Shovelhead Years to Avoid: Which One to Avoid

The Harley-Davidson Shovelhead engine was one of the most iconic and beloved motorcycle engines of its time. From its introduction in 1966 to its discontinuation in 1984, the Shovelhead underwent various changes and improvements, becoming a symbol of American motorcycle culture.

However, not all years of production were created equal. While the Shovelhead has gained a reputation for its durability and power, certain years are considered to be less desirable than others.

Here, we will delve into the history of the Shovelhead engine and discuss the years to avoid when purchasing a used bike. So, read on to learn which Shovelhead years to avoid and why, and ensure that you make the best choice for your riding needs.

Shovelhead Years to Avoid

Which Harley Davidson Shovelhead Years To Avoid For Winning Performance?

Which Harley Davidson Shovelhead Years To Avoid For Winning Performance

According to many motorbike riders, enthusiasts, and connoisseurs, it is better to prevent these model years: 1983, 1978, and 1967. These bikes lack orthodox quality of level and standard of designated services. Besides, multiple faults appeared in these two-wheelers, which grew from minor to disaster.

People worldwide consider the Harley Shovelhead a fancy motorcycle. It has various features to match individuality. Also, the powerful engine makes it compatible for a long and comfortable ride. However, some model years of Shovelhead were not up to the mark.

Since finding the oldest model years is hard, you can find recent ones by avoiding a few. Some critical model years had severe problems with their parts, like excessive fuel consumption, faulty engine, and chassis defects. Below are the model years you should ignore:

  • 1983 Shovelhead
  • 1978 Shovelhead
  • 1967 Shovelhead

You may consider avoiding these model years if you want to buy a Harley Shovelhead bike. Yet, a few facts like engine health, condition of brake, chassis, and other parts can suggest that you are selecting the right one. Scroll down to get details on Shovelhead years to avoid. Below are the reasons why you should avoid the above model years:

Problems With Harley Shovelhead 1983 Bike

Problems With Harley Shovelhead 1983 Bike

The 1983 Shovelhead model from Harley-Davidson is one of the final years of production for this classic styling engine design. Many riders love to have the bike for its stylish appearance.

Likewise, Harley used the Shovelhead engine in several series like Disc Glide, Electra Glide, Electra Glide Classic, Electra Glide Sport, Low Rider, Super Glide, Tour Glide, and Wide Glide. Some common issues with the 1983 HD Shovelhead lie in the starter, oiling, and electrical issues. Hence, many riders have already discussed these issues in these ways:

Electrical Issues

One common problem that owners of a 1983 Harley Shovelhead bike may encounter is electrical issues. These issues can range from a faulty ignition system to problems with the wiring and connections. When experiencing electrical problems, it is important to troubleshoot and diagnose the specific issue before attempting any repairs.

This may involve checking the battery, inspecting the wiring for any signs of damage or corrosion, and testing various electrical components. If you are unsure how to properly address these issues, it is recommended to consult with a professional mechanic who has experience working on vintage motorcycles like the 1983 Harley Shovelhead.

Faulty Starter

One common problem that owners of the Harley Shovelhead 1983 bike may experience is a faulty starter. The starter motor is responsible for initiating the engine’s rotation, allowing it to start. If the starter is not functioning properly, it can result in difficulty or an inability to start the bike. This issue can be caused by a variety of factors, such as worn-out brushes, a bad solenoid, or electrical problems.

It is important to address this issue promptly, as attempting to start the bike repeatedly with a faulty starter can lead to further damage. If you are experiencing issues with your Harley Shovelhead 1983 bike’s starter, it is recommended to consult with a professional motorcycle mechanic who can diagnose and repair the problem.

Oiling Problems

One common issue with the Harley Shovelhead 1983 bike is oiling problems. The Shovelhead beloved engines has a reputation for experiencing oil leaks and other issues related to oil circulation.

This can lead to poor lubrication, overheating, and ultimately potential engine damage if not addressed. Some potential causes of oiling problems in the Shovelhead engine include worn or damaged seals, loose or faulty Oil tank lines, and clogged oil passages.

It is important for owners of this bike to regularly inspect their oil system and address any issues promptly to ensure proper lubrication and prevent costly repairs down the line. Consulting with a professional mechanic or Harley enthusiast can help diagnose and fix oiling problems specific to the Shovelhead 1983 bike.

Problems With Harley Shovelhead 1978 Bike

Problems With Harley Shovelhead 1978 Bike

The 1978 Shovelhead featured a larger, more powerful engine than its predecessor, the Panhead. It also featured a more modern and streamlined look than the classic Panhead design. Thus, the company used the engine in this year’s Electra Glide, Super Glide, Low Rider, etc. series.

Still, you can find it in the list of the worst model years of Shovelhead for its problems. These problems include oil spraying out, oil refilling, points and firing, and clutch issues.

Oil Spraying Out

A common problem that owners of the Harley Shovelhead 1978 bike may encounter is oil spraying out. This can be a frustrating issue that creates a mess and poses potential safety risks. There are several potential causes for this problem, including worn or damaged gaskets, loose or improperly tightened oil lines, or issues with the oil pump.

It is important to address this issue promptly to prevent further damage to the engine and ensure the bike’s optimal performance. Consulting a professional mechanic familiar with vintage Harley motorcycles can help diagnose and resolve this problem effectively.

Oil Refilling Problem

The problem owners of a 1978 Harley Shovelhead bike may encounter is an oil refilling issue. This can manifest in various ways, such as excessive oil consumption or difficulty refilling the oil reservoir. This problem has several potential causes, including worn or damaged gaskets, faulty oil pump, or clogged oil lines.

It is important to address this issue promptly, as inadequate lubrication can damage engines. Consulting with a professional mechanic familiar with vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles can help diagnose and resolve the oil refilling problem and ensure that your 1978 Shovelhead bike continues running smoothly.

Points And Firing Problem

Another common problem with the Harley Shovelhead 1978 bike is the points and firing issues. The points are responsible for opening and closing the electrical circuit that controls the ignition timing while firing refers to the spark that ignites the fuel-air mixture in the combustion chamber.

If the points are worn or misaligned, it can result in a weak or inconsistent spark, leading to poor engine performance or difficulty starting the bike. It is important to regularly check and maintain the points, ensuring they are clean and properly adjusted.

Clutch Issue

If you own a 1978 Harley Shovelhead bike and are experiencing clutch issues, you’re not alone. The Shovelhead model is known for its unique clutch design, which can sometimes lead to problems. One common issue is clutch slippage, where the clutch fails to fully engage or disengage, resulting in a loss of power or difficulty shifting gears.

Worn-out clutch plates, a malfunctioning clutch cable, or improper adjustment of the clutch mechanism can cause this. To address this issue, it is recommended to inspect and replace worn-out parts, lubricate the clutch cable, and ensure proper adjustment of the clutch mechanism. If the problem persists, consulting with a professional mechanic specialising in vintage Harley Davidson motorcycles may be necessary.

Problems With Harley Shovelhead 1967 Bike

Problems With Harley Shovelhead 1967 Bike

The 1967 Shovelhead was a modernized version of the classic Harley-Davidson V-twin motorcycle just after its release. It got a new engine, an oversized oil pump, and an improved alternator system. These improvements made the Shovelhead significantly more potent than earlier Harley-Davidson earlier models.

The steel struts provide crucial support and stability to the building, ensuring its structural integrity. Still, the riders faced several issues with this bike. Two common issues with 1967 Shovelhead clutch disengagement and shifting.

Clutch Disengagement

One common problem owners of the Harley Shovelhead 1967 bike may encounter is clutch disengagement. This issue can cause difficulty in shifting gears and make it challenging to control the motorcycle. It is important to address this problem as soon as possible to ensure safe and smooth riding.

Several potential causes for clutch disengagement include worn or damaged clutch plates, a malfunctioning clutch cable, or improper clutch adjustment. If you are experiencing issues with clutch disengagement, it is recommended to consult with a qualified mechanic who specializes in Harley motorcycles to diagnose and resolve the problem.

Shifting Problem

Another problem owners of a Harley Shovelhead 1967 bike may encounter is shifting issues. If you are experiencing difficulty shifting gears or if the gears are slipping while riding, there are a few potential causes to consider. First, check the clutch adjustment to ensure it is properly calibrated.

A misadjusted clutch can prevent smooth gear changes. Additionally, worn clutch plates or a damaged cable could contribute to the shifting problem. It is recommended to have a professional mechanic inspect and diagnose the issue to determine the exact cause and provide appropriate repairs.

Which Years Should You Prefer To Buy Shovelhead Bikes?

Which Years Should You Prefer To Buy Shovelhead Bikes

Most experts and users of Harley Davidson consider the 1966 model year best for the Shovelhead bikes. It has the enhanced look of the previous Coal Shovel. Even the model year is known as the AMF year identified for making the best quality bikes.

The 1966 Shovelhead is like the Sportster, another bike line from HD. Another model year is 1984 for faultless Harley Shovelhead bikes. It also has premium, sturdy parts and negligible chances of getting defects. So, you can select this model year too. Besides these model years, some can be 1968-69, the late 1970s, and 1981-82.

All these model years have the least reports or complaints for their robust build, engine efficiency, look, and performance. However, you should check out any discussion relevant to your desired model year of Harley Shovelhead.


The Shovelhead engine holds a special place in the hearts of Harley Davidson enthusiasts, but like all good things, it eventually needed an upgrade. The engine that replaced the Shovelhead was the Evolution engine, also known as the Evo. Introduced in 1984, the Evo engine significantly improved performance, reliability, and ease of maintenance.

With its advanced design and modern features, the Evo engine quickly became a favorite among riders and continues to power many Harley Davidson motorcycles today. If you’re looking for a winning performance and a reliable ride, opting for Harley Davidson models equipped with the Evo engine is recommended. We’ve discussed Shovelhead Years to Avoid.


What Were Common Shovelhead Problems?

Easy Rider is famous for its groundbreaking portrayal of counterculture and its exploration of themes such as freedom, rebellion, and the search for meaning in a changing America. It captured the spirit of the 1960s and became emblematic of the era’s cultural and social revolution.

Are Harley Shovelheads Reliable?

Harley shovelheads have a reputation for being less reliable compared to newer models. They were produced from 1966 to 1984 and had several design flaws, such as oil leakage and overheating issues.

Are Shovelheads Fast?

Shovelhead motorcycles, manufactured by Harley-Davidson from 1966 to 1985, were not known for their speed. While they had a powerful engine and a distinctive design, their top speeds were typically limited compared to more modern motorcycles.

Is A Shovelhead A Good Motor?

A Shovelhead motor can be a good choice for some motorcycle enthusiasts, but it may not suit everyone. Shovel heads have a vintage appeal and offer a unique riding experience. They are known for their distinct sound and character.

What Engine Replaced The Shovelhead?

The engine that replaced the Shovelhead is known as the Evolution engine. The Evolution engine was introduced by Harley-Davidson in 1984 and marked a significant advancement in motorcycle technology frame.

4 thoughts on “Shovelhead Years to Avoid: Which One to Avoid”

  1. I must be honest I didn’t read the entire article as soon as I saw which model years they were talking about I knew wasn’t going to lose on more second of my life Harley produced the shovel head from 1966 to 1984 period so whoever wrote this was very poorly informed

  2. Obviously written by a non-mechanical person whos never ridden a shovelhead.

    Shovelhead: Separating good mechanics from bad mechanics since 1966.


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