Buying Used Motors Online | Buyer Beware

A cautionary tale from S&S

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Did your mother ever tell you that? Well, she should have, and if she didn’t, we’re telling you now. The Tech Department at S&S Cycle has been getting an increasing number of calls from customers who have been ripped off by online sellers supposedly offering used S&S engines. These customers thought they were getting a smokin’ deal, but ended up with a pig in a poke. Can you believe it? There are people out there who aren’t entirely honest!

Everybody likes to save a buck when they can. Benjamin Franklin said, “A penny saved is a penny earned.” But he also said that the turkey would be a better national symbol than the bald eagle. Come to think of it, he might have been on to something there, but we digress.

Here’s an example—a true story, by the way. A customer recently called our Tech line, saying he’d just purchased an S&S V124 engine online, but it didn’t seem to have much giddy-up. The Tech rep asked a few questions and traced some serial numbers, only to find that what this person had was an 88-inch S&S engine that was sold to one of our OE manufacturers back in 2001. Needless to say, the customer was furious! But the odd thing is that he was mad at S&S. He actually asked what we were going to do about it.

Here’s the problem. S&S didn’t sell that engine to him, and it’s 13 years old…way out of warranty! The S&S engine warranty is nontransferable in any case. Try this. If you can get your hands on an old shovelhead, take it to the local Harley-Davidson dealer. Tell them it’s leaking oil, and ask them what they’re gonna do about it. What do you think they’ll say? As much as we can sympathize with a victim of a scam like this, there’s not much we can do about it after the deal’s gone down. Perhaps publishing this tip will help others to avoid the same fate.

If you find that you’ve been had by an online seller, you need to go back to them and demand satisfaction if you can. Failing that, most online services have some kind of buyer protection or mediation service that might be able to help you out. But wouldn’t it be great not to have it stuck to you in the first place?

Before you buy an engine online, get the facts so you know what you are actually buying. Ask the seller questions! Ask them if the engine is all S&S. We’ve had a number of instances where an engine had S&S crankcases or cylinder heads, but the rest of the engine consisted of stock or imported aftermarket components. Most importantly ask for crankcase and flywheel serial numbers.

Why serial numbers? Well, here’s where S&S can help—but only if you call us before you swipe your card. If you contact the S&S Tech Department with crankcase and flywheel serial numbers, we can look them up and tell you a number of interesting facts. These facts may or may not jibe with what the seller is claiming.

The crankcase serial number will tell us not only when the cases were sold and to whom but also what bore size the crankcases were machined for and if they were sold as just a crankcase or as a complete engine. If a crankcase was sold as part of a complete engine, that will tell us all we need to know. Flywheel serial numbers are actually coded to tell what style of engine they fit and what stroke they were machined for. So if a supposed 124-inch engine turns out to have 4-1/4-inch stroke flywheels, as in the case we mentioned, the BS alarm should go off right away. “Danger, Will Robinson! Prevarication detected!”

Not to be all doom and gloom, most online sellers are legit, but it only takes one to ruin your whole day. So take the time to get the facts and give the S&S Tech Department a call at (608) 627-8324 or send them an email to [email protected]

To quote ol’ Ben once again, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”

buying a used harley motor

A crankcase serial number is easy to find. It’s stamped or engraved on both sides of the engine. Just in front of the cam chest on the right side and just below the rear cylinder on the left side. Numbers in both locations must be the same. There should be no reason why a seller cannot supply this serial number. The crankcase number might be all you need to verify the seller’s bona fides.

Courtesy of S&S Cycle

buying a used harley motor

Flywheel serial numbers are a little more trouble to find but can be read through the timing hole on all S&S engines except for some of the T-Series engines. You will have to rotate the engine until the serial number appears. Keep in mind, the numbers will be upside down, so don’t get confused.

Courtesy of S&S Cycle