What Are the Common Issues with Used Harley Motorcycles?

Buying used Harley motorcycles can be an exciting and cost-effective way to own a piece of iconic American engineering. However, as with any used vehicle, there are potential issues that buyers should be aware of. Understanding these common problems and knowing how to address them can help you make a wise purchase and enjoy a reliable ride. Here’s a guide to some common issues with used Harley motorcycles and their solutions.

Common Issues with Used Harley Motorcycles

1. Engine Oil Leaks

One of the most reported issues with used Harley motorcycles is engine oil leaks. Over time, gaskets and seals can wear out, leading to leaks that can cause engine damage if not addressed promptly.


  • Oil spots under the motorcycle
  • Visible oil on the engine or frame
  • Low oil levels


  • Inspection: Regularly inspect the motorcycle for any signs of oil leaks.
  • Gasket Replacement: Replace worn gaskets and seals. This can be a DIY job for those with mechanical skills, but it’s often best handled by a professional mechanic.
  • Regular Maintenance: Perform regular oil changes and maintenance to keep gaskets and seals in good condition.

2. Electrical Issues

Electrical problems are another common issue with used Harley motorcycles. These can range from dead batteries to faulty wiring and failing electrical components.


  • Difficulty starting the motorcycle
  • Flickering or dim lights
  • Non-functional gauges or indicators


  • Battery Check: Ensure the battery is in good condition and replace it if necessary. Regularly check and clean battery terminals.
  • Wiring Inspection: Inspect the wiring for any signs of wear, corrosion, or damage. Replace or repair damaged wiring.
  • Component Testing: Test electrical components such as the stator, regulator/rectifier, and fuses. Replace faulty components as needed.

3. Transmission Problems

Transmission issues, such as difficulty shifting gears or a slipping clutch, can also be common in used Harley motorcycles. These problems can affect the bike’s performance and overall riding experience.


  • Difficulty shifting gears
  • Grinding noises when shifting
  • Slipping clutch


  • Clutch Adjustment: Ensure the clutch is properly adjusted according to the manufacturer’s specifications.
  • Fluid Check: Regularly check and replace the transmission fluid to ensure smooth operation.
  • Professional Inspection: If problems persist, have a professional mechanic inspect the transmission and make any necessary repairs.

4. Brake Wear and Tear

Brakes are a critical safety component, and wear and tear on brake pads, discs, and lines are common issues in used Harley motorcycles.


  • Reduced braking power
  • Squeaking or grinding noises
  • Spongy brake lever or pedal


  • Brake Pad Replacement: Regularly check and replace brake pads when worn down.
  • Disc Inspection: Inspect brake discs for signs of wear or warping and replace them if necessary.
  • Brake Fluid Maintenance: Regularly check and replace brake fluid. Bleed the brakes to remove any air from the lines.

5. Suspension Issues

Worn or damaged suspension components can affect the ride quality and handling of used Harley motorcycles. Common suspension issues include leaking forks and worn shock absorbers.


  • Excessive bouncing or bottoming out
  • Leaking fork oil
  • Poor handling or stability


  • Fork Seal Replacement: Replace leaking fork seals and ensure the forks are properly filled with oil.
  • Shock Absorber Check: Inspect and replace worn or damaged shock absorbers.
  • Regular Maintenance: Perform regular suspension maintenance and adjustments to keep the system in good working order.

6. Exhaust System Problems

Exhaust system problems, such as rust, cracks, or loose fittings, are common in used Harley motorcycles, especially those exposed to harsh weather conditions.


  • Loud or unusual exhaust noise
  • Visible rust or cracks on the exhaust pipes
  • Exhaust leaks


  • Regular Inspection: Regularly inspect the exhaust system for signs of rust, cracks, or damage.
  • Tighten Fittings: Ensure all fittings and clamps are tight and secure.
  • Replacement: Replace rusted or damaged exhaust components to prevent leaks and ensure proper performance.


While used Harley motorcycles can present certain issues, many of these problems are manageable with proper maintenance and timely repairs. By being aware of common issues such as oil leaks, electrical problems, transmission troubles, brake wear, suspension issues, and exhaust system problems, you can take proactive steps to address them. Regular inspections, timely replacements, and professional servicing can help keep your used Harley in top condition, ensuring a reliable and enjoyable riding experience. By understanding and addressing these common issues, you can make a smart investment and enjoy the unique thrill of riding a Harley-Davidson.

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