Harley Davidson Motorcycles

Why Do Harleys Require a Lot of Maintenance?

Why Do Harleys Require a Lot of Maintenance?

Many riders claim that Harleys are unreliable and require more maintenance than other motorcycles. It is true to some extent that Harleys tend to suffer more breakdowns, but it is due to modifications, heavy riding, riding habits, and how well the motorcycle is treated.

This article will discuss why Harleys require more maintenance and their maintenance requirements and schedules.

1. Do Harley Motorcycles Require More Maintenance?

Harleys typically Require the same amount of maintenance as other motorcycles. However, the extent of a maintenance check may depend on how often the motorcycle is ridden and how aggressive a motorcyclist’s riding style is.

Another factor that you should consider when it comes to Harley maintenance is that some Harley bikes are better suited for open roads or city travel. But what is the best maintenance schedule? As a rule of thumb, bring your Harley in for a total of five maintenance checks over the course of traveling 20,000 miles.

2. Why Do Harleys Require More Maintenance?

Many people claim that Harleys spend more time in repair shops than on the roads. There are a few reasons why Harleys have more breakdowns.

2.1 Excessive Modifications

Most Harley motorcycles have over-the-top modifications due to chopping and modding being a major part of Harley motorcycle culture. It’s not uncommon to see people changing air intakes, exhausts, ECUs, and lights on a Harley. Modifying your motorcycle to enhance its look and performance is not bad but can be dangerous if done too much. These excessive modifications on Harleys result in more maintenance than with other motorcycles.

2.2 Heavy Riding

Most Harley owners often ride their motorcycles over 50,000 miles per year. Your motorbike may need more maintenance if you ride it excessively. You’ll have to take your bike for regular service or it will break down.

Many riders push the limits of their Harleys without providing the required maintenance yet still expect optimal performance. Any motorcycle not properly maintained will develop mechanical issues over time.

2.3 Lack of Quality Control

During the 1960s and 1970s, Harley Davidson's manufacturing suffered from a lack of quality which was reflected in the motorcycles manufactured at the time. These motorcycles suffered from many internal and external problems and required more maintenance.

2.4 Maintenance Hacks

Harley maintenance costs tend to be slightly more expensive than other motorcycles, especially if you take your ride to a dealership or repair shop. Some Harley owners get their motorcycles serviced by inexperienced mechanics who don't have enough knowledge, while others prefer conducting maintenance checks themselves. Poor maintenance will eventually lead to more breakdowns and cost you more to keep your Harley in good condition.

3. What Parts Usually Break More on a Harley?

The Harley motorcycle parts that are more prone to breaking include the following:

3.1 Gaskets

Gaskets often fail due to constant exposure to high internal pressure, which leads to cracks and holes forming on them. Moreover, gasket damage can also be due to improper warm-ups that prevent the gaskets from expanding properly, reduces their ability to endure high engine pressure, and causes them to become cracked and leaky.

3.2 Clutch

The motorcycle clutch helps you change gears and transfers power from the engine to the transmission to the wheels. Without a properly functioning clutch, it is impossible to change gears. Most Harley owners complain that their clutches wear out too quickly.

Faulty clutches on your Harley can cause the following problems:

  • Loss of power and poor acceleration
  • Gear slips or fail to engage on time
  • Difficulty switching gears

3.3 Electrical Components

Many Harley owners complain about the electrical components failing.

Most of these complaints revolve around faulty batteries suffering from drainage or not charging correctly even when connected to a power source.

Signs of Faulty Electrical Components:

  • The lights fail to turn on
  • The lights suddenly turn off while riding
  • The lights switch on and off erratically

4. Maintenance Requirements for Harleys

4.1 Clutch

Make sure you know how to properly adjust the clutch. The clutch is responsible for changing gears and connecting the engine to the transmission. The clutch cable can become loose and disconnect from the clutch lever over time.

For optimal performance, properly lubricate the clutch cables to ensure it can move freely. Consult an expert Harley mechanic to discuss the correct type of oil you should use for lubrication.

4.2 Battery

Motorcycle batteries usually last about two years, but they can last longer with proper maintenance. Get your battery checked at least once per year at a Harley service shop.

Keep the following battery maintenance tips in mind:

  • Check the battery for any leakage
  • Keep the battery fully charged when your Harley is not used often
  • Top off the battery’s electrolytic cells with distilled water

Winter is hard for motorcycle batteries and neglecting them during the colder months may cause them to prematurely die. However, overcharging the battery can also cause it to become damaged. Consult a Harley mechanic or read the service manual for tips on how to properly maintain the battery.

4.3 Filter

Making sure the fuel filter and the air filter are clean will help prevent the buildup of debris. Dirty and clogged filters can reduce your motorcycle’s fuel economy and performance.

How frequently you need to clean the filters will usually depend on the road conditions. If you often ride in dusty areas, you’ll need to clean the filter more often. On the other hand, you don’t need to clean the filters frequently while riding on paved roads. To learn how to replace the fuel and air filters, consult your Harley’s service manual.

4.4 Fluids

Always check the oil levels before riding your Harley. Refill the oil if it's lower than the minimum level specified by your service manual. Pay close attention to the condition of the oil as well. Dark or thick oil indicates that your lubricant is polluted or old, and must be replaced.

Check the service manual on how to change the engine oil. Experts advise changing the oil at least once per year. But if you ride your bike often, you will need to refill the oil more frequently.

4.5 Chains and Belts

The belts and chains deliver power from the engine to the wheels. Always make sure the belt and chains are in good shape.

Furthermore, it's important to make sure there is enough slack in the chains and belts. Inadequate tension or slack can cause uneven gear shifts, the gearbox becoming prematurely worn down, worn sprockets, and unreliable transmission performance.

Using a basic slack setter, measure the slack in the belt and chain and compare the results to the requirements stated in the service manual. Also visually inspect for signs of wear and tear in the chain and belt. To make sure the chain and belt meet manufacturer standards, use an instrument to measure the extent of the damage to the worn chain and belt.

Lubricating the chain and belt is also crucial since it is frequently exposed to corrosive substances like salt and grime. To prevent rusting and prolong the lifespan of the belt and chain, they must be properly maintained and lubricated.

4.6 Tires

The condition of your motorcycle's tires can impact its overall performance. Tire issues can affect riding quality and make for an unpleasant riding experience.

For instance, low tire pressure can impact your motorbike’s handles and brakes. For example, high tire pressure might reduce traction and increase the risk of crashing.

When checking tire pressure, make sure the tires are inflated to the proper level. Use a pressure gauge to check the tire pressure, especially if the temperature is cold.

It is also necessary to regularly check the depth of the tire treads. Even on dry roads, worn tires perform poorly and even worse on off-road terrain. Make sure to replace worn tires since they have less traction.

To check a worn tire, look for the wear indicator. The wear indicator is a little knob along the tire grooves. Get a new tire if the knob is at the same level as the rubber treads.

4.7 Engine

To keep a Harley V-twin engine in working condition, you must follow a strict maintenance schedule. Follow the Harley Davidson maintenance guidelines and consult a Harley-Davidson mechanic for any advice on engine maintenance.

4.8 Brakes

Most Harleys have hydraulic brakes that must be routinely checked since they become worn out quickly and prone to damage.

Below are the brake parts you must watch out for:

  • Brake Lines: Factory-made rubber brake lines often break and deteriorate over time. Look for the wear indicators along the brake lines. Worn-out brake lines can increase stopping distance and, in severe circumstances, cause brake failure.
    Rubber-free steel braided lines are often more durable and improve brake performance. Rubber lines may need less maintenance if you replace them with steel lines.
  • Brake Fluid: Low, old, or dirty brake fluid might reduce the effectiveness of the brakes. You can find information on how to change the brake fluid on your motorbike in the service manual. Use this information to change the brake fluid at the service manual-recommended intervals.
  • Brake Pad: Regularly inspect the thickness of the brake pads to ensure they are in good condition. To prevent severe rotor damage, it is best to change the brake pads before they are completely worn down.
    Also, make sure the brake pads are wearing down uniformly. Your Harley will need new brake pads if either one has become extremely or unevenly worn down. Harley Davidson advises checking the brake pads after traveling every 6,000 miles, but it is best to conduct maintenance checks more regularly.
  • Brake Rotors: It is important to raise your Harley on a stand while conducting maintenance so you can check the rotors and other brake parts. When performing maintenance on the rotors, examine for any signs of warping. Also, look for corrosion on the surface of the rotors. Use a brake cleaner solvent and Scotch-Brite pad to remove rust on the rotors.

5. Recommended Maintenance Schedule for Harleys

All Harley motorcycles require maintenance at intervals calculated in miles. The service schedule is the same for all Harley bikes but can differ slightly depending on how much distance you travel.

Below are the recommended maintenance schedules for Harleys based on distance:

5.1 1,000 Miles

After 1,000 miles, all Harley Davidson motorcycles are due for initial detailed service. It involves inspecting all of the fluids, filters, and tires for signs of wear and tear.

Here’s what to do for if your motorcycle has traveling at least 1,000 miles since the last maintenance check:

Brakes and Filters

  • Check the brake disc and pad
  • Examine the brake fluid
  • Examine the oil filter


  • Change the engine oil and transmission fluid based on recommendation
  • Re-lubricate the chain case
  • Lubricate the following parts: throttle cable controls, clutch hand lever, front brake lever, and jiffy stand


  • Check the thread pattern, refill the tires to the right pressure, and examine the condition of the wheel spokes


The cost of service for each Harley model varies, but you should expect the following budget for maintaining a motorcycle after 1,000 miles of travel:

  • Harley Sportster: $250-$310
  • Harley Dyna: $310-$350
  • Harley Softail: $310-$400
  • Harley Touring: $310-$400

5.2 5,000 Miles

Similar to conducting maintenance every 1,000 miles, you only have to conduct a few additional steps if maintaining your ride every 5,000 miles. You also will need to change the filters and oil, add lubricants, and check the fluid levels, brakes, and tires. However, you will also need to check the vacuum hose, ignition timing, and timing belt.


The cost of a maintenance check every 5,000 miles should cost between $310-$400.

5.3 7,500 Miles

If you wish to make a precautionary maintenance check at 7,500 miles, you will need to do the following:

  • Check the tire treads and pressure
  • Check to see if the transmission is lubricated
  • Check the timing of all electrical components
  • Check the air filtration system
  • Check the brake fluid lines
  • Check to see if the engine is lubricated
  • Check the functionality of the throttle
  • Examine the fuel lines and valves
  • Examine the brake disc and pad


For a maintenance check every 7,500 miles, expect to pay between $150-$280.

5.4 10,000 Miles

When providing a maintenance check after every 10,000 miles of travel, make sure to check for worn pivot points, loose parts, and other damage. You must also complete the following tasks:

  • Adjust and change the belts
  • Apply lubricant to the transmission
  • Change spark plugs
  • Adjust and lubricate steering head bearings
  • Inspect engine mounts and stabilizer links
  • Adjust and check the controls


The cost of a maintenance check after every 10,000 miles will stay almost the same for this maintenance, you just have to pay a bit extra as you are going to add new spark plugs. The total amount will be between $300-$400.

5.5 20,000 Miles

When inspecting a motorcycle every 20,000 miles, you will need to complete the tasks from the previous checklists. You will also need to replace the front fork oil to ensure a smooth ride.


The cost of a maintenance check every 20,000 miles will likely be up to $500.

6. Last Words

Harley motorcycles are famous for their performance and power, but at the same time, some critics call them unreliable. Reasons why Harleys are considered unreliable are issues with maintenance, lack of quantity control, over-modification, and heavy riding. By following the maintenance schedules provided in this article based on mileage, you can prevent breakdowns and extra maintenance costs for your Harley. Viking Bags has several high-quality parts, including crash bars, sissy bars, and fairings that can improve motorcycle look and protect your motorcycle from getting damaged in a motorcycle accident. Other aftermarket parts include handlebars, comfortable seats, and backrests to ensure a better riding experience. There are also different luggage options, including sissy bar bags, saddlebags, and handlebar bags to ensure a better touring experience.

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