Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster common Problems & Solutions

The Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 has been a popular motorcycle model since its production in 1957. It is a part of the Harley Davidson Sportster series, mostly known for its power and agility. Likewise, it features an air-cooled, four-stroke, 45° V-twin engine producing 67 hp and 65 lb.-ft of torque. 

Still, the minimalistic and powerful motorbike owners face several issues while they ride it. Thus, over the past few years, we have seen five major Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster common probles. These major problems for Harley Davidson 1200 Sporter include mainly electrical malfunction, absence of windshield, rough running, and oil leaks. 

I will share the details of these problems and their troubleshooting in this guide. If you face one of these issues with the HD 1200 Sportster, continue reading for quick solutions. 

Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster common Problems & Solutions

List Of Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster Problems And Their Solutions

List Of Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster Problems And Their Solutions

Harley Sportster motorbikes are known for their agility, aesthetics, and premium riding experience. The HD 1200 is no exception to it. You can find it in various styles and models, including the Sportster 1200 Custom, Sportster 1200 Roadster, and Sportster 1200 Iron. Technically, this beast is designed for city and highway riding, with a comfortable position and responsive handling.

Sadly, your riding comfort and safety may be compromised with HD 1200 Sportster because of its few problems. You will find its battery failing to charge properly. Also, it losses power as it gets old. Finally, you feel discomfort at riding high-speed due to the absence of a windshield. 

Problem Name

What Happens

Possible Solutions

Battery or Electrical Problems

Battery fails to charge fully

Replace the battery or check the terminals to cure them

Mushy Brakes

Brakes become unresponsive 

Replace the brake pads or discs

Oil leakage & Smoke Pouring

Oil leaks from engine

Replace the gaskets or seals

Rough Running

Loss of power and performance 

Adjust the suspension setting

No Windshield

Discomfort in riding long ways

Install windshield

Gears Slipping

Gear may slip often

Repair or replace clutch 

Problem – 1: Battery Or Electrical Problems

Battery Or Electrical Problems

Electrical problems can lead to serious inconveniences and potentially dangerous situations while riding. Thus, several owners of this bike have reported these problems starting from the battery. One Reddit post says, “Issue with Newer Sportsters – Battery Not Charging.” It was about the 2020 Iron 1200 Sportster that was not charging correctly. 

These issues can be visible in defective rectifiers, regulators, wiring harnesses, and stators. If you see any of these symptoms, you should consider your vehicle is having battery or electrical problems: lights flickering, unexpected shut-off of lights, burnt-out bulbs. 

Reasons For Malfunctioning Battery:

The leading causes of battery or electrical problems are faulty ignition switches, corroded battery terminals, or a malfunctioning charging system. Typically, battery terminals may corrode over time. Even poor electrical connections can also cause electrical problems. 

Hence, you must observe the battery, its wiring, and ignition switches. It helps you find the actual reason for the battery failure or inappropriate electrical operations. 

Solutions To The Battery Problem:

  • If you want to fix this problem, start by checking the battery for any signs of wear or damage.
  • Don’t hesitate to replace it if necessary. Next, check the battery terminals for any signs of corrosion and clean or replace them as necessary. The YTX14L-BS Gel Battery can be a great aftermarket battery for the HD 1200 sportster. 
  • Also, ensure the charging system is lovely to charge the battery. If you find any malfunction, repair or replace it accordingly. 

Problem – 2: Mushy Brakes

Mushy Brakes

There was news about Sportster recalls entitled “Harley Oz recalls old Sportsters over brake issue” (Source: motorbikewriter). Some reports are still available on Reddit, like this one: the owner had 96 1200 Sportster with a front brake problem. So, this is another common problem of 1200 Sportster. Similarly, you may face mushy or unresponsive brakes making the bike difficult to control. 

The front disc of the brake in this bike is 300mm, while the rear one is a bit smaller. This difference creates a nuisance in the braking ability of the motorbike. After all, the rear brake needs to carry more weight as the rear tire width is more. 

Reasons For Problematic Brakes:

The brakes in HD 1200 Sportster are vulnerable. The leading causes of mushy brakes are many. It includes:

  • Worn brake pads, 
  • Low brake fluid, or 
  • A malfunctioning brake system

When the brake pads are worn or damaged, they cannot provide sufficient friction to stop the bike. As a result, you get the brake mushy or unresponsive. Even the low brake fluid can be another reason to have the problem. 

Solutions To Erratic Brakes:

As there’re many reasons responsible for mushy brakes in Sportster 1200, you must inspect it carefully. Only then, you may find the real cause and start fixing it. To know their condition, you can check the brake pads or discs for wear or damage.

If you find them damaged, replace them soon. After that, check the brake fluid level and top it up if it is low. You may use a dipstick to find the brake fluid level quickly. If it is too low, using the right fluid will help improve the brakes.  Many experts suggest changing the breaks into better ones. Still, you can call a mechanic to inspect relevant reasons like worn brake rotors, malfunctioning brake calipers, or air in the brake lines. 

Problem – 3: Oil Leakage & Smoke Pouring

Oil Leakage & Smoke Pouring

Problems like oil leakage, smoke pouring, and low performance are expected in Harley 1200 Sportster. Though the reports are not so many, you may start thinking about them. One owner of 2013 1200 Sportster had an oil leakage problem. (Source: HDforums) He found a cracked oil line that needed to be fixed. 

Oil leakage can cause damage to the engine and other components and a loss of performance and efficiency. Even smoke may pour out from the engine, indicating a severe problem.

Possible Solutions 

Inspection of the oil leakage problem found that the gaskets or seals were worn or damaged over time. Again, you can identify smoke pour problems if you notice low oil pressure, overheating, or worn valve guides.

So, the first thing to do is change the gaskets or seals. If you don’t replace them, it may lead to a whole rebuild of the engine. Also, identify the causes of smoke pouring out of the engine and fix it as fast as you can. 

Problem – 4: Rough Running

Rough Running

The Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 may run rough or misfire, causing a loss of power and performance and increased emissions. More precisely, you will face low performance when you ride the bike on backed-up streets or the freeway. 

Possible Solutions 

There are several causes of the rough running of the Harley Davidson Sportster 1200. Some of them are incorrect adjustment of suspension, poor spark plug condition, low compression, or a dirty air filter. 

  • In the case of suspension, at least the rear shocks for preload, you must adjust its setting correctly. 
  • If it fails, you may need to replace the suspension. You can purchase aftermarket suspensions at reasonably low pricing. 
  • Then again, check the spark plugs and replace them if they are fouled or worn. Defective spark plugs cannot provide the required spark to ignite the mixture of fuel and air in the engine
  • Next, check the compression and repair or replace any components causing low compression. Keep the air filter condition neat and clean. Otherwise, clean it and replace it if needed. 

Problem – 5: No Windshield

If you love to go on long rides, then the 1200 Sportster may not be satisfactory as it has no windshield or wind protection. Ironically, the machine is built for heavy-duty riding. Even the seat makes the rider face the way of wind currents, which is the discomfort of riding a motorbike. 

Possible Solutions 

To fix this problem, you can install a windshield on your Sportster 1200. Various windshields are available on the market in different shapes and sizes. You can decide the best to suit the needs and preferences. However, I suggest you install a permanent or detachable windshield compatible with the 1200 model of Sportster. 

Problem – 6: Gears Slipping

Gears Slipping

Some complaints were about the engagement failure of gears when you start the engine. It may lead to a loss of power and make the bike difficult to control. Here is an example of the complaints about this issue:

“I just bought a 1989 Sportster 1200, 2nd and 3rd gears slip, is this caused by a bad gear (counter gear) or a bad clutch.” (Source: HDforums) The grears slipping means you have to compromise riding safety and comfort. Hence, it is a problem that you can’t ignore for long. 

Possible Solutions

Some reasons for gear slipping are worn or damaged clutch components, low transmission oil, or a malfunctioning transmission. So, if you want to troubleshoot, check the clutch for signs of wear or damage. Repair or replace them if they are found defective.

Next, top the transmission oil up if the level shows it is low. You may also call a mechanic to inspect the transmission for any other issues, such as worn gears or a malfunctioning shift mechanism.

Final Words

So, I am at the end of the discussion over the Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster common problems. Try to follow the solutions if you find problems with your bike. I hope this guide will also help you buy a new or used Harley Sportster 1200 model. 

And as you fix the problem, you will surely love Harley Davidson Sporter 1200. It enhances your swag and makes you stand out among others. And the comfort it brings is unmatchable too.

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