Harley-Davidson, a brand that has long been synonymous with American motorcycling, made headlines in recent years due to a widespread issue with its camshaft tensioners.
The recall affected tens of thousands of motorcycles, sparking concerns among riders worldwide.
In this blog post, we’ll explore what caused the recall, the potential risks, and what Harley-Davidson owners need to know to stay safe on the road.
Harley Davidson Cam Tensioner Recall
Harley Davidson has issued several recalls related to cam chain tensioners, including a recent one in October 2022 affecting approximately 200,000 trikes and touring motorcycles.
The recall is due to potential issues with the cam chain tensioner shoe, which could lead to engine damage and increased crash risk. Harley Davidson has stated that they will perform all necessary repairs free of charge.
What is the Cam Tensioner Issue with Harley Davidson?
Some Harley Davidson owners have reported issues with premature cam chain tensioner failure.
While some have not faced any problems, the issue has become a concern for some riders.
The cam tensioner issue has been blown out of proportion and has become a hysteria, fueled in no small way by people who have been making a living installing cam gear drives for the past six or seven years.
Harley Cam Chain Tensioner Problem Years
The Harley cam chain tensioner problem is a well-known issue that has affected certain years of Harley Davidson motorcycles.
The problem began with the introduction of the Twin Cam engine in 1999.
The cam chain problem persisted until 2007. The cam chain tensioner issue has been blown out of proportion by some, but it has affected many Harley owners.
What Year Did Harley Change To Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioners?
When Harley-Davidson released the new Twin Cam 96, it had hydraulic tensioners fed by oil and Delrin-style pads.
This upgrade placed less tension when at lower RPMs, and a lighter preload was placed on the chain, resulting in fewer failures.
However, some Harley owners are still reporting issues with the cam chain tensioner on newer models.
The plastic spring-loaded cam chain follower in the affected years fails, causing metal shavings and oil flow issues.
This can lead to skipped gears, engine misfires, power loss, and even engine failure.
While many Harley owners have not experienced the problem, it is difficult to predict when the tensioner will fail, as some have reported failures at as little as 15,000 miles or less.
The longevity problem of the cam system of the Harley Twin Cam still exists, and many users have experienced untimely and horrible engine failure.
To prevent the Harley cam chain tensioner failure, it is recommended to inspect the tensioner regularly and replace it with an upgraded version if necessary.
Recall Related to Cam Tensioner Harley:
Harley-Davidson Motor Company has recalled 199,419 model year 2019-2022 Trikes, CVO Trikes, and model year 2020-2022 Touring, CVO Touring motorcycles because of brake lights that may malfunction.
This recall is not related to the cam tensioner issue. However, Harley-Davidson has released a Screamin’ Eagle Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioner Plate Upgrade Kit to update the cam chain tensioner of your Twin Cam 88 engine to the latest design, as featured on the Twin Cam 96 engine.
Alternative to Harley Davidson’s cam tensioner – Twin Cam Tensioner Pads:
If you’re looking for an alternative to Harley Davidson’s cam tensioner, you can try Twin Cam Tensioner Pads.
These pads were tested on a 2001 Dyna with 13,000 miles on the original OEM cam chain tensioners.
The bike ran another 13,000 miles on the tensioner pads to duplicate the miles and conditions.
The test bike was run with the Harley maintenance schedule of oil changes at every 5,000 miles. The results were positive, and the pads performed well.
Twin Cam Tensioner Inspection
Here are some important things to know about the inspection process:
Regular inspection is critical:
The cam chain tensioner keeps proper tension in the cam or timing chain, which connects the engine crankshaft to a camshaft.
Without proper tension, the engine can suffer damage. Regular inspection is essential to ensure that the tensioner is working correctly.
There are different methods of inspecting the cam chain tensioner on Twin Cam engines.
Some inspection procedures require removing the valve covers and rocker supports, while others involve removing the oil pump and cam.
Regardless of the method used, it is important to inspect both the outer and inner shoes of the tensioner, as both can wear out and cause damage to the engine.
When to replace:
Inspecting the tensioner alone is not always sufficient. If the tensioner shows any noticeable wear, it is best to replace it rather than just inspecting it.
Many mechanics recommend replacing the cam chain tensioner every 20,000 to 30,000 miles, depending on the model.
There are upgrade kits available that can improve the performance and durability of the cam chain tensioner.
Some of these kits include the Screamin’ Eagle Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioner Plate Upgrade Kit, which updates the tensioner to the latest design featured on Twin Cam 96 engines.
Inspecting or replacing the cam chain tensioner can be expensive, with some dealerships charging up to $400 just to inspect the shoes.
However, there are affordable aftermarket options available, such as the Cam Chain Tensioner Guide for Harley Twin Cam engines, which can be purchased on eBay.
Cam Tensioner Harley
Here we’ll explore different types of cam tensioners available for Harley-Davidson bikes, the importance of inspecting them regularly, and ways to prevent failure.
Types of Cam Tensioners
Harley-Davidson motorcycles have different types of cam tensioners available, and they can be upgraded or replaced if needed.
One popular option is the hydraulic cam chain tensioner, which is available as a conversion kit for Harley-Davidson models from 2002-2006.
Another popular choice is the Screamin’ Eagle Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioner Plate Upgrade Kit, which updates the cam chain tensioner of a Twin Cam 88 engine to the latest design featured on the Twin Cam 96 engine.
Why is Inspecting Cam Tensioner Important?
It is essential to inspect the cam chain tensioner periodically to prevent failures. Cam chain tensioner failure can cause damage to other engine parts, such as the rotary gear oil pump.
Bob has provided a helpful guide on how to inspect the Harley cam chain tensioner to avoid a failure on a Twin Cam 88 Engine.
Replacing Cam Tensioner
If you need to replace the cam chain tensioner, there are kits and replacement parts widely available for Harley-Davidson motorcycles.
For instance, the Cam Chain Tensioner Kit for Harley Twin Cam 1999-06 can replace part numbers 39954-99A and 39964-99A and includes two shoes, two pins, a tool, and gaskets.
If you’re planning to upgrade the cam chain tensioner at a Harley-Davidson dealership, keep in mind that the cost can range from $1200 to $2000, including parts and labor.
History of Cam Chain Tensioner
If you recently purchased a used Harley-Davidson motorcycle, it’s important to know the history of the cam chain tensioner.
For example, a Harley-Davidson forums user recently purchased a 2001 Heritage Softail Classic with a Stage 2 Screamin’ Eagle big bore kit And he replaced the cam tensioner with Screamin’ Eagle.
The bike had 4,000 miles when all upgrades were made 18 years ago, and it now has 32,000 miles.
Is There A Recall For Harley Davidson Cam Tensioners?
There is no recall for Harley Davidson Cam Tensioners.
What Happens When The Cam Chain Tensioner Fails On A Harley Davidson?
When the cam chain tensioner fails on a Harley Davidson, the plastic spring-loaded cam chain follower fails and shreds plastic material that fouls the rotary gear oil pump, cutting off oil flow to the engine.
This can cause power loss, engine misfires, and even engine failure.
Which Years Are Affected By The Harley Davidson Cam Tensioner Problem?
The cam tensioner problem affects Harley Davidson Twin Cam engines from 1999 to 2007.
Has The Issue Of Harley Davidson Cam Tensioner Failures Been Blown Out Of Proportion?
Some Harley owners have not experienced cam tensioner failures and believe the issue has been blown out of proportion by those who profit from installing cam gear drives.
Is There An Upgrade Available For The Harley Davidson Cam Tensioner?
There are upgrades available for the Harley Davidson Cam Tensioner, such as the Screaming Eagle Hydraulic and SS Gear Driven Kit.
However, these upgrades are not necessary for all Harley owners as cam tensioner failures have become rare after improvements were made by Harley Davidson.
The cam chain tensioner issue related to Harley Davidson has caused concern for some riders. While it has been blown out of proportion, there have been reports of premature failures.
However, Harley Davidson has released a Screamin’ Eagle Hydraulic Cam Chain Tensioner Plate Upgrade Kit to update the cam chain tensioner to your Twin Cam 88 engine.
Additionally, you can consider Twin Cam Tensioner Pads as an alternative option.