ECM Problems With Harley’s & Other Motorcycles (Solved!)

The ECM controls the vital engine functions, especially maintaining the fuel to air ratio in it.

Even the latest high-tech Harley Davidson motorcycles aren’t devoid of the most common ECM problems.

And most often than not, these problems lead straight to acute engine failure.

This article explains the most common “ECM problems with Harley Davidson & most motorcycles”…

What Are The Most Common ECM (Electronic Control Module) Problems With Harley Davidson & Most Motorcycles?

Here’s an overview of all the problems a bad – Electronic Control Module – can produce in Harley Davidson & most motorcycles:

  • Problematic Acceleration
  • Clanky Gear-Shifting
  • Engine Stalling & Misfiring
  • Unauthorized Combustion
  • Low Fuel Economy
  • Unauthorized Programming
  • Delayed/Complicated Starting

What Are ECM Problems?

ECM refers to the electronic control module.

The ECM is responsible for maintaining three major engine functions:

  • Managing optimum fuel economy
  • Establishing a connection between PCM & TCM
  • Controlling the timing for various signals

Again, the ECM directly corresponds to the functions controlled by the PCM & TCM.

Hence, every time you experience shifting, braking, and traction control issues, it’s subsequently related to a faulty ECM as well.

Other than that, major ECM problems include problematic gear-shifting, slow starting, low or bad fuel economy percentage, acceleration issues, unauthorized signal transmission, etc.

The engine can misfire upon the wrong signals, and cause many other nuisances over time.

What Are The Signs Of ECM Problems?

Here are the most common signs of ECM problems:

Hiccups During Starting

If the ECM is faulty, it might take a lot of effort to get the engine going.

If the fuel to air ratio is off due to ECM issues, the engine can’t start as smoothly as before.

Blinking Of Check Engine Light

The check engine light can indicate any issues from tire pressure being off to low fuel.

If everything else seems fine, the blinking light could be warning you about the ECM problems.

Engine Misfiring

Your engine will stutter vigorously if the fuel to air ratio is completely off.

Alongside the stuttering, misfiring can happen upon contact.

Problematic Acceleration

If you experience a sudden drop in acceleration while riding the motorcycle, it’s a dead giveaway of ECM transmission failure.

It could mean that the ECM didn’t transmit the throttle signal to the shifting gears accordingly.

Engine Break-Down

If you keep ignoring the signs, there’s a chance that the engine will stop working altogether.

It’ll start with the clanking, then the loss of acceleration, and finally, total breakdown.

Can A Motorcycle Run With ECM Problems?

Yes, a motorcycle can run with manageable ECM problems for a while.

You’d need to ignore the warning signs for a long time for anything remotely eventful to happen.

Usually, ECM problems aren’t as provocative in the early stages.

It’s usually slowing down, taking longer to restart, aggressive shifting – issues like that.

And as annoying they are, a motorcycle can still run with these problems.

However, a dysfunctional ECM can only generate even bigger problems with time.

Unless you want the engine to fail prematurely, it’s recommended to get the problematic ECM fixed or
replaced as soon as possible.

What Are The Possible Causes Of ECM Problems?

The possible causes of ECM problems are:

Broken Sensors

If the sensors aren’t operating properly, they can send mismatched signals to the ECM, PCM & TCM correspondingly.

The problematic transmission can cause acute ECM failure.

Faulty Wires

Faulty wires are the primary reason why low-quality ECM goes bad almost immediately.

Besides causing transmission issues, the wires can corrode and cause voltage disturbances.

Increased Moisture

If water vapor gets inside due to inadequate ventilation, the moisture can corrode the wiring.

Starting from minor short circuits to major heating issues, the moisture can initiate it all.

How To Solve ECM Problems?

Conducting an onboard diagnosis can help to resolve your ECM problems directly.

Here’s a step by step procedure for conducting one such diagnosis by yourself:

Step 1: Connect The Tools

Connect the required OBD or OBD II tool to the diagnostic port of the engine.

Step 2: Scan & Record The Readings

If the ECM is faulty, the scanning will generate error codes.

Record the readings and go through the manual later to find out their meanings.

For instance – if it’s indicating the P0600 code, then it means the main problem lies in the ECM.

Most often than not, it’s either faulty sensors or wiring issues.

A simple rebooting should do the trick with the sensors.

And if not, you should have the engine checked out professionally.

Are Harley Davidson More Prone To Have ECM Problems?

Harley Davidson currently holds the record for being one of the top-selling motorcycle companies in the world.

But under no circumstances, can anyone call their motorcycles devoid of flaws.

So far, lots of Harley models have witnessed significant ECM issues, starting from as early as the 2008 Gliders.

However, most of these complaints have been debunked, contributing to faulty wiring issues and cheap servicing.

Which Brand Of Motorcycle Has The Worst Reviews With ECM Problems?

Harley is not the only company to have been bombarded with the worst ECM reviews.

If you’re trying to stay away from ECM problems, you should stay a hundred miles away from the Kawasaki bikes.

Despite being dubbed as one of the most affordable motorcycle brands, their bikes come with significant ECM issues.

You should also avoid the Honda CX Series, the Suzuki GT Series, and the Ducati V4 Series subsequently.

At What Miles Can I Expect A Harley Davidson To Show Signs Of ECM Problems?

Harley Davidson motorcycles most commonly show signs of ECM problems anywhere from 10.000 to 30.000 miles.

But for many, it doesn’t show any signs until the half-life of the motorcycle, around 75.000 miles.

That being said, there have been a few cases, according to Harley users online, in which they experienced significant staggering as a fabric defect on their brand new Harley.

What Harley-Davidson Models Are More Likely To Have ECM Problems?

The following Harley Davidson models are most likely to have ECM problems:

2009 Harley Davidson Electra Glide

This model featured an upgraded exhaust system only to cause further heating issues.

Consequently, the heating threw off the fuel economy balance, causing transmission issues.

2004 Harley Davidson Ultra

Harley riders were incredibly dissatisfied with the ECM configuration in this V-Twin model.

While an ECM shouldn’t generally go bad unless the bike has traversed at least 70.000 – 80.000 miles,
many users needed to replace their modules within just 15.000 – 40.000 miles instead.

2002 Harley Davidson Electra Glide Classic

This one has similar issues as the Ultra.

The parts seem to break down or stagger for no particular reason.

Changing or upgrading the ECM seems to be the only long-term solution.

5 Best Tips To Solve ECM Problems With Your Motorcycle:

Here’s a sneak peek into five useful tips to solve ECM problems with your motorcycle in the most cost-effective ways:

1. Thorough Electrical Check-Up

The ECM is sturdy infrastructure-wise, but the wiring system is just as finicky.

Without proper research and experience, don’t go toggling around the ECM right away.

Instead, conduct a thorough electrical check-up first to see if anything significant pops out.

Most often than not, the issue revolves around minor electrical problems or connection issues.

The check-up will reveal such discrepancies and as such, you can solve them accordingly.

2. Replace The Problematic ECM

Many Harley enthusiasts have pointed out that it’s an effective remedy to replace the problematic ECM altogether to avoid repeating complications.

3. Clean The ECM Plug

If you don’t want to spend too much, you could try cleaning the ECM plugs.

Sometimes, they get jammed up a little, causing ECM problems.

This happens due to unusual exposure to moisture, initiating corrosion on many levels.

To clean the ECM plug, unplug the ECM itself if you know your way around it.

Use contact cleaner to polish the surface on both sides.

Let it sit in for a while in the warm weather and then reassemble it back with the engine.

Make sure to use some dielectric grease while reassembling the ECM.

This little trick can help you prevent further corrosive effects next time.

4. Install An Air Cleaner

Cleaning the exhaust system properly is more important than you may think.

Most of the ECM problems generate from the infiltration of impurities and moisture.

Hence, install an air cleaner to make sure everything in the system is circulating nicely.

Make sure to clean the cleaner as well from time to time, lest it should get corrupted itself.

5. Schedule A Proper Inspection

Lastly, if all else fails, you should sign up for a proper engine inspection from your local motorcycle workshop.

The professional workers will then provide a rounded diagnosis, revealing the issues with your failing ECM.

After the initial diagnosis, most workshops will hand you a quote containing the average estimate to fix the issues.

If the pricing and their reasoning behind it seem plausible, then have them work on the engine immediately.

Most ECM problems, without any intervention, can lead to acute engine failure in no time at all.