By Byron Wilson, Associate Editor

Brake issue leads to mass recall

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has issued a massive recall for Suzuki’s GSX-R sportbikes. The potential number of units affected is 210,228, including 2004-2013 model year Suzuki GSX-R600s and GSX-R750s as well as 2005-2013 GSX-R1000s. According to the notice, “in combination with older brake fluid, corrosion of the brake piston inside of the front brake master cylinder generates gas that may result in a reduction of fluid pressure transmission to the front brake.”

In a letter dated Oct. 18, 2013, Suzuki Motor of America described the potential defect further. “After a long-term service life of the motorcycle without changing the brake fluid, the brake fluid can deteriorate and absorb moisture. The brake piston inside the front brake master cylinder may not have uniform surface treatment. This combination of conditions can lead to corrosion of the brake piston.” This corrosion contributes to the generation of gas, which, due to the side position of the reservoir, may not be “adequately purged from the master cylinder.” As the gas accumulates, the front brake lever “may develop a ‘spongy’ feel, and stopping distances may be extended, increasing the risk of a crash.”

The letter continues with a chronology of events which start in May 2009. A German distributor alerted Suzuki Motor Corporation (SMC) that customers had complained of reduced brake lever feel after long-term parking. At that time Suzuki determined that “the problem was likely due to insufficient purging of air when maintenance was performed.”

In December 2011, the then-named American Suzuki Motor Corporation received similar customer complaints and sent SMC two Field Technical Information Reports (FTIR), “which may be related to the reported defect.” SMC examined collected parts and again judged the issue to be insufficient air purge following maintenance.

By June 2012, SMC received another “possibly-related” FTIR from the American market and from August to October of the same year the company continued to examine the front brake master cylinder, though it was unsuccessful in determining a cause for the presence of the gas.

From December 2012 to September 2013, SMC received 21 more “possibly-related” FTIR’s from the U.S. market. In December 2013, engineers from SMC examined affected motorcycles from distributors in the U.S. and Portugal and determined the gas to be hydrogen. During the first months of 2013 the company determined that the combination of old brake fluid, low moisture and high temperatures had contributed to corrosion on the brake piston, resulting in generation of hydrogen gas.

From August to September, SMC tested brake parts that had never undergone brake maintenance from display bikes, test drive and long-term unsold units. Finding corrosion there as well, SMC concluded that corrosion was “due to insufficient surface treatment of the front brake piston.”

Throughout all of this, no issues were found relating to the rear brake system. Suzuki distributors will replace the front brake master cylinder on affected models with a unit that has a redesigned reservoir port on top of the master cylinder and updated surface treatment on the brake piston. “Several associated parts will also be replaced,” according to the letter.

It’s unknown what percentage of the 210,228 potentially affected units has the defect. Suzuki will notify owners and dealers of the issue and will replace any affected parts free of charge. The recall is expected to begin Nov. 4, 2013.

Owners may call Suzuki at 1-800-572-1490. (This number has been giving some callers issues, claiming “it is not available from your calling area.” Suzuki Motor of America’s Customer Service line is 714-572-1490.) Suzuki’s campaign ID numbers for the recall are 2A (31,32,33,34,35,36).

Owners may also contact the NHTSA Vehicle Safety Hotline at 1-888-327-4236 or go to www.safecar.gov for more information.