Most Common Harley Twin Cam Problems and their Solutions

The Twin Cam has been plagued with problems since its inception, with many riders reporting issues with engine vibration, oil leaks, and premature engine failure. Despite these problems, the Twin Cam remains a popular engine choice among Harley riders.

While Harley has made some design changes over the years to address these issues, many owners are still experiencing problems. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most common Harley Twin Cam problems and explore some possible solutions.

Why does Harley use Twin Cam engines in their motorcycles?

Harley-Davidson has been using Twin Cam engines in their motorcycles for many years. There are many factors and the most important factor in choosing a Twin Cam engine is power delivery. The 96- and 103-inch variants of the Twin Cam engine produce more torque at lower engine speeds than their predecessors, making them ideal for leisurely rides and long-distance touring. The power delivery is also more linear, which means that the engine is less likely to lurch or stall when accelerating from a stop.

Additionally, the Twin Cam engine is more fuel efficient than its predecessor. This is due in part to the engine’s higher compression ratio, which allows the engine to burn fuel more efficiently. The Twin Cam engine is also equipped with a larger airbox, which helps to reduce engine noise.

The Twin Cam engine is more durable than its predecessor. The engine’s increased displacement helps to dissipate heat more effectively, and the engine’s internals is designed to withstand the rigors of prolonged use. As a result, the Twin Cam engine is less likely to experience wear and tear over time.

Overall, the Twin Cam engine is a more powerful, efficient, and durable option for powering Harley-Davidson motorcycles. This engine provides riders with the power they need to enjoy the open road, while also delivering the reliability and longevity that Harley-Davidson is known for.

Harley Twin Cam Problems and Solutions

The problems and solutions of the Harley Twin Cam engine have been a topic of debate among Harley-Davidson enthusiasts for many years. While some riders believe that the problems are due to a lack of maintenance, others believe that the design of the engine is to blame. In this section, we will explore some of the common problems with the Twin Cam engine and provide possible solutions.

1- Cam chain Tensioner

The most common problem with the Twin Cam engine is the cam chain tensioner. The cam chain tensioner is responsible for maintaining proper tension on the cam chain. Experts believe the engine design flaw is to blame.

The Twin Cam 88’s main weakness can manifest as early as 15,000 miles. It was blamed on the spring-loaded cam tensioner that put too much strain on the tensioner shoes.

The shoes themselves were also a key contributory factor to the issue. The shoes were originally designed to last at least 30,000 miles. Twin Cam 88 bikes, however, were plagued by cam chain tensioner problems.

According to owners and mechanics, the chainsaw-like pressure of the tensioner and the use of plastic in the tensioner shoes caused the Twin Cam 88 to wear out quickly. Plastic debris can accumulate in the engine’s oil pathways due to the rapid wear of the shoes.


The first option is to convert your stock cam chain assembly to the hydraulic tensioner introduced by Harley in 2007. Alternatively, you can buy compatible aftermarket replacements for your problematic cam chain tensioner and tensioner shoes, or you can have your entire cam chain assembly replaced with aftermarket components.

If you are considering purchasing a Twin Cam 88, make sure to ask the previous owner for the engine’s service history. By doing so, you can determine whether or not the cam chain assembly has already been updated, saving you time and money.

2. Transmission Problem

Another common problem with Harley Twin Cam motorcycles is transmission failure. Some of the most common symptoms are shifting difficulties, grinding gears, and slipping. Worn clutch plates, damaged gears, or a lack of lubrication can all cause these problems.


The solution to this problem is to have the transmission inspected by a qualified mechanic who will be able to diagnose the problem and recommend the necessary repairs. Transmission problems can also be avoided with regular maintenance, such as Oil changes.

3. Carbon Deposits

Carbon deposits can also cause problems with Twin Cam engines. In contrast to some of the problems here, which are due to poor design choices made by Harley, this is due to age, which is fairly common in just about any vehicle. A number of symptoms can result from this, including loss of power, decreased fuel economy, and rough engine operation.


It is important to note that the solution to carbon deposits in Harley Twin cam engines is to keep the engine clean and well-maintained and this can be done through the use of high-quality synthetic oil. This oil will help to prevent the build-up of carbon deposits and keep the engine running smoothly.

4. Worn Compensator

The compensator is responsible for keeping the engine running smoothly. Symptoms of a malfunctioning compensator include rough idle, vibration, and poor performance. It is usually dirt and debris buildup or wears in the compensator itself that causes the problem.

This problem also existed during the production years of the Twin Cam 88, and even the Twin Cam 96 suffered from it. Despite being less common than the notorious cam chain tensioner issue, this issue does appear periodically in Harley reviews, reports, and forums.


If there is a problem with the compensator, it must be cleaned or replaced. Simple cleaning will solve all the hiccups if you are convinced that your compensator is still working properly.

You must first detach the compensator from your bike before cleaning it. There are different ways to clean it. Using a regular brush is the easiest method. In addition, soaking the component in a cleaning solution or blasting it with compressed air will be more effective in removing dirt and debris.

A damaged or defective compensator must be replaced.

5. Oil leaks

Another problem that is common with the Twin Cam engine is oil leaks. Oil can leak from the engine due to a variety of reasons, including worn seals and gaskets.

Some of the most common reasons for oil leaks on the Twin Cam engine include worn seals and gaskets. Worn seals and gaskets can allow oil to leak out of the engine, resulting in decreased performance and fuel economy. Additionally, oil leaks can cause the engine to overheat, leading to serious damage.


The best way to prevent oil leaks is to regularly check the seals and gaskets for wear and tear. If any of the seals or gaskets are worn, they should be replaced. Additionally, it is important to change the oil and filter regularly. This will help to remove any contaminants that could cause oil leaks.

If you are experiencing an oil leak or any other Harley Twin Cam engine issue, you should take your motorcycle to a qualified mechanic for repairs. It is important to fix the issue as soon as possible, as it can damage the engine significantly.

Harley Twin Cam Years To Avoid

The Harley-Davidson Twin Cam engines have been in production since 1998. While these engines are generally reliable, there are certain years and models that are best avoided.

The following is a list of Harley Twin Cam years to avoid:

1998 Twin Cam 88: The first year of the Twin Cam 88 engine was plagued with reliability issues. Many riders experienced engine failure, especially with the early models.

1999 Twin Cam 88: The 1999 model year saw some improvements, but the engine was still prone to failure.

2004 Twin Cam 88: The 2004 model year saw a return of some of the reliability issues that plagued the early models. It faced the issue of chain system and rubber mounting.

2014 Twin Cam 88: 2014 model saw issues of disengagement, faulty master cylinder, and clutch failure. The problems were so serious that Harley recalled this model for 5times.

Best Year Harley Twin Cam Engine

Best Year Harley Twin Cam Engine

Just like some avoided models, some models are best and are loved across every segment. We will name the following:

Harley 2006 FXSTS Springer Softail: The Springer Softail was introduced in 2006 and quickly became one of the most popular models. It’s loved for its classic looks and easy ride.

Harley 2008 FLSTSB Cross Bones: The Cross Bones is a unique and stylish model that was introduced in 2008. It’s known for its low seat height and great handling.

Harley-Davidson 2009 FXDF Dyna Fat Bob: Just like its name, the Dyna Fat Bob is a big beefy bike introduced in 2009. It’s known for its aggressive styling and powerful engine. People really loved this model.

2009 FXSTB Night Train: The Night Train is a stylish bike that was introduced in 2009. It’s popular due to its 1580cc engine, reliable look, and comfortable seating arrangement. This all makes it a wonderful choice, especially for young people.

These are some of the best Harley twin cam models that you can buy. You can’t go wrong with any of these bikes. But, if you’re still having trouble deciding, I highly recommend that you check out the Harley Twin Cam Analyst. It’s the best way to find the perfect bike for you.


The Harley-Davidson Twin Cam engines are generally reliable, but some problems are seen in some years and models. It is clear that there are a number of Harley Twin Cam problems that can be easily fixed if the right approach is taken. 

With a little bit of knowledge, many of these issues can be remedied without having to call a tow truck or pay for a mechanic. For those who are not mechanically inclined, there are still a number of ways to get your Harley back on the road and running like new again.

About David Riedel

I am David Riedel founder of Bikerwhizz, I'm a technician at Keystone Harley Davidson with more than 10 years of industry experience. I’m here to help you solve motorbike problems, customizations, tweaks, and easy fixes to enjoy your rides more.

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