In The Shop: Upgraded Primary Chain Adjuster

Aftermarket Upgrade

Its been no secret that there has been a serious issue with the 2007 and later Big Twin compensator assembly. We released our Baker Compensator upgrade videos years ago where we demonstrate the installation procedure.

In 2007 (2006 Dyna), Harley seemed to resolve the cam chain tensioner issue only to replace it with a new issue on the opposite side of the crank. The factory compensator assembly had a weak spring pack and poor lubrication which, in turn, created hard starts and a “clunking” noise from inside the primary drive case.

Baker suggests using their Armored Attitude Adjuster to go along with the compensator assembly upgrade. This is not just shameless upselling on Baker’s behalf. Harley’s automatic primary chain tensioner has issues of its own. At the first movement that the chain has slack, the auto tensioner ratchets the shoe up another notch. One notch may not be an issue but the auto tensioner can only adjust in one direction; tighter.

Now, it is not uncommon for the chain to have slightly excessive slack for a only a fraction of a second. When this happens, the auto tensioner over compensates and locks into a tighter position that leaves the chain tension extremely tight. When this happens, it creates excessive stress on the primary drive, and transmission main-shaft. In turn, the heavy pull on the transmission main-shaft wipes out the inner primary bearing and race. If this is not addressed, the compromised shaft support will eventually wipe out the transmission main bearing, the transmission door bearings, or both.

Recently, In The Shop, we had a 2010 FLHTCU come in that had been experiencing hard starts which was not addressed soon enough and ultimately turned into hard, grinding starts. We replaced the starter Bendix gear, the starter ring gear, & primary chain. We upgraded and installed Baker’s compensator assembly and “Attitude” primary chain adjuster and filled the primary compartment with Spectro heavy duty primary oil. For those of us with older Twin Cams and Evos we can still adjust the tensioner, see here.

As long as this bike has a healthy battery, it may never experience another mechanical starting issue.

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6 Responses to “In The Shop: Upgraded Primary Chain Adjuster”
  1. Colin Manion

    I have a 2010 Road King, I believe it is the 2011 model, it has the 103 motor. Just had a service done at 65000 km’s, about 40000 miles and was told my Compensator was needing attention soon. I never knew what a compensator was so started looking. So I have the choice of Baker, Screaming Eagle or HD. So I rang HD and of course they said that the new HD that would be fitted to mine was as good as anything else and would be cheaper, not to worried about the price, I believe in buying what it the best…you get what you pay for. My question is from someone who is not a HD Mechanic or dealer, What is the best and why and do I just replace the compensator or is there other stuff to do. I basically just have a Standard 103 that was given the Screaming Eagle Stage 1 upgrade when I bought it pipes, aircleaner etc, no engine upgrade with Cams etc

    • DC Smitty

      Colin, you did not mention why your mech says why the compensator was “needing attention soon.” Is it starting hard or clunking as the article describes? If yes then it should be replaced. I purchased a used 13 Road King and mine developed the clunking sound when shutting off only after the motor was good and hot. So I replaced mine. We know the stock H-D part is junk, don’t want that. Heard on blogs that H-D Screamin Eagle part is only slightly better so I went with the Baker unit and 7000 mi later still no clunk. Also replaced primary chain tensioner with non-ratcheting type similar to the Baker “Attitude” adjuster. Best of luck,

  2. Payton

    I’ve ran into this issue on my 08 Street glide. Had to replace main shaft and bearings. I’m glad to see that a old style system will still work with no problems.

  3. Thomas Machen

    I recently had my stator rotor and voltage regulator replaced along with my starter clutch and compensator and now when I turn my bike off I can hear like a rolling sound on my primary side just for a second like something keeps turning after I shut it off…is that normal??? Also what do u guys think about the compensator eliminator??? I’m seriously thinking about going that rout??? Oh yeah btw my bike is a 2008 soft tail night train fxstb