The 6 Most Expensive Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 Problems

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The Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster is an iconic representation of American motorcycles, and it has won the hearts of many enthusiasts over the years. 

However, like any mechanical marvel, it isn’t without its quirks and issues; over time, several common problems have been reported by owners and mechanics alike. 

This article will explore these issues and potential solutions to ensure your Sportster runs smoothly for the long haul.

Let’s get started!

Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster Common Problems

Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster Common Problems

These are the most common problems reported by the owners and enthusiasts over time.

1. Battery/ Electric Problem 

The 1200 Sportster, while primarily known for its gasoline-powered variants, has seen its share of electric iterations and, with them, a set of unique challenges. 

Here are some common battery or electric problems associated with the Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster:

Battery Drain Issues

One of the most common problems many motorcycle owners face, including those of the 1200 Sportster, is battery drain. 

It can be due to a variety of reasons. Faulty electrical components, parasitic draws from accessories, or even a faulty battery can lead to this problem. 

In order to solve the issue, regularly check the battery’s health, ensure that all electrical components are functioning correctly, and disconnect any non-essential accessories when the bike is not in use.

Charging System Malfunctions

The charging system, which includes the alternator, regulator, and battery, is crucial for the motorcycle’s proper functioning. 

If any of the components fail, it can lead to the battery not getting charged while the bike is running. 

It can result in the motorcycle stalling or not starting at all. Regular inspections and ensuring the charging rate is within the recommended range can help prevent such issues.

Software and Firmware Glitches

Modern electric motorcycles rely heavily on software to manage various aspects of the bike, from battery management to performance tuning. 

Sometimes, glitches or outdated firmware can lead to problems like reduced range, inconsistent power delivery, or even complete system shutdowns. 

Regularly updating the motorcycle’s software and staying informed about any recalls or updates from the manufacturer can help in addressing these issues.

Electric Motor Issues

For electric iterations of the 1200 Sportster, problems can arise from the electric motor itself. Overheating, reduced power output, or unresponsive throttle can indicate motor issues. 

Proper maintenance, ensuring that the motor is debris-free, and checking for any software updates can help mitigate these problems.

Connector and Wiring Problems 

Electric motorcycles have a complex network of wires and connectors, ensuring power is delivered where needed. 

Over time, these connectors can corrode, or wires can fray, leading to intermittent electrical issues or complete system failures. 

Related: Best and Worst Years Harley Sportster

2. Oil Leakage & Smoke Pouring 

Oil Leakage

Oil leakage is one of the most frequently reported issues with the Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster. 

The sources of these leaks can vary:

Primary Cover Gasket

The primary cover gasket can wear out or get damaged over time, leading to oil seepage. You should have regular inspection and timely replacement of the gasket to prevent this issue.

Oil Lines

The oil lines, especially where they connect to the engine or tank, can become loose or deteriorate and cause leaks. 

In order to solve the issue, you should ensure that the lines are securely fastened and in good condition.

Oil Filter 

The oil filter can be another source of leakage if it’s not correctly tightened or past its prime. 

Always ensure that the oil filter is appropriately torqued during oil changes and inspect it for signs of wear or damage.

Rocker Box Gaskets

Over time, the rocker box gaskets can degrade, leading to oil leaks. It is especially common in older Sportster models. 

Smoke Pouring

Smoke pouring from the exhaust or other parts of the Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster can be alarming and is typically indicative of underlying issues:

Worn Piston Rings 

If the piston rings become worn out, the oil can leak into the chamber, resulting in blue smoke from the exhaust. It is a sign that the engine is burning oil.

Overfilled Oil Tank 

Overfilling the oil tank can cause the excess oil to be sucked into the air cleaner, leading to white smoke from the exhaust. You should maintain the correct oil level to prevent this.

Faulty Head Gasket 

A blown or damaged head gasket can allow coolant to enter the combustion chamber, which produces white smoke. 

As this issue requires immediate attention, as it can lead to severe engine damage.

Rich Fuel Mixture

Black smoke is usually a sign of a rich fuel mixture, meaning too much fuel and insufficient air enters the combustion chamber. 

It can be due to various reasons, such as a faulty carburetor, clogged air filter, or problems with the fuel injection system.

3. Gear Slipping 

Like all machines, the Harley 1200 Sportster has its share of issues. One of the more common problems faced by riders is gear slipping. 

It can be frustrating and potentially dangerous, especially when riding high speeds.

Clutch Issues

The most common reason for gear slipping in any motorcycle is a malfunctioning clutch. The clutch plates might be worn out, or the clutch cable might be improperly adjusted.

If the clutch doesn’t engage or disengage properly, it can lead to the gears slipping. 

Regular inspection and timely replacement of the clutch plates and proper clutch cable adjustment can prevent this issue.

Transmission Fluid

The quality and level of the transmission fluid play a crucial role in the smooth shifting of gears. 

If the fluid is old and contaminated, or its level is too low, it can lead to gear slipping. 

In order to solve the issue, check the transmission fluid regularly and replace it as per the manufacturer’s recommendations to solve the issue.

Worn Out Gears

Over time and with extensive use, the gears in the transmission can wear out. Worn-out gears might not engage properly, leading to slipping. 

If the problem persists after addressing the clutch and transmission fluid, it might be time to inspect the gears themselves. 

Shift Linkage Issues 

The shift linkage is responsible for the actual shifting of gears. If it’s misaligned or damaged, it can lead to improper gear engagement, resulting in slipping. 

Regular inspection and adjustment of the shift linkage can help prevent this issue.

External Factors 

Sometimes, the problem might not be with the motorcycle itself but with external factors. Riding style plays a role. 

Aggressive or improper shifting can lead to premature wear of the clutch and gears, leading to slipping.

Related: Harley Davidson 103 Engine Problems

4. Mushy Brakes 

Mushy brakes on a Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster are the most common problem which is reported by the owners.

A brake system that doesn’t respond as expected can lead to longer stopping distances and potential accidents.

Here are the common causes for the mushy brakes:

Air in the Brake Lines

One of the most common reasons for mushy brakes is the presence of air in the brake lines. 

When air gets trapped in the hydraulic brake system, it can compress, unlike brake fluid. This compression results in a spongy or mushy feel when the brake lever is squeezed. 

In order to rectify this, you will need to bleed the brakes. 

Old or Contaminated Brake Fluid

Over time, brake fluid can absorb moisture, leading to reduced performance and a mushy brake feel. 

Contaminants can get into the brake fluid, further reducing its effectiveness. Changing the brake fluid at regular intervals, as recommended by the manufacturer, can help maintain optimal brake performance.

Worn Brake Pads

As brake pads wear down, the distance you need to travel to contact the brake rotor increases. 

It can result in a mushy feel when applying the brakes. Regularly inspecting and replacing worn brake pads to solve the problem.

Damaged or Corroded Brake Lines

Over time, brake lines can become damaged or corroded, leading to leaks or restrictions in the flow of brake fluid. 

It can reduce brake pressure and a mushy feel when applying the brakes. It’s essential to inspect brake lines regularly and replace them if any damage or corrosion is observed.

Master Cylinder Issues 

Master cylinder is responsible for converting the mechanical force from the brake lever into hydraulic pressure in the brake lines. 

If there’s an internal failure or wear within the master cylinder, it can lead to a loss of brake pressure and a mushy feel. In such cases, the master cylinder may need to be rebuilt or replaced.

Caliper Problems

The brake calipers, which house the brake pads and squeeze them against the rotors, can also be an issue. 

If the caliper pistons become stuck or don’t move freely, it can result in reduced braking force and a mushy feel. 

5. Rough Running 

Like any machine, the Harley 1200 Sportster sometimes experiences rough running or other performance issues. 

Carburetion Issues

Older Sportster models, especially those before the introduction of fuel injection, rely on carburetors for fuel delivery. 

Over time, the carburetor can become clogged, especially if the bike has not been used for extended periods. 

It can lead to rough idling, stalling, or hesitation during acceleration. Regular cleaning and proper tuning of the carburetor can help alleviate these issues.

You should always ensure the use of clean fuel and occasionally add a fuel system cleaner to prevent buildup.

Spark Plugs and Ignition System

A common cause of rough running in any internal combustion engine is a faulty spark plug or ignition system. 

Worn-out or fouled spark plugs can lead to misfires, poor fuel economy, and reduced power. It’s essential to check the spark plugs regularly and replace them as needed.

Air Filter and Intake System 

Clogged air filter can prevent airflow into the engine, leading to a rich fuel mixture and reduced performance. 

In order to solve the issue, regularly inspecting and replacing the air filter can ensure optimal airflow and combustion. Also, any leaks or cracks in the intake system can cause unmetered air, leading to a lean mixture and rough running.

Fuel System and Injectors 

For newer Sportsters with fuel injection, dirty or malfunctioning fuel injectors can cause rough running. 

Overtime deposits can build up on the injector nozzle, affecting the spray pattern and fuel atomization. Regular use of a quality fuel injector cleaner and ensuring clean fuel can help prevent these issues.

Camshaft Position Sensor

The CPS plays a crucial role in determining the optimal fuel injection and ignition timing. A faulty CPS can lead to rough running, misfires, and even failure to start. 

If you’re experiencing erratic behavior from the engine, it’s worth checking the CPS for any issues.

6. No Windshield 

Riding a Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster without a windshield can be a thrilling experience, offering an unobstructed view of the road and a direct connection to the environment. 

However, several common problems and challenges are associated with riding without a windshield on this motorcycle. 

Wind Fatigue

One of the most immediate issues you will notice when you ride without a windshield is wind fatigue. 

At higher speeds, the wind can exert significant force against your chest and face. Its constant barrage can lead to fatigue over longer rides, making it more challenging to maintain focus and control. 

The wind can also cause your helmet to lift or buffet, which can be distracting and uncomfortable.

Reduced Visibility in Rain 

Riding in the rain without a windshield means raindrops will directly hit your face and helmet visor. 

It can significantly reduce visibility, making it challenging to see the road ahead clearly. 

Potential for Eye Injuries

Even if you wear a helmet with a visor or protective glasses, there’s an increased risk of eye injuries without a windshield. 

Dust, debris, or even strong gusts of wind can cause the eyes to dry out or become irritated. 

In worst-case scenarios, larger debris can lead to severe eye injuries if not adequately protected.

Exposure to Cold and Weather Elements

Without a windshield, you are more exposed to the elements. In colder climates or during chilly mornings, it can lead to increased cold wind exposure, making rides less comfortable. 

Over time, prolonged exposure to cold winds can lead to windburn or exacerbate issues like frostbite in extremely cold conditions.


Is the Sportster 1200 better than the 883?

The Sportster 1200 and 883 are both iconic Harley-Davidson models. The 1200 offers more power and torque, which makes it better for highway cruising. 

The 883 is lighter and beginner-friendly. But the choice between both depends on your preference, needs and experience.

Are Sportster engines reliable?

Sportster engines, produced by Harley-Davidson, are known for their durability and longevity. 

They can offer reliable performance for many miles with proper maintenance. 

What is the fuel economy of Sportster?

The fuel economy of the Harley-Davidson Sportster varies by model and year, but on average, Sportsters get between 40 to 60 miles per gallon (mpg). 

Riding conditions, maintenance, and modifications can also affect fuel efficiency. Always refer to specific model details for accurate figures.

Wrapping Up

The Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster is an iconic and beloved motorcycle, but it’s not without its common issues. 

Owners have reported problems ranging from electrical glitches to oil leaks and clutch issues to high-speed vibrations. 

It’s essential if you’re a potential buyer and current owner to be aware of these concerns to ensure the longevity and performance of your bikes. 

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