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Cam Chain Tensioner

Old 04-15-2019, 10:43 PM
millcreekdr is offline
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Default Cam Chain Tensioner

My dealer tells me the 88's have issues with the cam chain eating the tensioner.
Does anyone have any advice as to upgrading to the screaming eagle tensioner?
I believe he quoted me about $1500 for the tensioner installed and most people upgrade their cams while they are benched.

I suppose my first step is to remove the plate to see if it is even the stock one in there. It looks like you need to remove the exhaust though....ugh. Always have problems with dang exhaust bolts!
Old 04-15-2019, 11:15 PM
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Depends on the model year of the bike. If you want to, I'd change to gear drive. $1500 seems awful high to me!!!!!!!!!!
Old 04-16-2019, 12:44 AM
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I had the SE hydraulic tensioner and oil pump upgrade plus had the cams replaced (SE 203) at the dealer and the cost was about $2000. The cam bearing journals showed brinelling and one oem cam was on back order. It would have taken almost a month before it was going to be available or they had the SE 203's in stock. I was happy with the way the engine ran so stock was ok but I didn't want to wait. I'm happy with getting the 203 cams, it pulls better when passing and the idle has slightly more lope. I didn't want a hot rod and this works great for me.

The tensioner is about $500, cams about $290+, lifters $250 plus misc gaskets/parts plus labor
Old 04-16-2019, 01:17 AM
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You didn't say what year your T/C88 was but the later models didn't have this issue.

Simply installing or having the OEM's replaced is a good option (and cheaper) if you don't put a lot of miles on your bike quickly, but if you do ride a lot or if you are planning on keeping the bike for a long time the S/E Hyd cam chain adjuster kit might be the way to go.
This kit will also increase your engine oil pressure.
Gears are good IF your crank is compatible (some aren't) but keep in mind that gears are noisier than the chain.
Either way, going this deep you should consider new cam bearings and depending on mileage, new lifters might also be a good, preventative maintenance measure.

I had the OEM adjusters replaced on my T/C88 at about 39,000 miles but I me one guy who told me that his failed (and had to be rebuilt) at 25,000 miles so the life span of these things can vary from bike-to-bike and rider-to-rider,

Depending on how long you plan on keeping your bike, how many miles it currently has on it, and how much you are willing to invest in it will determine what you should do.

I had the Big Bore "95" upgrade, with a Stage I ECM "flash" and it made my bike feel hundreds of pounds lighter due to the increased torque.
You can probably get the same (or close) performance with changing the cams but if your bike currently has a lot of miles on it, going with the "95" kit may be an option that you should consider.

Just be careful to NOT put too much money in a bike thinking that it's an investment.
Old 04-16-2019, 02:31 AM
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I would do it myself if I was you and save big $$$.

If your miles are creeping up just do a full top end and bump to 95.

My last bike was a 88 to 95 and it was a pretty impressive big bore kit.
Old 04-16-2019, 04:57 AM
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All 88's had the same issue with the exception of the 2006 Dynas which were the first ones to have the hydraulic tensioners, all the rest followed in the 2007 model year. I did the upgrade along with SE 203 cams on my 2003 bagger.
Old 04-16-2019, 05:26 AM
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On your 03, yes I’d be looking into it. Most check around 25-30k miles but there is no definitive mileage that it can happen.
Old 04-16-2019, 07:52 AM
foxtrapper is online now
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Yes, you pull the exhaust to get into the cam chest to check the tensioners.

There is a technique whereby you can check the inner tensioner with a small dental mirror...sorta. You're really not seeing the tensioner shoe's wear surface, you're just trying to judge wear from the overhang over the chain. The inner cam chain tensioner is the one with the wear problem, not the far more readily seen outer tensioner.

While tensioner shoe wear is normal (they all wear), when it reaches the end, it can be catastrophic Pieces of the tensioner shoe can break off, damaging the oil pump, as well metal particles from having the tensionser shoe pin riding on the cam chain. You want to deal with it before it gets to the end.

I opened mine up at ~50k. The tensioners had wear, but were not worn out. I did replace them with Cyclo shoes. I did find damage on one of the camshafts and bearing that would have caused me grief somewhere down the road.
Old 04-16-2019, 11:47 AM
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On my 01 Wide Glide I just took an allen wrench and cut the short end shorter, which allowed me to access the bottom allen bolt without taking the exhaust off. Also, the aftermarket makes a higher quality pad that is like teflon instead of that junk Harley used on their pads, so you can just change the pads themselves. Nothing else, just the pads. This wasn't available when mine went at 30,000 miles and cost me the whole engine. I upgraded to the complete 2007 cam chest with Andrews 21N cams. I do not believe you can get better performing torque cams than those. Best wishes.
Old 04-16-2019, 11:53 AM
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Originally Posted by DeputyDawg View Post
Depends on the model year of the bike. If you want to, I'd change to gear drive. $1500 seems awful high to me!!!!!!!!!!

I changed over to S&S gear drive with 510 cams on my 04 at 15,000 miles. At that time HD did not have their new tensions in production. Have no complaints since I did the S&S upgrade, 75,000 mile ago.

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