NHTSA investigating alleged Harley-Davidson brake failures

Harley-Davidson's corporate logo.
Harley-Davidson’s corporate logo.

The U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Harley-Davidson following complaints from Harley riders saying that their motorcycle brakes have failed without warning. The NHTSA investigation covers 430,000 Harley-Davidson bikes with anti-lock braking systems, for model years from 2008 and 2011.

There is no safety recall at this time, but the NHTSA investigation says that riders in 43 complaints have reported that both hand levers and foot pedals have suddenly failed. The failures have reportedly resulted in three crashes, including one driver crashing through a garage door, with two people injured. Reports indicate that there is no discernible braking response, usually in either the front or rear brake, but at least one report alleged the simultaneous loss of both front and rear brakes.

The NHTSA says that failure to change the motorcycle’s brake fluid every two years, as Harley-Davidson recommends, might have led to corrosion of valves in the anti-lock-braking system. But the problem would still be alarming, according to the NHTSA.

“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,” the NHTSA said.

“We are aware of the investigation and are cooperating with the NHTSA,” Harley-Davidson spokeswoman Maripat Blankenheim said in a Reuters report on July 8.

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