The importance of motorcycle recalls

fixing motorcycle engine

Published on 26 July 2017 by Robert Drane

Recalls are a serious business, but you might not think so if you looked at the numbers. According to the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency, more than nine million vehicles on the UK’s roads have been affected by a recall of some kind in the past five years because something truly important is wrong with them, up to and including life-and-death issues like unintended acceleration, braking issues or even bursting into flames. However, more than a million vehicles affected by such recalls are still on the country’s roads without having been repaired.

It is both smart and responsible to check if your bike or any of the equipment you use is affected by a recall – after all, failing your MoT isn’t fun and you or the person you sell it to might end up trusting your lives to it some day. However, there have also been 1,484 separate recalls in the past five years for vehicles alone, let alone for parts and accessories as well, so it’s perfectly understandable if one or two have escaped your notice. So, how do you make sure your ride and your gear are safe?


How vehicle recalls work

The DVSA code of practice mandates that a car needs to be recalled if something “is likely to affect [its] safe operation… without prior warning to the user and may pose a significant risk to the driver, occupants and others”. If that standard is met, manufacturers must inform the DVSA and contact registered keepers in writing to make sure they are fully informed about the safety problem. In most cases, repairs are free of charge.

That’s all very well when a bike is bought from a manufacturer-affiliated dealer and the paper trail is clear, but things often get complicated once a bike has changed hands and paperwork mix-ups are a fact of life at the best of times. If you think this might apply to you, you can check if your bike has ever been affected by a recall for yourself by using the Motor Ombudsman’s website.

Parts and accessories, however, are more complicated. Many if not most aren’t ever registered the way vehicles are, so manufacturers and dealers can't always trace owners. However, no-one wants to be riding around on dud tyres or with a faulty helmet, for example, so it’s just as important that they are fit for purpose too. You’ll need to check whether parts and accessories are affected by recalls for yourself instead of waiting for a letter to come through the post, but that doesn’t have to be as hard as it sounds – recalls are still a matter of public record and tend to be well-publicised if you look in the right places.

If you wish to check to see if your bike, a part or an accessory has ever been subject to an official recall for whatever reason, click here to go to the dedicated website for recalls. You will need to know the manufacturer, the model and the date of manufacture, so it’s wise to keep hold of receipts and manuals just in case.


Reporting serious safety defects

But what about the other way around? If you find a serious defect that affects the safety of your vehicle, one of its parts or an accessory, report it to the manufacturer immediately. It might not just be your own life you save, so you’ll definitely be doing the right thing.

There is a difference between normal everyday wear-and-tear and an outright serious safety defect, of course, and this is what the DVSA themselves say about judging the difference between the two:

“A serious safety defect is something:

  • About the way the vehicle is designed or made that’s likely to cause injury or death.
  • That happens suddenly and without warning.

Things aren’t classed as a serious safety defect if:

  • They can be found during routine maintenance and servicing.
  • You’re warned about them by warning lights, noticeable changes in handling and unusual noises.
  • They’re caused by you misusing the vehicle, e.g. overloading your vehicle causing a tyre failure.”

Common sense stuff, then. If you’re not happy with how the manufacturer is dealing with your report, tell the DVSA – that’s what they’re there for. You can also sign up for email alerts to get a monthly summary of the latest recalls, and the DVSA is also starting to use its Facebook and Twitter accounts to issue new recall alerts too.

Have you been effected by a vehicle recall? Tell us on our Facebook page.


This feature ran in the Summer 2017 issue of Motorcycle Rider - the BMF members' magazine. 

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