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Read This...It Can Happen To You !!!

2738 Views 14 Replies 6 Participants Last post by  Fulldraw
Howdy Y'all,

I am in need of some advice from the group on some technical issues. I will be as brief as possible but if this post is long winded, let me apologize for that now.

On November 2, 2001 I took delivery of a 2002 FLSTC/I from Boswell's H-D in Nashville, TN. At 1200 miles I noticed a leak on the floor beneath the bike. The leak appeared to be motor oil seeping from where the engine and transmission cases join. I dye tested the motor oil and the backlight showed it was indeed motor oil. Over the next few hundred miles I diligently cleaned the bottom of the bike to better monitor this problem. It was evident that this leak was becoming progressively worse.

I took the bike to the dealer for them to diagnose this problem. The dealer's diagnosis was that the cases had a bad seal. The dealer had to contact Harley-Davidson's tech support to discuss the problem and receive warranty authorization. Their solution...At 1800 miles I took the bike to the dealer for them to tear the engine down and split the cases and seal them with Yama-bond. They had the bike 2 weeks to render these repairs. I thought all was well with the world! Yeah right!!!

At 2000 miles the identical leak re-appears. I return the bike to the dealer to show them the problem. The service manager Gene Futch was not a happy camper. Again they had to contact the Harley-Davidson's technical people to determine a course of action. Their diagnosis...engine case porosity. The oil is seeping through the cases just like it would a sponge, a bad casting evidently. At 2200 miles they have the bike another 2 weeks to replace the engine.

The bike is ready to go at 2:30 p.m. the first day of March, hours before I leave for bike week in Daytona. The bike now has 3500 miles on it and you guessed it! The identical oil leak has appeared once again over the last couple hundred miles. I have went through the same regimen to diagnose and monitor the problem. It's the same problem as before, becoming progressively worse.

In this post I have limited its scope to just the oil leak, but there have been other problems...many of them. The service manager Gene is well known and respected in the area, and so is the mechanic Harry who has performed most of the work on the bike. The dealer has been in business for more than 50 years. The manager/owner is Bubba Boswell he and I have had some wall-to-wall counseling sessions about all the problems I have had at his establishment. He leaves me cold and angry with his attitude.

Over the history of problems with this bike and the dealership I have been severely inconvenienced by loss of use of the product I have purchased. The loss of personal productivity from work by having to take the bike to the dealer for these service problems. The dealer has never offered me a loaner bike, I know this practice does occur at some dealerships. They did offer to rent me a bike for bike week when it looked as if I would not have the use of my own bike. I told the owner Bubba Boswell that there was something wrong with the scenario of the dealership attempting to make more money off me by renting me a bike. Why should I pay for a rental when my bike has had to be in the shop for a multitude of unresolved warranty issues.

This dealership is quick to take your money at the time of sale, but they are on the slow side when it comes to service issues. One week to one month has been the service issue turn around times. When the bike is returned to me there is usually something wrong such as being dirty, bent passing lamp, broken rear turn signal lamp, and scratched rear fender for just a few.

I have grown very tired of the problems with the bike. And quite frankly I've grown tired of the dealer pointing the finger at H-D, and H-D customer service pointing the finger at the dealer. The owner/manager Bubba Boswell once told me that "Harleys are better than they use to be...but it's a Harley and it's going to leak some." My response was, " I am not going to have a new $30,000.00 motorcycle that leaks anything, no matter what brand it is."

Boswell's H-D charges between $2500.00 to $3000.00 over MSRP and will not budge one nickel on their posted price. I know lots of dealers conduct business this way. I feel like if I'm going to pay as much as 20% over MSRP then I have a right to expect an exceptional product and service.

Here's the crux of my dilemma...what to do?

1) I could sell the bike.

2) I could trade the bike and lose my backside on the deal.

3) I can take a wait and see attitude to see how long it will take them to resolve the "issues" this time.

4) Hire an attorney at more expense to me to force these issues into arbitration under the TN lemon law.

Now you know some of the problems and their history...my questions are the following:

1) Anyone have experience with engine case porosity seepage?

2) Anyone have experience with a motorcycle lemon law?

3) Suggestions on what course of action you would take?

If you stop by to just read this post perhaps you may benefit from it. If you take the time to relate your knowledge and experience, I want to thank you in advance. If you flame me...I have my Nomex suit on! If you think I'm whining let's talk direct, then you'll really know the whole deal.
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Yup, I have been around a few cases that include #'s 1 & 2.

I could post something to make you feel good, but I'm going to give you the straight scoop.

Case or casting porosity is quite common in Harley world.

The little game between the dealers and HD is routinely played, but it could be much worse. Given the apparent modifications on the bike, even just the propipe, they could have initially denied warranty forcing you into a legal battle thast you eventually would win, but you might be walking for a couple of years until you do.

If you legally force the issue under lemon law they would eventually buy the bike back, but if you have anywhere near the 30K you say in the bike, you would lose your ass. They just buy the bike back, not the stuff that is on it.

If it were me, I would insist in getting thru to the head of customer relations at HD, factually explain the situation and ask for a replacement engine installed in a timely way.

Contrary to what most believe, dealers and the factory are only your friends while you are spending money, much more so the dealers then the factory. You have to force the issue at factory level, unless you have some sort of local leverage over the dealer.

If I had a couple of bucks, and considering the attitude they show, I would pay them back in the same currency.
I would not sell the bike to a private party, but I would not hesitate to play dumb and trade the bike in at another dealer where they did not know the history, preferably on a weekend when only sales people are there and unlikely to check the service history on the bike.

Either way you will take a loss, unless you have them replace the engine.
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Thanks for the response. The points you make are valid and quite logical. I can't say that I would disagree with any part of it.

I guess my BS meter has been pegged by all this mess. I would like for it to go away, and just be able to ride and enjoy the bike without hassles. There is more than 30k sitting there, that the picture alone can't show all that's been done to the bike. I fully realize that short of just plain fixing the darn thing...most likely I would lose my rump.

I do plan to talk with an attorney to explore the legal issues, if for nothing else just advice. Getting around the people at H-D customer service has not been easy and I'm still trying.

I have thought of having a beautiful custom lemon paint job done on the bike. Then I could park it in front of the dealer on their most busy days, maybe even hang a sign on it, and along the way answer any questions the fellow bikers might have.

By the way H-D customer service rep. Cindy tells me that I would have a better chance of winning the lottery than buying a Harley with engine case porosity! Yeah right!
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I wish I could help you more, but I forgot the name of the head of customer service at HD. I'll ask on another board, because we used to have it and it did help in a few cases to speak to this guy.
The factory is always more helpful then the dealers. Contrary to what they may want you to believe they have a great deal of authority over the dealer.
The problem is the service reps that speak to you on the phone have relatively little knowledge and no discretionary decision making power whatsoever. You need to reach someone that has that power.
The dealer will not help you if for no other reason that he has no liability exposure and even if the factory is forced to buy back the bike, the dealer will make money on it, probably not what he is used to with a new bike, but some.

From a stricly technical point of view, there is a discrepancy in the scenario.

The leak can happen. Sealing the cases with Yamabond is normal procedure. Yamabond is the same stuff as the british ThreeBond which is the best case sealant there is. The leak recurring and the cases being porous is quite possible. What is not really possible is the new cases leaking in exactly the same manner as the old ones. The odds of having TWO sets of cases on the same bike (as the cases would come from a different batch) leaking at the same spot really are a long shot not unlike winning the lottery.
There is something not right there.

I'll let you know if one of the fellows remembers the name of the guy to speak to.
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Your disgust is evident and I thought back to when I purchased my FatBoy last year. I too had a very poor experience…charging system related. What disappointed me the most was the absence of concern displayed by San Diego H/D. I purchased a new bike and spent personal time with absolutely no emotion from the selling dealer. Just a “I’m sorry this happened” would have been acceptable. Besides the ignition intermittently not working while on the road, which was dangerous, each event below required me to push start the bike. My bike has also been returned to me filthy each time.

  • 6/5/01 R&R Regulator – 608 miles
  • 6/30/01 R&R Stator – 855 miles
  • 7/12/01 R&R Battery – 1073 miles
  • 8/1/01 “Regulator wire to circuit breaker loose, Battery wires to breaker loose, Breaker out of mount.” - 1400 miles.

Your situation sounds much more frustrating. I have yet to find a dealer or non-dealer that views business as a two-way transaction.

Thanks for the opportunity to vent!

May our future road miles be trouble free…or at least with less trouble.
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fulldraw, any new info on this matter. Keep us posted.
Since my initial post a great deal has taken place and there is much to share with you. I will make an attempt to be as brief as possible.

As you recall my FLSTC/I was less than 6 months old with less than 3900 miles on it. Some sort of electrical gremlins have developed. One night I stopped at a friend's place to talk for a while. When I went to start the bike it was stone cold dead. The bike had blown 2 fuses just sitting there. There no riding in the rain that night.

A few days later at another friend's place I'm getting ready to leave and he notices that my passing lamps are not working. It wasn't the bulbs...it is something in the wiring harness. On the electrical problems, my best guess is considering the number of times the tank and the engine have been taken off the bike for repairs that most likely a wire is pinched at some point.

As you can imagine my frustration had continued to grow. At the time my greatest anguish was with the owner/dealer who poo poo'd me off telling me there wasn't a leak on the bike! Well that's the best part of this story! Keep reading.

I had made the decision to trade the bike. I traded the bike at the Rivergate location of the same dealer. We worked out a deal that is what I consider to be a reasonable and fair deal if there is such a thing when buying or trading a Harley. Remember this is prime riding season and it's tougher to make your best deal. But, I was happy to trade my problems away. I felt like that old Roy Clark song said " Thank God and Greyhound she's gone." Even the words of Martin Luther King Jr. "Free At Last, Free At Last" rang true when I traded my problem ridden Heritage.

I traded the 2002 FLSTC/I for a 2002 FXSTD. The new bike is at the dealer waiting on an exhaust and other parts.

Last Friday I dropped by the dealer to check on my new baby and discovered that my old Heritage was on the lift. They were in the process of diagnosing the problem. I was standing there when the mechanic split the engine and transmission cases apart. Transmission fluid ran everywhere. The mechanic put the tranny on the bench and proceeded to remove every gear from the housing. The gears were perfect. There were no shavings or debris. There was however a hairline crack in the transmission case. This crack being on the inside chamber was allowing the tranny fluid to seep into the area against the engine block mimicking the previous engine oil leak problem before. Odd that when I owned the bike the dealer told there was no leak, but once it was their problem they decided to investigate it. Hmmmmmmmmm.......

I would think that by any standard a new Harley with a defective engine with case porosity and a cracked transmission case in less than six months with less than 4000 miles would be considered a BONA-FIDE LEMON! What are the odds of that? Yes, this was a definite and separate engine and transmission problem!!!

The problems had grown to the point that when I would show up at the dealer's service department folks were looking down at their shoes and scattering like cockroaches in the light. The dealer would lament "we just service them, we don't build them." Harley-Davidson would say "we just sell them, we don't fix them."

You can be part of the problem or part of the solution. My solution was to trade that lemon off. I am sooooooooooooooo glad that I did!!!! When the dealer sells that Heritage I bet that they don't have the new owner call the old owner!!!

This past Sunday I e-mailed and faxed a strong letter to the dealership owner Bubba Boswell. The subject matter of the letter dealt with my feelings and my experiences with bike and how I had been dealt with. To his credit he called me Monday morning to apologize for having dropped the ball on some events. We discussed several issues and have generally agreed to let by-gones be by-gones and start over. I will approach this new relationship with skeptical optimism!

I'll let you know what the future brings and I'll keep my fingers crossed! I'll leave you with this bit of wisdom. Make sure your new Harley is paper trained!
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Hope you get many smiles out of the new bike. I'm absolutely convinced you did the right thing regardless of cost. The only thing I would have done different is to send the letter to the HD CEO and president. Since you are asking for nothing and have no longer an axe to grind, your comments may carry a lot of weight.

When you really get down to it they are pretty decent bikes, in particular when kept away from dealers in general. While there are still some good small family operated dealers, the numbers are shrinking.

Look at it as a learning experience, while some of our writings may appear overly agressive at times, some of us are actually quite pragmatic and base our opinions on experience.

Enjoy the bike for what it is, leave it alone as much as possible, and if you have to do something with it, either do it yourself or find someone that is competent and takes an interest in you and your bike, even if initially the cost may appear high in comparison to the dealer. When dealing with large operations you are a number that gets treated like the lowest common denominator, despite all the PR bullsh*t and pretty post cards. Just the way it goes these days, the nature of the beast.

It makes for a much less stressful relationship.
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HIPPO said:
.... either do it yourself or find someone that is competent and takes an interest in you and your bike, even if initially the cost may appear high in comparison to the dealer. When dealing with large operations you are a number that gets treated like the lowest common denominator, despite all the PR bullsh*t and pretty post cards. Just the way it goes these days, the nature of the beast.

The Hippo hit it right on the head. Despite the THOUSANDS of dollars I spent at the st/dealership in parts/labor, that every time I "checked in", they were just trying to sell me something else.

One time when I had a legitimate emergency and needed service right away(broken drive belt), I thought I was going to get some special treatment since I thought I was a "great" customer, needless to say, they made me wait 3 days because they had other small jobs ahead of me. :(

Now my friend RAY(an independent mechanic), will go the extra mile to give me personal service and usually work me in the same day, while I wait. It really does help to find a wrench that knows what he is doing and takes pride in his work. Hell, Ray treats my bike as if it were his own.

Glad to hear that things worked out for you in the long run.
Thanks for the undate and enjoy the new ride. Forget about the past.:)
Great to finally hear your ride's on the road and you're a happy camper (rider)!

Question, how many miles did you have on that drive belt when it broke? Just trying to get an idea what they are really worth in miles.

Big Al, (assuming that question was for me)

My belt had close to 3000 miles on it. HD said it was a defective belt. 8000+ miles later on the new belt and I have not had any problems.
Folks I just wanted to say thank you for the words of support and encouragement! I'm looking forward to my new bike in a big way. I love Harleys and couldn't begin to imagine riding another brand of bike. If I couldn't ride a Genuine Hawg I probably wouldn't ride at all.

Hippo, you have offered sage advice on some noteworthy points, that would like to respond to. On the neighborhood wrench to trust...I haven't found one. Small bike shops pop-up and close faster than I count in my area. Several of the larger custom type shops have went under in the last year alone. The local H-D dealers general attitude is that if we did not install it or if it is an aftermarket part, you are own your own if it breaks.

I attended a performance enhancement seminar at a local dealer several months back. They went as to far to say that if you are using an oil other than H-D 360 the motor company would look seriously at denying the warranty claim and had done so. The dealer and their lead performance wrench do not like full synthetic oil, claiming that the H-D 360 oil has so many additives that it is nearly synthetic. They do not even recommend an oil cooler. H-D 360 oil being a proprietary oil has no API markings. I'd love to have it tested.

The dealers and the motor company talk out of both sides of their mouths. Here we have all these wonderful performance parts to install...but they just might void your warranty! Also, dealers in my area really, really push Harley and Screaming Eagle parts...they always recommend them first. Why? The more H-D parts and accessories they sell the better their next years bike allocation is. are they really looking out for the customer?

Now Hippo, leaving the bike alone? That really is a hard one to do! Don't you like to tweak it just a little?
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Well, you have to be very careful. Most independent shops and custom shops are hopelessly lost when it comes to the very late model bikes. The honest ones are realistic as to their capabilities and either call specialists in or farm out the stuff they have problems with, mostly electronics and machine work. You would be amazed to find out how much even dealers farm out.

Every town is different. A small percentage of dealer techs are actually very good once you take them away from the system and politics at the dealer, and it is not uncommon to find one that works out of his garage in his free time. They sing a much different tune then, and you would be surprised what they run in their own bikes. Talk to the local riders that have been around, maybe within ABATE or MMA, it takes time for these things to fall into place and to earn some trust and respect from these guys.

Many of the HD parts are actually very good as compared to some of the aftermarket parts. A lot of the aftermarket stuff that is good is better left to professional tuners. Much of the HD stuff might not have the capabilities but it is designed to make it difficult for home wrenches to make expensive mistakes.

Sure I like to tweak a little, but not how you would think. I go to ridiculous lenghts to make the bike look 100% stock as it rolled of the showroom floor.

It is a little easier if you do your beer drinking in a place that looks like this.
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With that photo you included you have my attention. Would consider adopting me so that I can play in your shop and sip on your beer? That's one serious looking shop!
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