Harley-Davidson Is Recalling Nearly 251,000 Motorcycles Worldwide (175,000 US) Because The Brakes Might Fail

Under pressure from U.S. safety regulators, Harley-Davidson is recalling nearly 251,000 motorcycles worldwide (175,000 in the US)  because the brakes might Fail. The U.S. recall covers more than 30 models from the 2008 through 2011 model years.

Harley says deposits can form on brake parts if the fluid isn’t changed every two years as specified in the owner’s manual. That can cause a valve in the antilock brake control unit to stick.

The U.S. government’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration began investigating problems in July of 2016 after getting 43 complaints including three reports of crashes and two injuries.

Documents show Harley wanted to do a field service campaign instead of a recall, but the government refused. Dealers will flush and replace brake fluid starting on Feb. 12.

36 Responses to “Harley-Davidson Is Recalling Nearly 251,000 Motorcycles Worldwide (175,000 US) Because The Brakes Might Fail”

  1. 1 Poteaux Feb 7th, 2018 at 10:15 am

    So I can ignore my responsibility to do proper service and eventually the government will force my vehicle manufacturer to do it for me for free….cool

  2. 2 Chief Waldo Feb 7th, 2018 at 10:43 am

    Is HD still using DOT 5 silicone brake fluid on their ABS equipped motorcycles?

  3. 3 Bus Stop Bob Feb 7th, 2018 at 10:58 am

    Just another example of stupid people having to be protected by government intrusion. Just do your proper maintenance. Thank you again stupid people for driving up the cost of my Toys.

  4. 4 BobS Feb 7th, 2018 at 11:42 am

    Maybe it’s time for a new government spending program. No seriously, hear me out. Spending is not wasteful if it saves money in the long run or creates a return on investment. So if the government started offering free Tide pod sandwiches…I think in the long run we would come out ahead by accelerating Darwinism. “You don’t do maintenance on your motorcycle? Here, have a free sandwich. You don’t wear a good quality helmet? Free sandwich for you too. You drink and ride? Enjoy this tasty sandwich to go with that beer.”

  5. 5 marcus Feb 7th, 2018 at 11:56 am

    So what happened after 2011? Did HD start using a different fluid?

  6. 6 BlkBkr Feb 7th, 2018 at 12:01 pm

    I think this comes down to education. I bought a toy hauler a 5 years ago and before I took it out on the road the dealership hosted a 3-hour class on maintenance of the toy hauler. They went through all the basics care and maintenance of the tanks, sewage disposal and winterizing. If the MC dealerships did or do some of the same things when people drop $15k to $30k for a motorcycle I doubt this recall and a lot of common sense other ones would have ever happened.

  7. 7 58_pan Feb 7th, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Sorry but this isn’t a recall in my opinion and I agree with BobS

  8. 8 Texaspoontangtappa Feb 7th, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    Dear Government,

    Thank you so much for keeping me safe on my motorcycle.

    Sincerely Yours,

    Fair weather rider.

  9. 9 Ferris bueller Feb 7th, 2018 at 2:52 pm


  10. 10 Mcfreeak Feb 7th, 2018 at 3:11 pm

    I’m curious if 2 year old brake fluid is the whole problem. My BMW abs worked great for years and the fluid stayed clear.

  11. 11 highrpm Feb 7th, 2018 at 3:39 pm

    never heard of changing break fluid as a regular service protocol. engine oil? yes. and coolant? yes, less frequently than engine oil. break fluid. only when i doing back yard break repair caused me to drain/ add brake fluid. so when did changing brake fluid become a service item?

  12. 12 Pat h Feb 7th, 2018 at 6:55 pm

    Brake fluid service has always been a regular part of service,

  13. 13 Hubbard Feb 8th, 2018 at 5:32 am

    I ride a Panhead,what’s brake fluid?

  14. 14 nomadmax Feb 8th, 2018 at 6:48 am

    This isn’t a “nanny state” or “owner neglect” issue, this is a poor engineering issue. I know, I know, hard to believe coming from HD. The ABS Hydraulic Control Unit (HCU) is a pass thru system that does not cycle/test the mechanical valves on start up or even randomly. Consequently, when moisture gets into the required DOT 4 fluid it can corrode the valves inside the HCU causing them to close off the normal pass thru braking capability. When that happens there is a complete loss of braking (the lever or pedal freezes) on whichever circuit is affected (front or rear). There is no warning, no ABS light or code to alert the rider of a fault and it can happen while riding (and has) despite a pre-ride check of the brakes.

    As most anyone knows, DOT 4 is glycol based and hygroscopic (it absorbs water); DOT 5 is silicone based and is not hygroscopic but isn’t suitable for ABS systems because of compress-ability and aeration. Something so commonly known should have been taken into consideration by HD’s engineering staff as a serious safety issue as this is the only ABS system on the planet that leaves the user with no residual braking when the ABS unit fails. Alas, we can’t just blame the engineers; some of the blame goes to the boardroom as the offending poorly designed HCU is a product of BWI, Beijing West Industries, a Chinese company that apparently doesn’t have to worry about product liability or user safety.

    Many HCU units have failed even though the owners serviced or had their bikes serviced at the dealer following the required maintenance schedule. They were rewarded with a repair that cost just under a $1000.00 and the best part is the HCU was replaced with the same defective part, HD also made the repair parts “dealer only” so it wasn’t something the end user could source, that appears to be loosening up though.

    Harley doesn’t deserve a break on this one for a few reasons. They cheaped out on something serious that leaves the rider with a complete loss of braking, that’s a big one, But what’s almost as bad is that they wanted to push it off as an owner neglect issue and wash their hands of it. Ultimately, this is going to cost them a bundle because brake flushes aren’t going to fix this and NHTSA isn’t going to let it go at that. Harley is going to realize a financial legacy that goes well beyond the money they saved on this poorly designed system.

    As a Harley rider (who has not had an ABS failure) I hope it costs them a pile of money.

  15. 15 Mark Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:08 am

    BMW 1150’s have an anti-lock system that hates dirty brake fluid. Let you old fluid sit there for two years and you’ll probably need a $2000 brake job, and the parts might not be available. When my service tech told me that, he got my attn. I have him change fluid every year.YES TO EDUCATION!


  16. 16 Hadley Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:26 am

    09!flh no ani lock on mine
    I understand the antilock is better but there are many other parts that can fail additional I’ll stick with my old timey brakes

  17. 17 fuji Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:27 am

    My bike has 147.000 miles on the clock ,never changed the brake fluid. I wont ride again until i do.

    nomadmax. points spot on.

  18. 18 Chris Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:40 am

    this is gonna hurt them!…serve em right for putting dodgy chinese parts into a braking system.
    Yes I change my brake fluid every 2 years or sooner.
    ABS ….not for me…like to be able to lock the back wheel if I wish.

  19. 19 Cigarfarts Billings Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:42 am

    They are changing out to DOT 4 type fluid.

  20. 20 Matt W. Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:42 am

    Nomadmax: Well put. Thanks for the info.

  21. 21 rebel Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:42 am

    the ABS module is a problem with loss of brakes, but a problem not being mentioned is on bikes which may not have ABS, dot 4 absorbs moisture and eats paint, many have seen the brake fluid eating the coating off the master cyl lids since the change to dot 4 fluid starting in 2005, front master cylinders may not be returning the brake lever all the way out which leaves the brake light on all the time, that makes the vehicles behind you think it’s the taillight on, so when you do apply the brakes to slow down the light doesn’t get brighter. I have replaced quite a few fnt m/cyls during regular services and the owners had no idea they were riding around with their brake light on, if you have any slack in the brake lever your light may be on.

  22. 22 Wayne Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:47 am

    Guess I should have sold off my 2011 Ultra years ago since I’m never in the US enough to ride it. Flip side, now HD gets to take care of a problem I really didn’t consider. Coming up on the end of the ESP so that also works. Need them to look at cams or just go in for lifters and cam bearing change. 15,000 miles, high miles. Haaa

  23. 23 rebel Feb 8th, 2018 at 8:52 am

    don’t forget you hyd clutch has dot 4 fluid too

  24. 24 shanedrive Feb 8th, 2018 at 9:38 am

    Nomadmax, I’d like to know where you read/learned about this issue in such detail. I’m aware of DOT 3 & 4’s properties regarding moisture but didn’t know about the module itself and the company that makes it. You can reach me privately if you wish via email/phone. See our website. Or find us on facebook and send a message. I want to learn as much as I can so I may educate my customers in detail as to what is exactly going on w/their bikes. In the mean time, I’m going to start searching around based on a few things you’ve stated. Thank you. Shane

  25. 25 Hillbilly Jim Feb 8th, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Reminds me of the guy who put the legs of his ladder in horse manure while repairing the barn roof. He sued Louisville ladder (and won) because there was not a warning sticker on his ladder to remind him horse shit us slippery!

  26. 26 Chief Waldo Feb 8th, 2018 at 11:51 am

    Nomadmax wrote an excellent description of the problem. As he pointed out, DOT 4 (and DOT 3) brake fluid is hydroscopic. It absorbs water. When you look at your brake fluid, you may notice it gets darker as it ages. What’s causing the fluid to get darker, is actually the deterioration of your brake system’s internal components as it is “attacked” by the water in your brake fluid. The water is also lowering the boiling point in your brake fluid, making brake fade more likely in hard braking conditions. Changing your brake fluid annually not only minimizes the deterioration of your brake system’s internal components (by flushing our the old fluid that has absorbed water) but also keeps your boiling points high, greatly reducing the chances of brake fade in hard braking conditions.
    This applies to your car as well!

  27. 27 Xenu Feb 8th, 2018 at 12:08 pm

    So in a nutshell, this Harley ABS system defaults to no braking at all if the Chinese-made HCU module fails. That’s bizarre.

  28. 28 Woody's Feb 8th, 2018 at 2:38 pm

    Steel tires last forever, but have a low traction efficiency. Rubber tires have a much better grip, but need to be replaced a lot. Can’t wait to see if the next recall gets me a new rear tire, and what it’ll be made of.

  29. 29 dick Feb 8th, 2018 at 4:05 pm

    How can so many riders be so un aware of the importance of changing BRAKE fluid as specified.
    Common all garden brake fluids for ROAD use are “hygroscopic”. this means they suck up moisture that’s water every chance they get. This in turn leads to a) system corrosion (that leads to bits sticking). b) under extreme braking the heat created as the pads rub against the disc can be transmitted through to the fluid in the caliper. This in turn causes the water to BOIL and create STEAM bubbles in the fluid. BRAKE fluid resists compressing, Water does not resist compressing as well as BRAKE fluid. STEAM DOES COMPRESS so NO BRAKES.
    Simple change fluid as the book says. In some cases you may even find that requirements for changing pads requires opening bleed valves to prevent damaging seals by forcing the pistons apart as fluid travels back to the reservoir. Top up after with NEW fluid from UNOPENED bottle. DO NOT reuse old fluid.

    On the other hand It would be nice for the powers to be to recall all the USA made 4 wheelers with every fault.

  30. 30 dick Feb 8th, 2018 at 4:09 pm

    For the record aren’t all Harley brakes Anti lock.
    I think most people just say the brakes are crap and some even remove the front one completely.

  31. 31 marcus Feb 8th, 2018 at 4:19 pm

    So is the ABS problem limited to the BWI (formerly Delphi brake division) ABS unit, and not the more current Bosch units? The only issue I saw with the current braking system was a leaky brake light switch.

    Does anyone know what HD is doing on the recall? Is it just a fluid flush? If they find damage do they replace the ABS unit(s) for free?

  32. 32 Nomadmax Feb 8th, 2018 at 5:32 pm

    According to my information, the 2012-2013 ABS units were made by Bosch even though they have the same part number. I have never seen a failure of a 2012-2013.

  33. 33 Git Real Feb 11th, 2018 at 3:04 pm

    WOW…..Stupid says stupid does !

    After reading the comments….90% of you should not be riding!

  34. 34 nicker Feb 13th, 2018 at 12:12 am

    If all the yammering for crash-proof motorcycles were simply ignored as need for the incompetent to participate in a risky sport without consequence…. then we wouldn’t have to put up with the increased complexity and cost of technological that could just as easily be replaced by learning how use your brakes properly…. 🙁


  35. 35 Art Feb 16th, 2018 at 2:27 am

    So does the logic follow that if I do not
    change my motor oil and have an engine
    failure I will be covered ?

  36. 36 Thundercity Aug 31st, 2018 at 5:39 am

    I’m pretty sure nobody has mentioned this yet but you DO need the proper equipment to do an ABS motor bleed/purge. Main dealers have the right equipment to do this and so do many Independants. We charge £60 for a three disc bike and £50 for a two disc bike all inc. Not a massive outlay every two years.

    BobS. I am right behind you with the Darwinism theory.
    Nomadmax. Spot on tech wise.
    Git Real. I think you are being a bit unkind. I think most people get the picture.
    Art. Don’t stop there. Just leave the tyres and brake pads to wear out and sue the government when you crash. Obviously we are all too stupid to be held accountable for our actions.

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Cyril Huze