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TC88 Rear Cam Bearing

by Preacher

Since the initial release of the Twin-Cam engine in 1999 there has been a plethora of problems associated with it. Many of the problems are directly related to the Twin-Camshaft's drive system. By far the most discussed and feared problem encountered by owners of Twin-Cam powered motorcycles has been a problem with the outer rear camshaft, ball style bearing. On January 19, 1999 the Harley-Davidson Motor Company Faxed their dealers and distributors a letter dated January 17, 1999. In the letter the dealers/distributors were informed of a production change that occurred on December 14, 1999. The change they announced was from a ball style bearing to a roller style bearing in Twin-Cam 88 engines. The letter also outlined the Motor Company's intent to provide a extended warranty on this component. The warranty on the affected component was extended to 5 years/50,000 miles, whichever comes first. The warranty is intended to cover the rear outer cam bearing and any affected parts damaged if the bearing fails (Note: if you have performed any modifications to your engine it is questionable whether Harley-Davidson will honor the warranty).

Attached to the Fax was a copy of a letter addressed to registered owners of Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam motorcycles with engines built prior to December 14, 1999. The letter is dated January 22, 2001 and would be sent to registered owners of motorcycles with the affected engines shortly thereafter. The Fax also included a reference to two Technical Service Bulletin's (TSB's) that address the rear cam bearing problem. They are TSB # M-1097 dated December 21, 1999 and TSB # M-1100 dated January 10, 2000.

Prior to the Motor Company publicly addressing the issue every Motorcycle Publication I am familiar with featured an article on the cam bearing problem. The rear cam bearing problem is the most recent issue associated with the Twin-Cam camshaft drive system that Harley-Davidson has been dealing with. It is my opinion that the Motor Company gave in to the media attention and the public outcry the problem was generating and not out of the goodness of their heart or as a "Goodwill" gesture. According to the Harley-Davidson Motor Company "the rear cam bearing in a small number of Harley-Davidson Twin-Cam 88 engines have failed." The Customer Service Department at Harley-Davidson's Milwaukee Headquarters informed me that engines built prior to December 14, 1999 have a rear cam bearing failure rate of 1.5%. The extended warranty provided to owners of pre-12/14/99 bikes might sound like a good deal to owners of a Twin-Cam motorcycle at first glance. Unfortunately it is this authors opinion that the hysteria surrounding the cam bearing issue has overshadowed a problem that is just as severe, perhaps even more severe, then the cam bearing problem. The problem I mention is becoming more and more visible as time progresses. That problem is with OEM camshafts that are showing premature wear on the cam lobes. Some with as little as 200 miles on them have been discovered by shops that are replacing cams for reasons of performance upgrades.

If you are concerned that you are perhaps the owner of a Twin-Cam motorcycle with the affected cam bearings in it there are two approaches you can take that will give you the information you seek. You can call the Harley-Davidson Customer Service Department at (414) 343-4056 and provide them with your VIN. The customer service representative should be able to check your engine build date and inform you if your engine was built prior to or after December 14, 1999. Some people have had to be very persuasive with the customer service representative but with some prodding they eventually did receive the information they were after.

You can also use the Harley-Davidson WWW site to check the status of your motorcycle. There are two input windows on the Service Check-Up page, one for your Vehicle Identification Number (VIN) and one for your motorcycle's mileage. Enter your VIN into the appropriate window and a mileage figure that is less than 50,000 miles. If you input a mileage figure that is over 50,000 miles your extended warranty on the cam bearing is expired and you will not see the text of the customer letter mentioned earlier in this article. If you enter a mileage figure that is less than 50,000 miles and you do not see a notice regarding the extended cam bearing warranty it indicates that your motorcycle is *not* one of the affected motorcycles. If it is one of the affected motorcycles a copy of the customer letter will appear on your screen.

NOTE: Harley-Davidson will not perform preemptive repairs on a *potentially* bad cam bearing. They will only honor the extended warranty if the part fails. The Harley-Davidson Motor Company does *not* consider this to be a safety issue therefore there was never a Safety Recall issued. It is a Technical Service Bulletin meant to inform their dealers and customers of a potential problem with the outer rear cam bearing, should it arise.