Harley-Davidson and the EPA: What the lawsuit means for your warranty

To read the initial Cycle Blog report on Harley-Davidson’s fine and settlement with the EPA CLICK HERE.

Harley Race Tuner
The Harley-Davidson Race Tuner that was at the heart of the recent EPA lawsuit

In August Harley-Davidson and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reached a settlement regarding the sale and use of Screamin’ Eagle Race tuners, a device used to change factory fuel and ignition settings, allowing bikes to operate outside of the EPA’s clean air rules.

The tuners in question have always been labeled as “Race Only” with a warning stating their use may “reduce or void” the factory warranty. Harley has also always stated that their limited warranty

Screamin' Eagle Race Tuner
This is the disclaimer Harley-Davidson posted on each Screamin’ Eagle Race Tuner.

will not apply to any motorcycle, “which has been used off the highway or for racing or for competition of any kind”. The EPA contended that if you install a “race only” tuner you are using the bike for competition purposes, which voids the warranty per Harley’s guidelines.

As part of the settlement, Harley-Davidson has agreed to discontinue producing or selling Screamin’ Eagle Race Tuners and is now forced to void the powertrain warranty on any vehicles found to not be EPA compliant. They are replacing the unit with a new, street legal, module called a Street Tuner. While there are still

Screamin' Eagle Street Tuner
The language on a new Screamin’ Eagle Street Tuner

countless aftermarket tuning alternatives available, the majority of these tuners are “Race or Off Road Use Only” which will void your warranty. This is also true for any non-EPA compliant exhaust, air cleaner, or performance engine kits.

In an effort to emphasize this enforcement, more specific wording has been added to the new 2017 warranty policy. It now states the warranty will not apply to any “defects or damage impacting the functionality of powertrain components in a motorcycle that has been tuned using a tuner or calibration that was not covered by a California ARB Excecutive Order or otherwise approved by the EPA”. In layman’s terms, if your bike is not compliant with EPA regulations and you have a powertrain failure, the warranty won’t cover it. This will include all engine components, the ECM, primary drive, and all transmission components.

This enforcement is not limited to 2017 model bikes, however. It includes any bike still under the factory warranty because Harley’s warranty has always stated it won’t apply to any motorcycle “used for racing or competition of any kind”. In fact none of these regulations or policies are new, they are just going to start being enforced. The EPA created these regulations for all auto makers in 1978.

Over time we will see how many riders this impacts. So far I’ve seen one bike get the powertrain warranty voided because it had non-street legal, Vance and Hines exhaust and was tuned with a Race Tuner. I don’t expect it to be the last one though. I predict the EPA will continue to enforce these regulations and I expect to see other companies, including parts and accessory manufactures, under scrutiny.

Key Points:

  • The U.S. Government and the EPA enacted the Clean Air Act in 1978 but it has been widely unenforced until now.
  • Harley-Davidson is no longer allowed to manufacture or sell Race Tuners. They now offer an EPA compliant Street Tuner.
  • The Harley-Davidson warranty has always stated that bikes used off-road or for racing won’t have powertrain repairs covered under warranty. They have also always maintained Race Tuners are for “Race Use Only” which corners them into voiding the warranty on any bike that has had a Race Tuner installed.
  • If a Harley-Davidson has an exhaust, air cleaner, tuning product, calibration, or internal engine component that is not 50 state emissions legal, Harley will void your warranty.
  • Most aftermarket exhaust systems or tuning modules are not street legal or EPA compliant.

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