Harley Fine Cut

July 24, 2017

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Harley Fine Cut

Last week the United States Department of Justice announced it was cutting a fine levied against Harley-Davidson a year ago from $15 million to $12 million.

The motor company was cited last August for selling high performance electronic fuel injection tuners called Screamin’ Eagle Pro Super Tuners. The Environmental Protection Agency called the tuners “illegal tuning devices that increase air pollution from their motorcycles” and fined Harley $12 million. The pollution police also ordered Harley to contribute $3 million to an EPA project that will replace conventional wood burning stoves with cleaner wood burning stoves. What has changed is that the motor company no longer has to buy $3 million worth of new and improved wood burning stoves.

Suck, Bang, Blow

For decades, Harley-Davidson has met government mandated pollution standards by making their air-cooled motorcycle engines run less efficiently. The engine was designed in 1907 and its operation is usually described as suck, bang and blow. Basically, less air sucked into the engine’s combustion chambers results in a smaller bang, the release of less energy when the fuel air mixture ignites, and a corresponding decrease in the exhaust gases that result from burning gasoline.

Eventually, the only way the motorcycle manufacturer could make that strangled, old-fashioned engine meet increasingly stringent pollution standards was by discontinuing carbureted motorcycles. Carburetors, for those who are new, were mechanical devices attached to the intake manifolds of gasoline powered, internal combustion engines. With a basic set of tools including a screwdriver, shade tree mechanics could tune their carburetors to run with maximum efficiency. Harley stopped shipping carbureted motorcycles in 2005.

Carburetors were replaced with computerized fuel injectors. Because they were electronic, fuel injectors became virtual black boxes for home mechanics. But Electronic Fuel Injection could be tuned with a lap top computer and a device that could reprogram the factory settings.

Opening The Black Box

That’s what the Screamin’ Eagle turner did. The device, when attached to a computer and the motorcycle gave mechanics the “ability to view the bike’s air/fuel ratio, O2 sensor readings, engine speed and temperature, RPM and vehicle speed, throttle position, spark advance and much more.” Harley said the tuner was “designed to simplify management of street-legal performance calibrations as EPA-compliant performance modifications are made. It easily allows the rider or technician to view and evaluate engine operating parameters.”

In a press release issued after Harley finally cried “uncle,” the EPA alleged “that Harley-Davidson violated the Clean Air Act by manufacturing and selling about 340,000 devices, known as tuners, that allow users to change how a motorcycle’s engine functions, These changes can cause the motorcycles to emit higher amounts of certain air pollutants than they would in the original configuration that Harley-Davidson certified with EPA.”

Tuner Equipped Bikes

Although the tuners were not equipment attached to motorcycle but simply a diagnostic tool to help owners understand the inefficiencies mandated by the EPA, the government still required Harley to “conduct tests on tuner-equipped motorcycles and provide the results to EPA to guarantee that their motorcycles remain in compliance with EPA certification requirements for emissions.”

In a section written by somebody who actually understood what tuners do, the release stated “Since January 2008, Harley-Davidson has manufactured and sold two types of tuners, which when hooked up to Harley-Davidson motorcycles, allow users to modify certain aspects of a motorcycles’ emissions control system. These modified settings increase power and performance, but also increase the motorcycles’ emissions of hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides (NOx). Hydrocarbon and NOx emissions contribute to harmful ground-level ozone, and NOx also contributes to fine particulate matter pollution.”

“Exposure to ozone and particulate matter pollution has been linked with a range of serious health effects, including increased asthma attacks and other respiratory illnesses. Exposure to these pollutants has also been associated with premature death due to respiratory-related or cardiovascular-related effects. Children, the elderly, and people with pre-existing respiratory disease are particularly at risk of health effects from exposure to these pollutants.

“By reducing the chance that Harley-Davidson motorcycles produce emissions above their legally certified levels, this agreement contributes to state and federal efforts to meet air quality standards for ozone and particulate matter.”



15 Responses to “Harley Fine Cut”

  1. Dutchboy Says:

    The engine I’m my bike once graced a 89 Springer Softail. I got it as a basket case and rebuilt it on a set of Ultima cases. S&S Super E, one of the best carbs ever IMHO.

  2. xplor Says:

    Hard start cold in southern California. Can’t happen right ? You ride up to the Rock store get a cold drink and bs with friends . You are ready to exit and all the bike does is crank. You have a problem.
    For a scanner that will read data you can a get new bike. The only thing you can do is go old school and test with a good volt ohm meter. Once again Harley uses a cheap ass system. In this case it was a crappyTemp sensor. Maybe aftermarket sensors are better.

  3. Shovelhead Says:

    Hahaha! I feel your pain Phuquehed with the work shop space. I used to work on my bike in grass in the back yard until I kept dropping nuts and washers never to be seen again. Where the fuck they go, I don’t have a clue! I’d spend more time looking for them, than working on the bike.

    Now I work out of my little barn that I think was used as a chicken coop 50 years ago. Extension cords and drop lights. Plus I put in a wood stove.
    ’98 Superglide? Evo motor and a CV carb. pretty much the best you can get.

  4. david Says:

    The H-D board members should have known not to lie to the EPA. H-D should have also known,

    “Exposure to crime-ridden gov. agencies,such as the EPA, can be hazardous to any profitable business.”

  5. Phuquehed Says:

    @Shovelhead – Got me a ’98 Super Glide. The ’09 Super Glide I had (EFI) croaked on me at 87,000+ miles. The EFI Tuner I got (that took me fucking months to pay back after borrowing the scratch for it, a Dyno-Jet Power Vision that I never could figure out very well how to tune, so ended up with something they sent me to put in it that worked okay I guess, not as good as I’d hoped for the amount of money the damned thing cost me though) was just more electronic crap to plonk onto the bike and squeeze into spaces that barely left room for a single ply of toilet paper afterwards.

    This bike has the stock CV carb and it’s running pretty darned good. Got it dialed-in I think just right and getting about 47 mpg. I’ve got an decent aftermarket cam for it, but haven’t been able to get the incentive to put it in. The S&S quickee pushrods are supposed to make it easier, but I thought I read somewhere that the pushrod covers won’t fit them correctly after they’re installed (which makes no sense to me for some reason) and I guess that’s what’s kinda keeping me from just digging in and doing it, heh. Sucks when one has no level floor or shop to work in and the shed I do have has no electric to it, lol.

  6. Shovelhead Says:

    At least you can tune the s&s. Pretty simple carbs. Although expensive. I bought mine used and rebuilt it. I never felt comfortable with fuel injection, If it stopped working, I wouldn’t know what to do. Just like this computer!

    To all the tree hugging Feds, go fuck yourself.

  7. TX_Biker Says:

    My 2000 heritage has an S&S super E on it. Great carb. I agree with Shovelhead I don’t know shit about fuel injection either….

  8. Dutchboy Says:

    Great, just what we need, a bunch of blind tree huggers running around. Funny stuff.

  9. Shovelhead Says:


    “Do the planet a favor and poke your local tree hugger in the eye with a twig off his/her favorite tree today”

    Now that’s funny!! I agree.

    What are you riding with a carb? I run a S&S E on my shovel. Runs better than the original carb that kept popping and stalling the bike. I don’t know shit about Fuel Injection.

  10. Phuquehed Says:

    Fuck the EPA, fuck the government ‘mandating’ this kind of bullshit, and fuck the whiny bitches complaining that the air is going bad and the ozone is opening up a huge hole and we’re all going to die unless we live like the fucking Flintstones…never mind that there is no fucking way for anyone to know how many times this kind of shit has gone on on this planet and throughout the universe. Do the planet a favor and poke your local tree hugger in the eye with a twig off his/her favorite tree today.

    All I can say is I’m glad I got away from that electronic shit and got an older bike with a carb.

  11. Docb Says:

    Vance and Hines also makes a tuner that most guys can use. There are a few others on the market too. Most tuners cost about the same as a performance carb would cost. I’ve used the SE Pro Race Tuner for years with good results. It’s also a pretty good diagnostic tool. You could record a run and play it back and freeze frame and review sensor and actuator data for about 15 components.
    The V&H FP3 works pretty good too for street performance. If you are tech savy enough to text and email you can probably use it.


  12. Dutchboy Says:

    Good dope Paladin, thanks. Being a carb guy I don’t worry much about Tuners. Mine is a pair of screwdrivers that are always in my pocket. The problem with the EPA test, besides being huge gov over reach, anti-freedom, and Nanny State Facism, is as a static test it does not control for several variables such as the number of minutes ridden during a particular trip. A trip will take less time on a well tuned bike than on a smothered bike. Overall less pollution with the well tuned bike.

  13. Skagg Says:

    3 stroke engines? What happened to the squeeze?

  14. russell1946 Says:

    Who would’ve thought Harleys are responsible for destroying the environment with “increased air pollution” for the past 114 years.

  15. Paladin Says:

    The Dynojet Power Commander is by far a better tuner than the Screamin’ Chicken shit Harley was selling. If you don’t want to piggyback a tuner onto your existing ECU, give Reggie over at R&R Cycles a call. They can get you squared away.


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