Road King Years to Avoid (A Comprehensive Overview)

Last Updated on January 12, 2024 by Pittalks

Harley-Davidson, a brand synonymous with adventure and craftsmanship, has been creating motorcycles that are more than just vehicles; they are pieces of American heritage. Among their lineup, the Road King stands out, perfectly blending vintage aesthetics with modern touring capabilities. However, it’s crucial to note that not all Road King models are created equal. This guide is designed to help you navigate through the nuances of selecting the best Road King models, ensuring a sublime riding experience filled with freedom and power.

Why There Are Certainly Some Road King Years To Avoid

Here's a black Road King from Harley Davidson. It has hard sidecases and a Milwaukee Eight engine.

The Road King series, while prestigious and highly sought after, has certain models that are known to have issues. Being aware of these potential pitfalls is crucial for any prospective buyer. Before we dive deeper, here’s a list of the most problematic Road King years:

  1. 2000 Harley Road King
  2. 2003 Harley Road King
  3. 2004 Harley Road King
  4. 2006 Harley Road King
  5. 2014 Harley Road King

Each of the troubled Road King models has its unique set of issues. Here’s a rundown of the main problems associated with each model year:

2000 Harley Road King

The 2000 Road King model is primarily known for its unsettling engine noise. Riders have reported hearing a recurring ticking or rattling sound from the engine, particularly within specific RPM ranges. Additionally, several owners have encountered issues with the throttle position sensor.

  • Engine Noise: Riders have reported an unsettling ticking or rattling sound emanating from the engine, particularly noticeable between 1500 and 2000 RPM. This noise can be both annoying and a potential indicator of engine issues.
  • Throttle Position Sensor Issues: Problems with the throttle position sensor have been noted, which can lead to irregularities in acceleration and overall performance.

2003 Harley Road King

The 2003 Road King model has faced considerable criticism for its faulty fuel system. Many riders reported unexpected shutdowns of their motorcycles and leaks in the fuel system. Moreover, oil leaks were a significant concern, particularly when the oil pan was resting on the jiffy stand.

  • Faulty Fuel System: There have been reports of unexpected shutdowns of the motorcycle, often linked to issues in the fuel system. Additionally, some riders have experienced leaks in the fuel system.
  • Oil Leaks: Particularly when the motorcycle is resting on the jiffy stand, oil leaks have been a significant concern.

2004 Harley Road King (Dyna Superglide)

Also known as the “Dyna Superglide”, the 2004 Road King model is infamous for its faulty transmission system and incompatible engine. There were also instances of plastic parts found in the motorcycle’s main structure, which could easily break away and pose dangers to riders.

  • Faulty Transmission System: The transmission system in this model has been known to be problematic, affecting the motorcycle’s overall performance.
  • Incompatible Engine: There have been issues reported with the engine, leading to a less than optimal riding experience.
  • Fragile Plastic Parts: Some parts of the motorcycle’s main structure are made of plastic, which can easily break and pose a danger to the rider.
Here's an example of the twin cam engine's premature cam chain tensioner failure.
One of these plastic parts, the cam chain tensioner, can be seen in the lower left hand corner (yellow).

2006 Harley Road King (Harley Electra Glide)

The 2006 Road King model, also known as the Harley Electra Glide, faced significant issues that led to numerous rider complaints. The model had problems with multiple parts that were incredibly challenging to separate for proper maintenance and repairs.

  • Maintenance Challenges: This model is known for its complexity, making it particularly challenging to separate parts for maintenance and repairs.
  • Multiple Part Issues: There have been numerous complaints filed against this model, highlighting issues with various parts of the motorcycle.

2014 Harley Road King

The 2014 Road King model struggled with defective engine parts, leading to several reported cases of accidents. It also had problems with its hydraulic system, which did not perform as expected, leading to potential bike breakdowns without warning.

  • Defective Engine Parts: There have been at least 19 reported cases of accidents linked to defective engine parts in this model.
  • Faulty Hydraulic System: The hydraulic system in this model has been known to malfunction, potentially leading to breakdowns without any prior warning.

Dive deeper: Harley Davidson Road King Problems: A Comprehensive Guide

Which Problems Are Most Common?

Among these models, the most frequently reported problems are related to the transmission, engine, and fuel system. These key components play a significant role in a motorcycle’s performance and reliability, so any issues with them can seriously affect the riding experience.

Can You Fix These Issues Yourself?

While some minor issues might be manageable at home, most of the problems associated with these models require professional attention.

  • Minor Issues: Basic maintenance and addressing minor oil leaks might be within the capabilities of a home mechanic.
  • Major Issues: Complex problems related to the engine, transmission, or hydraulic system should be handled by a skilled professional to ensure the longevity and safety of the motorcycle.

Another issue to be aware of: Harley Oil Pressure Problems? Read This! (Help Is Here)

Were There Any Decent Road King Years?

Despite the Road King years to avoid, there are still plenty of Road King models that have proven to be reliable and satisfying to ride. The 1999, 2005, and 2016 models, in particular, have received positive feedback for their performance, design, and overall quality.

Highlighting the Best Road King Years

Not all Road King models have issues. In fact, some are celebrated for their excellence and reliability.

1999 Harley Road King

  • Robust Performance: The Twin Cam 88 engine provides ample power, ensuring a smooth and enjoyable ride.
  • Classic Design: The motorcycle’s design is a nod to the classic Harley-Davidson aesthetic, making it a hit among enthusiasts.

2005 Harley Road King

  • Reliable Engine: The continuation of the Twin Cam 88 engine ensures a reliable performance.
  • Aesthetic Appeal: The model features chrome detailing and a two-tone paint option, enhancing its visual appeal.

2016 Harley Road King

  • Increased Power: The introduction of the High Output Twin Cam 103 engine provides increased power and low-end torque, enhancing the riding experience.
  • Safety Features: Features such as a dual halogen headlamp and a retractable windshield contribute to the motorcycle’s safety.

Why Were These So Much Better?

These Road Kings stood out because of their improved engines, design upgrades, and attention to rider comfort. They underwent significant improvements from previous models and didn’t exhibit the same issues that plagued the problematic years.

Did These Model Years Still Have Problems?

Despite being better models, they aren’t without their own issues. For instance, some owners of the 1999 Road King have reported minor oil leaks. The 2005 model, while generally reliable, may require regular maintenance to prevent potential issues. As for the 2016 model, some owners have noted that it runs hot, which could lead to discomfort on long rides.

Addressing Minor Issues in Good Models

Even the best models have their quirks. Being aware of these and maintaining the motorcycle properly can ensure a smooth riding experience.

  • 1999 Model: Some owners have reported minor oil leaks, which can be addressed with regular maintenance.
  • 2005 Model: While generally reliable, this model may require regular maintenance to prevent potential issues.
  • 2016 Model: Some riders have noted that this model can run hot, which could lead to discomfort on long rides. Ensuring proper cooling and regular check-ups can mitigate this issue.

Would I Recommend Buying One Of These Road Kings?

As a mechanic, I can appreciate the quality and performance that Harley-Davidson typically delivers with their Road King models. The best years of the Road King certainly lived up to Harley’s reputation for producing reliable, powerful, and stylish motorcycles.

However, the problematic models highlight that even renowned manufacturers like Harley-Davidson can have off years. If you’re considering buying a used Road King, I would advise against choosing models from the years 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2014. Instead, consider models from 1999, 2005, or 2016.

Personal Buying Advice

My advice is to thoroughly research and meticulously inspect any used motorcycle before purchase. The allure of a Harley-Davidson is undeniable, but choosing the right model year is paramount. Avoid the problematic years and focus on models that have stood the test of time. Remember, a well-maintained motorcycle, regardless of its year, is a treasure worth pursuing.

Related: What Year Harleys to Avoid (A Comprehensive Guide)


The Harley-Davidson Road King is a motorcycle that captures the essence of the open road and the spirit of adventure. By being mindful of the models to avoid and focusing on the years that offer reliability and performance, you can ensure your journey is filled with nothing but the roar of the engine and the freedom of the ride. Ride safe, ride smart, and let the Road King be your companion on the journey of a lifetime.

Frequently Asked Questions

Which Harley-Davidson Road King years should I avoid?

It is advisable to avoid Road King models from the years 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006, and 2014. These models have been reported to have various issues ranging from engine noise and faulty fuel systems to defective engine parts and problematic transmission systems. Being aware of these potential issues can help you make a more informed decision when considering a used Road King.

What are the primary issues associated with the 2004 and 2006 Road King models?

The 2004 Road King, also known as Dyna Superglide, is notorious for its faulty transmission system, incompatible engine, and the presence of fragile plastic parts in its main structure, which could pose safety risks. The 2006 Road King, known as Harley Electra Glide, presented challenges in maintenance due to its complex part assembly and had numerous complaints filed against it for various part issues. These models are best avoided to ensure a reliable and safe riding experience.

Are there any Road King models that have been positively received by riders?

Yes, the Road King models from the years 1999, 2005, and 2016 have received positive feedback for their performance, design, and overall quality. These models have stood out for their robust engines, aesthetic appeal, and attention to rider comfort. While they are not without their minor issues, such as potential oil leaks in the 1999 model and the 2016 model running hot on long rides, these issues are generally manageable with regular maintenance and do not significantly detract from the overall positive riding experience.

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