A few days ago, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) launched into a massive investigation of Harley-Davidson motorcycles. After 43 people complained of brake failure, including three reports of crashes and two reports of injuries, the NHTSA has sought to examine 430,000 motorcycles, with model types spanning 3 years (2008-2011).
Thus far, the NHTSA’s investigation says that although some of the brake failures may be attributed to Harley-Davidson’s “2 year brake fluid service interval requirement” the sudden and complete brake failures are still a cause of concern. Whether some riders failed to change the brake fluid as recommended by Harley-Davidson is still unknown. However, riding with old brake fluid may corrode the valves in the anti-lock braking system, impeding the brakes’ functionality. It is also unclear whether it was specifically the anti-lock functionality of the brakes that was failing or whether the entire braking system was malfunctioning. One rider guessed that “If the initial claims are true . . . the failure of the anti-lock braking system [may have] caused complete brake failure.”
A recall has not been announced, as the investigation has only recently went underway and Harley-Davidson is cooperating with investigators. In 2014, the company was forced to recall over 60,000 motorcycles over malfunctioning brakes. This potential problem differs here, in that brakes are failing without any warning, whereas the 2014 recall involved brakes that were engaging unexpectedly. Both problems however, seem to involve the anti-lock braking system.
Brake failure in motorcycles is extremely dangerous and can cause life-threatening injuries. Motorcyclists, even more than motorists, depend on brakes to help them avoid inattentive motorists, debris and slippery surfaces. If you own one of the affected motorcycles, the safest option is to have the motorcycle examined before taking it on the road. If you have been injured due to this defect, a California personal injury attorney knowledgeable in products liability and design defects can provide a consultation regarding your legal options.