Common Harley Electra Glide Problems (Overview)

Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Pittalks

‍The Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, with its iconic design and powerful performance, has been a favorite among motorcycle enthusiasts worldwide. However, like any other mechanical device, it has had its share of issues. This article aims to provide a comprehensive guide to the most common problems encountered by Harley-Davidson Electra Glide owners, why there are certain years to avoid, and offer pragmatic solutions to these problems.

The Cam Tensioner Issue

The Problem

In the early models of the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide, particularly those produced from 1999 to 2007, a common issue was the wearing down of a plastic end in the cam follower arm. This issue could lead to significant engine damage.

Here's an example of the twin cam engine's premature cam chain tensioner failure.
You can see the yellow (plastic) cam chain tensioner that’s prone to failure here.

The Solution

To address this issue, Harley introduced a hydraulic chain tensioner in the subsequent models. If you own one of these early models, it is highly recommended to check the condition of the cam chain tensioner regularly. If signs of excessive wear are detected, consider upgrading the cam gear kit or installing Harley’s hydraulic cam kit.

The Whining Noise in Fifth Gear

The Problem

When Harley-Davidson transitioned to a six-speed transmission in 2006, a common complaint among Electra Glide owners was a loud whining noise emanating from the engine when the fifth gear was engaged.

The Solution

This noise is due to the meshing of straight-cut gears, which, while providing improved performance, also result in increased noise levels. To mitigate the noise, consider using a higher-grade synthetic transmission lubricant or even after-market upgrades.

Heat Emission Issues

The Problem

Another common issue with the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide is the heat emitted by its massive Twin Cam engine, especially during slow traffic or hot weather. This can lead to discomfort for the rider.

The Solution

To tackle this issue, owners can consider installing aftermarket heat shields or floorboard extensions. Additionally, regular checks and replacements of seals and gaskets can also help avoid oil leaks, another problem associated with the heat emission issue.

ABS System Issues

The Problem

The 2008 Electra Glide model introduced ABS as an upgrade. However, the ABS system in this model was plagued with issues, primarily due to faulty wiring connecting the wheel speed sensors to the ABS, leading to sudden system failures.

The Solution

Owners of this model should ensure a thorough check of their ABS wiring. Regular maintenance and inspections can help prevent sudden system failures and ensure a smooth ride.

Throttle Body Connectors and Valve Body Issues

The Problem

The throttle body connectors and valve bodies in Harley-Davidson Electra Glide can develop issues over time if not well-maintained or serviced regularly. These issues can lead to poor oil pressure and ineffective operation of the valves.

The Solution

Regular maintenance and timely replacements can help keep these components in good working condition. Consider getting your bike serviced by a professional if you’re unsure about any aspect of its maintenance.

Dive deeper: What Year Harleys to Avoid (A Comprehensive Guide)

Here's a blue and white Electra Glide with a Milwaukee Eight power plant.

Electra Glide Problems Broken Down by Model Year

Early 2000s Electra Glide Problems

Some of the early 2000s models of the Electra Glide, particularly around 2002-2003, were noted for issues with the cam chain tensioner in the Twin Cam engine. This part was prone to wear and could lead to significant engine damage if not addressed.

2007-2009 Electra Glide Problems

These years were part of the first wave of models with the new Twin Cam 96 engine and six-speed transmission. Some owners reported issues with the transmission, particularly in the 2007 model year, where shifting could be clunky or inconsistent.

2014-2016 Electra Glide Problems

These model years, particularly the 2014 model, saw issues related to the clutch system. There were recalls for clutch problems where the clutch could fail to disengage, posing a risk while riding.

2017-2018 Electra Glide Problems

There were reports of issues with the Milwaukee-Eight engine introduced in these years, including overheating and excessive vibration. However, it’s worth noting that these issues were not universally experienced and might have been addressed in subsequent models.


While the Harley-Davidson Electra Glide is a remarkable motorcycle, it is not immune to issues. However, with regular maintenance and awareness of common problems, these issues can be effectively managed or prevented. Every motorcycle, regardless of the brand or model, will have its unique set of challenges. As experienced riders and enthusiasts, it’s our responsibility to understand these challenges and find solutions that work for us, ensuring that we can continue to enjoy the ride.

Remember, knowledge is power. The more you know about your bike, the better equipped you’ll be to keep it running smoothly. So keep learning, keep riding, and most importantly, keep enjoying the open road on your Harley-Davidson Electra Glide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Harley Electra Glide model years are known to have the most issues?

The Harley Electra Glide models from the early 2000s, particularly around 2003 and 2004, as well as the 2014 model year, have been reported to have more issues compared to other years.

What are the common problems reported in the 2003, 2004, and 2014 Electra Glide models?

Common issues for these years include problems with the cam chain tensioner, clutch system complications, electrical issues, and braking system concerns. Riders have also reported excessive vibration and instability at high speeds for these specific model years.

Are newer Harley Electra Glide models more reliable than the 2003, 2004, and 2014 models?

Harley-Davidson continuously strives to improve their motorcycles, and newer models generally benefit from advancements in technology and quality control. However, conducting thorough research and reading customer reviews is still important before making a purchase.

Is it worth buying a used 2003, 2004, or 2014 Harley Electra Glide?

While these models have reported issues, a well-maintained motorcycle could still be a good purchase. It’s crucial to check the bike’s maintenance history, conduct a thorough inspection, and possibly consult a certified mechanic before finalizing the purchase.

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