Harley-Davidson recalling 175k motorcycles

Customers can get free, one-time brake fluid flush

Harley-Davidson headquarters
Harley-Davidson Inc.'s headquarters in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee-based Harley-Davidson Inc. is recalling nearly 175,000 motorcycles because failing to replace brake fluid every two years can cause problems with anti-lock braking systems.

Harley-Davidson headquarters
Harley-Davidson Inc.’s headquarters in Milwaukee.

Harley recorded a $29.4 million charge in its selling, general and administrative expenses last quarter as part of the recall, which applies to model year 2008 to 2011 touring, CVO touring and VRSC motorcycles equipped with ABS. An estimated 1 percent of the 174,636 motorcycles included in the recall have a defect.

Harley’s owner’s manual says the brake fluid should be changed every two years. Not changing it can cause deposits to form in the brake system which can lead to the brakes failing.

“This is a voluntary recall announced by Harley-Davidson in the interest of our customers’ safety and satisfaction with our motorcycles,” Harley spokesman Mike Pflughoeft said in a statement, adding customers would begin receiving notifications Feb. 12 and could schedule repairs starting in mid-March.  The company is providing a free, one-time brake fluid flush using a new fluid and will again reinforce the importance of following maintenance schedules.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration first began investigating brake system failures in July 2016. The NHTSA noted that while the problems may have been caused by owners not changing the fluid, “the consequent sudden and complete loss of brake(s), without warning, is a concern.”

Harley launched a communication campaign in late 2016 to educate customers on the importance of following the maintenance schedule, but the NHTSA continued to investigate. Harley and the agency held several in-person and phone meetings over the course of 2017, with Harley’s internal team eventually reopening its own investigation.

The company proposed a field product program to address the issue in January, but the NHTSA staff would not recommend closing the investigation unless Harley moved forward with a recall.

Harley decided to conduct a voluntary recall on Jan. 24.

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Arthur covers banking and finance and the economy at BizTimes while also leading special projects as an associate editor. He also spent five years covering manufacturing at BizTimes. He previously was managing editor at The Waukesha Freeman. He is a graduate of Carroll University and did graduate coursework at Marquette. A native of southeastern Wisconsin, he is also a nationally certified gymnastics judge and enjoys golf on the weekends.

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