When Failure IS an Option

Uh… that’s not supposed to look like that.

First and foremost, upfront and to the point… I am not a wrench. That is to say, although I have tools and I know how to do some stuff. There are just some things that, despite being a dive in and go for it kinda guy, I won’t even attempt. With some mechanical repairs, there are only two options: Success and Failure.

Some repairs you can do and there is room for error and can be corrected with little or no physical or financial pain. And then there are those other jobs that you either do it right the first time or you will pay the piper immediately there after. Such is the case with the dilemma I find myself in at the moment.

Without boring you to death, in the last two weeks I became the joke of financial fate and was handed two motorcycle issues. Issue #1 was a flat front tire. A two-fold issue. One being a nail in the tire and the other being a bad valve stem that just let air out at the first pressing to check the pressure. Regardless, the new tire will be here in the next coupe of days. I’ll remove the front wheel from the bike, take it to my local Harley dealer and they will mount and balance the tire for me and I’ll be good to go…… sort of.

For the past couple of weeks, I’ve heard this whining sound coming from the bike. Since the sound first appeared I’ve only ridden the bike twice. The first time when I first heard it on the way home from my brothers house and the second time when I went to the bank. The other times were just me running the bike to locate the noise. Investigation and inquiries all let me down the same path to the same result. I need to remove covers and do an inspection.

Harley Davidson’s Twin Cam 88 Engine, produced from 1999 to 2017, employed the use of Cam Chain Tensioner’s. Basically two little plastic shoes on a spring loaded arm that kept constant pressure on the cam chain. While in theory and practice it worked well, it was a seriously flawed method to do what it had to do. Hydraulic and Mechanical versions were later created that were far superior. The Hydraulic version still utilized the plastic shoes but their life was a tad longer than the +/-25,000 miles. The ideal method, gear driven/mechanical, is by far the best method to tension the cam chains and they are flawless and last forever. The caveat to that is the mechanical method is significantly more expensive than the stock and hydraulic replacements.

So, yesterday, I had planned a day of test rides at the local Harley Demo Days event and man what fun that was. I rode 7 of Harley’s 2019 models including the new FXDR and the 2019 version of my Heritage. After that little bit of fun, I had made the plan to open the bike up and do my inspection of what the noise could be.

I figured it was one of three things: The starter, the primary chain tensioner or the cam chain tensioner. Although expensive, I had hoped it would have been the starter, but in the back of my mind, I knew what it was. So with that “back of my mind” thought, I dove right into removing the Cam cover. The picture above is indeed what I feared was wrong. That yellow thing, that’s the cam tensioner shoe. The chain is suppose to run across the top of it. As you can see in the photo, it is nearly running through it. I suspect that I had about 5 to 10 miles left before it just flew apart. At that point, bits and pieces of plastic and metal would lodge themselves in every moving part in there and cause catastrophic failure/damage. Worst case scenario would mean a new engine.

Athough more expensive, I will be going for the mechanical/gear driven tension system. When this will get done is anyone’s guess. But, since I drive for Lyft and Uber for extra cash from time to time, I may be doing a lot more of that in the months to come.

So if anyone needs a ride from New Jersey to Florida, look me up on Uber.

Put to bed
And this is where she’ll stay until the money is available to fix her.


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