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Cam chain tensioners on twincam...

5687 Views 22 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  wrenchbender54
This motor is a 2000 twin cam with 34000 miles. My daily rider! I have had a couple people tell me I should change these or upgrade before it is too late.
This is the most this bike has ever been apart!
Is it worth removing the pushrods and cams to look closer at the other one on the other side?
They look OK to me, should I just put the cam cover back on and ride it another 10 or 20 K and save the cash to complete the shovel build?

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Can't beleve you made it this long! Mine went at 15000 along with the cam bearings. Have you ever changed either? HD would have changed them out under a warranty but that is gone now. It's up to you but if they fail it could be bad.
Do the upgrade now.

I did mine at 32000. Mine were not worn, but I upgraded to Andrews cams and later style hydraulic tensioners.

Failure rates on 07 and up just dont happen since the factory made that switch.

The spring on the stock put way too much pressure on those pads and make em wear real fast.

lot of folks go with gears, but with the way the cranks are designed now, would not recommend it. I researched gears because it really was the way I wanted to go. Just that the factory really cheaped out on the cranks in the way they are now made and there is too much runout.
The rear one is usually the one that fails first. if you get a small enough mirror or better yet a borescope, you can check that rear tensioner without any taking anything apart.
Do it now as stated above. Your crank is old enough and you still have a timken bearing case that I would feel comfortable going with gears. Check the pinion runout. You're going to want less than .003" for a gear drive. If you choose to stick with chains be sure to go to the cam plate/oil pump upgrade with the hydraulic tensioners.
Less stuff to blow up.
Gear drive requires very little runout on the crank..

If your crank has more then .003 runout...Better stick with the chain.

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Lets see!!! Pushrods, Cams, Bearings, Oil pump, hydraulic tensioners or gear drive.
This is sounding more and more pricey.
I am gonna put it back together and save a few more bucks and hope I can at least get thru Gypsy Run with it.
Am I going to need a bunch of special tools for this project or can I get by with with your average toolbox?

From what I've seen that looks like pretty normal cam shoe wear for a early Twin Cam with your kind of miles on it. I don't do much work on them now, not nearly as much as I did from '99 to '04 when the "horror stories" concerning cam shoe failure were much in vogue. Most of those motors got the gear drive $upgrade$ along with S&S or Andrews cams. The exceptions were the 3 motors that got Andrews TW 50 cams and the Squealin Eagle high compression pistons and retained the stock tensioners and shoes. I'm not takling about a large number of twin cam motors that I worked on, maybe a dozen, but I never did see one that had what I would consider a real problem with the shoes or tensioners. I've lost track of all the motors from that time with the exception of two, and one of them, a 2000 SuperGlide, had 60 some thousand miles on it and the stock tensioners and shoes on it the last time I saw it, no problems. What I will say, if you're still concerned about the shoes, pick up some replacements and a set of quick-install pushrods and swap em out, then you can get back to work on the shovel!!! No doubt, there will be someone with more knowledge and up to date information who can add to this.

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Thanks Geo,
That sounds like a practical way to approach it and I guess personnel experience is what I hoped to get from the board rather than (I heard this or that could happen) . The parts do not look bad to me, and stockers (for me) have always been dependable daily transportation)and I understand that a repair shop if asked will usually always weigh to the side of fix it now before something happens and I do understand that.
Gave you my personal experience, and thought process.

Part of it for me was I wanted to swap cams anyway, forcing me to do my research and make my decision 1 time, before just switching cams and having to rip it open again later to do some type of upgrade.
Its not just the chain tensioners that is the problem with the twin cam motor. The cheap INA brand inboard cam bearings fail prematurely. The needles fall out and get into your oil pump. The bearing bore gets ruined as the cam bangs around in the empty bearing shell. Just had bearing failure on 03 ultra with 40K miles. Local Dealer tells customer "sorry, its a goner, we cant fix it". I'm not sure when HD stopped using these inferior bearings, but they were used in the shovel years, the Evo years, and the twin cam years. Maybe they still use them. Everyone who does this work upgrades to the Torrington brand bearings.
The cheap INA brand inboard cam bearings fail prematurely
The bearing bore gets ruined as the cam bangs around in the empty bearing shell.

Everyone who does this work upgrades to the Torrington brand bearings.
Not an easy fix when this occurs .....

A sleeve would need to be made to press into the case after it has been bored out...

A bit of work to do ....But is less then buying up a new case.

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With those kind of miles, I would put in a set of S. E. 203 cams and replace the shoes, new lifters too. Get some adjustable pushrods and cut the stockers out so you dont have to break into the rockerbox's.
You already have a lot of good information here. We do a bunch of TC at our shop still. My concern once the tensioner pads wear at all, is finding the chunks in the oil pump bore. It is super easy to fix when the plate is off. There is plenty of information about this online.
I just did cams in my personal bike, pads looked fair...but there were two wee pad chunks behind the ball bearing in the oil pump bore, and that about chilled my blood. I felt it was worth it for that alone once I had it apart.
Thanks, lots of good stuff here to think about. Should have done more homework before i bought v-twin replacement tensioners. They will likely be in the swap meet section soon
I see more outer front bearing failures then I see tensioners failing. peace
You can also cut the pushrods out (with a bolt cutter- NO saw of any kind) and go back with adjustables to save a lot of work, both now and the next time you go in there.

My '99 has 137,000 miles on it. I went to Bob Wood's gear drive cams and Torrington bearings at 37,000. I'd ride it cross country tomorrow and not blink an eye.

Other than those 2 issues, you have THE most bullet-proof big-twin bottom end the MoCo has ever managed to build. Perfect candidate for gear drives if the runout is acceptable, and I would almost bet that it would be.

If the runout is too far out I'd go with the upgrade hydraulic tensioners/oil pump deal. Ya just can't trust what's in there. I've seen 'em good at 40,000 miles and I've seen 'em explode at 10,000 miles. There's no way of knowing other than visual inspection and that can't even be trusted all the time. I had a guy that checked 'em out at 25,000 and they "looked fine" according to him. 8,000 miles later, they were done dancin'.
I used to have some really good spies high up in the MoCo as well as in production, both there and at Buell. Here's the problem with the early tensioners, as told to me by one of the guys that did a lot of prototype testing on 'em:

The engineers figured that X amount of spring pressure was ideal on those tensioners and they set them up so that X was achieved at half of the acceptable wear on the tensioner pads. So for the first half of their 'life" they're under far greater than ideal spring tension.

They figured they'd wear a little fast for the first half of their life, run ideal for a good long time, and then wear more slowly as the spring tension decreased. What they didn't count on was the way these things come apart in chunks. They thought they would wear smoothly, like a primary chain tensioner shoe.

If you look at the pics above, it's easy to see that there's no rhyme or reason to the chunks that come out of these things. They're sporadic as all hell, both in placement and in size. All it takes is for one of those chunks to pull out deeply enough, and it's all over, and there's no way humanly possible to know when that will happen. Some last, some don't.

Anyways... that's how it was told to me, and it makes perfect sense to me. Your opinions may vary.
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