Cam Chain Tensioner Shoes Built to Last?

Question I’m a new subscriber and want your opinion on the hydraulic cam chain tension system. Generally how long can you expect the chain tensioner shoes to last? I’ve got 36,000 miles on my 2008 Electra Glide and I don’t have a good place to set up the bike to check the shoes as you describe in your video. Do you consider 36,000 miles a lot for this chain tensioner system?

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Answer 36,000 is not a lot of miles for hydraulic cam chain tensioners. You should not be concerned about inspecting them until somewhere between 80 and 100k. If you ever have your exhaust off before then, pull your cam cover and get a look at them. Just for piece of mind.

Related Videos:
Cam Chain Tensioner Shoe

Email from Hogger Bob C:

Regarding today’s newsletter Q&A, I pulled the cover on our ’06 FLHX Street Glide, with @ 36,000 miles, and found the shoes worn only about 1/16″, or maybe about .0020″. Not bad.

But, now that I’ve got it open, I’m going to put in the Screaming Eagle cam plate kit with the new style tensioners and oil pump. I have all the tools for the job. My question is what is the consensus, there, regarding pulling the rods from the top, or just cutting them & installing adjustable rods, to save opening the rocker box covers? If the latter, what is the proper adjustment for the rods?

We have 5 Harley’s in the family, and I do all the maintenance and repairs on them, thanks to the added confidence I get from my Fix My Hog DVD collection, your videos and my factory service manuals.

Keep up the great work.

Bob C

Feedback from the guys:

Bob, cutting your stock push rods is simply a time (labor) saver. If you notice any oil leak or seepage from your rocker box gaskets spend your $ on a set of H.D. rocker box gaskets instead of adjustable pushrods. If a bike has high miles, it is also good to change these gaskets, as preventative maintenance, during this repair. Every set of adjustable pushrods come with their own specific instructions for adjustment. They are not all the same.

More Feedback from Hogger Bob C:

Thanks for the reply, Dennis. I appreciate the comments.

This past weekend I installed the new Screaming Eagle cam support plate, changed out the cam bearings (inner & outer), installed the new high volume oil pump and new style chain tensioners. I decided to go with the stock rods, and took them out through the top end. All related gaskets and o-rings were replaced in the process. It wasn’t too bad, but probably added considerable time to the project. Draining and removing the tank from this ’06 Street Glide is certainly more of a project than my ’08 Ultra, which does not have the cross-over fuel line. But, thanks to your videos I remembered Bob demonstrating draining a tank like this for removal. Not too much spilled gas. I am just to the point of reinstalling the exhaust, and final details. I probably should have changed the cams, too, since this bike already has a stage 1 air cleaner, Rinehart 2-into-1 exhaust (too loud) and an SE super tuner, that the previous owner installed. But, this bike runs great, and gets incredible gas mileage out on the open road during our longer road trips. I haven’t fired her up yet, so I hope she runs after all of this work. Just a tip, the Harley cam service kit includes all of the gaskets, o-rings, inner cam bearings, front cam snap ring, new breathers and some parts that I have no idea where they are used. This came in very handy, as I was trying to buy a lot of these parts individually, and the dealership didn’t have many of them. I also have the tools for the rocker covers, inner bearing installer/remover, cam/crankshaft gears locking tool and a few other specialty tools that make it much easier. I did not have the cam support plate bearing installer/remover, but was able to “gently” press the bearings into the new plate on a large vise, using an old bearing against the face of the new bearing.

In June, a small group of us are doing a road trip east through Kansas, Oklahoma and Arkansas, so I hope it will prove that my work was all done as it should have been.

I hope you guys are doing well, and I look forward to new tips, tricks and how-to videos. We have the above 2 mentioned bikes, plus an ’01 Dyna Low Rider and a ’98 or ’99 Dyna Wide Glide in the family. One of my sons has my last bike, an ’04 Softail Night Train, now, but he lives in California, so I do the maintenance on all of the other bikes, thanks to the confidence gained from your videos, and having all of the Harley repair manuals for each of these bikes.

Ride safe,

Bob C

See the Full Video Class on this type of project: Cam Chain Tensioner Class

Have more questions? Check out the Tags here and our Q&A index page to find some answers here.
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18 Responses to “Cam Chain Tensioner Shoes Built to Last?”
  1. terry wheatley
    terry wheatley

    I have a ’02 Electra glide & I decided to pull off the cam cover to take a look at the tensioners {spring loaded} at 28,000 miles. none to soon! outboard tensioner had about 50% wear & the inboard was already split in half but did not break into pieces yet. so being retired on a limited budget I replaced them myself. I did not cut the pushrods b/c it saved me a few hundred & it gave me a chance to inspect other parts & replaced all gaskets..
    since the inboard tensioner hadn’t exploded yet, my oil pump was ok to reuse. I learned to make the tool on u-tube to ‘compress’ the in board tensioner. the tool is a must for us shade tree mechs! LOL!

  2. Brad

    I just became a member and looked at a few videos.. I have a 01 Roadking and never thought at 20 K I`d be having trouble with the cam shoes and oil pump I change my oil every 2000 miles and Maintenance is a must. I would like to know about doing Andrews upgrade verses Harley. Andrews doesn`t have bearings in support plate and I’m wanting to do higher lift cam, but my 01 has a lot to be desired because of the older fuel injection.. Appreciate feedback and thanks for the info on what I`ve looked at so far. Keep up good work.. Damn pleased with what you guys have put out so far.. I`m more up on Shovels and Pans than these Twin Cams.. Thanks again Brad G

  3. James

    My 2004 TC88 Electra Glide classic cam chain tensioners broke apart at 28k miles.
    I have always used full syn oils 20/50 in Florida with an oil cooler and parade fan due to high heat.
    How I discovered the problem; there was a noise, Not constant, that was strange. I changed my oil, started bike & had 0 pressure reading.
    Harley is of no help here guys. It’s not in the manual as a maintenance item.
    If you have spring loaded tensioners (2005 or older) check them at 25k & save your motor.

  4. Ron Adams
    Ron Adams

    I got real lucky at 86000 mi on my 2000 Wide Glide it started backfiring and not running as well as it should didn’t take it to Harley took it to a real reputable private shop ( Harley wanted to replace it with screaming chicken parts ) I Did some research and the shop I chose used S and S . I replaced entire top end with S and S including gear driven cams , to hell with periodic cam chain maintenence , installed a Fuelling oil pump which has considerable more pressure than anything Harley has upped my ci from 88 to 97 inch installed S and S super carb now 113 inch CVO’s can’t even keep up even with screaming eagle upgrades . Have seen blocks where inside cam chain came apart and destroyed the engine case and yes I changed my oil at 2500 with synthetic since day I got it , mechanic’s I used were old time Harley guys who knew what they were doing and they told me the only reason my 88 stayed together that long was because I changed my oil more often than Harley called for with synthetic so keep that thought in mind , love my ride and I am good for another 100000 miles !

  5. Butch

    Hi, I recently bought a 2012 HD Sportster 1200 Custom with less than 1700 miles. I have always had Jap bikes and performed all the maintenance on them myself. This is my first HD and I was hoping you could recommend a good manual for regular maintenance and repairs.

  6. BOB

    I just joined Fix My Hog, I have a 2005 Harley softail deluxe 88 with 21,000 mi. I plan a long trip this summer, bike runs great now. Should I be concerened with cam chain tensioner shoes? I hate to be in middle of desert brokedown

  7. Brian Walker
    Brian Walker

    I had a 2002 Electra Glide. At 47K(ish) I had the tensioners replaced using the “cut the push rods” method to avoid top end disassembly. I put in the adjustables. At 95K the push rods finally needed adjustment. I was quite satisfied with that result. I did not do cams, or any other upgrades. Just kept it otherwise stock.

  8. Phillip Harden
    Phillip Harden

    Just bought 02 dyna 88 with 49k. Got great deal but don’t know lot of service history.
    I’m going to change to hyd chain tensioner and do cam change. Where can i buy bearing removal and install tool at reasonable price. I’m a good mechanic but mostly autos and my old shovel.
    Thought i might buy tools instead of rent or borrow so i could do some of my friends service?
    Thanks for any response

  9. Jason Matzke
    Jason Matzke

    I’ve got a 07 road glide with 35000 miles. It is a high compression motor built up. I had to replace both shoes on mine and it caused a lot of damage. Filled the motor with pieces of cam chain and nylon. I do ride my bike very hard so that might of had something to do with it

  10. Johnny kirk
    Johnny kirk

    i have a 2003 soft tail deuce with 21000 mils should i be worried about the cam tensioner in and outer

    • TinMan

      My ’03 Screamin Eagle Deuce tensioners came apart at 26,000…got lucky, no damage..changed to hydraulic. At 21,000, I’d start worryin’, If I were you.

  11. Keith c ward
    Keith c ward

    I have a 2012 road king .. with 63000 miles should I be checking the hydraulic cam chain tensioner shoes for wear ??