This tidbit is for tc88 owners to watch out for, or those considering getting one...
You can have 'em.... EVO is new as I go...
And you thought all TC88 cam bad-stuff was history.
It started out on a country road on a sunny Saturday afternoon. Had
I heard a noise? Perhaps a little more cam chain than usual? My '02 Road
King had over 37,000 miles and a stout set of Vance and Hines pipes. Little
noises had come and gone over the last few years, usually traced to loose
heat shields, junk rattling in the saddlebags, or collateral damage from the
time my brother-in-law was late stopping for a light and used the left
saddlebag as a launch ramp.
Our ride took us through Texas, so I stopped in to ask
Ken XXXXX, the service manager at American XXXXX HD about it. Their shop
had been the only ones to figure out that my chronic primary leak was
actually the result of an undersized starter jackshaft. Another shop had
replaced the inner primary and resealed the works four times without
success. American XXXXX had also done a crackerjack job of fixing the
aforementioned launch ramp damage.
Ken told me the sad tale of the cam chain tensioner shoes. These
little guys live between the cam chain and a hefty spring assembly, making
sure that the chain stays nice and tight at all RPM. This arrangement
ensures that they spend their life with their little plastic faces mashed
against the moving chain. Wow, talk about nose to the grindstone -- these
guys are dedicated. At about 1/16" inch of wear, or about 20-25,000 miles,
the plastic can start coming off in chunks.
The next stop for the plastic particles is the oil pump. If they are
small enough, they pass harmlessly through the pump, and are then picked up
by the oil filter. If they are large enough, they force the gears of the oil
pump to perform unnatural acts, resulting in metal and plastic debris in
When I got the '02 Road King, I thought all the twin cam bearing
stuff had been taken care of with the '99 and '00 models. The improved
assemblies, the fix kits, the service bulletins, the extension of warranties
to affected bikes and the failed class-action lawsuits had all run their
course. What's the deal here??????????
"I plan to change mine out between 20-25,000 miles," said Ken.
"If you catch them early, they are easy to fix. If they kill your oil pump,
things can go bad in a hurry."
Lots to think about as I headed home. We were getting ready to do a
22-state, 6,800-mile trip next week. Do I dare tear down the bike a week
ahead of this trip? Did I really hear anything at all? Did I dare not fix
A Gutted Road King.
These thoughts filled my head as the August afternoon heated up. The
pack finally pulled into a restaurant near my house to have lunch and split
up. I forgot about it over stories and good food, then headed home.
As I rode the remaining mile to my house, something was noticeably
different. That little whisper of a noise was a distinct sound. I cut the
motor and coasted down my street, trying to see if the noise was brakes or a
wheel bearing. No such luck, it stopped with the motor.
I restarted it as I pulled into the alley. By the time I got to my
house, it was a clear whine that rose and fell with the engine. Not a good sound.
I decided to see if there was plastic in the oil, so I cleaned my
oil drain pan with mineral spirits, wiped it dry, and drained the oil. After
I poured the oil into the five-gallon bucket I use to recycle, I checked the
drain pan. Sure enough, plastic and sparking little metal shavings were
present. I got out a magnet. About half the shavings moved with the magnet,
the rest stayed put. This meant both steel and aluminum were involved, not a
good sign at all.
Arrow points to tensioner face--when these wear out the
plastic goes into your oil pump.
Next I pulled the oil filter and used a chisel and tin snips to cut
it apart. I cut the element free of the plastic housing, and stretched out
the folds of the filter media. Sure enough, plastic and metal were embedded
in every fold.
I replaced the filter, put in oil just in case somebody at the
dealer started the bike to move it, and pushed it onto a trailer. Monday, it
was at American XXXXX HD.
Now the fun started. The bike was a few days short of three years
old and had over 37,000 miles. It did not have an extended warranty. I was
the second owner, but had paid the fee to inspect the bike and transfer the
original warranty into my name. If Harley did not stand behind the repair,
this was going to be a $1200 hit. If they did stand behind it, the cost
would be a $100 administration fee.
While the shop, full of bikes getting serviced for Sturgis, found
time to tear the bike apart, Ken went to work with HD Customer Service. It
was a tough sell. Harley handles these situations on a case-by-case basis.
While we were making last-minute preparations for our trip, I drove
out to American XXXXX. There was my bike, eight feet of assorted Harley
parts lining a lift. The tank and rocker covers were off, the cam chest was
open, and the ruined oil pump was out for inspection. The evil tensioner
shoes were worn to the point that the plastic had stripped off in chunks.
By the end of the week, the bike was back together. A new cam plate,
chains, shoes, and oil pump were getting to know each other. No metal or
plastic were found in the rocker boxes, so it appeared that the oil filter
had successfully given its life for the engine. Harley covered the repair,
so I was only out the $100 administration fee.
We made our trip, 6,800 miles through the 22 states west of Big
Muddy. I was listening to every little noise along mountain roads, down the
coast of California, and across the desert, but it made it all the way.
So what does this mean for you and your twin-cam? If you ride 1,200
miles a year doing toy runs, I'd say turn the page and forget about it. If
you have over 25,000 miles on your bike, my recent experience would suggest
that you get the tensioner shoes checked or replaced. Don't forget the chain(s)
Contrary to a lot of the stuff you read, all of the twin-cam
problems have NOT been solved, and Harley is still handling the tensioner
failures on a case-by-case basis. The good news is that it appears to be a
fixable problem, and so far, the factory has been standing behind the
In addition you can generally buy a twinkee cheeper than a decent EVO. Wonder why ?