Harley-Davidson has issued a recall for 57,000 motorcycles, for an issue that seems minor, but can easily cause motorcycle accidents. The recall is specific to 2017 motorcycles manufactured from July 2nd, 2016, to May 9th, and a full list can be found on their website.
This is the first recall issue specific to their newest engine, the Milwaukee eight V-Twin, which is only the 9th engine produced by the company in its 113 years.
Owners of the affected bikes are requested to visit a Harley-Davidson dealer for a free inspection, which is expected to require less than half an hour of the owner’s time and might well prevent a motorcycle accident.
Harley Owners, Be Aware of the Danger
The issue is a hose clamp on an oil line — which if loosened sufficiently, or if the hose disconnects, results in oil spraying onto the rear tire. It can be an immediately catastrophic outcome for such a seemingly small item.
Two motorcycle crashes and one minor personal injury have been reported since the motorcycles became available in 2016, but there have been nine reports total of the hose in question becoming loose or disconnected.
The separate reports were noticed only after a shop mechanic saw the issue happen at a dealership. They were testing a motorcycle on a stand when the hose disconnected, spraying oil onto the rear tire and floor.
Who is Liable in a Motorcycle Accident Case?
Recalls are not new to Harley-Davidson. In 2015, their largest single recall was for 185,000 bikes that had a potential for the saddlebags to fall off. And another engine in the H-D lineup, used on the 2014 CVO Limited, was the focus of a 2014 class-action lawsuit claiming the engine has a defect which causes it to constantly leak coolant.
The suit was filed by Robert Okon of Ohio, who had purchased a Harley-Davidson CVO Limited for $46,000 in 2013. In this case, the problem was well-known to dealerships, but lacking a definitive repair for the issue, they typically resorted to temporary fixes such as simply refilling the coolant level.
At first, this may seem like a clear defective product case. But under the circumstances of a persistent issue that isn’t being repaired while under the warranty period, the burden of proof can sometimes rest with the owner. Dealerships have been reported to insist the owner’s at fault, or that neglectful maintenance voided the warranty.
If you find yourself in this situation, it’s best to contact an experienced motorcycle accident attorney.
The first line of defense is following maintenance recommendations, and keeping records of all work performed and issues reported.
Having this sort of documentation will be a big benefit to your personal injury case.
Don’t Overlook a Parts Manufacturer’s Liability
The first Harley-Davidson motorcycles built in 1904 were largely modified bicycles with one-cylinder engines. These first bikes were very simple: a beefed-up bicycle, an engine, and a magneto to power the headlamp and spark plugs.
There were not a great number of parts all-told, and it was not until 1909 — five years after the first model was available — that Harley-Davidson issued its first parts catalog. One reason for this delay is that most parts on the motorcycles were produced by other companies, and as magnetos and tires and headlights needed replacing, customers ordered the parts directly from the various manufacturers.
Now the Harley-Davidson catalog has over ten thousand parts.
This can present a problem for owners looking to press the company to remedy problems — who to contact, who is at fault?
Sometimes there is a specific faulty part, and it could be possible that a separate manufacturer is ultimately responsible for a break-down or accident, such as the faulty Takata air bags that were installed on many different brands of cars, and the Ford Bronco recall where it was determined that the tires were faulty and causing car accidents, rather than the vehicle.
A Personal Injury Lawyer’s Brief History of Harleys
Throughout the motorcycle company’s history, riders thought of themselves as self-sufficient; that with a handful of tools, some chicken wire and duct-tape, one could patch up most problems well enough to limp home. But modern bikes are so minutely engineered that replacing a simple clutch cable on one model involves removing the exhaust pipes, right side floorboard, and draining the transmission.
In the 1970s, the running joke was to “always buy two Harleys at a time so you have spare parts.” In 1969 American Machine and Foundry bought the nearly bankrupt motorcycle company and went to work “modernizing” the manufacturing process. The result was expensive bikes that were arguably inferior to the emerging Japanese models available, which were more reliable, comfortable, more finely tuned, and cheaper.
The newest Harley-Davidsons are far better engineered than in the 70s, but they still preserve a legacy: their two-cylinder engine with 45 degree heads.
The design is essentially the company’s trademark; line drawings of the bike over the years emphasize the shape of the engine, which produces substantial shaking (along with a rumbling sound that riders — including me — are fond of).
In early testing of the new V-Twin, counter-balancers were installed to negate nearly all of the the engine’s shaking, but riders rejected it for being “too smooth.” So engineers then essentially dialed up the shaking of the engine (at idle) so that riders “felt like they were riding a Harley.”
Be Smart About Motorcycle Safety
Another issue being reported is that new owners have been taking their bikes back to the dealers — some with very few miles, because they say “the engine changed” and got “rougher”.
Many mechanics are claiming that this is normal, a breaking-in period possibly. But it’s called “crankshaft slip,” and after the slip occurs the engine’s vibration will noticeably increase to the point that some riders have said the ride “isn’t fun anymore.” Essentially, the timing has changed, and should be inspected as soon as possible.
There are no recall orders yet on this or other common complaints found on most forums, but owners are advised to keep up regular motorcycle maintenance, should any warranty issue or recall require the documentation.
The standard oil change interval on most Harley-Davidsons is 2,500 miles, which is around the average of most brands. Many riders only get out on weekends though, so it can take a long time between oil changes, 6 months or a year or more. Whereas daily riders and commuters are urged to make the time for prompt maintenance, since the mileage adds up faster and the consequences of a failure can be as disastrous as the rear tire instantly coated in oil.