Can a Flooded 1939 Harley Start and Ride After Sitting Idle for 10 Years?

Can a Flooded 1939 Harley Start and Ride After Sitting Idle for 10 Years?


Imagine the excitement of resurrecting a vintage motorcycle that has been idle for a decade. Now, add the element of flooding, making it even more challenging. That is precisely the question that we set out to answer at Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, NC. As the proud home to over 375 American motorcycles and unique cars, we are always looking for intriguing projects. In this article, we will take you through the process of attempting to start and ride a flooded 1939 Harley Flathead with a 1927 sidecar, which had been sitting idle for a stunning ten years. So, fasten your seatbelts and join us on this thrilling adventure!

Can It Be Done?

You might be wondering if it is even possible to revive a flood-damaged motorcycle that has been ignored for a decade. Well, the answer is not straightforward, and that’s why we decided to take up this challenge. While the 1939 Harley Flathead with a 1927 sidecar appeared to be in decent condition despite its long hibernation, the flooding raised concerns about potential internal damage.

The Process

Reviving a motorcycle that has been sitting idle for ten years requires a systematic approach and utmost care. We followed these steps to increase the chances of success:

  1. Thorough Inspection: Before attempting anything, we conducted a thorough inspection of the motorcycle to assess the overall condition and identify any visible signs of damage or deterioration.

  2. Draining the Fuel System: After locating the fuel tank, we carefully drained all the old fuel, as it was likely contaminated and could cause further damage when attempting to start the engine.

  3. Cleaning the Carburetor: Cleaning the carburetor is vital in removing any blockages or residue that may have accumulated over the years. We meticulously disassembled the carburetor, cleaned it with carburetor cleaner, and reassembled it to ensure smooth operation.

  4. Inspecting the Electrical Components: Electrical components can be particularly vulnerable to damage caused by flooding. We checked the wiring, ignition system, and spark plugs for any signs of corrosion or malfunction.

  5. Changing the Oil: Old oil can become thick and sludgy, which hampers the engine’s performance. Therefore, we drained the old oil and replaced it with fresh oil to ensure optimal lubrication.

  6. Replacing the Battery: Since the motorcycle had been idle for a decade, we knew that the battery was unlikely to hold a charge. We swapped it out for a new battery to provide the necessary power for starting the engine.

  7. Testing and Fine-tuning: With all the necessary preparations done, we cautiously attempted to start the engine. We adjusted the idle speed and fine-tuned various settings as needed.

The Outcome

Now, the moment of truth! After following the meticulous process, we turned the key, held our breath, and pressed the start button. Surprisingly, the engine roared to life, proving that it is indeed possible to start and ride a flooded 1939 Harley after a decade of neglect. However, it is important to note that not all motorcycles might respond in the same way, and it hinges on various factors such as the extent of the damage and the level of care taken during the revival process.

Visit Our Website

If you’re fascinated by vintage motorcycles and unique cars, we invite you to visit our website for more information about Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum. Explore the rich history of American motorcycles and get an exclusive peek into our collection. Whether you’re an avid enthusiast or simply curious, our website is a treasure trove of information and a gateway to the incredible world of classic wheels.

Annual Raffle Bike

As you continue your exploration on our website, don’t miss the opportunity to participate in our Annual Raffle Bike event. By purchasing tickets, you stand a chance to win a remarkable motorcycle while supporting the preservation of American motorcycle heritage. It’s a win-win situation, so why not try your luck?

Dale’s Channel Membership

For those seeking even more exclusivity, we offer the opportunity to become a member of “Dale’s Channel.” As a member, you gain access to premium content, behind-the-scenes footage, and exclusive updates on our latest projects and restorations. Get an insider’s view into the world of vintage motorcycles like never before!

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Stay connected with us on social media to keep up with the latest news, events, and fascinating stories from the world of vintage wheels. Follow us on Facebook at and on Instagram at time. Join our growing community of enthusiasts and share your passion for classic motorcycles and cars.

In conclusion, while reviving a flooded motorcycle that has been idle for ten years poses its challenges, it is indeed possible with the right approach. The 1939 Harley Flathead we encountered at Dale’s Wheels Through Time Museum is a testament to that fact. So, whether you are a motorcycle enthusiast or simply intrigued by restoration projects, we hope this article has piqued your curiosity and inspired you to embark on your own automotive adventures. Remember, with dedication and a touch of luck, the possibilities are endless!

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