Harley-Davidson is synonymous with the phrase “American Motorcycle.”
The brand has become iconic; the cliche Hollywood biker image involves a rigid, rip-roaring Harley-Davidson motorcycle.
No brand screams with an American biker attitude like Harley, and no brand commands more loyalty.
But how long do Harley Davidson’s last?
Read on to find out…
Here is the short answer to how long Harley Davidsons last:
Harley-Davidson motorcycles can last for well over 75,000 miles if well-maintained and ridden responsibly and there are many Harleys on the road with over 100,000 miles on them. Based on an annual mileage of 4,000 miles, one can infer that a Harley Davidson can last for more than 25 years.
How Many Miles Can You Expect from a Harley Davidson?
There are Harley Davidson choppers on the road with knucklehead engines that date back to the 40s.
Granted, they’ve gone through hefty rebuilds, but there are complete stock Harleys on the road with 200,000 miles on them too.
Based on industry data, the used market, and personal experience, we’ve deduced the average lifespan to be around 75,000 – 100,000 miles.
On average, a cruiser motorcycle like Harley specializes in is ridden around 4,000 miles a year, meaning that a bike that lasts 100,000 miles will last for roughly 25 years.
This figure depends on a multitude of variables, however, like:
- How well the Harley’s maintained
- How conservatively or aggressively the rider rode the Harley.
- Whether the vehicle was stored outside or indoors, whether it was covered or exposed to the elements. If inside, were there chemicals stored close by?
- The climate in which the owner rode the Harley.
- How often the Harley sat unused
- Whether or not the previous owner serviced the Harley according to the service intervals outlined in the owner’s manual.
What is High Mileage for a Harley Davidson?
The used market considers a Harley Davidson to be high mileage after 50,000 miles, as are most cruisers – most Harleys are cruisers. In reality, a Harley’s odometer reading has little bearing on its lifespan; considerations like storage, riding habits, and service frequency do.
You can obtain a more practical assessment of the longevity of a used Harley and any other bike by investigating how well the bike’s previous (or current) owner maintained it.
With routine service maintenance, as outlined in detail in the Owner’s Manual of any Harley, a Harley can last much longer than 50,000 miles.
So, don’t let the numbers scare you away from buying a Harley that’s been well maintained.
A Harley that’s well maintained can last well over 75,000 miles, but any bike that was kept outside in the winter and ridden like a stunt bike without any oil changes probably won’t stay a quarter of that.
Therefore, your best indication of how much life a Harley has left isn’t the reading on its clock; it’s asking the previous owner about their riding, service, and storage habits and thoroughly assessing the condition of the bike.
Do Harleys Rust Easily?
Harley motorcycles are inclined to rust under certain conditions such as rain, moisture, humidity, snow, sleet, and salt, although this is common across all motorcycle brands. Harleys that are cleaned regularly and maintained properly are less prone to corrosion.
One of the significant common denominators we see among Harley owners who complain about rusting is salt – either for Harley riders living in a salty, seaside area or for winter-loving Harley owners living in places where the roads are salted during the winter.
Salt causes corrosion and makes some Harley components much more susceptible to rust than others.
If you live near the coast or in a city where the roads are routinely salted, your best fighting chance against rusting is to wash your bike with soap and water and dry it well after riding, especially before storage, even for a short amount of time.
Here’s a quick list of the components Harley-owners most frequently complain about rusting:
- Mirror Stems
- Fork Tubes
- Suspension Shocks
- Wheel Spokes
- The underside of the frame
- Gas Tanks
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How Long Do Harleys Last Compare to Other Bikes:
In this section we’ll compare the longevity of Harleys to some of their closest rivals.
Indians and Harley’s can both last well over 100,000 miles if well kept. Their engine life is comparable with similar big-twin engine designs, but the Indian’s integrated shaft-driven gearbox will outlast Harley’s chain-driven primary.
Both brands offer similar American small-large cruisers and baggers and have always bounced technology back and forth.
Still, Polaris is at the helm of Indian now, giving the brand access to high-end engineering they’ve never seen before.
Indians use an integrated, shaft-driven transmission that doesn’t work nearly as hard as the Harley chain drives.
Harley fans say that the chain drives are easier to shift, but shaft-driven gearboxes tend to outlive them, nudging Indians ahead in the category of transmission reliability.
Polaris is well known for reliability and longevity.
The average Honda lasts for 150,000 miles, but there are Honda’s out there with up to 400,000 thousand miles on the odometer, meaning they tend to last longer than Harleys.
While Harley’s are undoubtedly more recognizable with their iconic style and sound, Honda is arguably the most reliable motorcycle brand in the world.
Honda allocates a big chunk of change towards research and development, making them one of the longest-lasting brands.
Honda makes more bikes a year than any other name in motorcycles.
Practice makes perfect, and Hondas are undoubtedly some of the most reliable bikes around.
That said, Harley’s are classics and have made improvements over recent years to close the reliability gap between the two brands.
Harley’s are designed for a specific base following, and that following considers them as reliable as need be to win their loyalty.
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Triumph’s last between 100,000 and 200,000 miles on average, with some of the most state-of-the-art, innovative technology behind them. Harley has made many modernizations over the past few years, but dated staples like their chain drive transmission can’t outlive Triumph’s hi-tech designs.
Triumph has one of the leading teams of engineers in the game.
They were incredibly innovative at combining modern tech with their vintage style, forerunning the “Modern Classic” wave with the times, upgrading their reliability, and longevity, along with it.
Harleys are buff and rugged, making them resilient however Triumph’s reliability is more due to state-of-the-art engineering and technology.
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Are Harley-Davidsons Reliable?
Harley-Davidson motorcycles are reliable, provided that they are well maintained, serviced, and stored correctly. Serving a Harley according to the owner’s manual’s intervals will result in a reliable motorcycle while failing to do so makes a Harley unreliable.
If you’re planning on servicing your own Harley, we get it – for some moto-maniacs, wrenching is half the reason they own a bike.
If that’s your bag, get your hands on the factory Harley-Davidson service manual that correlates with your model and year.
It won’t be cheap, but if you want a reliable Harley and you want to do your own maintenance, this is the middle path between the two.
To further ensure that your Harley is as reliable as Harley’s can be, but you’re opposed to taking it to the dealership for its routine services, you’ll at least need to invest in a floor jack lift, though a ride-on lift makes life easier.
Make sure you’ve got quality in your toolbox, and keep in mind that you’ll probably need to buy some special tools directly from Harley in order to do the maintenance that’ll keep your Harley tried but true and high-functioning.
Also, keep your Harley reliable by keeping a fat stash of o-rings, gaskets, snap rings, washers, Loctite, shop rags, spare fuses, and maybe a spark plug or two.
Consulting your official Harley-Davidson manual before you even look at a wrench makes for a more dependable Harley.
The magic tome of a Harley manual will tell you the proper order to remove every bolt on the bike, and even if you’re installing aftermarket upgrades, the manual has the info you need.
It’ll also give you a good idea of what aftermarket accessories aren’t going to work for bikes or which installs might cause problems before it’s too late.
What Are the Most Common Problems on a Harley?
Brake Lamp Switch failure, a clutch that won’t disengage properly, breaks in the fuel filter shell, and a brief possibility of brake failure are a few common problems that Harley motorcycles have dealt with over the years. They’ve solved many of these issues with recalls.
Harry’s most significant issue in modern times has been the 176,636 units that left the factors with faulty brake fluid.
The DIt 4 brake fluid the factory stocked some particular Harley bikes with had to be flushed periodically, and many owners were unaware of that responsibility.
Brake fluid that went unflushed for an extended period would gel up until deposits of brake-fluid-gel jammed up in the brake components.
If that gel made its way to the Anti-lock Braking System’s Control Unit valve, the valve would jam stuck, and the brakes would stop working.
A separate speed-bump Harley-Davidson faced was not only just as common but just as severe… it came about in 2010 when a Harley trike crashed as a result of a loss of brake fluid.
While Harley was in the midst of its investigation, another crash occurred with the same alleged culprit behind it. Eventually, Harley discovered that the rear brake light switch on a number of Harleys was degrading due to exposure to high temperatures.
Brake fluid leaking through the decomposing switch, meaning that 250,757 Harley-Davidson motorcycles were at risk of brake-fluid draining and potential crashing.
Harley issued a recall to replace the faulty switch.
Are Harley-Davidsons Expensive to Maintain?
Harley-Davidson has a middle-of-the-road price point for maintenance costs when compared to other brands. Harley recommends servicing their motorcycles every 5,000 miles, and the average cost of a service is $400, plus the price of any tires or brake pads required.
So, if you average 10,000 miles a year, you’re looking at $800 bucks annually, but if you’re one of us tourers clocking 20,000 miles a year, your annual cost is jumping up to $1600.
Motorcycle services are always less expensive if you go to a small-time, independent mechanic shop, as dealerships charge more.
But dealerships charge more to cover the training and equipment that make them more efficient at fixing your Harley; dealership mechanics are equipped with Harley-specific know-how that brings Harley riders a higher level of after-service support.
Here’s a quick breakdown of some Harley dealership maintenance costs:
- Oil & Filter Change: $110-$160
- New Brake Pads with Labor: $200-$300
- New Clutch with Labor: $300-$500
- Tire Replacement: $200-$500
How Long Do Harley Engines Last?
A Harley Engine is expected to last over 100,000 miles if the bike is well maintained as per Harley-Davidson’s suggested service schedule with fluids rotated regularly, if it’s stored and ridden responsibly, and if the motorcycle isn’t involved in any accidents.
Avoid aggressive riding habits, and keep up with routine service maintenance on your Harley for a long life of American attitude.
Also, avoid storing it for long periods on unuse without proper preparations, like a battery tender, protection from the elements and acidic chemicals, etc.
How Long Do Harley Tires Last?
A rear Harley tire is expected to last around 9,000- 10,000 miles if ridden responsibly. A front Harley tire is expected to last between 15,000 and 20,000 miles, though no Harley tire should be ridden after five years, regardless of bike mileage.
Tire longevity can vary greatly though depending on riding style and climate.
How Long Do Harley Batteries Last?
A Harley battery is expected to last around two years. A motorcycle’s battery life varies depending on many different factors such as climate, driving habits, and battery type.
- Keep your battery tightly fastened: The vibrating can loosen the connections, potentially resulting in short circuits and internal damage.
- Limit short rides: Quick moto rides prevent your Harley’s Stator from fully charging the bike’s battery.
- Storage: Keep your Harley stored indoors away from extreme changes in temperature and corrosive chemicals that can become airborne and corrode your battery.
- Control Corrosion: Using a toothbrush dipped in a mix of water and baking soda, clean your Harley’s terminals to keep corrosion from forming and building up.
How Long Do Harley Wheel Bearings Last?
Harley wheel bearings are expected to last for 100,000 miles, providing they’re maintained adequately with grease.
Harley bearings lifespan is compromised by riding in deep water or incurring hard impacts via curbs-drops, stunts, or off-road riding.
How Long Do Harley Drive Belts Last?
A Harley drive belt is expected to last 100,000 miles in optimal conditions.
- Failing to inspect and service a drive belt as per Harley’s specifications will result in early belt failure.
- Harley drive belts are fabricated from resilient, stretch-resistant materials.
How Long Do Harley Clutches Last?
A Harley clutch is expected to last between 20,000 and 60,000 miles.
A Harley clutch that is ridden hard and often slipped or not serviced regularly may need replacing after just 5,000 miles, while a well-kept Harley clutch can last for over 100,000 miles.
How Long Do Harley Brake Pads Last?
Harley brake pads can be expected to last for 10,000-15,000 miles.
Aggressive riding habits and corrosive weather conditions can significantly shorten the lifespan of Harley brake pads; they should be inspected every 2,500 miles to make sure they’re still safe.
How Long Does a Harley Stator Last?
A Harley Stator is expected to last for 150,000 miles on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle that’s never had electrical issues.
The lifespan of a Harley stator depends on the bike’s electrical load, the greater the electrical demand the faster it will wear out.
A bad regulator/rectifier will shorten its life as well.
How Long Does a Harley Primary Chain Last?
A Harley Primary chain is expected to last 100,000 miles if maintained properly, adjusted to the spec tension, and serviced in the frequency outlined in the Harley’s owner’s manual.
The primary shoe and the drive sprockets are likely to wear long before a well-kept chain does.
How Long Do Harley Key Fob Batteries Last Last?
A Harley key fob battery is expected to last for 1 – 4 years.
Always try replacing the battery before assuming the fob is the issue, like a new Harley key fob, on average, costs around $50.
You can replace both the key fob battery and the key fob itself easily at any Harley-Davidson dealership.
How Long Do Harley Coils Last?
A Harley ignition coil is expected to last up to 100,000 miles if it’s properly maintained and if the spark plugs are replaced before they burn out.
If your Harley’s spark plugs wear out, your ignition coil picks up the slack by performing at a higher output than intended, and it will wear early.
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How Long Do Harley Motor Mounts Last?
Harley motor mounts are expected to last between 5 and 10 years.
Harley motor mounts can wear early from gears over-revving, engine braking, or popping out the clutch lever before riding, or from engine impact.
Eventually, all rubber mounts are susceptible to dry-rotting and failure due to old age.
How Long Do Harley Rotors Last?
Harley rotors are expected to last between 30,000 and 70,000 miles.
Aggressive riding can cause Harley rotors to wear prematurely.
If brakes are applied hard and often, like during aggressive stints at racing speeds, the friction generates excessive heat, causing rotor wear.
How Long Do Harley Voltage Regulators Last?
A Harley Voltage regulator is expected to last between 50,000 and 100,000 miles, providing the battery is well-maintained.
A weak battery, or an unreliable ground connection, causes voltage that can cause a Harley regulator rectifier to run hotter than intended and fail early.
How Long Do Harley Shocks Last?
Harley motorcycle shocks are expected to last at least 30,000 miles.
By 40,000 miles, most shocks will need to be rebuilt at the very least, if not replaced.
Keep your Harley at peak performance by proactively inspecting your shocks every 30,000 miles.
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How Long Do Harley Spark Plugs Last?
Harley spark plugs are expected to last between 15,000 and 16,000 miles of riding.
Spark plug wear at this mileage is standard on most motorcycles, including Harleys.
If your Harley is running rough or experiencing power loss, wear on the spark plugs is the first thing you should inspect.
9 Tips to Make Your Harley Last Longer:
- Service your Harley per the schedule outlined in your specific Harley model’s owner’s manual.
- Store your Harley properly, either covered or indoors, away from corrosive airborne chemicals.
- Ride your Harley responsibly, adhering to the appropriate RPMs the owner’s manual specifies for each gear.
- Wash your Harley twice a month to jeep dirt, grime, and corrosion at bay. Dry your Harley well after washing.
- Break your Harley in Properly. The first 600 or so miles you put on your Harley are the most critical‒ride your Harley nice and smooth during the first thousand miles for long life.
- Lubricate your Harley’s steering head bearings, swingarm, suspension linkages, and wheel bearings, controls, and cables according to the schedule in your manual.
- Clean your Harley’s air filter. If your air filter is loose or damaged, you’re allowing dirt or grit to grind away in your engine. If it’s unclear to the point of being clogged, you’re probably running your motor rich. Avoid this by cleaning your air filter according to your Harley’s service manual.
- CHange your Harley’s oils and filter per the service schedule in your owner’s manual. Neglected oil and fluid changes on a Harley-Davidson motorcycle can lead to deterioration, breakdowns – and warranty denial. Follow Harley’s recommended service schedule, changing your Harley’s oil and filter more often if you ride in dusty conditions.
- Ride your Harley often! A sitting Harley is a sad Harley. Get those fluids moving by riding your bike on the reg.