If you are planning on investing in a shovelhead engine, you must wonder if it is worth it or not. Read on to find out if it’s the right choice or not.

Harley Davidson Shovelhead is one of those engines that are infamous yet well-loved by Harley enthusiasts all around the world.

The Shovelhead engine has survived for decades despite its complicated and long history. This old-school engine is still a popular choice among motorcyclists.

Whether riders are seeking a vintage Harley-Davidson as a first bike or looking to build a custom chopper, shovelhead remains a good option for them.

Before digging into the details, let’s have a look at how shovelhead came into existence and what drawbacks it had:

How The Shovelhead Came into Existence:

Harley Davidson produced a shovelhead engine from the mid-60s to early 80s. They created it as a successor to the Panhead engine, mainly with an extra 10 horsepower.

Harley Davidson riders demanded more power for heavier bikes with rear suspension and electric starters.

So, they came up with a shovelhead engine that is fitted on all Harley Davidson’s big twins motorcycles throughout its 20-year production run.

Over this time, the engine went through many changes and updates.

Why Is It Called a Shovelhead?

The shovelhead engine took its name from an old coal shovel’s appearance of its rocker head. The coal shovel looks more flipped upside down.

This shape does not resemble that of a traditional shovel, making it difficult to identify this type of engine.

What are the Issues and Complaints with TheShovelhead?

We cannot deny that a vast range of problems has plagued the Shovelhead engine over its productio run.

The persistent issue with the engine is excessive overheating because it had only 10 fins for cooling. Oil leakage is the biggest problem shovelhead has.

The oil pools in the crankcase, or cylinder heads, lead to potential engine damage and overheating. Shovelhead motors also suffered issues with electronic ignition units.

In the mid-70s, the United States faced an oil crisis. Because of the inferior quality fuel and octane, the large compression ratio became a serious problem for shovelheads.

It ended up in an engine knock, causing overheating, blown gaskets, and damage to the head bolts.

Harley Davidson made continuous improvements in the shovelhead until the end of its production to keep it usable for production.

By 1984, the Evolution engine took over most models of shovelhead.

What’s the Difference Between Shovelhead and Panhead?

Panhead engine was the predecessor of Shovelhead. Harley Davidson produced Panhead from 1948 to 1965.

Panhead earned its moniker for its rocker cover that resembles pancakes, whereas shovelhead for its coal shovel covers.

Panhead engine powered the first electric glide bikes. Both engines share distinct features except the design and 10 percent extra power shovelhead holds.

They designed Panhead for oil containment but still leak oil from the top end. Hence, it was unsuccessful.

What are the Recommended Fluids for Shovelhead?

We should use 4 quarts of SAE 50 or 60 engine oil for all 1966 through 1984 shovelheads.

For the 1966 to 1969 models, Harley Davidson recommends HD Hydra-Glide fork oil. We use HD Type B fork oil for all 1970 shovelheads.

Shovelhead models from 1966 to 1975 and later uses Dot 3 brake fluid and Dot 5 brake fluid.

A Shovelhead is How Many CCs Engine?

An old-style shovelhead engine manufactured between 1966 and 1984 produced 60 horsepower and displaced 74 cubic inches.

A 1978 Shovelhead Engine is How Many CCs?

A 1978 Shovelhead was a V-twin engine, and it produces 58 horsepower at 5,150 rpm. It gives a top

speed of 105 mph.

How to Improve the Shovelhead’s Performance?

●        Tighten or re-torque the bolts on the shovelhead to improve its performance. Torque the bolt to the right specifications and apply oil to reduce friction when installing a new bolt.

●        Plugging in the primary and chain oilers could prevent oil leakage without harming the motorcycle.

Are the Shovelhead Engines still Fit to use?

Despite all the drawbacks, shovelhead still rules.

FLH models still have these engines and classic motorcycle enthusiasts use them for their smooth power band, simple engine transmission, and high torque.

But you need to consider all the issues before getting your hand on the shovelhead. 


What year was the best Shovelhead?

The 74-inch FLH shovelhead engine produced in 1978 was the best by Harley Davidson. They made some updates on the engine of larger displacements in that year.

How many miles is a Shovelhead good for?

Shovelhead motors would often last only between 500 and 5,000 miles because of excess heating and lack of oil.

Is a Shovelhead reliable?

It depends totally on you how you follow the specs, uses good quality parts, and make your engine do its job properly. Otherwise, it will leave you behind every time you are on the ride.

Is Shovelhead a Big Twin?

Yes, it’s no doubt a big twin. Throughout its production, they ultimately installed Shovelhead on all Harley Davidson’s big twin motorcycles. But it provoked controversy because of its ground clearance and heavier weight than other motorcycles.


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