2018 has not been kind to Harley-Davidson. Less than one year after recalling close to 175,000 motorcycles because of potential of brake failure in certain circumstances, the iconic manufacturer has recalled almost 178,000 more over possible issues with the clutch used on the bikes.
The brake recall issued by Harley-Davidson in early 2018 was unique in that it was almost exclusively focused on owners who had allowed their brake fluid to age past the point of manufacturer’s recommended replacement. So long as the Harley was kept in good repair, the risk of failure in the components was minimal. However, out-of-spec brake fluid could cause corrosion and the loss of brake pressure when the brakes were applied. The recall covered a flushing of the brake lines and the use of a newer brake fluid that was more tolerant to aging.
The latest recall, however, is not for out-of-spec parts or fluids and can lead to an inability to disengage the clutch while shifting or braking. Unlike the vast majority of cars currently sold, most motorcycles still rely on a manual transmission. The clutch must be disengaged from the drivetrain for the gear to be shifted via a foot control, and the clutch is then re-engaged. The clutch must also be disengaged when coming to a full stop, otherwise the motor will continue to push the drivetrain. Bikes affected by this latest recall may have clutches that leak fluid. That leak then leads to an inability to generate enough pressure to fully disengage the clutch which means that the motorcycle is stuck in whatever gear it happens to be in when the failure occurs, nor can it be disengaged while braking. A full list of bikes covered by the recall can be found at The Inquirer.
Five crashes have been reported as a result of clutch failures on affected bikes, although thankfully none of them came with any reported injuries or fatalities.
2018 has also seen the company; a long-standing symbol of the freedom of the open road, as an unwitting pawn in a global trade conflict triggered by tariffs put forth by the Trump administration. Facing additional costs into the tens of millions of dollars as retaliatory tariffs pile onto companies manufacturing everything from vehicles to nails, the company once heralded by Trump personally and lauded by the president as an entity that stood to benefit from his policies has instead been forced to move some of its manufacturing overseas and into parts of the European Union while expanding sales on a global basis. It would seem that when trade policies create hostile conditions at home, leaving home is sometimes the only way to survive.