Home / Are Harley-Davidsons Reliable? A Complete Guide for Motorcycle Buyers

Harley-Davidson is arguably the most iconic American brand. It’s a brand that—like Levi’s, Coca-Cola, and Jeep—has transcended material goods and become a cultural symbol.

Harley-Davidson has a rich history, dating back to its establishment in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1903. Since then, the company has made a name for itself by proudly flying the Stars and Stripes, offering excellent engineering and performance, and serving as a symbol of American independence and power.

There is no denying Harley-Davidson is an impressive brand. However, are Harley-Davidsons reliable? Is a Harley-Davidson motorcycle purchase a smart one?

Read on as we answer that question in today’s article and give our take on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle’s reliability.

the begging of Harley Davidson motorcycles

The Beginnings of Harley-Davidsons

The history of Harley-Davidson motorcycles might suggest that these two-wheeled behemoths are unreliable. But that is without context. So let us shine some light on pre-1980s Harley-Davidsons. 

In the earliest days of motorcycles, the maintenance of bikes was up to the owners. To own and ride a bike was to care for it. There were no mechanics readily available like there are now. Bikers had to have the tools and knowledge to upkeep their engine and replace tires. 

They probably spent more time repairing than riding, especially in the 1960s. This was when owners desired more from their bikes: faster speeds, unique designs, more storage, etc. People even bought old bikes to revive with various parts. 

Because of all the maintenance done by unskilled riders, bikes were known to break down more.

The brand of Harley-Davidson did nothing to deserve this unreliable reputation. By the 1980s, after a slew of differing owners, Vaughn Beals, Willie G. Davidson, and a group of investors saw that their brand was on the edge of extinction. 

And they made million-dollar moves to do something about it. 

The reinvented Harley-Davidson features a modern design, rubber-mounted motors, five-speed transmissions, and more. They also made up a detailed service outline to prevent history from repeating itself. 

Now, the bikes are so reliable that sales are struggling for the opposite reasons. The longevity of these bikes reaches over 25 years when well-maintained. There are Harley-Davidsons on the road that dates back to the 40s, with the original knucklehead engines still running. 

reliable Harley Davidson motorcycle

Are Harley-Davidsons Reliable?

While the history of Harley-Davidson is helpful to know, we want to shed some light on the now. The brand owners never want the rumors of unreliability to affect their sales, so production is meticulous in the crafting of each bike. 

Some mechanics have serviced a variety of motorcycle makes, models, and years to help elongate your bike’s life. If you want someone specializing in Harley-Davidsons and near The Woodlands area of Texas, check us out.

If you choose to do the maintenance yourself, make sure you have the factory Harley-Davidson service manual that correlates with your model and year. As for general reliability and longevity, below is a guide for how long certain parts last and maintain them properly.  

Harley Engines

The numbers are expected to vary, but a Harley-Davidson engine is expected to last over 100,000 miles. This is, of course, considering you follow the suggested service schedule and regularly rotate your fluids. 

It also helps to drive carefully and store your vehicle either indoors or covered to protect from corrosive airborne chemicals. 

Harley Tires

The front and rear tires differ when it comes to mileage. A rear tire is expected to last around 9,000 to 10,000 miles; a front tire can come closer to 15,000 to 20,000 miles. 

This is subject to change depending on the terrain. Also, if you haven’t ridden your bike in over five years, you should change your tires no matter the mileage. 

Harley Batteries

Two years is the expected lifespan of a Harley-Davidson battery. To prolong this, keep the battery tightly fastened and keep the corrosion from building up. Making your rides longer also helps.

Every 100,000 Miles

Smaller aspects of your motorcycle should never be overlooked. The drive belts, wheel bearings, primary chain, coils, and voltage regulators should all be replaced or serviced every 100,000 miles. 

Spark plugs and brake pads should be changed around 15,000 miles of riding. Shocks can last about 30,000 miles. Rotors are looking at 30,000 to 70,000 miles. Clutches last between 20,000 to 60,000 miles. 

A motorcycle with no electrical issues can have a stator for about 150,000 miles. Motor mounts don’t depend on mileage. Check in with them every five to ten years. 

Other Tips

When your first get your Harley-Davidson, we know you’ll want to ride to the ends of the earth. But the first 1,000 miles or so are the most critical. Don’t give in to temptation and rev your engine—ride it smoothly and carefully to set the standard for your engine. 

You’ll want to lubricate your bike’s steering head bearings, swingarm, suspension linkages, wheel bearings, controls, and cables according to the schedule in your manual.

Also, clean your air filter and change the oils and oil filter regularly. It might be helpful to keep a log of when you last did maintenance on each part of your motorcycle.

Saving the best for last: ride your bike often! We want your bike’s fluids to circulate as much as your beating heart will allow. You bought this bike for a reason, so take advantage of its reliability. 

riders on reliable Harley Davidson motorcycles

Reliability Depends on You

Harley-Davidson has done the work to let bike owners know how to prolong their bike’s life. The body of these bikes is durable and made to last—the rest is up to you. 

Harley-Davidson wouldn’t be around today if they were still known as an unreliable brand. They’ve been in business for over 100 years. There’s no longer a need to ask, “Are Harley-Davidsons reliable?”

If you already have a Harley-Davidson, come in to get your bike checked out and serviced. If you’re thinking of joining the hundreds of thousands of Harley owners, shop our inventory! We’ll find the right fit for you.

Harley Davidson of The Woodlands

Harley-Davidson of The Woodlands has been serving Southeast Texas for more than 20 years. We provide the Greater Houston area with new and pre-owned motorcycles, riding apparel, parts, maintenance service, and more at our state-of-the-art dealership. Whether you’re a new rider or a seasoned Harley vet, our friendly team of Harley-Davidson experts is ready to help you find the perfect bike today. Stop by and visit the Harley-Davidson of The Woodlands Showroom off of I-45 North in The Woodlands, TX.