Jim November 8, 2013 at 11:10 am

            Hey Jeff, that’s Great ! I have a 1986 1st year Evo Sportster & a 1999 FXSTC, last Evo Big Twin, since new. Been riding H-D, since 1963, owner since 1967, been to every Laconia, since 1969. Only rider from New England to ride from Springfield, Ma., to Gilroy, Ca. & back to Springfield, for Indians Centennial Ride in 2001. AMSOIL & SCAVENGER Dealer since 2004, AMSOIL has prevented a lot of Twin Cams from premature imploding. http://WWW.FATZUSA.COM , BEWARE, BE SMART, BE SAFE !

    • DONNY November 7, 2013 at 4:37 am

      Yesterday,a I danced on the ceiling. After 21,000 miles I checked my own tensioners. The front has little or no-ware maybe a 32nd ridge at most. Boy I think I’m lucky or was it smart to run Mobil 1 from 2500 miles.I think it ‘s the oil.(Oh by the way ). Will be checking every 5000 miles from now on.

  43. Steve Williams June 3, 2013 at 2:45 am

    Will you go with the OEM tensioner or an alternative product?
    I will now consider ordering one as a backup as I ride in remote Saudi Arabia on a 2010 FLHTCU with 40K kms on the clock, no trailer either. And it’s summer.

  44. George May 27, 2013 at 5:21 am

    I have a 95 dyna wide glide. I”m I at risk of this cam tensioner problem???? I can’t read all this articles, I get all screwed up. Please help me out. thanks.

    • Craig Houghton May 27, 2013 at 8:43 pm

      No you have an Evo you are golden. Just use good oil like I am sure you Mobil 1 20W50 for V Twins, Amsoil V Twin is good too. Harley synthetic is not a true polyalphetic oil.

  45. Dennis May 24, 2013 at 9:29 am

    Jim What is important about what Mark said was that ” oil is cheaper than parts” it doesn’t matter what Brand oil as long as changed at the right time. I too am not a young lad anymore either and I have riding and racing bikes for as long as you and wasn’t aware that you were appointed the final say about oil.

    • mark.e.harrison May 27, 2013 at 12:59 pm

      Hi this is a basic run down cost at a dealer for your HD to serviced in the UK. I have taken the $ as $1.5 to the £.

      Our prices include parts as detailed in the Harley-Davidson Maintenance Schedule,
      including H-D Oil filter, 20/50 Engine Oil, Formula X Primary/Trans oil, Spark plugs,
      O rings, Fork oil, and Wheel seals.
      Extra work requested will be charged at our standard rate, currently £40.00 per hour.($60)
      Service intervals are detailed in the Harley Davidson Owner’s Manual, a 2,500 service is listed as “Inspect, and if necessary correct adjust clean or replace”. However we do recommend that engine and primary is changed at this service.

      TOTAL inc VAT UK VAT TAX IS AT 20%


      First Service =£124.20 ($186)

      2,500 -Inspection – Oil – £95.41 ($142)

      5,000 miles -£200.10 ($300)

      10,000 – to 2003= £278.36 ($417)

      10,000 – 2004 up= £216.26 ($324)


      First Service= £138.16 ($204)

      2,500miles -Inspection – Oil=£100.43 ($150)

      5,000miles= £244.81 (£366)

      10,000 – to 1999=£381.66 ($571)

      10,000 – 2000 up=£230.94 ($345)


      First Service=£141.68 ($211)

      2,500 -Inspection – Oil=£75.68 ($112)

      5,000miles=£201.68 (£301)

      10,000 – to 1999=£335.29 ($502)

      10,000 – 2000 up=£258.46 ($387)


      First Service=£148.65 ($222)

      2,500 -Inspection – Oil=£79.20 ($120)

      5,000 – all models-£220.65 ($330)

      10,000 – FLHR to 99=£346.09 ($519)

      10,000 – FLHR 00 up=£289.44 $434)

      10,000 – FLHT to 99=£394.09 ($591)

      10,000 – FLHT 00 up=£337.44 ($506)

      This is the price we have to pay in the UK so if the tensioners was checked at the same time or replaced God only knows ?.
      Have a look at S&S SYNTHETIC oil even they say change oil and filter at every 2500 miles. At least In the US you have a large base which to work from in the UK this is not the case. So I will carry on changing my oil at 2000 to 2500 miles .All the best and thanks Mark

  46. J . P Estes May 22, 2013 at 9:35 pm

    The lucky ones don’t loose an engine . I have a 99 road king classic with the TC at started running syn. Oil at 29k at 56k the tensioner turned loose . Never lost oil pressure manual gauge! Not even an engine knock! Lose of oil in the oil tank as the oil couldnt return from the engine bogging the engine down! Other than the clatter of the initial tensioner going that’s it. BUT later it hit me square in the pocket. Lower end and a big bore kit . Now at 98k on her she gets a regular check up like they once bitten twice shy now working on the rear engine mounts and swing arm bushing to eliminate the wobble

  47. Donald May 22, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    I just bought a 2010 Harley trike with the 103 cu engine, with 14,000 miles on it. Does this engine have the same chain tensioner problem as the other Harley engines? Thanks

    • Bobby Moser May 23, 2013 at 11:11 am

      No you are good to go!!

    • Donny October 31, 2013 at 10:04 pm

      It has chain tensioner’s I think. Therefore you will have the same problem down the road. Friction will kill everything sooner then later. Any bike with this design will have to replaced. Don’t let anybody tell you different. Your dealer will not tell you this (more bucks in his till.) Just be aware it will happen.

      • dennis November 3, 2013 at 6:41 am

        sorry, but don’t listen to all this crap yes all chain tensioners will wear out. but the question is when. I have over 127,000 miles on my 07 with the sames tensioners. Change the oil at the right time, use good oil you should be fine. Have them checked at around 50,000. then you will know if they need replacing.

        • Donny November 7, 2013 at 3:05 pm

          I find that hard to believe buddy. Just checked mine at 21,000 and pleasently surprised about a 32nd ridge. I think another 15’000 – 20’000 at the most. And I have been using Mobil 1 20-50 V- Twin oil since 5000 miles.127,000 ‘ what have you got jammed up your ass a gennie?Give me a break. I’ve put on 21,000 miles in ten years dude. Don’t you know were you learned how to read? I personaly know 4 people who have had to replace these things , by the way both styles. Go to any shop and you will see blown tensioner ‘s all over the place. Please read all the forums every were. Same problems. Always people like you—127’000 miles impossible.

          • BOSTON JIM November 7, 2013 at 8:05 pm

            WOW, Donny be nice, are you from OZ. We don’t talk like that here, to fellow bikers. And from you, the guy with the 03 WG, 1st year of the worst motor, & your only worn a 32nd, what color is the plastic on your tensioners. Just because you checked the front one, the back one could be ready to implode. Are you using cheap Mobil car oil ? It’s possible he has 127 K, on his motor, his tensioners are 10 times better than yours, plus he’s using AMSOIL, the best money can buy.

          • Dennis November 11, 2013 at 11:59 am

            21,000 miles in TEN years Wow! You really spend a lot of time ridding. sounds you spend most of your time ” Riding” a keyboard. Trolling the forums with your ” I did this and I heard that” Shit. Well unlike you I don’t spend much time in HD shops, but I do know some people who own them and since the new tensioners (07 and later) that problem is almost gone. At your rate of riding you will have way more problems by the time the tensioners are gone.If you really spend time in a shop you see a lot of bikes with alot more mileage than mine.

          • DONNY November 11, 2013 at 1:27 pm

            Dennis buddy I bought the bike as a wreck in 2010 . It had 3500 miles on it . (Did most of the restoration myself.)You do the math. I’ve owned about ten bikes in my 60 years three Harleys. I commented on your miles, only after reading all the other blogs on this problem that seems to have skipped your bike, and a few others. (you must have a gennie up your ass was only a comment on your good luck) Geese what thin skin. And yes I find It hard to believe, Your’s has gone that long with no real problems regarding tensioners and bearings be it cams or transmission . Continued good luck.

          • DONNY November 11, 2013 at 1:55 pm

            Dennis no I have not seen more Harley’s then your’s with that kind of miles. I don’t hang around Harley-Davidson shops, (only to get part’s , hadn’t needed any for this one yet but am expecting to If I keep this thing long term) I don’t just own a set of vice-grips and a hammer and screw driver. I only come on this blog to find out info on my bike and inter- act with others hopeing that I might avoid some of the same problems other’s are having . You don’t ,right ,so why are you on this blog? Just too tell people don’t worry be happy? You might Have the 1 out of 50-75 bikes that was supposed to cover that many miles. WHY? remember when these Twin Cams came out they were supposed to do at least 100,000 + with basic maintainance , not to be taken out by cheap $ 50 parts. Remember there are thousands of people with this problem. 15 years of the same problem, old style and new style. Dennis you try and do the math. Take care. D

          • LD BOZ December 3, 2014 at 8:48 pm

            21,000 miles in 10 years?? So, I’m assuming you ride only june, july, august?
            I ride year round and have 72,000 on my 2004 electra glide, run amsoil religiously, and have never changed the tensioners….

          • Alan June 5, 2016 at 7:27 am

            IDK I have a 2011 softail deluxe hate to push my luck, however I am just turning 60k on my Baby, change oil between 3-5k reg oil non synthetic, upstate N.Y.spring to fall and Phoenix Az. in the winter, might say I ride and I don’t treat her too much like a lady!!! Wash, gently rub her with Lemon Pledge, chrome and all. Only thing I have done so far is a starter gear. Change the oil run her hard make her sing for her supper, and keep on trucking?? Good luck. Harley is like any other cult, or religion if you Believe in it, you will keep to it. A friend of mine was Bragging about his Bike to some Chicks, won’t say what kind of non Harley it was, however the girls looked and said is that like a Harley. I just smiled and said no girls there is nothing like a Harley!!!!

  48. Bobby Moser May 19, 2013 at 6:29 pm

    Has anyone on this blog used the 2 piston hyd. tensioners that are made by Zippers? your input would be appreciated!

  49. Bobby Moser May 19, 2013 at 11:58 am

    Who ever told anyone that synthetic oil is bad for an air cooled engine is nuts! American Iron Magazine tested the top 10 oils and guess what? Mobil 1 15w 50 was the top oil for the least breakdown in viscosity and had more anti-additives so necessary for an air cooled engine.Yes you should break in a new engine with fossil oils,then you shoud use syn oil.Why does Corvette,Mercedes and most other hi-performance cars come with syn oil from the factory! I have been dragracing cars and bikes {air cooled} for thiry years with no oil related problems!The advantages over fossil oils are many ,the only disadvantages is cost. I ride a 010 Harley fxdwg,I use syn in the engine and trans but I don’t recommend syn in the primary . Be safe out there!!

    • Pappy May 19, 2013 at 3:09 pm

      15W50 is partial synthetic. Racing is fine for any oil cause you change it every, what? week. Long distance and wear is what kills and engine. The reason car makers use synthetic is the same reason they make cars out of plastic. Warrenty work is where the money is at for dealerships. Yeah, I know. Nobody agree’s. Manufacturers, big business and the government would never do anything to mislead a consumer. My bad.

      • Bobby Moser May 19, 2013 at 4:15 pm

        Mobil 1 15w50 is full synthetic ,you are right about goverment and manufactures misleading consumers,but when it comes to oil you can’t ignore the chemistry and science involved in 1 oil from another.

        • BOSTON JIM November 7, 2013 at 11:19 am

          Yes, Mobil 1 is a full syn, for cars, not designed for air cooled V-TWINS, it also has friction modifiers, not good for wet clutch. Also, don’t use motor oil in your BIG TWIN trans, use 75W-110 gear lube, & if you think 140 must be better for my 6 speed, you’d be wrong, it’s too thick for a couple of those “made in china” bearings. BEWARE, BE SMART, BE SAFE !

          • DONNY November 7, 2013 at 9:00 pm

            Jim do you own a TWIN CAM bike? If not you have no need to comment on them. Stick with your evo’s dude. Great motors. And no I don’t use car oil in my bike. Synthetic motorcycle oil is synthetic motorcycle oil. Most people on this forum have legit problems AND don’t need to be reminded that they should have bought an Evo. It’s too late we have Twin Cams (15 year old bombs going off all over the place.All my comments are tongue in-cheek any way. For you blablablabla get my drift. All your submits crant this crank that. Also what pisses me of the most is some one who tell’s people NOT to read or worry about other peoples problems and solutions that we need as owners to fix and repair our POS as you like to call them. I must say that is a but rude JIM. by the way I was commenting to Dennis’s secret anyway.

  50. Bigbrd May 17, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    I have a 2003 road king classic. Mine went out at 25k , wasn’t as lucky as Brett , it trashed the engine , no warning, only
    Thing saved me was extended warranty. Got a new 2012 96 put in it with gear now. Was right at 700$ . Have you’re bike checked . If I had no warranty, it would have been 5800$.

  51. tom May 17, 2013 at 6:49 am

    What about the other two tensioner? Primary or the secondary tensioner between the cams I’m curious! !!

    • Ricky T May 17, 2013 at 11:11 am

      Twin cams have 2 tensioners. Both need to be replaced. Go gear drive and and no more tensioner worries.

  52. Graydog59 May 17, 2013 at 5:33 am

    Replaced cams, tensioners, oil pump and cam plate 10000 miles ago. Wanted to put gear drive in but my wrench told me that I had too much runout on cams and it would cause the gears to bind. He said he’d tried it before on a higher mileage motor and ran into the binding issue. Motor had 60k on it then. Bad info?

  53. Nelse May 16, 2013 at 10:30 pm

    I do not think that S&S owns the patent on gear drive as Harley was using it before the twin cam builds. I refuse to think that anybody is crying here. I did the gear drive upgrade as I thought it was the only practical to do. Those parts are expensive and I would rather have spent the money on new bags or maybe a transmission upgrade. That $2500.00 would have been a good chunk toward a custom paint job or customizing my wheels. We love our bikes and would rather spend money to tweak or customize instead of correcting what was wrong to begin with.

    • Craig Houghton May 22, 2013 at 10:14 am

      You can thank the EPA for your chain driven cams. It has to do with the overall noise rating of the engine. Just makes you want to puke don’t it. There are engine upgrades that are no longer available for this reason only. My screaming eagle exhaust tips have disclaimer stamped on them that says not legal for street use.

  54. mark.e.harrison May 16, 2013 at 2:56 pm

    HI I live in the UK and five years ago after years of saving got my FXDXI 2004. After meeting a old friend he told me about this problem with the TC well the arse fell out of my world. I thought I was buying a bike that had some good engineering in it.
    The first thing to do is check the crank run out then you have away forward. The reason I say this is 1:- If the run out is within 0.002″ you can go to gear drive. 2:- If its bigger than 0.002″ you can up grade to hydraulic kit. 3:- Major strip down get the crank true (which HD should have done in the first place ) then have gear drive fitted.
    Only by good luck and a few word to him up stairs (God) my crank run out was 0.002″ so went for S&S 510G gear drive, but would also say fitted new hydraulic tappets so they bedded in together and adjustable push rods . This way the heads can be left and do not need to be stripped down. I did this at 10,000 miles now at 29,000 miles.
    But the other problem is that in the UK what you pay in $ we have to pay in £ (£1=$1.50). HD now that when this comes to light the warranty is no longer running and its down to the owner. Also there is the HD wobble on the rubber mounted engines which cost a arm and a leg to get peace of mind This is my story of owning a HD but still get a smile on my face when I run out. All the best Mark

    • Pappy May 17, 2013 at 11:36 am

      There is a mount you can buy that will get rid of the rear steer, or wobble. It cost’s about $50.00. Mounts to the bottom of the oil pan and to the frame.

      • mark.e.harrison May 18, 2013 at 1:01 am

        Hi Pappy I fitted a True Track 20-30 DYNA for 1994 to later plus replaced the engine mounts so that every thing was new. This is another thing HD problem they did not want to own up to. This cost $446 from True track plus import tax $94. Then the engine mounts that was another £190 from my UK dealer for the pair so all in all with the s&s 510g cams fitted would say spent £2000 £=($1.50) to sort out a bad design to make good.
        I have owned a 1200s Sportster and had no problems at all so went for the big brother and some times wised I would have kept that but no point in looking back. All the best Mark.

  55. tom lewis May 15, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    WOW, bean reading a lot of info pros and cons, but after all the years of using a good oil and changing at scheduled times, with all types of equipment, from a lawn mower to off road construction equipment, 14 years ago I had to check out a engine for not starting, no comp, ok it did have 300000 miles on it, pulled it out, took it to the rebuilder, rings gave out, crank, bores, cams, all in spec, this engine from the beging used amsoil, I have been using it in my HD, 89000 miles on my bike, its clean in side, just upgraded to S&S 97″ with S&S SS 89CC heads, at 55000 miles changed over to ger drive. use the right oil, go syn, it does make a diferance

    • John Mize May 16, 2013 at 5:46 am

      I think syn oil is great. Not being petro-based it is not diluted by air/fuel that passes by rings one every comb stroke.I firmly stand that syn-3 is liquid death. Go with lucas/spectro/mobil/amsoil!!

  56. Keith May 15, 2013 at 6:03 pm

    Mickey n.. My 2007 ultra had the same lifter tap noises just as it got warm.. The hotter it got the worse it got.. And a strange nocking noise.. Tore down upper end and everything micked out.. Put back together and still the same… Harley mechanic after another said it was normal… I even had adjustable pushrods and new lifters… Plenty preload..2000.00 dollars later i. Ended up trading in on 2013 road glide custom…

    • Mickey N May 19, 2013 at 1:35 pm

      I am leaving on a Graduation trip with my Son in three weeks. We’re riding from Ft Worth to Panama Beach Fl. He’s riding his Go Wing and I am riding my 06 Road King. Just had new tires replaced, and has the “knocking noise” investigated by the fourth “Harley” tech. Fourth time I have been told its ok, “their just noisy like that.” Certainly unnerving going on a long trip. What a crappy fix, and of course this is the up-grade too! I love my Harely but damn they need to get a better design and tech team, or else do proper recalls like every other motor company in the world. They loose customers every time there’s a blog like this and there are thousands of these about this.

      • mark.e.harrison May 19, 2013 at 2:49 pm

        Hi my thoughts is that the accounts run the show in most industries and pennies make £ ( $ ) take the needle rolls (torrington bearings) every other one is missing in the standard HD this is where the cams run in. As for the material used on the spring tensionrs shoes .If you have ever had a set in your hand you can actualy pick fragments out of the shoes. As I have said in these blog the tensioners was a cheap way to get round a problem that HD have to adhere to noise / emmisions and so on. The design is left down to designer but I would like to know which school they went to. This will put people of buying HD and what will become of HD in these time.
        This happend to the British bike industry when the Japs started making bike that you did not have to carry a bag of spare parts round with you to get from A to B. But to own up to the pit falls that has happen to the Twin Cam motor takes bollocks ( balls) so I take it the account is a female. All the best Mark

      • Alan C February 20, 2014 at 4:41 pm

        Well lads, so many different opinions on one problem. Go to new tensioner-cheap method, use the upgrade kit-1500 installed in Canada, go to gears-1700 installed in the north and so on. Maybe owners should have hammered Harley and made this a re-call like it should have been or said good bye HD, hello Indian. If enough customers had got on them, perhaps they would have listened instead of whining on these forums and then dropping our money. Yes, I also have to drop some money on my 100th anniversary RK for the same issue. Pisses me off to no end.

  57. Phil R May 15, 2013 at 2:21 pm

    I learned about this issue back in 2006, but fortunately at that point I had already upgraded to gear driven cams in late 2005 on my ’04 Roadking when I had a 95 Big Bore kit installed. Since then, I’m still running gear cams (now S&S 585 Easy Starts) and the motor has been modded to a 106 Cu Inch Stroker, and have yet to have an issue with this upgrade.

    I have a number of friends / acquaintances who refused over the years to change to either the better designed hydraulic tensioner type, or take the plunge and get a gear drive set installed, and almost every one of them has regretted that decision at some point. I have read the comments about people being glad they kept their Evo’s etc, but almost every new design typically comes with issues that have to be worked out. That being said, I do understand why some are loyal to the Evo.

    As recently as last year, my mechanic had to be the bearer of bad news to a customer and explain to him that his whole motor was “lunched” because of this tensioner issue and that the resultant damage from the tensioners prematurely breaking apart had caused extensive damage to the engine and essentially an entire rebuild was necessary.

    In addition to the gear drive being a better design (in my opinion) it does eliminate the possibility of this problem ocurring. The redesign in 2007 to a hydraulic based tensioner is certainly an improvement, but the bottom line is that it is still a chain drive setup which will still most likely fail before a gear drive set will. I was also amazed to be honest, how hard it is to turn a cam in a chain drive setup as compared to gear drive setup. The gear drive system turns SO much easier….basically giving up more free horsepower (a little anyway) and the throttle response is a LOT better than a chain drive set any day (again, my opinion).

    If you haven’t looked into this issue and you have a pre ’07 big twin, I urge you to do so….at least upgrade to the newer Harley version if nothing else. In the long run, it will cost less than it will to rebuild or replace your motor.

    Most shops can do a gear cam drive installation and parts for around $1200 – $1500. Might sound like a lot until you have to shell out 2-3 times that amount to rebuild the motor…..just my two pennies.

    • Stvenkng May 15, 2013 at 4:20 pm

      So what exactly are you trying to say? My take away is that you are realllllyyyy happy with that gear drive, am I right? Seriously, I have an 08 Ultra Classic with 17,000 miles on a well cared for engine and so far I see no signs of wear. That being said I also started looking forward to the possibility that I would eventually require some action in the future after first reading about this issue. I also have a 95 Bad Boy which I still enjoy as often as possible. Both engines have their issues not to mention the cost I incurred building my Evo to a power level comparable to my Twin Cam.. Harleys have always had their own unique issues and were never just a buy and ride Motorcycle. The fact that the company does not offer some level of support (especially considering the safety issues) is not really surprising what with the Stock holders and the bottom line and all that Corporate stuff.. Anyway regular inspection, maintenance and a quality oil should keep you riding safely and worry free for a long time. Much thanks to the author and the many responsible contributors for this article…

      • Phil R May 22, 2013 at 2:28 pm


        Harley changed their Cam chain tensioner design in 2007, so you won’t see the same issues on your 2008 Ultra or anything newer than 2006. In answer to your question, I am EXTREMELY happy with the performance and realiablity of a gear cam setup. Regular inspections for pre ’07’s will serve one purpose, and that’s to catch the problem before it happens… will do very little to prevent the parts from failing unless you catch the problem in time.

    • Gene Welker May 16, 2013 at 10:29 am

      After reading much about the chain tensioner vs. gear drive system on these twin cam motors, why in the Hell don’t Harley Davidson build them with the gear drive system in the 1st place instead of the cheapo chain tensioner system? I can understand it may be cheaper for them, but it’s costly in the long run for the owner, especially new buyers that don’t have a clue what makes a motor run other than gas, air, and oil. I think Harley is doing a big diservice to their customers by basically keeping this thing hidden. I have a 2012 Heritage 103 Cu. In. twin cam bike. The dealer said nothing to me about this thing having a timing chain tensioner for the twin cams. I found this out through looking at a J & P Cycles parts book finding parts to upgrade to a gear driven system. The more I investigated, I’ve seen all kinds of horror stories about these motors being totally destroyed because the owners never had the tensioners checked out. I am one owner that feels jipped by Harley Davidson because this is suppose to be one quality built in the USA motor cycle only to find that the Metric bikes are of much higher quality at a much cheaper price and the knowledge that owning a Metric isn’t cool. When I traded in my Metric bike on this Harley, the Metric bike was run into the dirt by the dealer & they burned me on the trade in. The only reason I traded it in was the fact that I was buying an American built bike with higher quality and higher trade in value. In reality since finding that I’m eventually going to have to up grade to a gear drive system for $1200 to $1500 some day or have to make sure & keep an eye on this tensioner & still have to fork over hundreds of dollars just to keep it the same pisses me off. So, before this summer is over, this bike is going to take a ride to a different owner & I’ll never own another Harley ever.

      • Stvenkng May 16, 2013 at 5:20 pm

        Good for you, that should get the Board off their dead asses and start doing something about this shamefully disgusting issue that has been perpetuated by a bunch of greedy, insensitive, bottom line oriented Corporate “Suits” for the last decade plus. Oh yeah, will you pass this information on to any perspective new owner or “Let the buyer beware”? We’re gonna miss you.

      • dennis May 16, 2013 at 8:53 pm

        Go back to your Jap bike if thats works for you. The reason your dealer said nothing is because it is not an issue for 07 bikes and up. The system was changed and is not a problem for newer bikes.The reason Harley won’t use gear drive is S&S owns it,so unless you ride 20,000 plus miles a year you don’t have a problem for a long time.Quit your crying and ride.

      • Pappy May 17, 2013 at 11:48 am

        First of all, you should do research on anything your going to buy. The salesperson didn’t say anything about tensioners because he more than likely doesn’t know anymore about what he’s selling than you do about what your buying. HD does build a good product and if people who have little or no knowledge buy one they should do like they do with their other vehicles when they own them. Take them in for the regular service and maintenence and everything will be fine. If you had any idea about what you say you would know that changing to cam’s is an option not a must. Cam chain tensioners need to be changed every 30000 to 35000 miles. How do I know? Where did I get the info? They hide that information in books.

        • Mickey N May 17, 2013 at 1:05 pm

          Wow, lot of feelings in this discussion. My question would be why is this a “wear item”? Brakes, tires, clutch are obvious. These are Easy to fix and the cost or operating any vehicle. But when you have to tear into the internals to check parts that may and may not need “updating” this is obviously a design flaw and HD should own up and fix it. Ford would recall, make it right and move on. All the bad attention could be prevented. Now I am going to go ride my 06 Road King with the hydraulic tensioner “upgrade” or fix and listen to the tensioners knock and ping like its going to throw a rod through the top. Just for the record, I was told that’s just the way they sound. I am throwing the BS flag on that one also.

          • Pappy May 19, 2013 at 3:31 pm

            The statement “thats the way they sound” more than likley came from a HD dealer mechanic. I agree, it’s total BS. A lot of the sound that every one refers to is valve train noise. Yes, when they cam tensioner shoes wear out you have the metal on metal noise. Doesn’t take a genius to hear something is wrong. The other noise is fixed the same way it’s fixed when you install cam gears. Adjustable pushrods. It will quiet down any twin cam. Chain tensioners don’t make noise until it’s usually to late.

        • mark.e.harrison May 18, 2013 at 1:48 am

          Hi Pappy I had my services done every 5,000 miles plus I changed the oil myself at 2500 miles. I did ask about the tensioner prior to changing to the gear drive even the top mechanic came and talked to me and he was a bit lost on this matter. I have the HD work shop manual and it states replace acceptable wear “no more than 1/2 the thickness” .These tensioner can go to 30,000 plus and some have failed at 10,000. But the point is that HD design this produce and sold a large volume to the general public all over the world and did nothing to sort this problem out. Even with the 2006 and later design the cams run straight in the cam plate housing which is pressure feed from the new pump they fitted to deal with that oil had to be forced to get the hydraulic tensioners to work.Plus the cams run straight in the housing ( not a bearing or ball race) just like the Japs did in the 1970’s. So if or when this needs replacing would go back and get hold of the pre-2006 model that has a proper ball race bearing fitted. Not a aluminium bearing face that the cams run in on 2006 later. Yes this blog is to air the views of owners problem and what they have HAD to do to correct a problem not of there making. Take care Mark

          • Pappy May 18, 2013 at 11:42 am

            I understand what you are saying. Yes, as with any product there are drawbacks. My point is that you not only need to regular service as you have done but to use the correct oil. Again, my son has an 2002 with 74000 miles and is doing fine. We changed the chain tensioners at 45000 plus miles and still had 40 plus% left. As with any and all HD’s the oil lubricates and cools the engine. We have always used the same oil. The engine is clean when inspected and there is no oil consumption. We use Aeroshell. I have used it in all my bikes since the 60’s. Many will argue, and many will disagree but the proof is that I/we have never lost an engine or tensioner for lack of “proper” lubrication. We have cahanged failed tensioners at 10000 to 30000 miles in engines that didn’t use the correct oil and serviced them as you have done. The wear we have had on our engines is the hard surface wears off cams and such from extended use not lack of proper lubrication. I still stand on the fact that it is an adequate design. I don’t agree with any chain in any engine because of the chance of failure, that and I’m an old school biker. As far as I’m concerned HD has just tried to stupid proof their bikes over the years. When they do “new” things we just need to be smarter than the bike. Take care.

          • mark.e.harrison May 19, 2013 at 1:17 am

            Hi I use HD’s oil in the engine/ gear box / primary as I can get this from my dealer close to my home (60 mile round trip). When I started biking some 30+ years ago and cut my teeth on BSA/Triumphs oil had to be changed at 1000 miles as there was no real filter that was part of the engine.My engineering college teacher said “oil is cheaper than parts lad” and that has become my saying. I would rather spend £30 on oil than a nice piece of chrome. This is the side of motorcycling that a lot of people don’t think about and its down to the dealer when they take the bike for a service. All the best to you Mark

          • Pappy May 19, 2013 at 3:17 pm

            I agree, oil is cheaper than parts. That isnt the way its supposed to be. I too cut my teeth on British bikes. To the best of my knowledge if oil is changed every 1000 miles it really doesn’tmatter what you use. Oh yeah, I have 50 yrs riding and wrenching. I don’t make my statements from reading specs or magazines. All the proof I ever need or needed is the broken parts in my hands when I mtake an engine apart, which I have done more times than I can remember. That said, I do respect others opinions, even if they are assumptions and info from ” dealers”. I don’t sell bikes, I just put em back together. Be safe…

          • dennis May 19, 2013 at 6:24 am

            Best comment I have heard on this subject.

          • boston jim May 23, 2013 at 11:38 am

            What did he say, that was so GOOD ? Dennis, did you not read, he use’s H-D Oil, he’s not that wise, as a Biker, SYN 3 IS CHIT ! Made by Dictator Hugo Chavez’s Citgo Oil Co.

          • Dennis May 23, 2013 at 1:44 pm

            My remark had nothing to do with Syn 3 oil. As stated before I have 122,000 miles on my 07 FXDC and I pulled the cam chain tensioners at 120,000 miles and I had very little wear. I know nobody who has lost a engine due to this problem. As far as I can see the problem was fixed when the change was made to the current tensioners. Now that being said this is only my second twin cam bike all others were Evo’s. I ride with lots of people who have bikes from 1999 to 2012’s some have had to replace them and others have not.

          • boston jim May 23, 2013 at 3:02 pm

            Who’s on 1st, I don’t know, exactly! Dennis, my question was; what did mark.e.harrison state that made you remark; “best comment I have heard on this subject”? There’s been 800+ comments about this twin cam chain issue on 3 different blogs, & this was the best! I didn’t ask you about your bike, or miles. I was just stating, that I didn’t think the BRIT, was wise using H-D oil. I’m 63, have owned many H-D’S since 1967. REST MY CASE !

        • crumpy May 18, 2013 at 9:15 am

          the real problem is the HY-VO (with sharp edges) chain so the bike is quieter. a roller chain would solve the problem. maybe would even be cheaper than the questionable gear fix.

          • Pappy May 19, 2013 at 3:02 pm

            I agree on the noise. It’s a lesser of two evils. Chain noise or cam gear whine??? Go figure

      • Phil R May 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm

        Harley’s a like everything else… designs come with new unknown issues. This isn’t new in the industry. Harley did change their design in 2007, which drastically improves the life expectancy of the cams and drive system they are using. 2007 and newer still use a chain drive Cam setup, but their tensioner design changed to a hydraulic type instead of spring loaded and they have had very good success with this design change so far. Sinc your bike is a 2012, you don’t have the older crappy design, and you should be fine for a good long time.

        • mark.e.harrison May 22, 2013 at 3:13 pm

          Lets have a think about this HD, has been going for 110 years so in this time of manufacture you would have thought that they would have come to the conclusion of what works & what doe’s not. It makes by blood boil that they think that they say its not a problem.
          On the spring tensioner how the hell can you check the inboard tensioner without a dentists mirror or having to have a major cost to you to check if the tensioner needs replacing. Just a quick opt out on there part. I know HD have to manufacture to a cost in the market place . The other manufacture of motorcycle must be laughing there bollocks (balls) off that the design.They did not go through a massive test till the engine went bang, Then look at the results and make good there findings. This is a design to cost manufacture, or is it that its a trend that HD have manufacture, alive style for banks/ accounts etc that can be a bad arse biker at weekends but have the funds to repair when it goes tits up. I bought a HD because its basic engineering that can be maintained and repaired with someone with a average understanding of engineering not a total bad design that others have to pick the pieces up from and this is the case THE BIG BANG THEORY ( NOT THE TV SHOW). All the best Mark

          • rdrnr1963 May 22, 2013 at 6:24 pm

            I don’t know about the shops you do or don’t go to, but for anyone in the Northern VA area, there’s a few shops around that only charge a couple hours labor, oil, and a gasket to do a cam / chain / tensioner inspection. The shop I have gone to since 2004, has labor rates about $30 an hour cheaper than most of the local Harley dealerships and every mechanic that works at this shop is a factory certified Harley mechanic. $130-160 is pretty cheap compared to the potential cost of damage that can be caused if you don’t decide to get an inspection done.

  58. Rod May 15, 2013 at 12:20 pm

    On my 2009 ultra with 44000 miles, had to do a complete bottom end rebuild, the shoes of the tensioner were down the metal piston and my mechanic showed me a shoe that was wore down into the piston of the shoe that took out this guy’s engine. I have used the Syn3 oil since I picked it up from the dealer and changed every 5000 miles. My mechanic does not recommend using synthetic oil in the V-twin cause it gets to thin for the oil pump to pump enough volume to lubricate everything. He put the S&S cam drive in and regular 20w-50 v-twin oil. His shop has done 16 rebuilds this last month due to synthetic oil. I won’t use synthetic oil again.

    • Pappy May 15, 2013 at 3:55 pm

      Smart call on the sythetic oil. The biggest enemy of any HD is sythetic oil. My son and myself have been wrenching on HD for about 50 years total between us and we have seen more wear and parts failure to engines from synthetic oil than almost anything. Dead dinosaur bones is the only way to go. By the way, my son rides a 2002 FXD with 85000 miles. been runnin Aeroshell since he rode it home. Cam tensioners have been changed once and still had 40% life left.

      • jimmy the greek May 15, 2013 at 9:36 pm

        all oil comes from the ground ! its all in how it is refined . what is screwing up motorcycle motors is using oil made for cars in motorcycles

        • Pappy May 16, 2013 at 10:35 am

          Your partially right. Split grades are part dinosaur bones and part sythetic. Straight grade synthetics are all manufactured with “synthetic” materials. Yes, car oil doesn’t work well in air cooled engines. Ash is the problem. It creates foam and takes away volume and viscosity. The best oils to use are ones with little or no ash. Racing oils have low ash. Aircraft oil has no ash and is designed for air cooled engines. HD’s are part air cooles and part oil cooled. Just like aircraft.

  59. Ernie Moomaw May 15, 2013 at 11:51 am

    I didn’t read every post but the reason the Cam Chain Tensioners wear out is the cam chain itself . When the dies in the press start to get out of tolerance the cam chain becomes a chainsaw. That is why some last as little as 4000 miles and some much more than that. I replaced mine at 33,000 and then went to the new style at 53,000 after a cam bearing failure on my 2002 Roadking

  60. Keith t May 15, 2013 at 11:42 am

    Yea.. Had an oil slash noise issue on a 2007 ultraclassic that when i purchased had a screaming eagle 103 kit put on it… They installed it at 20,000 miles and at 23,000 i had the issues… Well when i tore it down found a colapsed lifter and some wear on tensioners.. So i replaced lifters and bolth tentioners.. From now on im doing bolth chains at 20,000…it usually takes 4 hrs with adjustable pushrods…

  61. Mickey N May 15, 2013 at 10:08 am

    I have the hydraulic tensioners upgrade on my 06 Road King. I hear a fairly noticeable tap-tap-tapping noise from the front of the engine, but have been told this is just the tensioner and that they are just sound that way – noisy. Is anyone else having this issue? Is this just something I have to put up with or should I head to the shop?

    • Jeff A. May 15, 2013 at 11:12 am

      That tapping sound could be your alternater. I own an 06 Dyna and mine basically blew apart at 13,000 miles. Harley did NOT honor anything as far as fixing it due to poor design. The new alternater kit has been improved because they know that this is a problem. Checking to see if is the problem requires disassembly of the entire primary chain case. My bike made a tapping/ chattering noise, then a metal on metal shearing noise before it let loose .

    • Dave May 15, 2013 at 11:17 am

      Have your tappets been replaced yet? That’s the first place to look .

    • 67 May 15, 2013 at 12:18 pm

      I have an 02 Deuce 88b. I run syn oil and about 56000 miles had mine checked. Just in time the tensioner pad on the back side had just worn out and the chain and tensioner bracket was about to be metal to metal. Had to just replace the pads due to insuffecient funds but plan on going gear drive asap.

  62. Robert May 15, 2013 at 9:27 am

    That was very good to find out about these tensioners.but what mileage do begin inspection of these parts??

    • Dave May 15, 2013 at 11:19 am

      Robert ,
      Every 20,000 …and run syn. oil & a good filter

    • DONNY November 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      ASAP. 5000 MILES

  63. tom lewis May 15, 2013 at 7:36 am

    in 2007 I changed my 2002 FLHTCI over to the 570G S&S gear drive, at the time I had 55000 miles on the bike, very little wear on the tensioners, I contribute that too using amsoil at every 5000 mile oil change, several of other friends have not been so lucky in using the standard 20W50 oil, the gear drive is a little louder, but who can hear it with going down the road

  64. Mark S. May 15, 2013 at 7:32 am

    Your article saved mw from catastrophe past winter. Cam tensioners changed at 17,000. After reading your article I had dealer inspect again at 35,000. Once again, they were bad. Dealer installed new design cam plate, pump & hydraulic tensioners rather than original spring loaded ones. Dealer sez these will not wear out. Cost $900.00. Time will tell.

  65. Justin May 15, 2013 at 7:26 am

    YI had my tensioners change to the upgrade at 28 thousand miles I was getting a sound from my rods it never did go away so I end up having to change out my crank and rods because one rod became bad and I am sure it is due to the crap from the trains it had a lot of stuff cleaned out of the system when the engine was rebuiltit was rebuilt at a mere 32000 miles

  66. Lj Brady May 15, 2013 at 6:58 am

    Excellent information, however 3 weeks too late!! I suffered the wrath of the Cam tensioner disintegrating, clogging my oil pump, scorching my pistons, and running the bearing through the block. The mechanics took one look inside and said, Wow….that’s the worst I’ve ever seen. Needless to say, I’m one unhappy biker chick right now!!! I had a 5 second oil light indication, followed by chug, chug BANG!!! I have 36k miles on my 2006 Softail Deluxe and my Extended Service Plan ran out in August, so HD doesn’t plan on cutting me a break in any manner. For those of you that are looking at spending 1,500 for the upgrade, I highly recommend you do it. I am looking at sending my engine off to be remanufactured by HD so I can keep my VIN. The cost for the engine reman is $3600, plus labor for removal and installation of my engine. So I looking at a total of $5K . I too babied my bike, garage kept, serviced frequently, and used high octane gas. I also ran synthetics which I’m now being told was a bad idea. Please pass the word on to all of your HD friends that this is a major manufacturing defect and they should definitely heed the warning, especially before their warranty runs out!!!

  67. David Able May 15, 2013 at 6:15 am

    I have a 2006. 883. Sportster…Is this cam chain tensioner a thing I need to worry/consern about or is it only on certain models?

    • Bob K May 15, 2013 at 7:22 am

      Sportsters do not have this problem. The cams are direct drive.

  68. Chuck May 15, 2013 at 6:03 am

    Makes me love my EVO even more. The best engine Harley ever produced! Simple single cam design. No tensioners to fail. Easily modified to fit your needs.. Carb, cam, single fire ignition and a nice sounding Vance and Hines system. Perfect!

    • jimmy the greek May 15, 2013 at 9:50 pm

      you are right ! that was the last of the AMF motors , as they came out HARLY was sold to the yuppie investors . to this day i well not even sit on a bike bult by the motor co as they like to be called my newest HD is a1979,the oldest is a 1962 ,

  69. Tom Morrisey May 15, 2013 at 6:01 am

    Wait a minute … the cam-chain tensioners from ’99 through ’06 were spring-loaded. From ’07 on, they are hydraulic: a completely different design and one that, according to Revolution Performance, has an extremely low failure rate, and offers several advantages (including noise reduction) over gear-drive.

    • Don May 15, 2013 at 7:39 am

      as long as it has plastic or nylon wear parts they will fail at some piont

  70. DOM MACALUSO May 15, 2013 at 5:20 am

    On the cam chain tensioners, is Harley planning on doing anything about this problem.I’m sure they are aware of the problem,it would be good business for them to do something.Thanks for your time

    • boston jim May 23, 2013 at 12:44 pm

      Hey Dom, have you been stranded on Gilligans Island, this has been a serious problem since the 1st Twin Cam in 1999.

  71. RAM3JUDGE May 15, 2013 at 5:20 am

    i inspected mine at 56k,this spring,good thing i did,would not have lasted the season,i upgraded to the screaming eagle cam plate with the hydraulic tensioners and sreaming eagle cams while i was in there anyway,used adjustable push rods so i didn’t have to tear top end apart.a friend of mine is a parts mgr at a dealer and still cost me 1000.00 in parts and i did it myself,also changed the wifes tensioners out on her 01 softail,while not worn half way thru,piece of mind is more important

  72. mike dv May 15, 2013 at 5:12 am

    The problem is solely on the 88 cubic inch motor. In 2006 HD installed the hydraulic tensioners on the Dyna model. That ‘fix’ worked so they put it on every bike thereafter. 2007 & up are good to go with the hydraulic tensioners. HD could care less when you voice your opinion regarding their crappy design. My 2005 fxdwgi failed at 27000 miles- the oil pressure light came on as i pulled out of my driveway. Due to HD’s lack of concern, i put all NON HD gear drive parts in it myself, along with some HQ0034 cams. 10000 miles later, my scooter runs great

  73. Jim Vonkas May 15, 2013 at 4:07 am

    The cam chain tensioner problem is caused by a number of factors. 1) Twinky cam chest is a “form follows fashion” design. The free runs of the chains are too short to accommodate descent length tensioner pads. To keep the chains from ‘whipping’ the tension has to be high. Both these design deficiencies result in extreme specific pressure to the tensioner pads. 2) The cam chains have a rough surface on their back side where they meet the tension pads, and thus act like a grinder. The DuPont patented pad plastic is very hard which in turn attempts to polish the chains. If you are lucky the latter happens before the pads are ground away. But there is no telling without doing multiple checks to see how far it’s gone and how fast it wears. 3) Wear on the pads is inevitable and causes hard plastic debris to be sucked into the oil pump pressure chamber – only after that the oil is filtered. The pump looses effectiveness which causes other problems with piston cooling and balancer sync in the B motor. 4) Harley’s long overdue ‘fix’ in 07 and to date is a compromise IMO. The chain is still short and the tensioner pads are tiny. The hydraulic system causes less pressure on the pads, they are now softer nylon and the chains ordinary roller chains – time will tell if this is reliable, but it’s parts are definitely less heavy duty. For the first time in its history, HD also replaced the proven cam roller bearings with plain alloy non replaceables. This is what the Chinese do in their cheap mass bikes and scooters – perhaps they know something we don’t..?

    • Chip May 15, 2013 at 8:06 am

      Let me tell you check my tensioners at 24000 on my 02 Low rider they were gone! Put in gear to gear, have 70000 on now. Best thing I ever done. Besides having a lot more power it starts faster. Less drag on starter. I highly recommend. Piece of mind

  74. Paul Burton May 15, 2013 at 2:05 am

    Mine failed in the HD Springfield MO parking lot going from the front door to the service bay door. Destroyed my oil pump. Mileage 32k on an 05 DWG big bore. Put in the mech kit at 52k a few months ago and love it. Well worth the $ & peace of mind. Increase in mpg & power as well. Paul

  75. Carl DiSano May 15, 2013 at 12:29 am

    I have repaired the motors on two twin cams when the tensioners failed. It is not a cheap fix. Both times I talked the owners into going to gear drive. Not cheap,but solves the problem

    • Ricky T May 15, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Replaced my 2001 Roadking chain driven cam with the S and S gear kit. Do not replace the tensioners with the same stuff. You HAVE NOT solved the problem! Harley had a bad design with those plastic tensioners so If you do the work to get in there, REPLACE. Because if you do not go gear driven cams it is a roll of the dice if and when your engine gets trashed. Ask any quality mechanic. Good Luck and be safe.

    • Ricky T May 15, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Replaced my 2001 Roadking chain driven cam with the S and S gear kit. Do not replace the tensioners with the same stuff. You HAVE NOT solved the problem! Harley had a bad design with those plastic tensioners so If you do the work to get in there, REPLACE. Because if you do not go gear driven cams it is a roll of the dice if and when your engine gets trashed. Ask any quality mechanic. Good Luck and be safe.

  76. Art May 14, 2013 at 10:40 pm

    It is sad a new bike can’t go over 50k without this happening, my 69FLH is at 148,000 with the original cam, gears and crank.

    • Sarge May 15, 2013 at 4:07 am

      I had 50,000 miles on my 2008 HD Ultra (FLHTCU), so I had my shop inspect my cam tensioners, even though they are the new Hydraulic ones. Sure enough, they were so worn down the mechanic said I had about 5,000 miles left before they would have dissintegrated! Phew!! Thanks for your warnings, and saving me from engine failure.
      Do you know if the new Red Shift DUAL Piston Cam Chain Tensioners would be better than replacing them with Stock ones?

  77. Steven May 14, 2013 at 10:24 pm

    I had mine go at about 30,000 miles. Installed Andrews 37 gear drive cams. I have over 103,000 miles on it now, all worry free. 2001 Road King Classic

  78. Joe Farey May 14, 2013 at 10:10 pm

    I have had mine replaced n what a crappy design..bring back the EVO n scrap this garbage…its a corp. thing to rape the buyers for profit..just like over producing the glorious hundreth anniversary models …bring back integrity to Harley-Davidson n stop screwing the people who believe in this company…..if I wanted to be dogged around I would have bought a car with all the useless sensors …I’m looking for a older dependable EVO sad !!!!

    • Terry Cox May 15, 2013 at 7:22 am

      sadly Harley Davidson went the way of most of corporate America: farming out work to foreign companies.
      Nowadays it is Honda that that is manufactured in America.
      The love of money has taken over and Harley Davidson is now hardly a davidson.

      By the way I am a certified Harley Davidson Tech. trained by the very knowledgeable Kurt Heinrich.

  79. Road Hammer May 14, 2013 at 10:08 pm

    Just sold my 2003 Suzuki 1500LC (that I bought new) with 106,500 miles on it and still runnin great. I replaced the stator, rear rotor and pads, everything else was/is original. Very reliable bike! Price new? $13,000.00 incl all taxes, etc, 10 years later sold for $5300.00. That bike took me across Canada and through all the Central and Western and upper Eastern USA, never had a problem and she brought me home safe every time! Lot’s of my friends have bought and sold their Harley’s and all the while I was just ridin! I love the Harley’s but there ain’t no way I’m layin down $20-$25,000.00 for a bike that is gonna cost this much just to keep it runnin !!

  80. Joe May 14, 2013 at 9:46 pm

    Do 2008 flhx suffer from this too?

  81. John Carroll May 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm

    Why isn’t this a recall item? When cars have a manufacturing defect that can lead to mechanical failure and safety problems, they get recalled for factory authorized repair at the manufacturer’s expense. Shouldn’t this apply to bikes as well?

    • Carey Elliott May 15, 2013 at 6:44 am

      I have been an auto tech since 1973. In the 70’s and 80’s timing chain tensioners and cam gears were made of these same plastics. I have replace hundreds of these maybe more. The point being, it did not work well then and it still does not work now. Not one automotive company to my knowledge had recalls. Customers paid me to replace the chains gears and clean out the oil pump. I ride a 98′ Heritage softail, gear driven cams.

  82. Mark Davis May 14, 2013 at 9:18 pm

    Periodic inspection is a good thing. I ride a 2001 Road King with 125,000 miles on it. I check my tensioners about every 20,000 and have replaced them 4 times. It takes me about 3 hours to do the job. It is simple to check these by removing the side cover and using a small mechanics mirror to check the inside one.
    I don’t think the type of oil used has much affect, as I run Valvoline VR-1 non synthetic 20W-50 and an AC PF53 oil filter.

  83. Shoveldog May 14, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    I took my 2005 RK apart this winter @ 29K to inspect and was pleasantly surprised to see very little wear. Then again, by 2005 they had improved the tensioners a good bit. There are lots of pics of various stages of wear on the web, so I was pretty confident I was good to go. Will open her up again in a couple more years. Really, folks taking a look is pretty easy.

    • DONNY November 9, 2013 at 6:11 pm

      Here here. Took me about an hour and a half top’s. Saves a lot of grief.

  84. Steve May 14, 2013 at 9:03 pm

    After hearing horror stories of the cam chain tensioners, I checked mine (2004 Road King Police model) at 75,000 miles. They were surprisingly in decent shape, however as I ride a lot, I upgraded to the screamin’ eagle hydraulics along with adjustable lifters. I now have 148,000 on the bike, and all is well.

  85. b kaup May 14, 2013 at 8:51 pm

    I ride a 1947 wl-g. I dont have any cam chain problems

  86. Leonard Landers May 14, 2013 at 8:48 pm

    It’s funny.just orders parts to convert my roadglide to gear drive.

  87. Jeff Lundstrom May 14, 2013 at 8:37 pm

    I bought a 2006 street glide did some research on the twin cam 88 I found out about possible cam chain tensioners the bike had 2000 km they were still in good shape . But decided to change them out with SS gear drive cams 510 an a high pressure fuleing oil pump an lifters . I got a total of 76000 km an not a lick of problems . So what Iam saying if you can afford gear drive cams you will be not disappointed . What a diffrent they make to hp an tq . You have to Dyno tune your bike if its got EFI . All I can say Mother Harley should be building these motor like this from the factory

  88. Don ZZ May 14, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    Just thought I’d chime in here. The first article was interesting and had me concerned so I had the tensioners checked out on my ’99 DynaWideGlide w/ 60k. Sure enough wear was evident and my cams were scored. Always used synthetic. Had the SE211 cams and new lifters installed along with the hydraulic cam tensioner kit. Cost was about $1500 but I wasn’t ready to give up the bike so I bit the bullet. So far so good. Running strong. I’m gonna’ change oil at 500 or so just to check. Thanks to the author for the original article and follow-ups.

  89. Scott a May 14, 2013 at 8:12 pm

    Have an 06 road king with 5,300 miles on it. All the talk re cam tensioners, syn oil, is freaking me out. New question: I have V & H slip ons but no program commander or v & h module. Your opinion on what I should do regarding this?

  90. Dustin /"100 S&S 1200R May 14, 2013 at 8:00 pm

    Yeh that sucks when this happens. Though they should’ve lasted longer.prior owner must have not done service at correct intervals? I would change to gear drive ASAP.

  91. Catman May 14, 2013 at 7:45 pm

    The stock spring tensioners on my 05 FLSTCI were done @ 54K. Was lucky cause the inner was almost to metal and starting to split. Had the extended warranty and HD did the whole shebang for the $50 deductible. Now have hydraulic tensioners with Andrews 54 cams and a 95″ motor with Branch heads. 94K miles no prob.

  92. Randy Travis May 14, 2013 at 7:39 pm

    I can sypathize with this problem.My bike is a ’73 XLCH with gears (noisy,sure but the cams are the factory originals and the lift is still in spec)I own a ’04 ford truck with a 4.0L sohc engine with 3 timing chains with hydrulic/ plastic chain tensioners.With all the right oil changes (synth) @180K miles I had to pull the whole freakin engine to change the chains and tensioners. Napa says the replacements are “much improved”Im 26 years in the plasic injection molding biz.The first all plastic engine was run over 30 years ago.This stuff is not black magic anymore! Could it be that those Harley engineers are sleeping with someone from Ford?

  93. Big Daddy May 14, 2013 at 6:56 pm

    I Have a 2010 electra Glide Classic. I’m I Going To Have This Problem ? I’ve Read All Of These Post And All Were Of Older Bikes .Please Let Me Know.

    • Big Nasty May 14, 2013 at 8:11 pm

      I have a 2007 Electra Glide Classic. I was worried about this also, I took my bike in for a check. The tensioners are hydraulic on our models and not spring loaded units. Mine were in new condition and showed very little wear. Mind you that I ride that bike, I have over 100,00 and still going strong.

    • D west May 14, 2013 at 8:30 pm

      yes you will I did mine at 30,000 and they needed it my bud did his at 50,000 I wood say take a look at 20,000

    • dennis May 14, 2013 at 9:29 pm

      I have 122,000 miles on my 07 FXDC with very little wear. I think the old style tensioners were not very good, but with your bike with the new style. I don’t think you have to worry.

    • Dave May 14, 2013 at 10:13 pm

      Yes, You have the same engine.Keep in mind he had 25k.
      I beleive harley wants them inspected at 20k
      Happy / Safe riding

    • gusotto May 14, 2013 at 11:31 pm

      Improved cam chain tensioners are on the ’07 and newer BT Harleys.
      You are OK.

      • Big Daddy May 15, 2013 at 12:06 am

        Thanks as you know harley means double the price.

  94. Pete May 14, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    Have a 2005 ultra, bought used with 5400 miles on it.
    Bad valve seals. tentioners showed wear at 10,000 miles.
    My mechanic showed me very bad tentioners at 18,000 miles. Had the motor done over, added hydraulic tentioner and bigger oil pump. Bike does not burn oil any more. Harley ran vin, they said valve guide seals were good. When we took engine apart, it had the bad black seals in it. The up graded ones were orange.

  95. Gator Gambit May 14, 2013 at 6:23 pm

    Now y’all got me worried about my ’08 FLHRi that has just over 10k. Sometimes she doesn’t want to turn over when starting. Thinking about S$S 535…

    • Catman May 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      The 08 has hydraulic tensioners in it from factory. You should be fine with only 10K

  96. Jeffry Lehr May 14, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    Inspected my tensioners on my 99 FLHR at 50k miles, nominal wear. Harley has been know to change venders from time to time. 2000 problems really surfaced. Interesting.

  97. Keith Longacre May 14, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    I’ve got around 35,000 mi. on my 08′ Roadking. Concerned about the cam chain tensioner issue I had it checked out and everything was A – O K. ( surprisingly ) However the tensioner in the primary had pooched the main primary bearing. I had a Baker Driveline chain tensioner installed and now everything is Jake. It’s just about identical to the stock tensioner that’s in my 76′ Shovel!!! Doesn’t look like much thought went into designing these bikes with the automatic tensioners, or was there? Is this Harley’s way of getting riders to, after realizing their bike needs thousands of dollars of repairs, to trade up to a new one?, i.e. a ” throw away ” bike? Pretty damn sad. By the way when I got my bike fixed there were two others in the shop. One with exactly the same issue as mine, but not only were all the bearings in the primary toast but the whole transmission too.! The other one had the cam chain tensioner disintegrate with major damage.

  98. Richard D May 14, 2013 at 5:22 pm

    Replaced my cam chain tensioner at 35K miles they were shot. Also one of the cam lobes was wiped. Notified HD and they could have cared less. Replaced cams with some Andrew cams and stock tensioners. love my HD but will not own another one. Way too much maintenace.

  99. Bob Lunsford May 14, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    2001 electra glide at 40k I decided to replace the top end I ride a lot so while I had it down I thought
    It would be a good time to install new cams
    The outer was fine once in side the inner was gone
    Lucky for me just the shoe was gone.had I not decided to swap cams out I would not have made it
    To sturgis friom ohio.bad design

  100. jeff houck May 14, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I was curious as to why brett didnt opt to upgrade to the new style hydraulic tentioners , such as Feulings kit or harley’s?..thanks

    • Brett Koranda May 15, 2013 at 8:28 am

      Fair question, Jeff. I just wanted to get her on the road for this season. I’ll be investing in an upgrade of some sort once the season is over. Leaning more toward converting to a gear drive at this point.

  101. Chuck P May 14, 2013 at 5:05 pm

    The cam chain tensioners are not that bad to change in the garage. The first time through I did not change the bearings and at 37K the tensioners were not failed, but defenitely worn. BUT, my comment is in regards to the change-over to gear driven cams, which I find very superior as a drive system. I have not done this because of ONE thing…NO ONE makes a stock grind cam in gear drive configuration. I have 2 TC88B’s and an ’07 TC96, so I have the gambit of the stock variety. In all three bikes I do not suffer from the lack of power and with friends who HAVE bought the upgrade cams, the failure is gas mileage sufferage…big time loss of mileage. Most of my riding friends are of the ‘touring’ variety. Power at the throttle is secondary to gas mileage, as it is with me. IF someone makes a stock grind gear driven cam for the TC88B and/or TC96 and they will have found a customer. For gosh sakes…pipe up and let me know.

    • Mr Jimmy May 14, 2013 at 9:38 pm


      I have the Andrews 26G cams in my 05 FLHRSI. It has slightly more lift than the stock cam, but the timing is closer to stock than most of the cams out there. This cam is really a Torque cam and not a high horse power cam. It’s a great bolt in cam for a bagger, my bike runs very strong with this cam and I have been very happy with it. Mileage should not suffer too much if you have a competent shop tune the fuel injection or carb. Andrews also puts out a 21G cam that would be close to a stock cam and would probably be a good choice, but I don’t have any experience with it so I can’t offer you an opinion on it. I’d definitely change out the chain tensioners to a gear drive cam, I did both of my Twin Cams at around 10K and I’m glad I did. Good Luck!

    • Nelse May 15, 2013 at 5:53 am

      S&S-510 gear drive cams are mild duration cams. I installed these with Fueling’s cam plate / oil pump on my 2004, TC88B (carbureted). Bike has nice throttle response and gets 42 mpg if I keep it under 80 mph and around 39 mpg depending on how far I get above 80 mph. It is an expensive upgrade but the low end is practically bullet proof after doing this and timing spread at higher speeds is eliminated. Hope this helps.

    • Harvenator May 15, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Check out the S&S 510G cams. Very close to stock Works well with stock compression pistons and come on strong in the mid range where you do most of your riding. I have them in my bike and have put over 30K on them. No real difference in fuel mileage.

  102. Bob May 14, 2013 at 4:52 pm

    I have a 2000 model year FLHRCI and changed the cam chain tensioners at 50K miles. They fell apart in the mechanic’s hands… avoided a catastrophe. Last year I turned 97K miles on the bike and I know need to change them again. I just don’t want to spend the $1,500. So I kept the bike and bought a used 2006 Suzuki V-Strom DL1000 last summer. I’ve put 8K miles on the V-Strom and maybe a 100 miles on the Harley over the last year. Not sure if I’ll ever get them changed… too bad because otherwise my Road King is in perfect condition.

  103. Bruce May 14, 2013 at 4:51 pm

    Reading this Harley cam tensioner problems makes me love my 94 Honda Shadow 1100C even more.

  104. BobBiker May 14, 2013 at 4:43 pm

    Do an oil sample analysis each year. If metal or plastic starts showing up.. do the inspection tear down. B_lackstone labs, $25. Cheapest insurance you can get.

    • boston jim May 23, 2013 at 1:00 pm

      Hey BobBiker, cutting open your dirty oil filter, after an oil change, even better, before you dump good oil into a bad motor. Go thru the pleats looking for metal & plastic, much cheaper than lab, & 1st hand results.

    • DONNY November 9, 2013 at 6:20 pm

      There ya go. Right on.

      • BOSTON JIM November 9, 2013 at 7:37 pm

        Whoa, the cheapest insurance is to open up your dirty oil filter, spread the pleats, look for orange plastic bits(99-02) TC’S, white plastic bits(03-06), MOCO changed China suppliers. Blackstone Labs, not highly regarded, just OK.

        • DONNY November 9, 2013 at 10:23 pm

          Jimmy, some people just won’t go that far buddy. Most folks don’t change their own oil. Most shops won’t do this either.(To messy man.) There are labs all over the USA & Canada that analyse oil samples for industry’s that need to know if their hydraulic systems are functioning properly. They don’t cut their filter’s open. (And yes it’s cheap.) If anything, this is another avenue one can venture down. It also tell’s you more about how your motor is running. (to some it’s worth looking in to) Cutting your filters open is a great idea . But then to most people the filter is just doing it’s job. Right.

          • BOSTON JIM November 10, 2013 at 10:07 am

            It is not a perfect world we ride in, all oils & filters are not created equal. IMO, the guys that had their motors blow up, are from the “do it for me”(DIFM), vs the “do it yourself”(DIY) group of Bikers, who don’t trust the MOCO, because of past experiences. These guys, love their bikes, they hear a rumor about a failed part, they are all over it. The 1st group, the “weekend wannabe”, he’s got disposable income. When he hears a strange noise, I take that back, he’s got the stereo so loud, he wouldn’t notice till the bike died, & he coasted to a stop. He brings it to his local dealer, who tells him, cam chain tensioners need service like brake pads, the repair bill is $2K, would you like a SE Stroker kit with that ? Nah, I’ll take that blue CVO, over there, & the cycle repeats itself. BEWARE, BE SMART, BE SAFE !

  105. Oliver Klein May 14, 2013 at 3:44 pm

    Decided to replace my ’01 FLHRI cam tensioners at 41k miles with the Andrews Hydraulic upgrade kit.

    My tensioners were barely worn, looked good for another 40k, go figure.

  106. fred May 14, 2013 at 3:24 pm

    I can understand your heart burn. I brought a used 2006 Utra classic from a HD dealer three years ago. I was not aware of the Cam adjustment. The dealer never said anything aboutit either.The bike had 13,000 miles on it. I made 1 trip to washington,D.C. and when I got back home I had this little sound from the front of my motor. I took it into the shop and after sending the Motor off to the Harley company for a rebuild and $3,700.00 I had my bike back. I went to the front of the dealer ship and brought me a 2011 FLSTC. I had a 1978 FLH Shovelhead that never cost me anything close to much money. And to all the victory riders out their. Nothing will ever beat the ride and fell of Harley ever.

    • Teska May 14, 2013 at 5:00 pm

      I felt that way as well but when my FXR finally squeezed the last thousand bucks out or me I thought I’d at least look at a Victory. One crack of the throttle and it had my attention. Stuck a few curves like it was on rails and I was sold. They didn’t even have to tell me about the reliability. I’ll give you that you may feel better about yourself on an H-D but even I as a former H-D rider can’t say the ride and feel of an H-D can compare to VICs (Dyna or FLs). Facts are Facts and I had to face them. Lots of H-D riders aren’t willing to face that other than image there’s nothing left to compare.

    • chris May 14, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      You got that right man. H-D s have some issues but they’re one durable machine.

  107. Patrick May 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm

    After break-in of my ’03 Super Glide, I changed to gear drive cam;one of the best things I did to my Harley, along with an oil cooler and a Daytona Dyna Tec ignition module. The only real problem I had was the starter & rear wheel wobble. For some reason, this bike went thru 4 starters. B4 the gear drive cam, it went thru 2 starters. Finally, the 5th starter is a good non H-D 1.4kw starter that will last longer than any stock Harley starter. The rear wobble problem was fixed w/ a good pair of Progressive heavy duty shocks. After all that, I had to sell my prized 100th Anniversary Harley due to a financial crisis. In spite of those problems, I loved my Harley. My next bike is a Victory X-Country.

    • hd1rider May 14, 2013 at 3:32 pm

      08 Electraglide Classic You guys scared the heck out of me so I tore mine down and all tensioners look practically new, but I guess the Big Twin Cams don’t have such a problem with having the hydraulic tensioners.

      • hd1rider May 14, 2013 at 3:37 pm

        By the way 60K on the bike

  108. Rob May 14, 2013 at 2:22 pm

    I’ve never heard anyone talk about Feuling 525 cam rebuild kit. All I hear is S&S is their a problem with Feuling?

    • John Mize May 14, 2013 at 6:19 pm

      I have feuling 525 cams in my ’10 fat boy with some heavily worked in heads (flow matched, cc’d milled.030, larger valves, 7angle valve job) and it screams!! I have a tv-3 tuner piggybacked to race tuner, seams a little lean. Going on dyno saturday, gonna baseline it as is, check afr across the rpm range, then remove tv-3 and hack in to race tuner and check and check HP. again.

  109. steve May 14, 2013 at 2:08 pm

    Ride a 2 stroke and you’ll never have that problem….

  110. Don May 14, 2013 at 1:42 pm

    I have a 04 ultra injected screaming eagle 103 with a 07 ultra lower and 6 speed. I switched to the gear drive with 575 cams and programer for bout $1800.
    It was the best decision I made doing the upgades to my bike.

  111. Julie May 14, 2013 at 1:41 pm

    If this is such a problem. Why doesn’t Harley Davidson have a recall as this problem seems to be a defect? Harley’s are expensive than most bikes. They should treat their there customers much better than they do

    • Mike Hough May 14, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      I just went through this with my 01 Road Glide and was told by the Harley Shop foreman that Harley has made this a “Maintenance” item. I have the bill here in front of me and to replace the tensioner and up grade it to Kevlar was 533.48 parts, and 456.00 labor. 989.48 for a maintenance item, on top of their 945.00 for the 25k inspection was a very expensive trip

    • Chuck P May 14, 2013 at 5:09 pm

      I do not think you will find anyone who will argue against you on this point Julie.

    • Old MSgt May 14, 2013 at 7:33 pm

      Harley is an IMAGE MARKETING company which happens to produce motorcycles.

      This has been tremendously profitable (note their stock progress etc) but a good deal of CHOICES which a company focused on quality would make, are not made despite broad awareness of the problems.

      Why is a Timken bearing kit now an “upgrade” when Timkens were a PROVEN choice for Harleys since before anyone posting in this thread was born?

      Why, ever, repeat the mistake of using a defective and cheap camshaft bearing? They don’t cost f00king squat even if you pay RETAIL!

      Why REFUSE to use a gear cam drive? Why allow absurd levels of crankshaft runout? If I machined excrement like that in my shop class I’d fail my project, and I’m not making “premium” motorcycles.

      • boston jim May 23, 2013 at 12:22 pm

        hey there, ole master sergeant, your comment should be etched in stone, or at least a sticky ! great comment ! 2nd place goes to; H-D does a great job selling t-shirts, but, not building motorcycles !

    • Jim May 14, 2013 at 8:23 pm

      Julie, HD will not treat their customers better. They could make a better bike, but choose not to. No recalls will be issued. I have a 2010 limited on its 3rd compensator sprocket assembly at 65,000 miles. On the third attempt they put the SE upgrade in and ESP tried to charge me the difference for the upgrade. After making the guys ear bleed at HD, they took the extra off the bill. HD does better at selling t-shirts than building bikes.

  112. Brian May 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    A-HaHa… Mean while sporty owners are putting thousands of miles on their scoots with no problems.. EVO

    • Rick May 14, 2013 at 1:58 pm

      Hitch a trailer on the back of that little sporty and get out of the city park and come ride with me. If you don’t service correctly it will break.

    • Dustin /"100 S&S 1200R May 14, 2013 at 8:09 pm

      Except for crapy belt drive, yes no problem

  113. Brian May 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    A-HaHaHa And all the while ALL the sporty owners are putting thousads of miles on their evo’s with NO problems…

  114. MJC May 14, 2013 at 1:22 pm

    Why do you guys think HDs are so great?

    Buy a VICTORY, change the oil, put gas in it and RIDE! It’s that simple along with some brake pads and tires that’s about it.

    54K on my ’06 Kingpin and I haven’t done nothing more to then what’s mentioned above! That’s the “norm” for a Victory…

    • marcel May 14, 2013 at 1:46 pm

      well if victory had more then a hand ful of bikes out there it too eventually would have its weak spots exposed , as long as Victory,s production is in the 10,000 unit per year range its pretty safe to have little to talk about, my 1998 evo has 70000 miles with no issues, other than a fuel pump relay, and new stator at 50,000 miles , with original front and rear brakes by the way.

      • david May 14, 2013 at 4:42 pm

        Long live the EVO! I have 3 fxr’s and enjoy all of them!

  115. OldBogie May 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    I’m surprised to hear about this at this late date in the Twin Cam cam chain tensioner debacle. I thought that this was such a well known issue that no one would be surprised by this event other than it seems quite random when it comes to mileage at failure, you hear about people like me that had the failure very early on, to those who get 40 to 60 thousand miles on these things.

    I’m not a hard rider and do a lot of distance runs not much about town nor tavern to tavern. In spite of that the primary reduction tensioner failed at 7000 miles. This is a 2000 year model FXSTC built in August 1999 purchased in October 99 so it is the early one with all the tensioner and bearing problems that took Harley so long to fix. When it became apparent that something bad was going on I took it to the dealer to listen to the usual mumble/jumbo about what I did wrong. By then S&S was already building a gear kit so they must of figured out how serious this was and the factory’s lack of admitting the problem and getting on with a customer fix before a lot were sold offered a market for S&S to sell the for-sure fix.

    So mine has gears, they’ve been in there for about 50,000 miles, yes they make noise, no I don’t have to open it up at the start of every ride season and check to see what the tensioners look like. The S&S gears and cam include great peace of mind out on the highway, there isn’t that nagging thought of “what if” sitting in the back of my mind.


    • boston jim May 14, 2013 at 2:27 pm

      HEY BOGIE, I thought I had the last FXSTC (1999 EVO), the Duece took the place of my FXSTC, in 2000. H-D made a FXSTS (standard), not much chrome, until just a few years ago, they brought back the FXSTC ! GOOD LUCK !

  116. james May 14, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    At 22000 my tensioners look fine, but I’m a proactive kind of guy when it comes to my baby. This winter I’m planning on swapping out chain for gear cams, but I’ve been told that harley allows +/- .006 runout on the crankshaft, and only+/- .003 is allowed to use gear drive cams. Anyone know what happens if you have .003/.006 runout?

    • roy e. fisher May 14, 2013 at 5:24 pm

      I know by experience you will starve tour engine of oil pressure. H.D. of seattle wa. installed a 95 kit and gear drive in my 01 with out checking cam run out, and my engine died from, the oiling problem I tried to stay away from. I had just finished a 4000 mile ride with no problems, all together cost me 5500.00 dollars and ended up with an 88 with tensioners.

      • Paul Burton May 15, 2013 at 2:20 am

        The HD hydro upgrade comes with a huge new oil pump … 203s run perfectly … P

  117. Bucky May 14, 2013 at 1:10 pm

    So…I have a 2001 FLHTCUI with EFI 96ci EVO – I am the third owner. It has 40K KM (~25K miles) and my mechanic said I should check the tensioners. From what I read above…the EVOs aren’t as big an issue as the twin cam 88s…? There seems to be a lot of information out there about this issue and want to make sure I’m making the right decision.

    • Rick May 14, 2013 at 1:52 pm

      Might double check your year and ci as that is not an EVO.

    • boston jim May 14, 2013 at 2:36 pm

      Might want to change mechanics or buy a shop manual or both ? I read all 600+ comments on the other 2 blogs, & now reading this one. I find it amazing, that owners don’t know what the HELL they’re riding !

  118. MAUI SID May 14, 2013 at 12:57 pm

    Done many conversions and have seen gear drives fail also. Please make sure you have less than .003 crankshaft runout before converting to gears. If runout is excessive gears can break.If less than .003 gears are great. If not, go hydraulics! Aloha!!

  119. dale May 14, 2013 at 12:55 pm

    My 04 Road King started making noise at 24K . I was sure it was the cam tensioners . I found them worn & the inside one was almost in pieces. I got lucky . I replaced them both with same stock. I still had wierd noise at easy de -excelleration . I found the primary crank sproket nut finger tight? Runs great now. Did a crank run-out with a dial indicator & was in 0.002. My next will be S&S Gear drive.
    Installed a oil preesure gage also . I still find it unbelievable Harley does not have oil gage as stock?

  120. Rick in Green May 14, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    One morning while starting the 07 Road King with 35k miles, I heard a noise like metal exploding. It was brief. I was fortunately changing my fluids that day and noticed while draining the chain oil that there appeared to be metal fragments in the oil. I opened it up and the compensator springs had ripped off part of the rotor. That part was now wedged under the tensioner. Needless to say I did more than just change the oil. Inspecting the tensioner it did have a groove being worn into the top but it looked fine. But it is one of the newer ones. I did not reuse it. I have read on other places about problems with the stock compensator.

  121. David Snow May 14, 2013 at 12:39 pm

    You can get gear drive cams,new cam plate,& adjustable pushrods, parts & labor anywhere between $1100.00 & $1700.00 depending on which shop you go to. I’m in Texas, so, I’m not sure about prices elsewhere.

    • Rick May 14, 2013 at 1:55 pm

      Your over paying! It’s not a hard job just take your time. They can be replaced for less then $200.00.

  122. Brent shaffer May 14, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks for the great info. I will be checking into this as i too am around 30,000 miles on my ’06 electraglide.

  123. DENNIS May 14, 2013 at 11:34 am

    Thanks for all the info/opinions , about the cams,, going to stay with an evo,

  124. Chris May 14, 2013 at 11:22 am

    The tensioners on my ’05 Heritage were starting to show wear at 30K. As we were leaving on a long trip, I had S&S gear driven cams installed. I have almost 77K now with absolutely no problems. Other than a slight increase in noise, the cams were well worth the expense.

  125. Grasmo May 14, 2013 at 11:04 am

    S&S 585 easy start gear drive cams. My tensioners were fine upon removal. I can not begin to tell you how much easier it is to start my bike.The cam install was straight forward and the power is ridiculous. the biggest benefit to this job was the Easy Start Cams feature……it spins the engine effortlessly….07 dyna CVO 110….absolutely rips from 3k-6.5k. Thanks J&P and S&S

    • Gator Gambit November 8, 2013 at 4:46 pm

      I’ve got an ’08 FLHRi I’m thinking of putting those cams in for the easy start. Did you get the $800 kit or not? Does installing these cams relieve the tensioner issue worries? Thanks!

  126. Steven C May 14, 2013 at 10:56 am

    I had 58,000 miles on my 2000 Heritage Softail before I even heard about potential cam chain tensioner problems. Did some checking and talked to a couple of people who had converted to S&S gears and decided to go for it. My tensioners didn’t look too bad, but I have peace of mind now and over 30,000 miles on gear driven cams with no problems. I also upgraded my cams and got a nice little horsepower boost while I was at it. Sweet!

  127. Daryl May 14, 2013 at 10:50 am

    After 25k took my 2000 road king in for a 20k service at my favorite mech. The tensioner parts came out in pieces. Good thing as I was leaving for a long trip the next week. He put in a gear drice, a larger cam and adjustable push rods. Best thing I ever did. Cost was right at 1400 bucks. Now at 50k no problem and runs great. Go wit gera drive on the older Kings….

  128. Brian Loosz May 14, 2013 at 10:14 am

    I have an appt with Z&M Harley toget the upgrade Cam plate kit put in on thursday morning. Have a 2002 Wide Glide and have had no problems and have 65,000 miles on it. Was going to try it myself but with the cam bearing tool being $200, and the fact that I won’t have to use it again with the upgrade, I’ll go with experienced techs on this one.

  129. Lavinnie May 14, 2013 at 9:58 am

    could it be that Harley has different companies making the material these parts are made out of ?? that’s why some last longer than others ?? if you pay attention you see these in different colors, what does that mean?? who controls this manufacturing process?is it is an injection molding problem?? i think there is no quality control here. YES they will wear out, fail, cause tons of problems, the only cure is to have them checked frequently, i am sure mine are due also, hope i dont get bitten before they get checked!!

  130. Rick May 14, 2013 at 9:27 am

    I changed my at 38k and also changed to Royal Purple oil. I just checked them with 39k on them and they look great. I now believe 100% in the type of oil you use.

    • boston jim May 14, 2013 at 11:53 am

      rick, the only oil worst than syn 3 is royal purple, do your homework ! AMSOIL #1, mobil v-twin #2 !

      • Rick May 14, 2013 at 12:28 pm

        Some of us live the real world boson jim not everything you read jimbo is true. I have true history and know it works!

        • 00 HDKinger May 14, 2013 at 7:58 pm

          Quite bickerin’, ER is the “BEST” Not only will it tame the engine beast “HEAT” you can use plain old Penzoil 20/50. ER dropped my engine temp almost 20 degrees! NO MORE PING WITH REGULAR GAS!! That’s right men, all I use is REGULAR, try that with your Mobil Purple Amsoil. HD oil cooler didn’t do a damn thing for the temp as I wasted my $ on it first. Now trust me, I ride my 00 Kinger like I stole it and it has 42K on it believe me ER is the HD “CURE” Try a little ER in the clutch case as well, mine went from hardly any power on take off to “TYRE FRYER”. ER is the “CAT’s ASS” Hey, all you cats with big bore motors, ER will drop that temp and get rid of your pre-detonation ping. I use this stuff for eveything but sex lube as i’m gettin’ old and my RPM range ain’t what it used to be. Hell, I haven’t changed the oil in my Honda push mower since I put ER in it 10 years ago, all my metal drill bits are like new from swiping a little ER on the tips with a little brush. One thing, in automatic transmisssions it does make the shift point much higher, especially in the winter, We are talking cars here in case you think I’ve drifted. ER is Energy Release. And JP, you should carry this stuff, your customers would be much appreciative. FRICTION CAUSES HEAT, HEAT RUINS MOTORS !!! If you need to know the best feul injector cleamer it’s called “JECTRON”

    • boston jim May 27, 2013 at 7:46 pm

      hey rick, who’s oil was you running, the first 38k, before you discovered ROYAL PURPLE, WAS THE BEST, OR CHEAPEST, or maybe your bike is purple, & the leaks just look like wet paint. CUMMINS FORBIDS YOU TO USE RP IN THEIR ENGINES, MUST BE GOOD STUFF !

  131. Tattoo Chuck WMC May 14, 2013 at 9:26 am

    I had around the same mileage on my 01 Electra glide when I noticed my oil light would slightly come on at idle……upon inspection when I pulled the cover I had small pieces of the can chain tensioners laying in the bottom of my motor……it had causes my oil pump to slightly scar causing oil pressure problems and had scarred my can lobe so all needed replaced……..I uses the gear driven cams from S&S and a fueling oil pump……..the overhead was a little steep but I wanted to illuminate this from ever happening again…….I have been very satisfied with the result after repair…….this is a problem with all per 06 twin can motors and would have thought Harley would have recalled this instead of putting costly repairs onto the pocket books of their loyal customers……..fortunately J&P had all parts in stock and was fast on getting them to me so I wasn’t down long……..

  132. Paul F. Schrodt May 14, 2013 at 8:51 am

    I was at the Twin Cam unvailing in Sturgis standing nex to Willie & the Design Engineer & when they pulled off the cover I saw JUNK and told them so and I am not buying one because that cam rubbing system will Fail Fast ! You should of seen thier chins drop and eyes bug out ! And I have seen those Fail at 7000 miles ! I am sticking with my Nose cone Evo’s !

    • Jeff Ryan May 14, 2013 at 10:45 am

      D.O.A. 2006 FXST, 53,000 mi. Only symptom was hard starting. The oil pump was so plugged up with cam shoe debris we couldn’t get it to turn with a pair of vise grips. The cam chain shoe material rubs off and plugs the pump. Once the pump is shot, your bike is on the highway fast lane to hell. Per the fine J&P SS article, (emailed to me the same day we pulled the cases apart), went with an SS set of 585 ez start gear driven cams, and the SS 4.5 inch stroker kit brained up to an auto tune Pwr Commander 5. It’s the fastest softie on the block. Figure on about 5-6 grand to do it right. Changing out the shoes each year didn’t make a bit of difference, as the problem begins with little slivers of cam shoe plastic. When you’re rid of the cam chains, you’re rid of the real problem, the cam chain shoes. My 2 cents.

    • Steve Smith May 14, 2013 at 11:52 am

      I was working at a HD Dealership in the mid 90’s and I was the Engine Tech so the Factory Rep. would tell me about the newest Engine Products that was coming out. When he told about the TC88 design I stated that the Factory was making a BIG mistake and that all major Car manufactues spent Millions to get away from Timing Chains only to go to Belts that would wear out faster. So the bottom line is that all of these large Manufactures use the consumers to fix there POOR ENGINERING. I’ll keep my Evo.

      • Dave W May 14, 2013 at 12:41 pm

        This is a great example of a ludicrous statement put out as fact on the internet. I don’t know if you consider GM and Ford to be major car manufacturers but the vast majority of their engines use chain driven, tensioned timing drives.

        • Donny October 30, 2013 at 10:40 pm

          I remember replacing many plastic cam gears on gm cars back in the 80’s buddy. What a mess those days were, don’t remember tensioners in there though. Ask your daddy if he remembers those day’s.Caused a lot of problems.

    • Mark Davis May 14, 2013 at 9:26 pm

      You do realize that every other motorcycle manufacturer, with overhead cams, uses the same type of tensioners.

      • Donny October 30, 2013 at 10:49 pm

        Those of you that care don’t remember when a company named Honda had a “V-65” with cast -pressed in over head cam bushing. Another bomb.(Sorry i printed the H word).Pulled about 6 motors apart at a junker’s all snafu,ed, all of them.35+klm’s.on each. They never fix’ed the problem either I think.

  133. Rob May 14, 2013 at 8:17 am

    My understanding is that the new hydraulic tensioners are not supposed to wear like the old spring loaded system. True? Anyone with experience here?
    I have changed out a number of bikes, some to gear drive and others to the hydraulic system. I like the hydraulic system as it is quiet and provides little cam chain resistance.

    Thanks, Rob

    • Scott May 14, 2013 at 11:47 am

      They do not wear as rapidly, but they still wear.

    • Donny October 30, 2013 at 10:50 pm

      Will ware, will take a little longer.

  134. Mike M May 14, 2013 at 8:12 am

    I installed an S & S gear drive with 510 cams on my 2003 FXD. It’s a little noisy but its go some snap!

    • Barry May 14, 2013 at 10:05 am

      I did the same but I didn’t notice any noise. Maybe the exhaust noise hides it.

    • cranky May 14, 2013 at 12:52 pm

      Bought my 2000
      FXD new. As soon as it was out of warranty I put in a gear drive kit I put together through Bob Wood. Used what he suggested and set it up as he suggested. Now after 45,000 miles the Hot Rod is still purring like a kitten. The gear drive set up definitely soups things up enough to create quite a wow factor. Best money I have spent so far on the ride. Makes a good Harley even better and dependable. No muss no fess since…..

  135. Phil Nemeth May 14, 2013 at 7:36 am

    Trade your twin cam in for an EVO!!!!!!!

    • john king May 14, 2013 at 9:38 am

      donnt be cheap and put bigger cams so it goes gear to gear and gives you more power. The guy who said it cost to much but how many times are you going to do it. It go into the oil pump and then how much is going to cost,go with the cams and then you won,nt think about it and enjoy the riide. I had one of the first 88duces and i look at mine and it was starting to go. and harley wouldn,t anything about it and they know about it.

  136. C P Hoult May 14, 2013 at 7:22 am

    I put the small cam S&S gear kit in my 2001 FLHT in 2004 at 23,000 m. I did the work myself, (backyard hack). The gear drive makes a tappet type of noise. I am unable to adj. the noise out. But the bike with me porting the heads and a 2 into 1 exhaust runs great and now has 50,000 plus without any issues.

  137. Gary Kajutis May 14, 2013 at 7:10 am

    I’ve seen so much press on these tensioners failing & wonder what Harley has done wrong, ’cause Japanese bikes with cam chain tensioners go decades with no problems (my ’79 CBX has no issues with its tensioner). Luckily I don’t have to worry about these in my ’84 Evo & ’75 Shovel, but now I’m concerned about my wife’s ’09 Twinkie (although she’s only put 1,400Km on it so far).

    • DONNY November 8, 2013 at 3:26 pm

      That’s not so. In 1986 I owned a 84 Virago 1000. the ovh cam chain tensioner broke off inside the cam-arm chamber( front cylinder). It was repaired by the dealer. Cost me $600.00 . A bit of money back then. Still have that bike.

  138. Camilio May 14, 2013 at 6:44 am

    This very problem made me decide not to buy a Custom Super Glide last October.
    I am puzzled by Brett’s comment about using premium gas, unless it turns out he has higher compression pistons. I’m bothered when an (apparently) inexpert comment is contained in testimony.
    Now if there is a good explanation for using the premium gas, I’d like to hear it and learn.

    • Dean "D-Day" May 14, 2013 at 10:17 am

      I run the premium gas as well Camilio for two reasons:

      1. The premium gas in my area doesn’t have the crappy ethanol in it (which we all know is bad for motorcycle engines).
      2. I get 10% better gas mileage which more than offsets the increased price.

    • Brett Koranda May 14, 2013 at 12:37 pm

      The MoCo recommends 91 octane, which means premium in my neck of the woods. I’m not trying to appear to be an expert. Rather, I was trying to make the point that I am actively concerned with the well-being of my bike.

    • Dayman May 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm

      Some Premium fuel doesn’t have ethanol. Ethanol causes moisture gas tank and aluminum problems, that’s all. So premium or octane additives help solve that problem. Dayman

    • Cal W May 14, 2013 at 2:00 pm

      I also run premium since it is only 93 octane in my neck of the woods and usually doesn’t have ethanol which even HD claims isn’t good for their engines. I also use full synthetic oil which in an air cooled engine helps to keep it cooler and better lubricated. At 25K my 02 Superglide tensioners were inspected with very slight signs of wear. The difference in up front price for gas and oil more than pays for major repairs down the road.

    • Mark Davis May 14, 2013 at 9:32 pm

      My “01” owners manual recommends premium fuel. When the difference is less than $1.00 a tank full, why not use better fuel?

  139. Mike Purdon May 13, 2013 at 5:21 pm

    I have a 2006 Electra Glide with the 88 inch engine. had tensioners checked at 80,000Km ( 50,000 miles )
    My mechanic asked when tensioners had been changed as they looked brand new. They were original as I have been the only owner of this bike. Going to do an upgrade at end of season. I enquired about going to a gear drive and was advised not to. Was told that if any play began to develop on end of crank it could cost me my engine.

    • Barry May 14, 2013 at 10:08 am

      I had an ’02 Heritage and Road King. At around 20,000 I had both of them out and they looked excessively worn to me.

  140. jim collins May 13, 2013 at 3:22 pm

    Evo’s forever

    • DONNY November 8, 2013 at 3:18 pm

      But they are not for ever. That’s what they said about the Twin Cam’s didn’t they. Been blowing up since day one.They can’t take the pounding that an Evo can take. But Evo’s also trashed. Leave them stock ride them nice. Buy an after market race motor if you must ,and have fun.

      • BOSTON JIM November 8, 2013 at 4:09 pm

        Every H-D motor from 1903 to the 1999 Evo can be completely rebuilt, from top to bottom ! Every 1999 to present Twin Cam motor can not be rebuilt, top to bottom, dumpster would be cheaper !

        • Donny November 8, 2013 at 9:25 pm

          Amen to the dumpster part in most cases if these are left to long. Check often and hope for the best. Yes most Harley’s from 1903 – 1999 can be rebuilt with mostly basic tool’s, try that with a Twin -Cam some time. I read some were that an Evo can only be rebuilt 3 times in its life time with regular ware and normal tear. True? If you want more cube’s go ahead and build bigger. It’s still a lot of cash. I suppose if you have it , blow it if you must. I don’t think these cases and top ends were meant to take all the torque and hp. gains you expect with stock components. Go buy a proper race motor. EVO style Pan or even Knuck. style. All after market. Or build a real power house Sporty and make em all cry.

          • boston jim November 9, 2013 at 8:51 am

            Yea, raise the flag, roll out the red carpet, Donny finally agrees with me, Halleluiah. My Dream project, an S&S 100″ Sporty, PRO-STREET ! Hey Bikers, lets hear about your Dream Project ? Your XMAS Wish ! It’s OK to hope & dream, unlike HOPE & CHANGE, I am hoping for a little more change in my pocket !

  141. DavI'd Cornett sr May 13, 2013 at 8:12 am

    At what milage do you have to be concerned with this problem or how many years , I have a 2012 FLD and I’m truly concerned with this issue.

    • Scott May 13, 2013 at 9:54 am

      I would inspect every 20,000 miles

    • Mike May 14, 2013 at 9:01 am

      The cam chain tensioner problem is really only a concern with the Twin Cam 88 engines, because the tensioners are spring loaded, putting constant pressure on the chains. If you have a TC96 you’re ok. The MoCo started putting hydraulic tensioners in the TC96’s starting with the Dynas in ’06 and everything else in ’07. I bought my ’05 Dyna used with 20,500 miles. I never owned a Harley before and knew nothing of the Twin Cams. The day after I bought it I found out about the tensioner issue with the 88’s while perusing the Harley forums, so I opened my cam cover and found that the tensioners were half worn through. I did some research and found there are kits available to convert the spring loaded tensioners to the newer hydraulics. I purchessed a kit made by Andrews Cams, then bought a Harley service manual for my bike and did the job myself. It took a couple days (not including the wait for parts), taking my time and doing lots of research along the way. I also had to by some special tools. But even with the cost of the tools I spent about $900 on the entire job, but that’s pretty cheap for the peace of mind of knowing you don’t have to worry about cam chain tensioners any more.

      • Donny October 30, 2013 at 10:54 pm

        The shoes will ware out. It will take a little longer.It’s the chains, that’s the problem. Get them polished. Even then they will ware out.

  142. Bob McKay May 13, 2013 at 6:30 am

    I checked my 2007 Herritage softail at 104,000KM, Thats around 60,000 miles and the tensioners looked almost new. Very little wear, changed the oil at regular intervals.

    • Barry May 14, 2013 at 10:10 am

      That’s the hydraulic tensioner. My ’09 RK looked good too at 20,000. The 2 ’02 bikes i looked at were worn excessively at the same mileage.

  143. Doug Barry May 13, 2013 at 6:00 am

    Debating going gear drive on my 2008 Road King for peace of mind and reliability. What are the “cons” of doing this as well as the cost? Thanks, Doug

    • Scott May 13, 2013 at 9:58 am

      Installing a gear drive will run about $ 950.00 in parts along with whatever labor costs. The biggest con for a gear derive is that it can be noisey if the gears are too tight. However, S&S has different sized gears to overcome this.

    • ultraboy May 14, 2013 at 4:23 pm

      Doug, the biggest issue on the 06 Dynas and all 07 and up Twinkies is crank runout. The 05 and earlier cranks that I have looked at were all .002 to .003. All of the 96 inchers are in the .006 and up range. If your runout is less than .004, you are one of the lucky ones. Get it checked before ordering any parts. If you are sticking with chains, try the zippers dual piston tensioners, they do work, and (so far) seem to last.

  144. Dave Grayko May 13, 2013 at 5:20 am

    I’m doing 75mph, the oil light comes on. I’m done. At 22k I’m in for $4,200.00 factory rebuit motor. 2007 Road King Very disapointing

  145. Jeff Andrews May 13, 2013 at 4:00 am

    I replaced my cams with S&S 585 gear drive at 31000 miles. My tensioners were not worn more than 1/16 in. at that time. 2004 88b engine. Very strange that some wear so fast and others not at all. Wonder why.

    • Mack Langdon May 14, 2013 at 1:56 pm

      Speaking from personal experience the tensioner issue
      is sometimes masking the real issue. Twinkies have cranks that are pressed together. Original run out specs were .003″. That has been increased to .012″
      per HD. Some early cranks that were out of spec were twisted back inline. Everyone knows that a pressed joint that has been forcibly moved is never as strong as original. If you have run out of .012″, that is going to create a ‘snatching effect’ on every revolution of the engine leading to short tensioner life. A dealer will tell you that .012 is factory spec and to “drive it”. On a complete rebuild my runout was greater than .045″. The only thing saved was lower case halves and heads. Rebuild was great until front cylinder shed rings (seems I am not only one to experience this on 103 upgrade). Never will own another HD!!

  146. Rob May 13, 2013 at 4:00 am

    Do you recommend any YouTube videos for replacement of the tensioners?

  147. Martin May 12, 2013 at 11:30 pm

    Thanks for the info bro as my bike runs when the temp is 50+

  148. Martin May 12, 2013 at 11:29 pm

    Thanks for the info bro

  149. David Eichenberg May 12, 2013 at 9:49 pm

    my local shop put in s&s gear drive and pushrods for under 1400, yes, that included labor. Plus, the cams that come with it gave me some snap. And now that I no longer have the lousy tensioner system, I enjoy riding it more.

  150. steve May 12, 2013 at 9:21 pm

    My 2004 road king had no signs of trouble. I bought the bike new and ran synthetic oil since after break in. Never ran the bike too hard. With all I had been reading about the tensioner problem I took it a local shop and had them checked. 25250 miles and he said I was lucky to make to his shop. The outer tensioner was not to bad but the inner was wore so bad it was cracked and ready to fail. The dealer had told me not to worry until I had 32K to 35K and then check them. Glad I didn’t wait

  151. rvillaruel May 12, 2013 at 8:55 pm

    Installed se high volume oil pump with hydraulic tensioners at 14k miles..stock ones were almost gone….wore right down the center…i recheck every 15k miles and now at the alignment \installer tool and checking\changing them is quick

  152. Jeremy May 12, 2013 at 8:43 pm

    I’ve read so much about this issue that I almost have too much info.

    From what I’ve gathered, 96in guys should keep an eye on them, but the 96 has a different tensioner that is a better design to prevent this. Am I correct on this or do I have everything backwards?

  153. robert mcculley May 12, 2013 at 8:22 pm


  154. Jeff White May 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm

    This tech article highlights an issue most riders completely overlook. Unfortunately in my experience I’ve found that mileage plays a small roll on the condition of the tensioners. I worked on a 2000 FXDX with 6000 miles that had a failed tensioner that also took out the cam support plate and oil pump and I’ve swapped tensioners on a Road King with 75k miles that had lightly worn tensioners. Based on some other bikes I would say it probably comes down to how you ride it. Main point with them is to check them often because they can end up costing a lot of money if they fail.

    • Dennis Wilt May 14, 2013 at 8:56 am

      I have a 2003 FLHR, 201,000+ miles, not rebuilt yet, not even top end. Always run conventional HD 20-50, change it every 2500 miles. Replaced tentioners at 60, 90, and at 150 I upgraded to the new SE hydrolic kit. I have upgraded the pipes, intake ,cams, and ignition. I run hard and often. I trust it enough to ride it to Alaska in August.

      • boston jim May 14, 2013 at 12:17 pm

        Dennis, good for you ! I think your bike should be in the H-D museum. 99-02 twin cams, had forged cranks. In 2003 H-D knew they would have record sales, so, to make more $, they made 5 piece cast cranks, pressed together. I read somewhere, that 03 & up, should not be dynoed, the crank can move & shift. I wish you the best of luck, I’m keeping my 2 EVO’S.

    • DONNY November 8, 2013 at 3:10 pm


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