Harley-Davidson Brake Problems Lead to NHTSA Investigation

Government safety officials are reviewing a risk of brake problems that may affect nearly half a million Harley-Davidson motorcycles, after receiving reports of brakes failing to work, causing a number of motorcycle accidents and injuries. 

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced an investigation (PDF) involving more than 430,000 Harley-Davidson motorcycles on July 6, after riders complained of brake failure on the bikes without warning. The investigation involves motorcycle model years 2008 to 2011, which feature anti-lock braking systems. No specific models were mentioned.

So far, the NHTSA has received at least 43 complaints Harley-Davidson motorcycle brake problems, at least three of which involved crashes and two reports of injuries.

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The anti-lock braking system is designed to prevent riders from losing traction, offering grip if circumstances call for a hard brake. Those circumstances could include an instance where a rider is suddenly cut off by a driver, forcing the anti-lock braking system to engage and prevent a collision.

Most of the complaints indicate that the brakes on the hand lever and foot pedal did not work. In one case the malfunction caused a rider to crash into a garage door. During another incident, a rider complained that while driving at 75 mph the motorcycle began to shake and wobble. Another rider complained the front brake froze without warning while riding on the highway. Most complaints mention severe accidents had only been narrowly avoided.

Harley-Davidson reported that, in some cases, riders who made the complaints might have failed to change the brake fluid, which must be replaced every two years. Old brake fluid may corrode valves in the anti-lock braking system causing it to work improperly.

The company later said even if riders had not changed the brake fluid, the sudden brake failure “is a concern” they are looking into.

The investigation is not a motorcycle product safety recall and the Milwaukee-based motorcycle manufacturer has said it is aware of the investigation and is cooperating with safety regulators.


  • BeverlyJuly 6, 2019 at 9:57 pm

    I was going into a turn and neither of my brakes worked! I couldn't get The bike to slow down. The bike down shifted on its own, when I looked down to see what broke off (that always freaked me out when the bike did that) when I looked up I was in the gravle on the side of the road. When I flipped and rolled my bike. Yes, I died, but they brought me back to the excruciating pain of the wreck.

  • KyleJuly 21, 2017 at 12:14 pm

    2007 Harley Davidson. Rear brake line burst 5 days after purchase of used bike. Several thousand dollars in injuries incurred.

  • TAMIRAJuly 29, 2016 at 11:06 pm

    Husband killed on 1998 Harley Davidson that had brake problems on May 27, 2016.

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