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Suzuki Recalls More Than 200,000 GSX-Rs

Wednesday, October 23, 2013
Front Brake System
Diagram of the Front Brake System included in the letter to the NHTSA from Suzuki Motor of America.
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-R600 and GSX-R750 as well as 2005-2013 GSX-R1000’s. 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 October 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 and 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.”

Front Brake Master Cylinder
Diagram of the Front Brake Master Cylinder.
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-September 2013 SMC received 21 more “possibly-related” FTIR’s from the US market. In December 2013 engineers from SMC examined affected motorcycles from distributors in the US 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-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.

Countermeasure image
The countermeasure Suzuki plans to take in order to address the issue. The letter states that before "the reservoir port is located at the side position of the master cylinder. Gases are not purged sufficiently." In the after column it states "the reservoir port is located at the top position of the master cylinder to allow better purging of gases."
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 November 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.safercar.gov for more information.
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byronnwilson   October 24, 2013 09:24 AM
@steveccccc - Got the same message when I called as well. Article has been updated with Suzuki Motor of America's Customer Service number.
steveccccc   October 24, 2013 06:10 AM
The 1-800 number says it's not available in my calling area. I'm in the US.
woodco100   October 24, 2013 03:05 AM
on the other hand, there is no real excuse for not servicing your brakes properly. Changing brake fluid every 2 years should be part of it.
Maxx   October 23, 2013 06:13 PM
I wonder how many crashes has happen because of this and how many times riders complained about this, only to be told "it just brake fade"
Sm267   October 23, 2013 02:24 PM
1.) How long is it going to take to produce nearly a quarter of a million master cylinders? I doubt there is anywhere near that many in inventory. 2.) Is this part, or more specifically, the internal piston, unique to just the GSX-R? I don't have a GSX-R immediately available to examine, but it is almost certainly sourced from one of three primary vendors of brake components. If the defective part is shared with other brake systems, this recall could be only the tip of the iceberg. Yikes!
woodco100   October 23, 2013 12:07 PM
ouch,200K+ bikes! If they spend $150/bike, which may even be low, that is a $30 million dollar hit! Suzuki is not exactly making bank right now. They just came out of bankruptcy.