Harley Davidson Twin Cam 103 Ticking Sound

Question 2012 FLTRU Harley Davidson Twin Cam 103 ticking sound starts on cold start up (21,000 miles). It seems to go away after engine is warm. Bike still under warranty and dealer is suggesting carbon build up in head, wants to tear down engine. Not comfortable with that procedure. Bike runs great. Anything else that can be done, such as RingFree or Sea Foam? Have you heard of this problem, with the 103 engines? Thank You, G

Answer G, the ticking you hear @ cold start is more likely being caused by a weak hydraulic lifter. A lifter may be bleeding down when the m/c is not running. The sound goes away when the motor rebuilds oil pressure in the lifter. If there was carbon build up on your valves, the ticking usually lingers even after the m/c is @ running temp.

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52 Responses to “Harley Davidson Twin Cam 103 Ticking Sound”
  1. Dave D
    Dave D

    I’ve got the same bike and the same problem. Is a weak lifter something that can harm the motor? Should it be replaced ? Multiple dealers have told me nothing about lifters they just say it’s the “nature of the beast”. They also suggest I go back to conventional oil. Right now I use Amsoil

    • Customer Service Techs
      Customer Service Techs

      Hi, Dave. What have you done to determine that you have a weak lifter? Without more info we cannot really speculate. Does your bike need a tuner?
      Was this noise always there, or did it just come about? Are you running 93 octane? Does the sound go away as you raise the rpms? Or Get louder?
      Some Harleys do have more valve noise than others.

      • jbrodsky

        I always use 93, however sometimes I have to add octane boost; however the tick goes away at regular riding RPMS at idle it may or may not return.

      • Rick kellner
        Rick kellner

        Bike had 900 miles it always had a loud noise ticking drives me nuts. Dealer said cant fix it charge you 100 buck pluse your warranty not right. Go buy something that cost you 20 grand I feel they should had taken care of this problem. Been pissed not going to buy loud pips to cover up this noise. Not happy about this.

  2. Tony

    hi just to let you known i have 2013 fltru and that ticking sound you hear i always had it. bought the bike brand new!!!

    • HARRY

      I have a 2015 Road glide with the “103” and I began noticing an occasional ticking, but got really bad after an “1000 mi” scheduled service. The “loud” ticking got really bad a loud at speed, even at idle. I even noticed a reduction of power after the service. I took the bike in and they found that the engine lost some compression in one of the cylinders, was burning a bit of oil, which also found oil accumulation in the the throttle body, oil seems to being bypassing seals… but I am assured the service dept will fix the problem..

  3. David

    I have a 2012 FLD switchback 103, 5,000 miles, When I bought it used, the owner said it had 255 cams installed at the dealer, it had a mild ticking noise @ 2100-2300 RPM, “which I knew the 103’s have lifter noise” now it has 6,800 miles and I just noticed the lifters are now making a noise at 3800-4100 RPM.
    The guy riding behind me said it smells like its burning rich, “kinda burned his eyes”
    It has a SE tuner , should I just take it back to the dealer and see if the tuning needs tweaking ?
    I really hope its not a faulty lifter.. I dont drive it to easy either, how can you have a 103 with cams and drive it gentle.

  4. Rich V
    Rich V

    2002 twin cam 88ci . 30.000 miles ticking cam bearings done with s/s kit along with s/s adj. push rods tick still there intermitinly @ 25-3000 rpm . any thoughts would help THANKS BIG RICH …

  5. Albert

    could you tell me the difference between my 2013 FLHRC 103 engine and the 103 nigh output engine thankyou

    • Dennis Rogers
      Dennis Rogers

      The high output 103 t.c. has the 255 cams, I believe that’s the only difference in the engines. My ’14 Road King has a stage one with S.E. race tuner. It now has 47k on it’s odometer, averages about 42mpg.,runs very strong(slightly faster than a stock M8).I run Redline synthetic & have had no issues or odd noises whatsoever. I love this bike.

  6. Joel

    I ve got a 2016 Dyna Switchback and at 1900 – 2200 rpms sounds as if i got a piston slap and a lowerend hammering noise bought it new and its been there ever since ive owned it is this normal for the 103s ive got 3500 on it it seems to go away at about 2400 just want to make sure i dont damage it and have a issue on the road

  7. tom dixon
    tom dixon

    i have a 2011 CVO road glide 110. I purchased the bike a few months ago with4,400 miles the ticking noise at the top of the engine is so annoying. I was told I had to install rocker lockers? is there something better I can use for stop this noise?

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi Tom. Some Harley’s make more valve noise than others. Some breath heavier. Some vibrate more. Even when they are the same year and model, there will often be variances.
      It can become expensive to pursue the issue you describe.
      You can try replacing the lifters but you may simply be hearing a valve(s) slamming shut.

  8. Randy

    Replaced the lifters which one was bad, with new S&S lifters. No more knocking on start up but still a loud ticking for 30-60 seconds. Starting to sound like the compensator plates making the noise until they get oiled up. ?

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hi, Randy. We would be happy to assist you; we just need some more information. What is the make/model/year of your motorcycle?

  9. Bobby Simmonds load
    Bobby Simmonds load

    Got a load whirling sound front of engine at 2500 rpms and higher help 103 2012 blackline

  10. John

    2014 flhx stage4se kit 585 cams roller rockers. Loud tick from 2200-3500rpm even tried changing heads still same noise went back to stage 4 heads still same have changed lifters as well still same ! Wtf

  11. Brian

    I have a 2016 ultra limited 103. i bought it brand new .it had noisy lifters from the beginning, thought maybe it would come out of it on break in 1,000 mile service dealer said nothing was wrong 3,500 miles addressed my concerns again at 2 dealers same response .At 5,
    000 miles I took it to dealers for a recall .Noise getting worse and doesn’t go away same as before now i have ,8000 mies on it almost has like a deep knock sound when u kill the motor. warranty is about over ,what damage could have accured from this?any Ideas ?

  12. Rich

    Hi 2015 Road King 103 6000 miles New to me I hear the valve ticking But not when cold
    I am in southern Nevada the noise starts when it is hot and the bike is hot Noise varies with throttle
    dealer shop tells me that it is the nature of the machine Should I be worried? Should I insist on them checking something? Is there something I can do myself?

  13. bob

    have a 2013 flhtk stock motor under start up has a tick after 5 seconds it goes away. the tick comes back at 1950-2050 rpm and is more of a rattle, but then goes away when not in that rpm range. replaced lifters and the problem still persists. It seems to be rear cylinder, the bike has 18,000 miles.

  14. Ernest Flatt
    Ernest Flatt

    My son just bought a 2013 Soft Tail Slim. Noticed that the valves click. Seems to do it a little more after engine is warm. Runs Good. Oil full. Got about 10,000 mile on motorcycle.Does the valves need adjusting maybe?

      • Ernest Flatt
        Ernest Flatt

        My son’s 2013 Soft Tail Slim 103 got very much louder with the valve noise. My buddies and I pulled the rocker box covers and could not find anything wrong. We also pulled the push rods and they looked OK. and it didn’t fix. Now we ate replacing the hydraulic lifters with new one’s and using adjustable S & S push rods. My question is, do you have to pump up the lifters with an oil can before installation? If so need to buy an oil can.

        • Customer Service
          Customer Service

          Dear Ernest,

          Thank you for your patience. In response to your question-

          It depends on what lifters or whose lifters you purchase. Some instructions specify priming lifters prior to installation.
          Some lifter instructions actually specify not priming the lifters before installation.
          We suggest S&S, Jims, or Harley Davidson lifters with S&S Quickie adjustable pushrods and pushrod covers.

          We’d love to have you be a part of our community. We are convinced you will enjoy the benefits of becoming a member and having access to the best instructional how to videos and professional tips. We would like to offer you a special promotion for your first-year membership.


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  15. Joao Fernando Campos Pinheiro
    Joao Fernando Campos Pinheiro

    Good afternoon. I leave in brazil and I have a 2011 Road King 103. The noise at the valve seems to be at top of cylinder, it is really bad. I do not know if it is because of acohol content at our gasoline, or something else. I am really concern about it. Should I have to change the lfters? Is this noise normal? I really do not know waht to do here. Thanks

  16. todd

    Have a 2011 Road Glide 103
    absolutely drives me crazy
    The ticking noise is at full affect from 2k rpm to 2900 rpm
    installed those inserts for the top end rockers
    did absolutely next to nothing. Is there a certain oil to use that might calm it down ?

  17. Christopher Yaworski
    Christopher Yaworski

    i have a 2011 road glide. when letting off the throttle, i hear a tapping noise on the left side of the engine.while on the the throttle i dont hear it. any idea ?
    while on the throttle, i dont hear it.

  18. jbrodsky

    I have the same issue with my 2010 103. It was very noticeable tick during a recent trip. I thought maybe I picked up some bad gas, and even changed the spark plugs, but the tick remained. Back to his question.. can you run maybe a cap full of seafoam without hurting the motor? If it is just carbon build up, is there a better way then tearing the motor down?

  19. cory

    I just bought a 2012 street glide with 25k miles The first 15 miles she ran quite. It then developed a ticking noise that’s gotten louder. It starts after about 7 miles down the road. I can shut it off for 15 min. Start it back up, no noise 2 miles down the road its back. Its louder than the ” Harley tick “. Thoughts ?

  20. David Bearden
    David Bearden

    2014 triglide 103 h.o. engine has developed a clatter, do not notice when idle, but when throttle up thru the gears and when I throttle up during regular riding. Has just started within the last month, bike has 21k miles and just a 3 hole fluid change still doing it. Dealership says it might be the flapper valve in intake?? But they said does not seem like it is internal. Sounds like valve clatter or an exhaust leak, but everything is tight.

  21. John

    Ticket 18340 I had a HD SE 110 Kit installed n my 2013 Super Glide Custom at 11k miles. At my recent 50k service, the dreaded metal particles were on the drain plug. Changed oil after1 & 2k and more metal shavings. Dealer is hearing a noise coming from the motor. Dealer made a comment ‘that getting 40k was good’.. Any feed back on the S E 110 kits? Is the lifespan of a kit really about 40k?

  22. tim

    I would not worry about the ticking once I relaxed and realized it was part of the design I have enjoyed the bike immensely

  23. J. D.
    J. D.

    I bought a new 2012 Ultra Classic with the 103 motor and it ticked loud on cold start-up when temp. outside was at 60 degrees or colder. It only ticked for a couple seconds and stopped. When temp. was warmer it didn’t make any loud ticking noise on start-up. Dealer couldn’t find any problem with motor. I ran 93 octane gas and used H-D synthetic oil. I believe it could have been a weak lifter but why it only did this when temp. was cooler, I couldn’t figure out. Strange. I traded the 2012 in with 17000 miles on it for a new 2014 Ultra Limited with a 103 twin cooled motor and this bike has never made any loud ticking on cold mornings. Good to know I am not the only one who heard this noise with the 2012 and the 103 motor.

  24. don sheckler
    don sheckler

    My 1st time buying a twin cam engine. I’ve had evo’s for over 300,000 miles and shovels before that i’m looking at a 2011 103″ road king classic with 32000 miles. Any concerns or suggestions would be appreciated. I’ve heard all the stories about cam chain tensioners and have held off for quite a while but need to step up thx

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service


      You do not need to worry about cam chain tensioners for 2007 & newer touring models. The tensioners are hydraulic.
      Tires are expensive. This m/c should have it’s 3rd set of tires at this point. Also inspect rotors & pads & all electrical functions.
      If the bike has a performance exhaust and air cleaner, make sure that it also comes with an appropriate tuner.


  25. Rod George
    Rod George

    Sounds like a hight pitch fan winding down when I let off the throttle at different speeds. It’s a 2010 FLHTK with over 103 thousand miles, any advice what it might be?

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Rod,

      Thank you for contacting us. Great question! The ‘Ask an Expert’ section is currently for members of our online community. By becoming a member, you will have access to our expert’s knowledge. With your membership you will also receive discounts on products and hours of Premium video content.
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  26. Michael ponder
    Michael ponder

    I have a motor ticking in my 103 Harley motor even after it’s warmed up. Any suggestions. Sounds like it might be carbon buildup.

    • Customer Service
      Customer Service

      Hello Michael,

      Great question! The ‘Ask an Expert’ section is currently for members of our online community. By becoming a member, you will have access to our expert’s knowledge in Harley repair. With your membership you will also receive discounts on products and hours of Premium video content.

      If you are interested in becoming a member to Fix My Hog, please click on the special offer below:


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