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Nasty Ultra Classic Problems To Avoid (Glossary)

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The Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide is a renowned motorcycle that has captured the hearts of riders globally with its iconic design, robust power, and incomparable riding experience. As a top-tier model in Harley-Davidson’s touring line, it boasts of advanced features such as a Twin Cam 88 engine and a six-speed transmission. However, like any mechanical device, it is not immune to issues.

With that being said, keep reading to find out exactly which issues we’re talking about.
Let’s go!

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[The Harley Years To Avoid: You Might Regret It]

1997 Ultra Classic: Early Adaptation Challenges

The 1997 Ultra Classic Electra Glide, a pioneer in its class, came equipped with the Evolution engine, known for its reliability and simpler design compared to later models. However, this year’s model faced its share of challenges. One notable issue was the carburetor system, which could be finicky and require frequent adjustments and cleanings. Additionally, owners often reported minor oil leaks, a common trait in Harleys of this era. Upgrading to better seals and opting for better gaskets was a common fix.

Common 1999 Electra Glide Problems

The 1999 Electra Glide, specifically the FLHTCUI Ultra Classic, is powered by the new vibration isolated Twin Cam 88 Engine. This engine offered significant improvements over its predecessor, the Evolution Engine, especially in terms of power and reliability. However, a common issue with this model was the plastic end of a tension cam follower arm wearing down due to friction with the cam chain. This could lead to major engine damage. Subsequent models addressed this issue by introducing a hydraulic chain tensioner.

2001 Ultra Classic: The Millennium Model Quirks

As the new millennium dawned, the 2001 Ultra Classic showcased improvements in comfort and ride quality. This model year continued with the Twin Cam 88 engine, which offered a smoother and more powerful ride. However, it wasn’t without its faults. The cam bearings in this model were prone to early wear, potentially leading to significant engine issues if not addressed. Harley enthusiasts often recommend upgrading to more durable aftermarket bearings as a preventative measure.

2002 Ultra Classic: Refining the Ride

The 2002 Ultra Classic made strides in refining the rider experience. This model year saw enhancements in suspension and chassis, making long rides more comfortable. However, the Twin Cam 88 engine’s cam chain tensioner issue, as seen in other years, remained a concern. Regular inspection and timely replacement of the tensioner were key to maintaining the bike’s performance. Additionally, this year’s model occasionally faced electrical system quirks, particularly in the charging system, necessitating vigilant maintenance.

2004 Ultra Classic: Nearing Perfection

By 2004, the Ultra Classic was nearing what many enthusiasts consider ‘peak performance’ for its era. This year’s model boasted improved engine cooling and a more robust electrical system. However, the infamous cam chain tensioner issue still loomed, making regular checks and upgrades essential for longevity. Another minor, yet common, issue was with the stock speakers, which lacked the audio quality desired by many riders. Upgrading to higher-quality aftermarket speakers was a popular improvement among owners.

2005 Ultra Classic: Common Problems and Solutions

The 2005 Ultra Classic featured the same Twin Cam 88 engine as the 1999 model. However, despite the improvements made to the hydraulic chain tensioner, the cam chain tensioner remained a potential problem area. For owners of this model, regular inspection of the cam chain tensioner was recommended. In case of excessive wear, upgrading the cam gear kit or installing Harley’s hydraulic cam kit was advised.

Related article: Harley Twin Cam Problems

2006 Harley Davidson Ultra Classic: Frequently Reported Problems

In 2006, Harley-Davidson transitioned their transmission to six gears. This transition improved the Ultra Classic’s handling of highway speeds at lower RPMs. However, this model began to draw complaints about a loud whining sound from the engine when the fifth gear was engaged. The noise was due to the meshing of straight-cut gears. While this setup provided improved performance, it also resulted in increased noise levels. To combat this, owners could use a higher grade synthetic transmission lubricant or consider after-market upgrades.

Read more: Harley Davidson Transmission Problems? Help Is Here

2007 Ultra Classic: Known Issues and How to Avoid Them

The 2007 Ultra Classic was a notable model as it marked the introduction of Harley’s auto-adjuster for the primary chain and the switch to a 96 ci engine. However, this model also had its share of problems. One common issue was the heat emitted by the massive Twin Cam engine, especially during slow traffic or hot weather. To mitigate this, owners could consider installing aftermarket heat shields or floorboard extensions. Additionally, the model was also known for oil leaks, which could usually be resolved by routinely checking and replacing seals and gaskets.

Related: Harley 96 vs 103: What’s The Deal?

Issues to Look Out for with the 2008 Ultra Classic

The 2008 Ultra Classic saw the introduction of ABS as an $800 upgrade. However, the ABS system in this model was plagued with issues, leading to a voluntary recall in 2018. The wiring connecting the wheel speed sensors to the ABS was faulty, which could lead to sudden system failures. Therefore, owners of this model should ensure a thorough check of their ABS wiring.

An Overview of the ’09 Harley Ultra Classic Problems

The 2009 Ultra Classic continued to be plagued by the problems of its predecessors. The ABS system remained a significant concern, with the faulty wiring issue persisting from the 2008 model. Additionally, the cam chain tensioner problem was still present, necessitating regular inspection and potential upgrades.

Related article: Harley Twin Cam Years to Avoid

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Maintenance Tips to Prevent Common Electra Glide (Ultra Classic) Problems

Despite the various issues that can occur with the Electra Glide Ultra Classic, regular maintenance and timely upgrades can help keep these motorcycles in excellent running condition. Regularly inspecting and replacing worn-out parts, using high-quality lubricants, and checking the wiring of critical systems like the ABS can go a long way in ensuring a smooth ride. Always consult a professional if you’re unsure about any aspect of your bike’s maintenance.

Related article: Electra Glide vs Street Glide


The Harley-Davidson Ultra Classic Electra Glide, while a remarkable motorcycle, has had its share of issues over the years. However, with regular maintenance and awareness of common problems, these issues can be effectively managed or prevented, allowing riders to enjoy the power and prestige that comes with riding an Ultra Classic.

Remember, every motorcycle, no matter the brand or model, will have its unique set of challenges. As experienced riders and enthusiasts, it’s our responsibility to understand these challenges and find solutions that work for us, ensuring that we can continue to enjoy the ride.

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