I want to address an issue that is hot topic among Harley-Davidson Twin Cam Motor owners, the Cam Chain Tensioners. The tensioner exists because of the two cam application and the drive chain used to connect them. Sure that doesn’t sound bad, but what is debated is the tensioners material, wear of the tensioners shoe, and the inconsistent rate of wear. To begin with the tensioners are made of plastic and ride on the cam chains causing inevitable wear, which if unchecked could lead to complete destruction of the shoes and potential engine failure. The interesting thing is rarely do you see 2 motorcycles have the same amount of wear or failure rates at matching mileage. Harley-Davidson does not list any type of maintenance check on them, but if you are fortunate to have a dealer in the know, he will have implemented an inspection schedule for your tensioners based on historic failure rate and customer riding style. Documentation shows failure as early as 17,000 miles and the other end with almost no wear at 100,000 miles so rider input is a factor. Now keep in mind this inspection is not without cost, but I can assure you it is considerably less expensive than replacing the motor and other potential bills related to the situation. Also proof of dealer inspections may help if a warranty claim needs to be sought later.
Let’s shift gears and examine a potential solution to assure you trouble free ownership. Lets get rid of the problem part all together. Why not upgrade to a gear drive set of cams like a kit from S & S. Installing a gear drive cam set removes the chain and tensioners. This provides a far more reliable drive system that needs no future inspections or periodic part replacement. Gear drive cams also give you an opportunity to upgrade your cams and increase your overall performance. A very common 88″ or 95″ cam replacement set is the S & S 510 Gear Drive Kit (P# 10-5177) available at K and G Cycles (www.kandgcycles.com). Since S & S packages everything you need to make the conversion, the upgrade is a fairly smooth process. Another benefit of the 510 kit is the performance gains related to this set up. Expect to be the recipient of great low and mid-range power increases without sacrificing ride quality. You will soon discover this modification was the best bang for the buck and you will wonder why THIS isn’t the stock set up.
As we all know generating more power also generates more heat and one way to combat the related temperature increase is using a good synthetic oil. Companies like Lucas Oil, Bel Ray, or RevTech make outstanding products, all of which are available at K and G Cycles. Keep in mind even though Synthetic oils have superior qualities compared to Conventional oils, it is strongly recommended to maintain the manufacturers maintenance schedules. So save yourself some headache and ditch those pesky chain drive cams in favor of the reliable, performance minded gear drive cams offered by S & S. Don’t forget to follow up with a healthy dose of a quality synthetic motor oil.