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Are Harley Davidson motorcycles reliable? The truth you need to know

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by Jack simmon

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While buying any motorcycle customers have always questioned its reliability. As Harley being expensive than other Japanese brands, is it good to buy? Harley-Davidson has made a reputation and market demand around the world except in some countries. There has been lots of myth going around with Harley motorcycles from the people who never actually owned them. Here is what you need to know about the reliability of Harley motorcycles.

Are Harley-Davidson motorcycles reliable? Harley motorcycles are very reliable and required less maintenance and parts replacements. But maintenance is required for vehicles to remain it to be reliable and function properly. If you neglect Harley care then its reliability will decrease over time resulting in mechanical faults.

Those people who are considering Harley unreliable are those who never own them. And, yes Harley was unreliable in the past when the production was controlled by AMF where their priority was scalability, not quality control. So, due to the lack of quality control during the years 1969 to 1981 many owners faced a lot of problems on the roadside and has bad experiences. 

There is one more reason that contributes to the idea of unreliability is the owner’s enthusiasm for “Modification”. Generally, riders used to modify the Harley which doesn’t limit to looks, people were swapping the exhausts, changing lights, air-intakes, flashing the ECU, everything the owner wanted they modified with Harley. Modification is good if it improves the looks and performance but without the required knowledge, you will mess up the system

And, that’s what happened to Harley, owners modified the motorcycle to destruction. When the motorcycles breakdown, the same people started to complain about the Harley reliability. I think that mindset is still revolving around some people who have just heard the word and not ridden or owned the Harley-Davidson motorcycle themselves.

These were the reasons people still think Harley-Davidsons are unreliable. Despite the recent improvements in quality and production processes, the idea of unreliable Harley is still persistent in the motorcycling world and people’s minds.

But recent Harley-Davidson motorcycles are produced under quality control and a better production process that has improved its reliability and quality.

So, if you are looking to buy a Harley-Davidson motorcycle you can buy one, without any second thought, considering you have no financial issues. Below I am going to provide some real statistics.

According to consumerreports.orgHarley-Davidson motorcycles are more reliable than BMW, Ducati, Victory, and triumph. Harley score in 6th position out of 10 motorcycle companies. 

Here I have provided the list of motorcycle companies’ reliabilities score in the table.

Motorcycle CompaniesFoundedPercentage failed
Yamaha195511%
Suzuki190912%
Honda194612%
Kawasaki 194915%
Victory199717%
Harley Davidson190326%
Triumph198429%
Ducati192933%
BMW190140%
Can-am197142%

Japanese makes the most reliable motorcycle having less than 16% failure and their motorcycle sells more than any brand in the world.

From the above data, you can see Harley comes in the 6th position with 26% of motorcycle failure. It means Harley requires repair of mechanical malfunction in only 26% of the motorcycle. One thing to consider is the data above is recorded in 2015. So, it’s 6 years old and Harley has improved a lot till this time. 

But, I want you to know one more thing that is, In 2017 Victory has stopped manufacturing motorcycles and is out of the game now. Thus, with a limited number of motorcycles remaining in the market the reliability measured is totally wrong and we should not consider it. 

Which is the most reliable Harley-Davidson motorcycle?

Most of the Harley-Davidson are made nowadays are pretty reliable but talking about the most reliable ones. So, here is the list of reliable Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

Harley Model NamePrice Year of release
Harley-Davidson VRSCDX Night Rod Special$6,5702007
Harley-Davidson FLHT  Electra Glide$8,7002009
Harley-Davidson XL1200N Sportster Nightster$9,0002007
Harley-Davidson CV0 Softail Convertible$15,4952012
Harley-Davidson FXSTB Night Train$10,2452009
Harley-Davidson VRSCE2 V-Rod$8,6202006
Harley-Davidson CVO Fat Bob$11,0002009-2010
XL1200N Sportster Nightster$137552007
FLHT Electra Glide Standard$18,9992009
Harley-Davidson FLHR Road King$11,1502012
Harley-Davidson Fat Boy$2,40672020
Harley-Davidson LiveWire (Electric)$3,97732019

The last motorcycle on the list is Livewire which is an electric motorcycle. And, electric motorcycles are don’t require that much maintenance. It only requires parts replacement. So, it is the most reliable Harley now.

Times when Harley recalled their motorcycle

Harley-Davidson has always wanted to keep the riders safe and their riding on. And, in recent times also because of some parts failure or faulty system Harley has recalled their owner to fix them. In recalling Harley solves the system on their own expenses without charging the owner. Here are news sources about some of the Harley-Davidson recallings:-

Motorcycle manufacturerReason to recalledNumber of vehicles recalledDate/ Year of recalling
Harley-DavidsonClutch problem2,38,3802018
Harley-DavidsonBrake fail Problem2,51,0002018
Harley-DavidsonBrake-Fluid problem1,75,0002018
Harley LiveWireSoftware issue1,0002020

So, recalling Harley’s motorcycle doesn’t make their motorcycle unreliable. It’s just a sign of improvement. Other motorcycle manufacturers like Honda, Kawasaki also recall the motorcycle to fix the issue if it’s major. Thus, you should not make up your mind that these motorcycles are unreliable. No, just like software upgrades are provided by mobile companies to fix problems thus just like this motorcycle manufacture also recalls to fix things up for improved safety and experience.

Conclusion

There was a time when Harley-Davidson quality and reliability were reduced when the company was in the hands of AMF but that incident is still on the people’s minds. Talking about recent, the Harley-Davidson production process and quality have been improved. Thus, Harley motorcycles are reliable and safe to be bought. But in order to maintain reliability, the maintenance must be done at the right interval.

FAQs

How many miles do Harleys last?

According to the poll from hdforums,”  Generally, Harley-Davidson can last upto 100k miles.”. Although, it depends on the model of Harley you are riding, your riding style, maintenance, etc. Thus, 100k miles is not a benchmark but an estimation based on many riders’ experience.

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