Which Harley Davidson Years to Avoid and Why? (Explained)

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There is a strong and devoted fan base for Harley-Davidson motorcycles. Known for their affordability and ease of use, Harley-Davidson began their production on 1903.

While no one can argue that Harley Davidson motorcycles are of the highest quality, the firm has created a few duds in the past. Aside from the iconic models they’ve created, they’ve also produced some mediocre models and those models should be steer clear off.

I’m going to list the years of Harleys to avoid, along with legitimate reasons why, and the safest years, so that you may purchase the finest one available.

Harleys Years to Avoid (List of Years)

It’s a good idea to avoid certain models of Harley-Davidson if you’re looking to buy a used one. Iā€™m adding a list of years to stay away from as they are plagued with issues.

  • 1980 Harley Sportster
  • 1981 Harley Sportster
  • 1999 Harley-Davidson FXSTB Night Train
  • 2001 Harley Sportster
  • 2004 Harley Sportster
  • 2014 Electra Glide
  • 2019 Harley Sportster

The AMF period, which lasted from 1969 to 1980, should be avoided, as should the next decade. Avoid these years at all costs, since they are the most problematic.

In the 1970s, the quality of these motor built in the United States was generally poor, particularly when compared to those made in Japan. After HD was sold, AMF’s quality control was extremely poor, and it took almost a decade for the company to recover.

Sportster bikes were manufactured during the dark years of Harley-motorcycle Davidson’s production. The Sportster was reinvented after Harley-split Davidson’s from AMF.

Worst Years of Harley Davidson:

  • 1981 Sportster.

A dismal year in general for Harley-Davidson, but this Sportster may have been the company’s lowest point. Owners have expressed their displeasure with the bike’s handling, which often resulted in them getting into unsafe situations.

What Makes These Harleys Years Worth Avoiding?

In researching various websites, internet platforms, and forums, I’ve uncovered reasons to avoid the Harley years I’d previously put. Let’s get to know them.

1980 Harley Davidson Problems:

The Ironhead sportster was a horrendous technological failure in the 1970s and 1980s. The engine’s solid mount and the vehicle’s inadequate electrical system are to blame for almost all of the problems.

The electrical system had a number of failures, according to the reports. As a matter of fact, it’s a long-term trend. As a result, bits of the bike were coming free on a regular basis due to the vibrations from the securely placed engine. This motorcycle almost bankrupted HD.

A large number of oil leaks occurred in the last year or so. Shifter forks that bent might cause the gearbox to unexpectedly jump out of second gear.

In 1976, the Kiehan carburetor was introduced, and it was a complete failure. It was replaced as quickly as possible.

1981 Harley Davidson Problems:

Not only one of the worst Harleys, the 1981 Harley-Davidson Sportster was one of the worst motorcycles ever made by any company. One of the worst-handling motorcycles ever, according to Thought Co., is the 1981 Sportster 750.

The year 1981 was a difficult one for Harley-Davidson because of a catastrophic financial deal with AMF, a company that temporarily purchased the motorcycle manufacturer in 1981.

As a consequence of the trouble, Harley-Davidson created the Sportster. The Sportster was reinvented after the separation with AMF, but not for the 1981 model year.

1999 Harley Davidson Problems:

It didn’t go with the clever name they gave it (Harley-Davidson FXSTB Night Train). since this particular model year has a slew of problems.

It has a problem when it gets too hot, as it sputters out and dies while riding.

There is no point in purchasing this bike if the V-twin engine is defective enough to deliver short-range lengths and bad handling that results in death wobbles. It is a must avoid model.

2001 Harley Davidson Problems:

2001 Sportster seem to be affected by the technical issue.

It also been recorded to have gearbox issues. Although there isn’t a definite pattern, this happens more often at various seasons of the year.

The greatest and most significant issue is with the cam chain tensioners. The tensioners might wear prematurely.

2004 Harley Davidson Problems:

The Dyna has the same Twin Cam engine, and plagued with issues.

The most probable cause of the Twin Cam engine’s problems is its cam chain system design. The product itself has a poor design.

 Prior to 2004, the engines of both Sportster models were not rubber-mounted, making for a bumpy ride.

After a few minutes of riding, a 2004 Harley-Davidson was seen to stall. The problem was not resolved by swapping out the batteries and plugs.

2014 Harley Davidson Problems:

In all honesty, Harley’s Electra Glide may out to be completely useless.  However, there seem to be a number of problems with various models.

2014 model, which has been recalled five times in total. Because of disengagement, clutch failure, and a faulty master cylinder, the recalls were issued

2019 Harley Davidson Problems:

People who ride classic V-twin motorbikes are not the same as those who ride LiveWire bikes.

There are several electrical and shifting difficulties this year. Several forums and Reddit users have discussed a host of issues they’ve encountered and how they’ve been dissatisfied with their purchases.

Harley-electric Davidson’s Livewire electric motorbike was marketed as a high-quality product. This specific model’s flaws may be quite expensive to resolve.

Problems with the wheel bearings, gearbox, and loud sounds while shifting gears are all regular occurrences.

Which Harley Davidson Years are Safe to Buy?

Here are the safe years to buy Harley-Davidson motor:

  • 1915 Harley-Davidson 11F
  • 1936 Model E
  • 1948 Harley-Davidson FL Hydra-Glide
  • 1957 Harley XL Sportster Ironhead
  • 1967 Harley Sportster XLH
  • 1969 Harley Sportster XLH
  • 1971 Harley Sportster
  • 1978 Harley Sportster
  • 1983 Harley Sportster XLX61
  • 1984ā€“1999 Evo Softail.
  • 2009ā€“2013 Touring Models.
  • 2007ā€“2017 Heritage Softail Classic

All of these Harley years have received overwhelmingly positive response, and they are most certainly the favorites of everyone. Consequently, it is risk-free to purchase.

Buying a used Harley-Davidson offers numerous benefits that will make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner. Buying a secondhand Harley-Davidson has several advantages.

Classic Harleys Classic Harley-Davidson motorcycles are only available secondhand.

Harleys tend to resale well. Buying used means getting a nice bike that will resale well if you ever decide to sell it.

Harleys were built to take a beating. Engines function better when maintained in excellent condition and have some miles on them. Sometimes you may get a great deal on a used item.

Motorcycles made by Harley-Davidson are known for their dependability and quality. To put it another way, buying an older, well-maintained bike may save you a lot of money without sacrificing anything in the way of dependability.


Even while some bikers refuse to ride anything but a Harley, others aren’t interested in purchasing one because of the many issues that have been linked with Harley ownership.

Read this article attentively to learn which Harley years to avoid and what issues may develop. If you’re looking for the greatest years to invest, I’ve included the finest years as well.

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