Harley-Davidson recall – brake failure risk

On 6th March 2018, Driver & Vehicle Standards Agency launched a “concern” effecting 3050 motorcycles built by Harley-Davidson between 25th June 2006 and 13th December 2011.

The “concern” is: “If the brake fluid has not been changed as per manufacturer’s instructions deposits may form which may affect the operation of the ABS module.   Continued use may lead to loss of braking.”

Harley-Davidson have issued their own recall notices which include an insert into the owner’s manual headed WARNING.  This states that brake failure resulting from the defect can lead to loss of control resulting in death or serious injury.

The legal implications of this are governed by the Consumer Protection Act 1987.  This imposes liability on the producers (in this case, the manufacturer, Harley-Davidson) for losses that are caused by a defective product.

The way the CPA 1987 works means that once a defect is proven to have existed, and proven to have caused the damage, nothing further needs to be proven to establish liability.   You don’t need to prove fault.

What this means, is that now that Harley-Davidson have issued a recall notice which acknowledges a defect, it will be difficult to escape liability to owners of their motorcycles who have suffered injury and/or losses that resulted from the defect.

The notice says the cause of the problem is that DOT 4 brake fluid will absorb moisture over time, and that this can cause the formation of deposits, and that the deposits can interfere with a value in the ABS.

The answer, says Harley-Davidson, is to flush the fluid when the moisture content is 3% or greater, or every two years.

This seems a deceptively easy fix.

It may be reasonable to ask whether perhaps there is something else a little more complicated happening here since it seems surprising that the moisture build up, with the brake failure risks, isn’t one that is replicated in other ABS systems.

If you are a Harley-Davidson owner who has faced brake failure, which has caused injury or loss, you may wish to investigate your legal remedies.