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Twin Cam 88 Engine Useful Life?

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Old 12-06-2009, 12:19 PM
jct9841 jct9841 is offline
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Default Twin Cam 88 Engine Useful Life?

Hey all,

Looking at 2001 - 2003 Dynas with mileage ranging from 5k to 35k.

What kind of mileage can you expect on a normally maintained bike before it needs work?

Should I rule out bikes with mileage over 30K?

Thanks in advance,
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Old 12-06-2009, 12:58 PM
jetsam jetsam is offline
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I an a newbie to this form, but I have been riding an 01 ultra for two tears. I bought it with 28K miles and it has 45K on it now. I use Amsoil and get about 4000 miles before it is a quart down. I wouldn't discount a bike with 35k just because of the mileage. If it looks beat to h..l don't buy. Clean and strait, go for it. Just my .02cents. Jetsam
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:02 PM
SpyderTB SpyderTB is offline
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As per the HD service manual it stated at 30K you should disassemble the engine to check for wear. Now if it was me i wouldn't care if it was beat on of not because i would want to rebuild it soon either way.
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:09 PM
mp mp is offline
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I would think the '02s and older would have a long life as long as you put in gear-drive cams. The '03s were the first year with the weak crank bearing on the power side, replacing the time-tested tapered Timkens. Those engines will tend to wear out faster.
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Old 12-06-2009, 01:37 PM
wescoot2 wescoot2 is offline
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My 01 has close to 80K miles with no major repairs. I did change out the chain driven cams to gear driven. Other than normal maintenance, all is well. When I get to the 100K mark, I'll probably rebuild the top end, and kick it up to a 95"

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Old 12-06-2009, 02:47 PM
oldairboater oldairboater is offline
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Without the cam issue and normal riding with excellent maintenance I would expect 100,000 miles. I have seen a few make it already. Chain driven cam is a weak link in the Twin cams. Evo had lifter and cam issues. Shovels and Pans had issues. The late model big bores are showing some issues as we type. I didn't list knuckles or flat heads because I don't see to many people that don't already recognize their inherent flaws and beauty. Don't have any interest in the revolution engine so I haven't looked for it's weak link. Most Hd's have had some kind of design flaw that always needs addressing either by the public or the manufacturer. Later model runs usually had the issues addressed and fixed during production.

Last edited by oldairboater; 12-06-2009 at 02:49 PM.
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Old 12-06-2009, 03:28 PM
Faast Ed Faast Ed is offline
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Originally Posted by jct9841 View Post
Hey all,

Looking at 2001 - 2003 Dynas with mileage ranging from 5k to 35k.

What kind of mileage can you expect on a normally maintained bike before it needs work?

Should I rule out bikes with mileage over 30K?

Thanks in advance,
The weak link:
Click the image to open in full size.

These tensioners have 23,000 miles on them and as you can see are pretty worn. The issue here is that while stamping out the chain components, the die cutters become worn. Because of this, some have rough edged chains while others had the luck of smoother chains.

Many have reported failures from these worn out tensioners in the 25k miles range, while many others have gone for very many more miles without a problem. If you do change tensioners, the chain is likely polished smooth enough by now to make the next set last longer.

You asked how long before it "needs work".

My thoughts are that 20,000 miles is time to "check" the tensioners to see if they are worn. If they check good, you have little else to worry about.

There were some issues with the crank run-out, but that is not really mileage dependent. That's more from driver behavior. Burnouts or hard downshifts often cause the press fit crank to slip. Any unusual vibrations during your test ride should alert you to keep looking for other bikes and shy away from purchasing that bike.

So to summerize,.... if you by a bike with 20k miles or more, it will be worth your efforts to inspect the tensioners when you get home, and change them if needed. This will help avoid a horrible disaster, should they be worn enough to fall apart and clog your oil passages. I would NOT let this stop me from buying the bike, and the process of inspecting your tensioners is not that difficult.

I would consider this inspection a "must do" for any tc88 with over 20k miles on it,..... regardless of how many "I never had problems" stories that you might hear. Too many faliures out there, mixed in with the "no problem" guys.

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Old 12-06-2009, 05:50 PM
Uncle Scrooge Uncle Scrooge is offline
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What Faast Ed said.
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Old 12-06-2009, 06:52 PM
nighttrain72970 nighttrain72970 is offline
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Location: O'fallon, Missouri
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I've seen 88's with upwards of 100,000 miles. Just keep an eye on the chain tensioners and you'll be fine. My stepbrother has 50,000 on his '01 Fat Boy and hasn't had any issues. As far I as know he's on the original tensioners. Another friend has 45,000 on his '04 Road King and is getting ready to change his original tensioners in the next couple weeks. I say just buy what makes you happy and ride.......
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Old 12-06-2009, 07:18 PM
Harleyinnc Harleyinnc is offline
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I have 120,000 miles on my 01 ultra classic. I didn't touch the motor till it had 74,000 miles on it. Then i put in gear drive cams, big bore kit and barking beagle heads. Bike was still running great when I did the work on the motor. I had the parts for it and figured I better not press my luck. I run a oil cooler and use Amsoil in all 3 holes.
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