Brake Trouble Brewing at Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

Brake Trouble Brewing at Harley-Davidson Motorcycles

There are a lot of reasons why motorcyclists love to ride. The freedom, the speed, the community, the confidence boost, the typically lower purchase price and operating costs — all of these make motorcycles appealing. On the flip side, there are things that can make riding risky — such as loose gravel, being harder to see, other drivers who don’t pay attention, bad weather, and obstacles in the road. Throw problems with the machine into this mix and you quickly get a highly dangerous situation. When the problem involves the braking system, the motorcycle’s single most important safety feature, the potential for serious motorcycle accidents rises exponentially. And that is exactly what is happening right now with 430,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles.

The vast majority of motorcycles out there have brakes that operate individually, with the front brake providing the bulk of the stopping power. Earlier this month, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced that it had received 43 complaints from riders whose brakes have failed without warning, as well as three reports of crashes and two reports of injuries due to brake failure. Most of the motorcyclists are reporting that either the front brake hand lever or the rear brake foot pedal did not work, although a few are claiming that both failed at the same time. The reports have prompted the NHTSA to begin an investigation into bikes with anti-lock braking systems from Harley-Davidson model years 2008 to 2011. The manufacturer is cooperating with the inquiry.

The NHTSA’s initial response addresses the possibility that the cause for the loss of braking power may be that some motorcycle operators did not follow the manufacturer’s recommendation that the brake fluid be changed every two years. The recommendation stems from the concern that old brake fluid can become contaminated by moisture and corrode the actuator valves in the anti-lock braking system. However, the NHTSA acknowledges that, “while it may be true that the complainants failed to adhere to the…fluid service interval requirement, the consequent sudden and complete loss of brake without warning is a concern.”

Obviously, brake failure can lead to loss of control, increasing the risk of a crash. While the current situation has not yet escalated into a recall, Harley-Davidson had a record number of recalls in 2015 and recalled roughly 10 times as many motorcycles in 2014 as it did in 2013. It had to recall an average of 94,000 bikes per year over the decade from 2003 to 2013. Last year’s recalls included 55,000 motorcycles for problems with rear reflectors and the clutch; more than 185,000 motorcycles due to loose saddlebags; over 8,000 for ignition switch issues; and another 10,500 for fuel pump problems.

If you have any questions about this topic, you can find out more by discussing it with one of the attorneys at The Mann Law Firm. For over 50 years, we have been helping people put their lives back on track, and we are ready to help you.