Time to Put a Stop to Harley Davidson’s ABS Brake Problems

Heard of the Harley Davidson ABS recall?

Your Harley may be one of the many models that have been recalled.

Harley Davidson ABS recall campaign has included thousands of motorbikes since the defect has been discovered.

You can check with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the recalled models.


Why Is Harley Recalling Some Models?

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration warned, “Brakes may fail due to not flushing the brake fluid,” back in 2018. Essentially, it means that the hydraulic valves in the ABS become blocked because the fluid builds up inside it. This eventually leads to malfunctioning in the brake system.

If no action is taken for a prolonged period of time, the braking fluid solidifies up inside the valve and ultimately leads to complete failure of the brakes.

You should keep in mind that all CVO Touring, touring, and VSRC motorcycles that were manufactured between 2008 and 2011 and equipped with the anti-lock braking system are recalled. In other words, over 30 models were recalled.  You can check to see if you Harley has been recalled:   Harley Davidson Recall Information

From the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s website:

Sudden Brake Failure – Motorcycle
Dated opened: July 6, 2016

The Office of Defects Investigation (ODI) opened this investigation in July 2016 based on forty-three (43) Vehicle Owner Questionnaires (VOQ). During the course of this investigation ODI received a total of 145 VOQs related to the alleged defect on the subject motorcycles. Owners allege they experience a sudden and complete loss of brakes on one or both wheels.

To better understand the cause of the braking issue on the subject motorcycles, ODI requested NHTSA’s Vehicle Research and Test Center (VRTC) conduct inspections and testing of affected vehicle braking systems. Through its work, VRTC determined that deposits were forming on the valves in the Hydraulic Control Unit (HCU) of the Antilock Braking System (ABS). These deposits could prevent the proper function of the HCU and render the brakes ineffective.

To understand why deposits were forming in the HCU, Harley Davidson completed an analysis of the Dow 460 brake fluid used as original equipment on the subject motorcycles and determined that it had stability issues if left in the brake system for an extended period of time. Harley Davidson found that if a brake fluid flush was not conducted as outlined in the owner’s manual for the motorcycles, and was left in the system for a period of time beyond their recommendation; deposits could form in the HCU. Through further testing, Harley Davidson identified an alternate, commercially available, brake fluid that did not have the same stability issues as the original fluid and could stop the proliferation of any current brake system deposits.

ODI sent Information Request (IR) letters to Harley Davidson and Dow Chemical (the supplier of the brake fluid on the subject motorcycles) to collect information about the subject bikes and the alleged defect. Harley Davidson responded in full on Sept 30, 2016 and Dow responded with a confidential submission on October 25, 2017.

ODI analyzed the information contained in both IR responses and concluded that motorcycles manufactured during Model Years (MY) 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 were failing at a rate greater than their peers. Based on this analysis and the brake fluid study conducted by Harley Davidson, a group of motorcycles was identified that were potentially affected by the instability of the original brake fluid. 2008 marked the introduction of ABS on Harley Davidson motorcycles and a change in the Dow 460 brake fluid used in the 2012 MY vehicles provided the bases for the scope of the affected population.

With recall action 18V-076 taken by Harley Davidson this investigation is closed as further use of agency resources does not appear to be warranted.

The ODI reports cited above can be reviewed at:https://www.nhtsa.gov/ using the complaint identification numbers attached to this resume.

Why is ABS Important in Motorcycles?

Motorcycles with an anti-lock braking system have a 30% lower chance of crashing than motorcycles with no ABS. Although bikers are never truly safe out on the road, the system decreases the dangers they face to a great extent.

The problem is that the riders may not truly understand how essential it’s to maintain their motorcycles by flushing their fluids every two years. If that’s not done, the bike owners may begin to feel the brakes harden when they clutch it. If you’re on a highway, and that happens, the results could be catastrophic.


What Did Harley Davidson Suggest?

If you take an affected bike to a Harley’s dealership, they’ll flush out your brakes and replace the old fluid with Platinum label DOT 4 fluid. That’s because this fluid is less likely to harden inside the valves.

After flushing, it becomes your duty to maintain the bike. To avoid deposits and brake failures, flush and replace the braking fluid in a period that doesn’t exceed 2 years.

The Mix Up

For a safe stop, Harley Davidson instructed those with the ABS to keep applying pressure with their hands on the brakes without pumping the brakes with their foot.

That’s because the ABS does the pumping work for you, with up to seven pumps per second. So even if you did pump, it’d be pointless.

These instructions should be followed until your bike has come to a safe stop. Only then, you could release the brakes.

For bikes with no ABS, they were instructed to do the opposite. Understandably this can cause a lot of confusion to the riders, especially if they’ve just switched from one model to another. Mixing up the instructions could cause the wheels to lock up, and the bike to crash.

Could You Take Legal Action if You’ve Been Affected?

It depends. If you, or a loved one, have suffered damages due to defective brakes, then you may have a case against Harley Davidson.

In case of a wreck or an accident, the injured rider could sue the manufacturer for the damage that took place, be it hospital bills or appropriate compensation of what the plaintiff has gone through.

Your best shot would be to get in contact with Greg Reeves to help you figure out what to do after you’ve been involved in an accident.

Who’s Fault Is It?

Before diving headfirst into a lawsuit, it’s helpful to know who you’re accusing of the fault. There could be many reasons why your bike has been acting up which may have led to an accident.

In the case of Harley Davidson’s models equipped with ABS, it could be a product defect and, as such, the manufacturer’s fault.

To avoid any wrong assumptions, contact our legal team if you or a loved one is injured in order to determine the cause of the accident.


If you do own a Harley which you suspect to be recalled, please don’t hesitate to check it out with any of the aforementioned parties. Better safe than sorry, right?

You may be one of the unlucky ones that the faulty ABS has affected with a significant or catastrophic injury.  If so, please contact Greg Reeves to discuss your options and the best course of action for you or your family member.




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