Tales of shoddy motorcycle mechanics

Have you experienced any nasty surprises after having a motorcycle mechanic repair or service your bike?

A riding colleague recently complained of a leaking brake reservoir on his BMW R 1200 RT, so we pulled over for him to investigate.

The bike had just been in for an expensive service and it seems the mechanic had not fitted the gasket correctly, causing the leak.

Over lunch, the riders shared their stories of poor servicing and neglect and I was surprised how many had tales of shoddy or even fraudulent work.

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Running repairs on an RT

I shared my own example: I was riding down a steep hill after just having my Triumph Scrambler serviced a few years ago when I hit the front brakes and nothing happened except a clunking noise.

The front brake wasn’t reacting, so I applied the rear brake and geared down to try to slow the bike. I eventually skidded across the intersection at the bottom of the hill, lucky to not hit any passing traffic.

It turns out the brake calliper had not been re-fitted correctly and had popped off the disc.

My colleagues talked of similar horror stories and of paying for servicing items that were clearly never done.

I remember taking my car to another mechanic after being charged excessively for a service only to find that they hadn’t even replaced the air and oil filters.

My colleagues told similar stories of being charged for work that had not been done.

These can be examples of shoddy workmanship, a case of big companies trying to churn through too much work, apprentices being used to do complex jobs they are not qualified for, or service centres fraudulently cutting corners. And sometimes it’s just a plain mistake.Mechanic

My Triumph story was a simple mistake by the chief mechanic who ‘fessed up and apologised profusely. The matter with the leaking brake reservoir was also a simple mistake by a very skilled mechanic.

Mistakes happen, but I’ve heard too many stories of dangerous mistakes to believe they are all innocent.

If you have a rudimentary knowledge of mechanics, it’s a good idea to go through every item on your service bill and check with the mechanic to see that they have been done. Check that bolts have been tightened on all areas worked on.

Some riders even go to the lengths of specially marking parts with paint before taking their bike in for a service and then checking later to see if they have been replaced.

Even if you don’t know what you are looking for, a thorough review of the items on the service bill may at least convince the mechanic they shouldn’t try to fool you.

If you find an honest mechanic; hold on to them!

Please share your stories of shoddy servicing.

7 Comments

  1. I had a “60,000” service on BMW K1200 at local Motorad dealer. I asked for rear wheel drive to have bearings replaced and overhauled as the cage on main bearing sounded broken. Also to check the rear brake as disk seemed scored. I supplied the 3 filters and front pads. I was charged nearly $2000. After service I found leaking fork seal ( not there prior to service), Motor runs poorly and stalls when cold. (never had an issue prior to service. Fairing mounting broken and held in place for re-assembly with grease. Rear wheel drive not serviced correctly ( they didn’t have the correct tools anyway and did not shim the unit on re-assembly) preload and backlash not set up with free run on wheel about 1/4 turn. Rear brake still dragging. I replaced seal and dust cover on fork myself. Less than 1 hr work and $30 for parts and $11 freight. They advised it would have cost about $180 per side. They have had it for over 3 months and say they have had problems getting parts and service tools. I suggested I could source required parts overnight from WA but they advised they had to get “genuine BMW parts from Germany”. I even offered service manual as the person who worked on the bike obviously did not know how to do the job. I am still waiting but have you tube videos ready to publish if necessary. I previously had rear wheel drive serviced at a cost of $450 from a previous dealer years earlier. I only asked for the repair as I don’t have the required tools. I am very concerned that the have done something wrong on motor service although they had not charged for any buckets for tappet clearances. I hope they haven’t changed my ECU for a faulty one. They told me that it was dirty fuel but same fuel used in two cars and other bike with no problem. I even drained and filled with fresh fuel with no change to poor running when cold. (dies when throttle opened).

  2. A few months ago I took my zx6r in for a MOT. It failed due to the front brake lever had snapped at the end about a inch wind blew it over a few months before. Any way I had the garage put a new one on and it past the MOT.
    I left the garage to head to work jumped onto the motorway then felt the handle bar shake woke up in lane one of the motorway police and ambulance turned up and police tried to push my bike off the motorway but front brake was locked on. Investigation turned out the front brake would just lock due to a mistake the mechanic made.

  3. Talking to someone the other day. Harley davidson dealer charging $500 + for a service
    he ended up getting it for half that at a non dealer.
    best advice buy a manual do your own servicing
    If you have a bike that is not a technological, computerized, spesialised tooled
    nightmare, {yes you bmw} you can even do most of your own repairs
    In the process saving buckets of money, learning a lot about your bike
    and getting a whole heap of personal satisfaction.

  4. Ok, so there are a lot of incompetent mechanics out there, to put in mildly ! In severe cases that can cost you your live.

    The question I think we all have is : HOW DO YOU FIND A GOOD ONE ?

    Can you write an article about that and perhaps readers can comment with good mechanic details for us to contact. I don’t really care whether that means we disadvantage the bad ones, they SHOULD ALL go out of business anyway before they kill any of us !!

    Keep Save

  5. The essence of your article shouts “Caveat Emptor!” Let the buyer beware.

    A couple of years ago, I’d finished a bare frame rebuild of a 1984 Honda VF1000F and took it to Team Homo for a RWC. The Service Manager – a young bloke who was nothing more than a clerk – told me that it didn’t pass because of a warped disc. He went on to suggest options for replacing the disc that ran into the hundreds of dollars.

    I accepted their assertion without question and went on my way. As I was riding down the street, I became curious. If the bike had a warped disc, I should feel a pulsing on the lever when held lightly. It didn’t do that, or grab the disc intermittently, so I turned around.

    I asked the service manager to show me how they worked out the disc was warped, and he got the mechanic, who said they lifted the front wheel and spun it. Okay, so lets look at it again. We jacked the front and spun the front wheel and I was watching intently for evidence and it just didn’t happen. Either these people are complete fools, or they assume I am.

    I told them about the fact that there was no pulsing of the lever or intermittent dragging of the disc, but they were adamant they were right. Now, here’s the problem. The Dept of Transport licence these clowns, and they don’t care if they err on the side of safety. Whether there is a fault or not. This has happened to me before with a car mechanic. Both times they defected brake items where there were no faults.

  6. My recent experiences are not so much with the workmanship but with business practices. Firstly, I had purchased a handlebar riser block for my Boulevard and when I couldn’t budge the existing bolts to fit the block I took it to the dealer’s workshop and they said no problems, we will use a ‘rattler’ it will take 30 minutes. Well, after searing off the heads to both bolts, they wanted to charge me the $600+ to rectify their mess. A call to Suzuki finally resolved the issue but the dealer was not very cooperative. Then during the last service they ring to tell me they ‘suspect’ an oil leak and they can’t give me a price as it will take some investigation. As there had not been any oil on the garage floor nor had my recent checks revealed the need to top up the oil, I said not this time and just do the service. That was 3000km ago and still no oil on the floor nor any need to top it up. If that wasn’t a blatant attempt to rip me off, I don’t know what it was. Needless to say my next service is being done by someone else.

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