5 of The Worst Shovelhead Years to Avoid At All Costs

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Mr. Chase Manhattan

If you’re in the market for a Harley Davidson Shovelhead, it’s important to know which model years to avoid. The Shovelhead engine was produced by Harley Davidson from 1966 to 1984 and was popular among riders for its increased displacement and power output. However, not all Shovelhead models were created equal, and some years are known for recurring issues that can make owning one a headache.

Obviously, since you’re here, you know there are specific Shovelhead model years that you should avoid. These include the 1967, 1978, and 1983 models. These years are notorious for a variety of problems, including oiling, electrical, and starter issues. While some riders may have had success with these models, it’s generally recommended to steer clear of them to avoid potential headaches down the road.

It’s important to note that not all Shovelhead models are problematic. In fact, many riders swear by their Shovelheads and find them to be reliable and fun to ride. However, if you’re a first-time buyer or looking to add to your collection, it’s worth doing your research and being aware of any potential issues with the model years you’re considering. By being informed, you can make a smart purchasing decision and enjoy your Harley Davidson Shovelhead for years to come.

Related read: Round ‘Em Up: What Year Harleys To Avoid? (Full Overview)

If you’re a Harley Davidson enthusiast, you’re probably aware of the Shovelhead engine. This iconic engine was manufactured from 1966 to 1984 and is known for its unique design and sound. In this section, we’ll dive into the historical context, design, and technical specifications of the Shovelhead engine.

Historical Context and Evolution

The Shovelhead engine was introduced in 1966 as a successor to the Panhead engine. It was designed to address the shortcomings of the Panhead engine, such as oil leaks and overheating. The Shovelhead engine was the first Harley Davidson engine to feature an overhead valve design, which improved performance and power output.

Over the years, the Shovelhead engine underwent several changes and improvements. In 1967, the engine was fitted with an electric starter, which replaced the previous kickstarter. However, the 1967 model suffered from oiling, electrical, and starter issues, which made it less reliable than other models.

Design and Technical Specifications

The Shovelhead engine is a V-twin engine that features a unique shovel-shaped rocker box cover, which gives it its name. The engine has a displacement of up to 74 cubic inches and a compression ratio of up to 9:1, which makes it more efficient and powerful than previous Harley Davidson engines.

The Shovelhead engine also features a dry sump oiling system, which helps to prevent oil leaks and overheating. Additionally, the engine has a four-speed transmission and a primary drive that is enclosed in a chain case.

Shovelhead Engine Variants

The Shovelhead engine underwent several changes and improvements over the years, which resulted in several variants. Some of the most notable variants include the 1968 model, which featured improved oiling and electrical systems, and the 1970 model, which featured a stronger crankshaft and improved oiling.

Overall, the Shovelhead engine is a unique and iconic engine that has a special place in the hearts of Harley Davidson enthusiasts. While some models suffered from issues, such as oil leaks and overheating, the engine’s design and technical specifications make it a powerful and efficient engine that is still beloved today.

If you are in the market for a Shovelhead motorcycle, it is important to know the common issues that these models are prone to. Here are some of the most common problems that you might encounter with Shovelhead motorcycles.

Oil System Faults

Oil leaks are a common problem with Shovelhead models. Some of the most common oil system faults include leaky base gaskets and oil leaks in the primary case. These leaks can cause serious damage to your motorcycle if left unchecked.

Electrical and Ignition Problems

Electrical problems are another common issue with Shovelhead motorcycles. The ignition system is particularly prone to problems, including issues with the points and spark. These problems can lead to poor performance and difficulty starting your motorcycle.

Clutch and Transmission Challenges

Shovelhead models are also known for their clutch and transmission issues. Some of the most common problems include clutch disengagement, clutch cable issues, and gear shifting problems. These issues can make it difficult to ride your motorcycle and can even cause damage to your transmission.

Overall, Shovelhead motorcycles are great bikes, but they do come with their fair share of problems. By knowing the common issues with these models, you can make an informed decision when purchasing your motorcycle and take steps to prevent these problems from occurring.

If you’re considering purchasing a Harley-Davidson Shovelhead, it’s important to know which years and models to avoid. While the Shovelhead engine was a popular choice for riders from 1966 to 1984, there were certain production years and models that had notorious issues.

Identifying Problematic Production Years

The 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1983 production years are known to have recurring issues that can make them difficult to ride. These years suffered from problems such as oiling, electrical, and starter issues. If you’re looking for a reliable Shovelhead, it’s best to avoid models from these years.

Specific Models with Notorious Issues

The 1978 Super Glide and 1983 Low Rider are two models that are particularly problematic. The 1978 Super Glide was the first Harley-Davidson motorcycle to have a rear disc brake, but it also had issues with the brake system that could make it difficult to stop. The 1983 Low Rider had issues with the starter and electrical system, which could cause it to fail to start.

It’s important to note that while these models and years are known to have issues, not all bikes from these years will have problems. If you’re considering purchasing a Shovelhead from one of these years, be sure to have it inspected by a professional mechanic before making a purchase.

In conclusion, if you’re looking for a reliable Harley-Davidson Shovelhead, it’s best to avoid the 1978, 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1983 production years, as well as the 1978 Super Glide and 1983 Low Rider models. By doing your research and having a professional inspection, you can find a Shovelhead that will provide you with years of enjoyable riding.

To keep your Shovelhead engine running smoothly, it is recommended to perform routine maintenance tasks on a regular basis. This includes checking and adjusting the ignition timing, cleaning and adjusting the carburetor, and inspecting the drive belt for wear. It is also important to check the oil level and pressure regularly, as low oil pressure can cause engine damage.

Repair and Replacement of Parts

If you notice any issues with your Shovelhead engine, it is important to address them promptly to prevent further damage. This may involve repairing or replacing worn or damaged parts, such as gaskets, seals, or electrical components. It is important to use high-quality replacement parts that meet the manufacturer’s specifications to ensure proper fit and function.

Enhancing Longevity and Performance

To enhance the longevity and performance of your Shovelhead engine, there are several steps you can take. This includes upgrading to high-performance parts, such as high-flow air filters and exhaust systems, to increase power and efficiency. It is also important to keep the engine clean and well-maintained, as dirt and debris can cause damage over time. Finally, it is important to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule to ensure proper function and prevent premature wear.

What are common issues with Shovelhead motorcycles?

Shovelhead motorcycles are known to have a few common issues. Some of these issues include oil leaks, starter problems, and electrical issues. These issues can be caused by a variety of factors, such as worn out gaskets, loose connections, and dirty or corroded components. It is important to keep an eye out for these issues and address them promptly to prevent further damage to your motorcycle.

Which models of Harley-Davidson Shovelhead are considered less reliable?

Some models of Harley-Davidson Shovelhead are considered less reliable than others. The 1967, 1978, and 1983 models are known to have recurrent issues, including oiling, electrical, and starter problems. It is important to be aware of these issues when considering purchasing a Shovelhead motorcycle.

How does the Shovelhead engine’s reliability compare to other Harley engines?

The Shovelhead engine’s reliability is generally considered to be less reliable than other Harley engines. While the Shovelhead engine was an improvement over the previous Panhead engine, it still had its fair share of issues. The introduction of the Evolution engine in 1984 marked a significant improvement in Harley-Davidson’s engine design and reliability.

What specific issues did the 1978 Shovelhead model face?

The 1978 Shovelhead model faced a few specific issues, including oil leaks and starter problems. These issues were caused by a combination of factors, including worn out gaskets and a weak starter motor. It is important to address these issues promptly to prevent further damage to your motorcycle.

Are there any particular Shovelhead model years that are recommended to avoid?

The 1967, 1978, and 1983 models of Shovelhead motorcycles are generally recommended to be avoided due to their recurrent issues. However, it is important to keep in mind that every motorcycle is unique and may have its own set of issues.

What maintenance challenges can be expected with older Shovelhead engines?

Older Shovelhead engines may require more maintenance than newer engines. Some maintenance challenges that can be expected include oil leaks, worn out gaskets, and electrical issues. It is important to keep up with regular maintenance and address any issues promptly to keep your Shovelhead running smoothly.

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Hey y’all! It’s Chase Manhattan, a life-long gearhead, tinkerer, and adrenaline junky. I like to write about all things technical in the Harley Davidson and motorcycling space.