Harley-Davidson recalls 175,000 motorcycles over brake failure

Over 30 different ABS-equipped models are covered in the recall.

Chris Paukert Former executive editor / Cars
Following stints in TV news production and as a record company publicist, Chris spent most of his career in automotive publishing. Mentored by Automobile Magazine founder David E. Davis Jr., Paukert succeeded Davis as editor-in-chief of Winding Road, a pioneering e-mag, before serving as Autoblog's executive editor from 2008 to 2015. Chris is a Webby and Telly award-winning video producer and has served on the jury of the North American Car and Truck of the Year awards. He joined the CNET team in 2015, bringing a small cache of odd, underappreciated cars with him.
Chris Paukert

Harley-Davidson is recalling nearly 175,000 motorcycles over fears of brake failure. The campaign covers all anti-lock brake-equipped Touring, CVO Touring and VSRC motorcycles made during the 2008 through 2011 model years. Over 30 different models with ABS are affected, include the Road King, Road Glide, Electra Glide and Street Glide. Some police-spec models are also included in the campaign.

Apparently, a failure to flush brake fluid in accordance with the recommended two-year maintenance schedule may result in a valve within the ABS hydraulic control unit becoming impaired by deposits. Such deposits could lead to malfunctioning brakes, including failure. 

According to documents related to the recall filing, owners of affected motorcycles may note that "the front brake lever or rear brake pedal will feel 'hard' and will not be able to be actuated right after startup or right after an ABS event."

2010 Harley-Davidson CVO
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2010 Harley-Davidson CVO

Harley-Davidson motorcycles like this 2010 CVO tourer are part of the recall.


Harley-Davidson dealers will flush affected models' brake systems and refill the brake fluid with Platinum Label DOT 4 fluid, free of charge. The new fluid "has a different chemical formulation" known to be less susceptible to the gelling and deposit formation that caused the brake problem that precipitated the recall.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has been investigating the issue since July, 2016, following 43 reported complaints that included three crashes and a pair of injuries. Harley-Davidson had hoped to conduct a field service campaign instead of a formal recall, but NHTSA pushed for a national recall.

Harley-Davidson did not immediately return a request for comment.