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NHTSA Investigates R bikes for fires


Bud

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NHTSA Action Number : PE07031 NHTSA Recall Campaign Number : N/A

Make / Models : Model/Build Years:

BMW / R SERIES 2000-2007

Manufacturer : BAYERISCHE MOTOREN WERKE

Component :

ENGINE AND ENGINE COOLING

Date Investigation Opened : June 21, 2007

Date Investigation Closed : Open

Summary:

ODI IS AWARE OF ALLEGED SUBJECT VEHICLE FIRE-EVENTS APPARENTLY DUE TO A MELTED OIL LEVEL SIGHT GLASS DURING PERIODS OF EXTENDED ENGINE IDLING. OIL DRAINS FROM THE ENGINE CRANKCASE, THROUGH THE MELTED SIGHT GLASS. IT THEN COATS THE EXHAUST SYSTEM (INCLUDING THE CATALYTIC CONVERTER) AND IGNITES. THIS SCENERIO IS ALSO DESCRIBED IN A (CONFIDENTIAL) NUMBER OF FIELD REPORTS PROVIDED TO NHTSA BY BMW PURSUANT TO THE EWR REQUIREMENTS. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE ALLEGATIONS WE HAVE OPENED THIS PE.

 

Here is the link.

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I wonder just how long "extended idling" is? I don't recall seeing any reports of this on the discussion boards up until now. confused.gif

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skinny_tom (aka boney)

Hmmm. The 1150RT's (and the 1100?) headers are on the right side of the bike.

 

My initial thought, before reading the post was melting tupperware under prolonged high idling.

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I wonder just how long "extended idling" is? I don't recall seeing any reports of this on the discussion boards up until now. confused.gif

 

Every unverified internet report I've seen involves high idle on a stationary bike and operator error (forgetting the bike was running, getting sidetracked, mechanical work w/o a fan to move air over the engine).

 

This is the power of whiners who negligently burned their bikes up claiming there's a defect.

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The notice describes the part as the OIL LEVEL SIGHT “GLASS" with quotation marks. Does that mean it's not made of glass? I believe that even the cheapest glass won't melt below 1000F or so, although thickness makes a difference. I would think that this glass would be made to withstand much much higher temperatures. How much idling would be required for the oil to get to, say, 3000F ?? Three days in a closed shed? If it's not actually "glass" it's a different story.

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No, it is not made of glass. You can drill a hole in it with a normal drill, put a screw in it, and pull it out.

 

BTW, the flash point of automotive oil is between 390 and 510 F.

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Time for a new sticker.

 

Do not operate motorcycle without an operator in place.

 

It would take a pretty loooong time for this to happen.

Makes you wonder. dopeslap.gif

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No, it is not made of glass. You can drill a hole in it with a normal drill, put a screw in it, and pull it out.

 

BTW, the flash point of automotive oil is between 390 and 510 F.

And the melting point of Lexan is around 300 F. BTW, one of the NHTSA engineer/investigators for bike investigations is not only a rider, but a BMW rider. I had taught MSF corses with him years ago. A great guy, I have total confidence in his work.

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Every unverified internet report I've seen involves high idle on a stationary bike and operator error (forgetting the bike was running, getting sidetracked, mechanical work w/o a fan to move air over the engine).

 

This is the power of whiners who negligently burned their bikes up claiming there's a defect.

I wouldn't be too quick to point the finger at "whiners". The scenario you describe is not to far removed from the scenario of riding in stop & go traffic in hot weather. I'm wondering if it's just the oil temp that's the problem or if it's a combination of the oil temp and heat radiating off the left hand pipe. ???

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The 1150RT's (and the 1100?) headers are on the right side of the bike.
Good point. Same on the 1200 hex heads.
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Jim VonBaden
Every unverified internet report I've seen involves high idle on a stationary bike and operator error (forgetting the bike was running, getting sidetracked, mechanical work w/o a fan to move air over the engine).

 

This is the power of whiners who negligently burned their bikes up claiming there's a defect.

I wouldn't be too quick to point the finger at "whiners". The scenario you describe is not to far removed from the scenario of riding in stop & go traffic in hot weather. I'm wondering if it's just the oil temp that's the problem or if it's a combination of the oil temp and heat radiating off the left hand pipe. ???

 

Not really. All of the instances of newer bike losing a sight glass have been from extended high idle.

 

I do recall reing one post about loss of a sight glass at speed, but the bike was pretty old. Maybe we need a regular interval of sight glass replacement?

 

BTW the R1200 has a retainer clip for the sight glass, and I have never heard of one failing. I wonder why they included the R1200 series?

 

Jim cool.gif

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I wonder just how long "extended idling" is? I don't recall seeing any reports of this on the discussion boards up until now. confused.gif

 

Every unverified internet report I've seen involves high idle on a stationary bike and operator error (forgetting the bike was running, getting sidetracked, mechanical work w/o a fan to move air over the engine).

 

This is the power of whiners who negligently burned their bikes up claiming there's a defect.

 

Over time there have been a few folks here whose engines have gotten hot enough at idle to warp or melt their fairings (as I recall oilheads, and not hexheads). You always have to be suspicious of an owner's recollection in the aftermath of something like this, but some have sworn that their bikes were idling for five minutes or less.

 

I can report that I once left my RT on high idle for about two or three minutes while I was fumbling with my gear--contrary to what BMW recommends--and it got blazing hot. ooo.gif Personally, I felt a little stupid for doing this, knowing that it's an issue with oilheads, but it also seems to me like there's something wrong with the design or functionality of the high-idle. Whatever your take on this, it's something that BMW owners should be aware of.

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A little blister in the tupperware is a far cry from melting the bike down completely, isn't it? If fire happened in 5 minutes, this would be an issue.

 

And if you are stuck in traffic THAT bad and your bike is going Chernobyl, find a shade tree and wait it out, move a little on the shoulder or shut it down. I don't think sitting on the bike as it self immolates is a reasonable response to the problem of heating in traffic, sorry. "Gee, my temp guage is pegged and I smell smoke, I guess I'll let 'er idle a while longer...."

 

The fact that a fan like the police bikes get would be nice notwithstanding, it doesn't excuse owner caused fires or make them BMW's fault.

 

You can order a fan for the oil cooler if you really need one, right?

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[bTW the R1200 has a retainer clip for the sight glass, and I have never heard of one failing. I wonder why they included the R1200 series?

 

Also wondering why they start at year 2000. Were pre-2000 R's different enough to exclude them?

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No, it is not made of glass. You can drill a hole in it with a normal drill, put a screw in it, and pull it out.

I drilled the hole put the screw in and pulled it out. Now I've got oil all over the garage floor, what's the next step? wink.gif

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I drilled the hole put the screw in and pulled it out. Now I've got oil all over the garage floor, what's the next step? wink.gif

 

Start the bike and then break out the marshmallows?

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I wonder just how long "extended idling" is?
It's got to be a long time. On my way back from the RA at Biltmore I got stiuck in a jam on I-40 east of Nashville. The RT idled for quite awhile but kept an eye on the temp gauge. At 3/4 up I pulled over and shut her down. Traffic started moving again then stopped... shut it down again when the temp started going up. Temp was over 90 and my RT idled for perhaps a half an hour. A long time for an air-cooled bike. I will say that of all the boxers I've owned my current R1200RT does better than any other in hot conditions. My old R100RS would've melted down had I let it run as long as my RT in the jam. I think my other oilheads would've been in trouble too. Stupid bulletin. Let any air cooled motor idle long enough without airflow and you will destroy it.
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Eckhard Grohe

How many Hondas have burned because of a similar defect? Should the price for inattention or even stupidity be immolation of your bike?? Surely a bike shouldn't burn up after idling too long? Seize, OK but not burn up!

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How many Hondas have burned because of a similar defect? Should the price for inattention or even stupidity be immolation of your bike?? Surely a bike shouldn't burn up after idling too long? Seize, OK but not burn up!

 

+1

 

Fire is serious, could burn a house down or similar, kill someone. I don't think there is any excuse for it, and certainly not over the sight window melting.

 

On the other hand, last week I was stuck in traffic for an hour and a half and it was almost 100 F. During one stretch, moved a mile in 45 minutes. Oil temp went up only a little. Bike did smell a bit hot, clutch hand was displeased, no fire.

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How many Hondas have burned because of a similar defect?

Since I don't see many 1100cc + air cooled Hondas, I'm sure the rate is about the same as radiator ruptures on oilheads.

 

Should the price for inattention or even stupidity be immolation of your bike??

 

Well, on the road that same stupidity can end in death, so I guess life's not always peaches and cream. The "price" is frequently NOTHING however. How many owners have left their bike idling longer than they should and absolutely nothing happened? It's thousands of times more than the number of bikes that have caught fire. The hysteria really needs to get toned down here- we're talking about what percent of oilheads that have caught on fire?

 

Fire is serious, could burn a house down or similar, kill someone. I don't think there is any excuse for it, and certainly not over the sight window melting.

 

So it's the bike's fault that it was left running unattended, and now it's the bike's fault it didn't roll itself out of the garage?

 

I wouldn't build a fire in my garage, but if I did, I wouldn't blame the logs when it caught the ceiling on fire.

 

On the other hand, last week I was stuck in traffic... no fire.

 

You should report this to NHTSA right away, they have tax dollars to spend.

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NHTSA Action Number : PE07031 NHTSA Recall Campaign Number : N/A

Make / Models : Model/Build Years:

BMW / R SERIES 2000-2007

Manufacturer : BAYERISCHE MOTOREN WERKE

Component :

ENGINE AND ENGINE COOLING

Date Investigation Opened : June 21, 2007

Date Investigation Closed : Open

Summary:

ODI IS AWARE OF ALLEGED SUBJECT VEHICLE FIRE-EVENTS APPARENTLY DUE TO A MELTED OIL LEVEL SIGHT GLASS DURING PERIODS OF EXTENDED ENGINE IDLING. OIL DRAINS FROM THE ENGINE CRANKCASE, THROUGH THE MELTED SIGHT GLASS. IT THEN COATS THE EXHAUST SYSTEM (INCLUDING THE CATALYTIC CONVERTER) AND IGNITES. THIS SCENERIO IS ALSO DESCRIBED IN A (CONFIDENTIAL) NUMBER OF FIELD REPORTS PROVIDED TO NHTSA BY BMW PURSUANT TO THE EWR REQUIREMENTS. TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THESE ALLEGATIONS WE HAVE OPENED THIS PE.

 

Here is the link.

 

I might be a little daft here, but isn't the engine, sight glass, and oil almost as hot at speed? I mean there are a lot of little burn cycles going on every minute moving or not. I've had my bike moving very slowly, or not at all for rather long periods of time, and the oil temp has never gotten passed the 6th bar. Also, how is the oil flowing backwards to the cat-box, on a non-moving vehicle, when the sight glass is on the side of the case well away from it? If the motorbike was on the sidestand, you would have a nice puddle, but it would generaly flow out of the hole right to the ground. It seems the gremlins are hard at work.

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well, DUH! Remember to check your oil occasionally and note as to whether there is oil seeping from the edge if the site glass. If you have oil misting, seeping out you have a failure in the process. Get your new site glass from your kit, you do carry one, right? and have it installed...DRY!!!

My friends '96 RS popped one on the freeway and messed up his boot and his day.

How I miss the dip stick. Gotta get that new 800ST to sitck it again thumbsup.gif

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First, we need to clarify that the oilhead and hexhead engines are air/oil-cooled, not simply air-cooled engines, as you've stated. There are any number of liquid-cooled motorcycles on the market that are capable of handling extended idling without bursting into flames.

 

However, it apparently has happened. You'll note that the investigation was prompted by BMW reporting these occurrences to the NHTSA. That doesn't mean that the problem is necessarily widespread (though we don't know the numbers, which are confidential) and it doesn't mean that it's going to occur within the range of what you or I would consider normal operating conditions. But it sure as heck seems that it's worth investigating if it's indeed occurred on multiple occasions. Personally, there have been enough occurrences reported here of serious overheating, that it doesn't seem a great stretch to believe that there have been more serious consequences . . . and again, remember that BMW reported these events to the NHTSA. It didn't happen because Ralph Nader wrote a book.

 

Not all recalls are the same. There are some "Park your Hupmobile now, we just found out that made the dashboards out of Cemtex"-type recalls, and there are some "Get to a dealer when you can, so they can check the routing of that cable"-type recalls. Generally speaking, the recall system works pretty well.

 

Is this a blight on the marque? Naah. Motorcycles (and cars) are complex machines. Sometimes once thousands of vehicles are on the road and subjected to a variety of environmental and operating conditions, trends show up that were not apparent in the development process. It's utterly appropriate that BMW and the NHTSA should work together--as they apparently are--to address the issue.

 

Candles are supposed to burn; motorcycles are not.

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First, we need to clarify that the oilhead and hexhead engines are air/oil-cooled, not simply air-cooled engines, as you've stated.

Are you playing semantics here in an attempt to obfuscate my point or do you really believe that minor verbal detail matters? If the latter, please explain why.

 

A liquid cooled engine, an air cooled engine, and an air/oil cooled engine will react differently to this sort of operator error. Therefore, the number of liquid cooled Hondas that have had reported fires due to excessive overheating is irrelevant to a discussion of oilheads- that is the only point I was trying to make, not spawn a discussion regarding the most appropriate thermal waste eradication methodology nomenclature.

 

There are any number of liquid-cooled motorcycles on the market that are capable of handling extended idling without bursting into flames.

 

Just like oilheads are. Is it intentional that you are implying by your wording that oilheads are not capable of handling extended idling without bursting into flames?

 

There are no perfect machines. Oilheads need air movement, either move the bike or add a fan and move the air.

 

However, it apparently has happened.

 

Lots of things have happened. Buells have stalled when the horn wire frays and shorts, blowing a fuse that includes mission sensitive circuits. Goldwings have bad frame welds that could cause frame failure under way. They also have recalls for brake failure issues. Everybody panic and park your bike now.

 

The issue is the rate at which these things happen, and that by any account is VERY low. Add into the mix the fact that unlike Goldwing frame or brake failure, the mythical fireball oilhead requires active owner involvement and ignorance / stupidity/ failure of attention to occur.

 

You'll note that the investigation was prompted by BMW reporting these occurrences to the NHTSA.

 

Let's be clear here- it is required that BMW report things like owner complaints. BMW didn't decide this needed investigation, they were required to report the complaints they got from people who burned up their bikes and wanted to shift responsibility to BMW NA because that's easier than acknowledging their own foulups.

 

That doesn't mean that the problem is necessarily widespread
Or even statistically relevant.

 

There is one undeniable trait that appears to be shared by 99% of BMW owners frequenting the internet, and that is the whiner gene. If anything goes wrong, it's labeled a massive problem, pages of text are typed about it, hands are wrung, solutions sought from the aftermarket at any cost, and tons riding tame wasted worrying about it. Hell, probably half of us have shiny new cam chain tensioners to "fix" what is essentially a non-problem as far as engine performance/ longevity is concerned.

 

I do not believe that in this weird little environment we all inhabit that if flaming oilheads were a real problem (or even a small one) that we wouldn't be buried in threads about it.

 

there have been enough occurrences reported here of serious overheating, that it doesn't seem a great stretch to believe that there have been more serious consequences

 

Overheating isn't fire. It's not a great stretch, it's just not something we all need to add to the list of panic items.

 

 

It's utterly appropriate that BMW and the NHTSA should work together--as they apparently are--to address the issue.

 

If there is an issue to begin with, but when the process is driven by people who refuse to take responsibility for their own negligence, you get a bloated system chasing phantom issues.

 

Contrast this with Ford's reaction to their pickups catching fire when they were shut off and parked - without owner intervention. I personally know of a case where a truck parked for 2 days caught on fire spontaneously. THAT is an issue NHTSA needs to be working on, and their limited (only by your tax dollars) resources are better used on that than a handful of operator error induced problems.

 

Candles are supposed to burn; motorcycles are not.
Common sense dictates neither should be left active and unattended indoors.
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blush.gifgrin.giflurker.giflurker.gif

 

This isn't one of those sites where nobody's allowed to engage in discourse with admins and mods is it?

 

For the record, I tried to type that so as not to be a jerk- does the popcorn mean I failed? This is merely a discussion about the issue, one where I happen to have a strong opinion, and I have no personal axe to grind with anyone.

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Agent_Orange

Na, I just got a kick outta "Common sense dictates neither should be left active and unattended indoors."

 

Sometimes I am easily amused. tongue.gif And, I am happy to say, I have never had any of my 'oilheads' burst into flames. clap.gif

But there is always tomorrow. cool.gif

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Let me guess: you were turned down for a job with the NHTSA, right. tongue.gif

 

First, I wasn't trying to split hairs when I disagreed with your description of the oilheads/hexheads being air-cooled. I have no mechanical skills--zero, nada, zilch--but your description was incorrect, and I think it's a relevant point. Air-cooled engines will ultimately die without cooling airflow (though generally the result is seizing and not fire). Oilheads/hexheads are indeed partially air-cooled, but are also cooled to a significant degree by oil. My admittedly basic understanding is that such a system should be more tolerant of a lack of airflow, though I acknowledge that it's not going to be as forgiving as a "water"-cooled system with a fan moving air through the radiator.

 

I think, though, that you misapprehend my response. Maybe I haven't done a very good job of explaining. I'm not currently perched on a window, waiting to leap. I'm not decrying BMW (please note that I've owned BMWs for some time). And, I haven't been on the phone to my Congressman, demanding action. I'm just acknowledging--and I'm surprised that anyone would not--that reports of idling motorcycles bursting into flames is worth investigating.

 

That's all this is--an investigation into why a (probably limited) number of motorcycles have become roman candles. There's a huge gulf between acknowledging and investigating a potential safety problem--as is happening here--and going bananas over it, which is apparently what you see occurring.

 

I guess it's just a fundamental difference in our viewpoints. It seems to me like an appropriate thing to investigate these fires objectively, to determine (a) if there's a defect and (b) if so, how to fix it. My reading is that you think it's an excessive response to what you've concluded is operator error.

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blush.gifgrin.giflurker.giflurker.gif

 

This isn't one of those sites where nobody's allowed to engage in discourse with admins and mods is it?

 

For the record, I tried to type that so as not to be a jerk- does the popcorn mean I failed? This is merely a discussion about the issue, one where I happen to have a strong opinion, and I have no personal axe to grind with anyone.

 

I don't think there's any rule like that around here, but check back once I ban your ass. grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif

 

Just kidding . . . I think it's just a situation where our brains are wired differently. Part of what makes this place interesting is seeing how others look at things, and knowing that what makes perfect sense to you may seem like pure idiocy to someone else. Debate on. thumbsup.gif

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I don't think there's any rule like that around here, but check back once I ban your ass. grin.gifgrin.gifgrin.gif

 

Now that should get a fire started! Let's see, where did I leave that oilhead with the leaking sight glass idling . . . maybe it's over there somewhere.

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beemer_me_up

I had a sight glass blow out a few years ago on my 1100 RS. I don't remember any oil hitting the exhaust. My Left foot was covered and I had a nice oil trail for about 3 tenths of a mile. Thats it, no fire was noticed. Purchased a new sight glass, popped it in and no proplens for the next 50,000 miles. grin.gif

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Now that should get a fire started! Let's see, where did I leave that oilhead with the leaking sight glass idling . . . maybe it's over there somewhere.

 

Just walk toward the glow.

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My reading is that you think it's an excessive response to what you've concluded is operator error.

 

That's pretty accurate. Maybe it's because I've seen countless people cause motor vehicle accidents and claim mechanical issues (in 15 years there were 2 cases where this was ruled possible) because they can't admit fault.

 

I've also seen NHTSA and MSHA and OSHA on their witch hunts before. I do not like how these agencies waste our tax dollars on the thinnest premise and how their investigations typically are conducted with the goal being to find a scapegoat rather than to find the facts. Not to impugn anybody's friends who work for these agencies, but realize there is often a vast difference between what an individual thinks and the work output of the agency they work for.

 

I don't pretend to be unbiased here, but google "BMW motorcycle overheat fire" or any permutation you can think of and you find links to lawyers, sites compiling NHTSA data, and unrelated motorcycle stuff. No big threads about R bike flambe anywhere I can find.

 

check back once I ban your ass.
lmao.gif

 

I'll try to be good anyhow.

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DavidEBSmith

There is one undeniable trait that appears to be shared by 99% of BMW owners frequenting the internet, and that is the whiner gene. If anything goes wrong, it's labeled a massive problem, pages of text are typed about it, hands are wrung, solutions sought from the aftermarket at any cost, and tons riding tame wasted worrying about it.

 

If only this would fit on a sticker, I'd get a sticker that said this and stick it on my helmet. grin.gif

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Seems to me that the most likely bikes to have this issue would be police bikes, which, in the line of duty, may sit idling for extended periods of time. In addition, when a city / state PD complains, it might not be as easy for BMW to ignore. These bikes may also have fans on the oil coolers which, while keeping the oil temp somewhat under control, will have little effect on case temps.

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There is one undeniable trait that appears to be shared by 99% of BMW owners frequenting the internet, and that is the whiner gene. If anything goes wrong, it's labeled a massive problem, pages of text are typed about it, hands are wrung, solutions sought from the aftermarket at any cost, and tons riding tame wasted worrying about it.

 

If only this would fit on a sticker, I'd get a sticker that said this and stick it on my helmet. grin.gif

 

Isn't there an Admin rule against whining about whiners...? wink.gif

 

Reminds me of an old Get Smart schtick:

-- "We're a HATE group."

-- "You're a hate group???"

-- "Yes, we hate hate. HATE it!"

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There is one undeniable trait that appears to be shared by 99% of BMW owners frequenting the internet, and that is the whiner gene. If anything goes wrong, it's labeled a massive problem, pages of text are typed about it, hands are wrung, solutions sought from the aftermarket at any cost, and tons riding tame wasted worrying about it.

 

I own a K75. Doesn't that permit me to do some BMW whining?

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The appearance of the BMW roundel on your bike allows you to :

 

B= Bitch

M= Moan

W=Whine

 

 

OK???? dopeslap.gif

 

MB>

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Jim VonBaden
There is one undeniable trait that appears to be shared by 99% of BMW owners frequenting the internet, and that is the whiner gene. If anything goes wrong, it's labeled a massive problem, pages of text are typed about it, hands are wrung, solutions sought from the aftermarket at any cost, and tons riding tame wasted worrying about it.

 

If only this would fit on a sticker, I'd get a sticker that said this and stick it on my helmet. grin.gif

 

+1000

 

Of course I am the Kool Aid guy, so what do you expect? lmao.gif

 

Jim cool.gif

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I have a gauge. I keep an eye on my gauge, especially in traffic, even moreso in hot weather. It's an aircooled bike fer chrisakes lurker.gif

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There is one undeniable trait that appears to be shared by 99% of BMW owners frequenting the internet, and that is the whiner gene. If anything goes wrong, it's labeled a massive problem, pages of text are typed about it, hands are wrung, solutions sought from the aftermarket at any cost, and tons riding tame wasted worrying about it.

 

I think this is a "truism" for any internet forum related to a manufactured device. Pick any vehicle, and from what you read on forums it's surprising everything just doesn't explode as soon as you start the key!

 

I'm a mod over at Palm.Inc's user forum, and the "I'm going to start a class action suit" line really gets old after a while... tongue.gif

 

WyreNut

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