Are you a proud owner of a Harley-Davidson motorcycle? If yes, then you know how exhilarating it is to ride one of these beauties on the open road.
However, like any other machine, Harley’s are prone to certain mechanical issues.
One such problem that has plagued the iconic brand for years is the cam chain tensioner issue.
If you own a Harley, you may have heard about this problem before, but do you know what it is and how to fix it?
In this blog, we’ll dive deep into the Harley cam chain tensioner problem, discuss the years affected, and explore the solutions available to you.
Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem Years
The issue of Harley Cam Chain Tensioner problems has been prevalent for several years. It affects certain models produced between 1999 and 2016, including the Twin Cam 88, Twin Cam 96, and Twin Cam 103 engines.
The problem arises when the original cam chain tensioner design, which uses plastic shoes, deteriorates over time due to heat and wear, leading to the timing chain loosening and causing catastrophic engine failure.
In response, Harley-Davidson has developed a new hydraulic cam chain tensioner, which uses metal shoes and is more reliable, to replace the old design.
It is recommended that Harley owners with affected models upgrade to the new tensioner as a preventative measure, or if they experience any symptoms of cam chain tensioner failure, such as excessive noise or engine performance issues.
The Evolution of Harley Cam Chain Tensioners
Here are the evolution of Harley cam chain tensioners and the key design changes that have occurred over time.
First Generation Cam Chain Tensioners (Pre-1999)
The earliest Harley cam chain tensioners were fairly simple designs that used a spring-loaded shoe to apply tension to the cam chain.
These tensioners were prone to wear and failure over time, especially in high-performance applications.
In response to these issues, Harley introduced a hydraulic cam chain tensioner in 1999.
Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioners (1999-2006)
The hydraulic cam chain tensioner was a significant improvement over the first generation tensioners.
These tensioners used oil pressure to maintain proper cam chain tension, which eliminated the need for a spring-loaded shoe.
The hydraulic tensioner was also designed to automatically adjust for wear and keep the cam chain properly tensioned over the life of the engine.
However, there were some issues with the early hydraulic tensioners that led to premature wear and failure.
Second Generation Cam Chain Tensioners (2006-2016)
In response to the issues with the early hydraulic tensioners, Harley introduced a redesigned tensioner in 2006.
The second generation tensioner featured a larger oil reservoir and improved oil flow, which helped to eliminate the premature wear issues.
The redesigned tensioner also included a new shoe design that improved durability and reduced noise.
The second generation tensioner was a significant improvement over the first generation hydraulic tensioner, and it remained in use for over a decade.
However, as Harley continued to develop higher performance engines, the second generation tensioner began to show its limitations.
Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioners with Automatic Primary Chain Adjusters (2017-Present)
In 2017, Harley introduced a new cam chain tensioner design that included an automatic primary chain adjuster.
This new tensioner uses oil pressure to maintain proper cam chain tension, but it also includes a secondary mechanism that automatically adjusts the primary chain tension.
This design provides more consistent and reliable cam chain tension, even under high performance conditions.
The new tensioner design also includes a stronger shoe and improved oil flow, which further improves durability and reduces noise.
Overall, the current cam chain tensioner design represents the culmination of decades of development and refinement, and it provides reliable and consistent performance in even the most demanding Harley-Davidson engines.
1999-2006 Harley Models Affected by the Cam Chain Tensioner Issue
Models Affected by the Cam Chain Tensioner Issue:
The cam chain tensioner issue affected a significant number of Harley-Davidson models produced between 1999 and 2006. The following models were particularly affected:
- Twin Cam 88 (all models)
- Twin Cam 96 (all models)
- Softail models (2000-2006)
- Dyna models (1999-2006)
- Touring models (1999-2006)
2007-2016 Harley Models Affected by the Cam Chain Tensioner Issue
The 2007-2016 Harley models affected by the cam chain tensioner issue include the following:
- Harley-Davidson Street Glide (2007-2016)
- Harley-Davidson Electra Glide (2007-2016)
- Harley-Davidson Road King (2007-2016)
- Harley-Davidson Road Glide (2007-2016)
- Harley-Davidson Softail (2007-2016)
- Harley-Davidson Dyna (2007-2016)
- Harley-Davidson Sportster (2007-2016)
The issue with the cam chain tensioner in these models is related to the material used in the component. The cam chain tensioner is made of plastic, which can wear out over time due to heat and vibration.
As a result, the timing chain can become too loose, leading to engine noise and reduced performance.
Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Failure Symptoms
Here are some harley cam chain tensioner failure symptoms
Strange Engine Noises
One of the most noticeable symptoms of cam chain tensioner failure is strange engine noises. You may hear a rattling or clicking sound coming from the engine, especially at idle or low speeds.
This noise can be especially pronounced when the engine is cold, as the oil is thicker and less able to provide adequate lubrication to the cam chain tensioner.
If you notice any unusual engine noises, it’s best to have your bike inspected by a professional mechanic to determine the cause and prevent further damage.
As the cam chain tensioner begins to fail, it can affect the engine’s overall performance. You may notice a decrease in power or acceleration, as well as reduced fuel efficiency.
These symptoms can be especially pronounced when climbing hills or hauling heavy loads.
If you’re experiencing decreased performance, it’s essential to have your bike inspected and repaired as soon as possible to prevent further damage.
Another common symptom of cam chain tensioner failure is oil leaks. The tensioner is located near the engine’s oil system, and if it fails, it can cause oil to leak from the engine.
You may notice oil pooling beneath your bike or a burning oil smell while riding.
Oil leaks can lead to engine damage and should be addressed promptly to avoid more extensive repairs.
The cam chain tensioner is responsible for keeping the cam chain properly tensioned, and if it fails, the chain can become loose and noisy.
You may hear a loud, metallic clanking or rattling noise coming from the engine, especially at low speeds.
This noise can be a sign of cam chain tensioner failure and should be addressed by a professional mechanic.
Finally, cam chain tensioner failure can lead to engine misfires. The cam chain’s proper tension is critical for proper engine timing.
And if it becomes loose, it can cause the engine to misfire or run poorly.
You may notice a loss of power, stalling, or rough idling, all of which can be signs of cam chain tensioner failure.
What Causes the Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem?
Some of the most common causes of CCT(Cam Chain Tensioner) wear are:
Lack of lubrication:
If the cam chain and CCT are not properly lubricated, they can generate excessive friction and heat, which can accelerate wear and tear.
Make sure to use high-quality oil and follow the recommended oil change intervals and procedures.
Dust and debris:
If your engine is exposed to dusty or dirty environments, such as off-road or construction sites, the CCT can accumulate grit and particles that can abrade its surfaces and reduce its effectiveness.
Use a good quality air filter and avoid riding in extreme conditions.
High rpm and temperature:
If you frequently rev your engine to high rpm or ride in hot climates, the CCT can experience more stress and fatigue, which can weaken its spring or hydraulic components.
Try to avoid prolonged idling or hard acceleration and let your engine warm up before riding.
If your CCT is a faulty or defective unit, it may fail prematurely regardless of your maintenance or usage. Check if your model or production batch has any known issues or recalls and contact your dealer or manufacturer
How to Fix Your Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem?
Here are some options to fix your Harley CCT problem:
You can purchase a new CCT from your Harley dealer or authorized parts supplier, which should come with a warranty and be designed to fit and function as the original part.
This option is suitable for most riders who want a reliable and cost-effective solution.
You can also choose to buy a CCT from a third-party manufacturer or vendor, which may offer better performance, durability, or customization options than the OEM part.
However, you need to ensure that the part is compatible with your engine and meets quality and safety standards.
You can upgrade your CCT system by installing a kit that includes a stronger, more efficient, or more advanced CCT, as well as other related components such as cam bearings, oil pumps, or tensioner shoes.
This option is suitable for riders who want to improve their engine’s power, torque, or longevity, or who have experienced recurrent CCT problems.
If you are mechanically inclined and have the proper tools and manuals, you can attempt to repair or modify your CCT yourself.
This option requires a high level of skill and knowledge, as well as the ability to diagnose, disassemble, clean, and reassemble the CCT and its surrounding components.
You should only do this if you are confident in your abilities and have consulted reliable sources.
Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Recall Information
In 2004, Harley-Davidson issued a recall for certain models affected by the cam chain tensioner issue. The recall was initiated after several incidents were reported where the cam chain tensioner failed, causing engine damage.
The recall affected 13 different models, including the Softail, Dyna, and Touring models.
Harley-Davidson replaced the plastic cam chain tensioners with updated hydraulic tensioners made of aluminum. The updated tensioners were designed to be more durable and reliable than the original plastic tensioners.
In addition to replacing the cam chain tensioners, Harley-Davidson also installed an oil pressure switch to detect low oil pressure, which could also cause the cam chain tensioner to fail.
What Is A Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem, And What Years Are Affected?
Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem refers to the issue of premature failure of the cam chain tensioner system in pre-2007 Twin Cam models. The affected years are from 1999 to 2006.
What Causes The Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem?
The problem is caused by the plastic shoes used in the cam chain tensioner system, which wear out prematurely, causing timing chain noise and potential engine damage.
How Can I Tell If My Harley Is Affected By The Cam Chain Tensioner Problem?
If you own a pre-2007 Twin Cam model, you should check if the hydraulic cam chain tensioner upgrade has been installed.
If not, you will need to do the upgrade yourself or have a professional do it for you.
Can The Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem Cause Catastrophic Engine Failure?
Yes, the problem can cause catastrophic engine failure if not addressed promptly, as the timing chain noise can indicate the plastic shoes have completely worn out, which can cause the timing chain to jump, resulting in engine damage.
How Can I Prevent The Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem From Happening?
Regular inspections and maintenance of the cam chain tensioner system can help prevent the problem from occurring.
Experts recommend inspecting the system every 20,000 miles and replacing the plastic shoes every 50,000 miles.
So, there you have it – the Harley cam chain tensioner problem years. If you own a Harley or it’s important to be aware of this issue and keep an eye out for any signs of trouble.
Regular maintenance and inspection can help you catch any problems early and avoid costly repairs down the line.
And if you do run into issues with your cam chain tensioner, don’t hesitate to get it fixed by a reputable mechanic who knows how to handle this common Harley problem. Keep on riding!