In a world that has seen tens of millions of cars recalled due to faulty Takata airbags and watched the complete collapse of Volkswagen’s reputation over one of the biggest environmental frauds ever committed, auto recall news at this point is rarely surprising. One of the latest recalls to strike the industry is noteworthy, however, due not only to the nature of the recall but also because of the company it affects.
Iconic motorcycle manufacturer Harley-Davidson has voluntarily recalled close to 175,000 motorcycles manufactured between 2008 and 2011 over fears that using older brake fluid in the bikes could cause a complete brake failure. A wide range of models is affected including the popular Road King and Electra Glide as well as models used specifically in law enforcement.
The recall is interesting because it focuses specifically on bikes used in a way that is not compliant with standard maintenance requirements. The risk of brake failure is only present in bikes that are using brake fluid that is overdue for replacement. In these cases, deposits can form on critical components and cause corrosion, causing a loss of brake pressure when the brakes are applied.
According to information provided by the National Highway Transportation Administration, “the valves then fail to cycle and the affected brake calipers are no longer actuated when riders apply the brake(s). While it may be true that the complainants failed to adhere to Harley Davidson’s 2 year brake fluid service interval requirement, the consequent sudden and complete loss of brake(s), without warning, is a concern.”
For its part, Harley-Davidson launched a substantial campaign to call owners’ attention to the importance of maintaining a proper maintenance schedule for their motorcycles, specifically as it pertains to flushing old brake fluid on bikes using DOT4 brake fluid. And, beginning February 12, 2018, Harley-Davidson service centers will voluntarily flush affected bikes with a single flush of a newer, more resilient brake fluid free of charge.
Given the nature of the failure and the fact that the affected vehicles appear to only be motorcycles that were maintained out of manufacturer’s specifications, it is encouraging to see such a proactive and aggressive response from Harley-Davidson to protect its customers.